I only had two other relationships of note when I was in medical school. Although neither of the women were virgins, and while not giving me a lethal STD either, they both were potentially lethal for other reasons.
One affair was a brief fling with a Chinese girl who was working as a secretary for a Cardiologist that I met when rotating through his service at the Boston City Hospital. I asked her out for a drink and after one beer she asked to see my room…the bedroom. I should have known then that if the deal seems too cheap, too easy, and too good to be true, there is probably something wrong with it. Caveat emptor. As it turned out, the only virginal orifice she had remaining might have been her left ear.
Things went well for a few months and she was especially good to have around when ordering food in the local Chinatown restaurants. She also took me on a tour of the Chinese gambling parlors and certain other places where a white man would not only fear to tread but would undoubtedly be denied entrée—or worse. What I did not know about her was that she was a hard-core opioid addict, only finding this out one night when I picked her up at her parent’s apartment. When I rang the bell, she opened her front door, then promptly flopped onto the floor in a drug induced coma. Wearing nothing but a negligee and wrapped in a white fur coat, she looked like a semi-conscious fluffy chinchilla. It was a strange way to start a date, except for the fact that because she was already dressed for bed, perhaps that’s where we should have gone first.
We were supposed to go to her friend’s house for a party but ended up driving around in large urban circles looking for the place. While I drove, she occasionally became conscious enough to either give me bogus directions or perseverated repeatedly:
- I love you. Soon your family and my family will be as one.
Meanwhile I was thinking that “Bless Happy Family” was just an oriental dinner dish listed under column A; and not a lifetime commitment.
Because she wasn’t sober enough to know where we were going, I brought her home to her parents, rang the doorbell, and left her asleep at the front door. When I spoke to her the next day, she couldn’t remembere any details of what had happened, and not even the fact she had proposed to me. Blessed happy relief!
The other thing I did not know about her was that she worked part time in a pornography shop. That was fine. I even enjoyed a private tour of the place and met some of the girls who worked as strippers in the glass faced dollar-a-minute jerk off booths. What was not fine was the fact that she had nearly been stabbed to death in a gang related brawl and that she was in fact the immediate ex-girlfriend of a local Chinese Tong gang leader.
She had made up some completely whacky story about landing a bit part in a Woody Allen movie, then having an accident on the set that explained away the twelve-inch scarred over gash in her abdomen.
- Tell me again. You were on a movie set. Then a knife flew out of nowhere and landed in your spleen, so they fired you, right?
- Yes. It was a stunt gone wrong.
For about a minute I was stupid to believe her fantastic prefabrication.
Forget about drug overdosing or contracting VD. That was about as close as I ever wanted to come to meeting her boyfriend, the Mao Ze-Dong of Boston’s combat zone.
- You round eyed running dog of Yankee Imperialism. You fuck my girlfriend. You die.
The next near-death relationship involved my engagement to a nurse I met when rotating through a surgery elective in Springfield. By this time, I was a twenty-three-year-old who was beginning to think about getting married and settling down. When I met her, she was having an on and off affair with a married surgical resident who she said almost always had anal intercourse with her to avoid the possibility of an embarrassing pregnancy. In fact, he had deflowered her anus before her hymen; a statistic on the very low end of how young women first get laid. Anal sex as birth control was a nice enough way for two lovers to mutually rationalize that perversion, and being no prude myself, I couldn’t have cared less. In fact, it opened exciting new possibilities for deviant sexual experimentations I could try with her.
She was also having an affair with a real estate broker who was twice her age but who had made it clear he had no intention of going further than dating. I suppose it was a good thing I was not a prude then, and instead of asking whether she was a virgin or not, asked her instead if she had any holes that had not as yet been penetrated— like a nostril or an ear canal. She was not amused.
We started dating. She gave up the affairs. We seemed to get along. But there was only one thing about her I could not get over; which had nothing to do with her recent jaded sexual history. Although she was an extremely pretty girl of Italian descent, she happened to have a mole on her face exactly where my Aunt Roses’ had been, and which drove me crazy with the less than fond memories of forced holiday visits at the Guinea Ponderosa. I asked her to get it removed. She did. Things were good.
What was not good was letting her talk me into getting married after knowing her for only a month or so. Her biological clock was ticking, she was in dead-end relationships, she was on a mission of matrimony and I just happened to be the new missionary. When I called my parents and told them I was engaged the response was predictable. My father was happy, especially when he heard about her heritage; and my mother was less than discreet in voicing her displeasure. At first, I thought it was only because of my father’s elation that she was Italian and that my mother was only being spiteful. However, it was more likely the case that in her eyes no one would be good enough for her son. No one. Not ever.
In retrospect I had either forgotten about the penchant for my mother’s opinions to be co-opted by cognitive bigotry, or more likely the case that I was not even aware then that she had this fatal character flaw in the first place.
She used the usual lines:
- You’re still in school. You’re too young. You haven’t known her long enough. She’s probably just a gold digger. She’s only looking for a bird’s nest on the ground. You have your entire career ahead of you. And who will support you if she gets pregnant and she can’t work? Not me. Not us.
- Bird’s nest on the ground, mom? And what do you think we have that’s so rare and valuable? Faberge eggs?
My automatically opinionated mother was an overwhelming intimidator. Also coupled with the fact that if she did not like something or someone, she either never let you forget about it or she treated the subject with both passive as well as with aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, I was still dependent on my parents for room, board and tuition, which made me too afraid to confront the bitch, or if so, would forever have to tiptoe around her ire. That was my excuse. The truth was, I simply had no balls.
In retrospect, however, even if I had showed up with Bridgette Bardot there would have been something wrong with her as well.
- But mom; she’s beautiful, she’s talented, and she’s rich.
- She has a funny accent. Dump her.
But two things happened to end the affair. One was the fact that after several months all my fiancé could talk about was the kind of house she wanted, the type of furniture we were going to get, the pile or color of the carpets, how many children she wanted, and where we were going to live; preferably close to her parents. Notwithstanding the fact that her parents probably would have bought us the house or built it in the customary Italian manner in their back yard, I began to see any potential control over my life and future going down a predetermined spousal and in-law drain. I started having cold waves of sweat that seemed to come out of nowhere. The second thing was simply the fact that we ran out of conversation as the differential in our intellects began to overshadow the initial blind passion of our sexual attraction. Being a neophyte physician, I definitively knew that unexplained cold sweats was a non-definitive but still equally poor premonitory sign for something bad in the larger domain of potential illnesses, such as cancer, tuberculosis, or lupus.
As my loan shark friend Chubby used to say:
- Doc, the sex only lasts for about thirty minutes. Then each day you got to figure out what to do with them for the rest of the twenty-three and a half hours. So, if nothing else, you better really like ‘em, too.
One of my roommates said it better.
If she was a guy; would you always want to hang out with her?
Falling into a panic at the potential loss of autonomy and intellectual succor, I wanted to call it all off, but was afraid of the repercussions after how far everything had gone. We had the rings, the wedding date, the catering hall and were about to send out the invitations, which had already been printed—at no trivial cost.
Michael came to the rescue. He explained that breaking an engagement was not like irreversible neuronal damage. However, being in a bad marriage might make me feel as though I did have a stroke. He said to tell her it was quits during the car ride back from my parent’s house on Long Island to Massachusetts. that way she would not be able to do anything drastic or foolish and would be captive long enough to talk it out. That was bad advice.
Bolstered by the example of my cousin Laura breaking her engagement several days before her wedding, I told my fiancé I wanted out as we were going 65 miles an hour along Interstate highway 95. I said I only wanted to postpone things, but not being an idiot, she knew immediately what my sorry excuse really implied. After a few choice four-letter words and other epithets, followed by streaming monolog castigation, she suddenly opened her car door and tried to escape. What a nightmare. That was all I needed; a dead soon to be ex-fiancé splattered against the median barrier, while having to come up with a good alibi to cover up the accident.
- Oh, officer. She decided it was far better to kill herself than to have to tell me she was breaking our engagement.
- Sure. I understand. Happens every day out here on this horrible highway of broken dreams. I feel for you.
I quickly pulled onto the shoulder, spent several hours calming her down and made her promise not to jump out when we got underway again. She must have thought better about suicide but spent the rest of the ride alternating dead silences with loud cursing. She also said her father would be royally pissed off about this.
After several months, things calmed down a bit and I called her. She was still bitter, but back with the real-estate agent and biding her time until another potential mate showed up. She ended the conversation with a cryptic comment that I owed my life to her, as her father had seriously considered putting a contract out on me when I dumped her. Apparently in so doing I had shamed and disgraced the entire family. I didn’t know he was mob connected, or I might never have dated her in the first place. Or perhaps I should have gone ahead with the whole thing and had affairs for the rest of my life, like most “made guys” seem to do. Have the family. Ignore the wife and kids. Do whatever the fuck you want, any time you want. And fuck whoever you want to fuck, whenever the fuck you want to fuck them.
But she said she had persuaded her father otherwise about having me put six feet under and that in the long run I was not worth it anyway. That’s not what she really said. What she really told her father was:
- He’s a worthless piece of shit. He isn’t even worth wasting a bullet on.
I kept the wedding bands in a desk drawer for thirty-seven years until my second wife persuaded me to hock them for cash. You know how women get about any past life, or history, or relationship baggage that comes attached to their new mates. They want it expunged…or in this case, melted down. It was a funny thing too, because before I sold the rings, I tried to put mine on, but it wouldn’t even come close to crossing the appropriate fourth left finger knuckle. Yes, I was a little bit bigger and a little bit fatter and a wee bit more arthritic. But at least I was still alive.
If you play with fire, you are bound to get burned.