"Honey, it's not what it looks like. I can explain."
Right! That pathetic bit of sophistry has been around since before the dawn of recorded history. I'm sure that the first chronicled account appeared in a set of drawings on the wall of a cave.
The first picture would have shown the offended mate catching his woman in flagrante delicto, his club over his shoulder. Her hands are up in a gesture that tells him to wait. "Honey, it's not what it looks like. I can explain," she must have been saying. The next picture would show her explanation. The interloper has a bigger club. He has killed more prey and is better able to support her children. That was probably the most powerful explanation available at the time. It is not, however, available to my husband.
I can't believe after all the crap I've had to put up with he does this to me.
He's a writer. That means he gets to stay home and do God knows what, while I go to work every day to earn the paycheck that pays the bills. Perhaps I overstate it. He does make money writing, sometimes pretty good money. But it's not consistent, and without my paycheck, our house would belong to the bank.
He's actually a pretty good writer. I won't deny that. I'll even concede that he probably works longer hours to produce his stories and articles than I do to produce an income. But he does some really crazy stuff.
Last August he insisted I come with him on a stakeout. Who were we staking out? A woman I work with. Why her? Why not her?
I took a vacation day to go on an adventure with him and where do we wind up? Outside my office, waiting for her to get off of work.
"I could have told you when to show up. She works the same hours as me."
"But she might leave early."
"She never leaves early. We're sitting out here dripping and thirsty and we could have just showed up at ten to five."
"You have to respect the process."
"What process? I know where she's going - home. I know when she's leaving - five. What kind of stupid process is this?"
"You start with things you know about the subject, and you watch them to learn what doesn't fit the pattern; things that can reveal their secrets."
"What if she doesn't have any secrets?"
"Then that's what we'll learn."
"Can I go home?"
"No. We'd lose her. Who knows what information we might miss out on?"
"Yeah. Who knows?"
"Besides, unless I sit out here hour after boring hour, how am I going to be able to accurately describe what it's like to stake somebody out, to follow them? How else can I find the few moments that might be worth writing about except to experience it? How else could I realize I should have brought a bottle of water than recognize I'm so thirsty it hurts? It might never have occurred to me had I just assumed what it would be like."
"I share your pain."
Outside of the fact that she treated herself to a solo dinner at the Italian Restaurant around the corner from her apartment, I did learn one extremely valuable life lesson. Before you engage in any important life activity, whether it be following someone you work with for no particular reason, taking a certification exam, that big meeting at work or getting married, for God's sake go to the bathroom! It wasn't until she got to that restaurant and ordered dinner that I could finally get out of the car and waddle with my thighs tightly pressed together to the nearby Taco Bell for relief. I swear that when I saw myself in the mirror I looked jaundiced.
That was far from our only adventure. One night I was awakened by the phone at 3:13 A.M. Johnny was not in bed next to me. The phone call explained why. The police had him for being drunk and disorderly. It made no sense. I had never seen him drink to the point where he lost control. However unlikely it was that he would get in this situation, they needed me to come down to the station to pick him up.
According to the officer, he had no ID with him and it had taken this long for him to sober up enough to tell them who he was and how to contact me. They were kind enough to let him sleep some of it off and be taken home without charging him. The fact that he had no criminal record tipped the scales for them.
As surprising as this was, his explanation on the way home astounded me.
"How could you let yourself get so drunk that the police had to pick you up?"
"I wasn't that drunk."
They all say that. Was he a closet alcoholic?
"I just did it to get arrested."
"Do I look that stupid?"
"No, really. I had to find out what it was like to get arrested. But even more important, I had to find out what it was like to stay in jail. That's why I left my wallet home."
I was silent. It wasn't that I was angry. This was just too bizarre to comprehend. What kind of questions do you ask when he tells you this kind of yarn?
"I also had to pretend to stay drunk for a while in jail because I wanted to know how vulnerable a street drunk is in a cell with real bad guys."
Now I was angry. "Do you have any idea what could have happened to you in there?"
"No. That's why I had to do it. I'm writing a story."
Those are the kinds of crazy shenanigans I have to put up with.
He was not content to have me suffer from his pranks. He brought my family in as well.
We were going to a birthday party for my sister at my folks' house. He excused himself to run into the house before we left to make a quick trip to the bathroom. When we got there my father came charging out with my mother and brother close behind.
"You're staying with us," he bellowed. "I'm not going to let you spend another day with that bastard until he gets help." The rest of the family was shouting similar sentiments.
"What are you talking about dad?"
"You don't have to hide it from us Sandy. He told us what he did."
Oh no. Not again. "What did he tell you dad?"
"He told us about the fight; how he hit you and you might not be able to come because you might have cracked a rib."
"Johnny, this is too much. You can't do that to my parents, to my family. This has got to stop."
"I just wanted to see how they would react if they thought I was abusing you. I didn't know if they would come after me or try to get you away from me or if they would just pretend it didn't happen unless you decided to discuss it with them."
"You can't do that to people. It's cruel."
"Jesus, Johnny, you're a whack job," said my father. Then he laughed.
Sure, go ahead and encourage the lunatic.
If only the craziness had been limited to our family.
One Saturday I was baking brownies. I have a bit of a sweet tooth. The doorbell rang and I went to answer it. I looked through the window and saw the mailman.
"Certified letter ma'am. I need a signature."
When I opened the door, he pushed his way in, gun drawn and was followed by nearly a dozen other men in blue FBI windbreakers with the yellow lettering. They had automatic rifles and rushed through the house looking for Johnny. The mailman put his hand over my mouth so I couldn't cry out.
When the agents returned, my husband was in handcuffs. They sat him down on the couch in the living room while other agents could be heard rooting around the house.
"What's going on here?" I asked of no one in particular.
"You don't know anything about this, ma'am?" asked the mailman.
"Anything about what?"
He didn't answer.
After a time, the remaining agents returned to the living room with our computer. One of them spoke. "We didn't find any bomb-making paraphernalia or components, sir."
"Bomb making?" It was nearly a shout. "Why the hell would you think he was making a bomb?"
"He took some books out of the library, ma'am." The mailman again.
"I'm writing a story about a guy chasing down a terrorist. I had to know what it took to make a bomb. If they had waited a few days to show up, I would have had all the parts except the explosives. I had to know if you could really make a bomb from those instructions. I wouldn't want to put anything inaccurate in a story."
The mailman shook his head. "Are we going to find evidence you visited links on the internet with information about making bombs?"
"Bob, Mirandize him," said one of the agents.