I used to have this boyfriend named Hank. That’s not his real name but it could have been, no offense to all you real Hanks out there. Hank Hubbersen was his name.* He was tall and strong, with blond curly hair. I was smitten by his deep, gravely voice and ironic sense of humor. He was a talented swimmer until he got very angry at the world and gave it all up. We laughed a lot. When he was nice, he was really nice. I felt safe around him most of the time.
My roommate, the erotica writer, couldn’t take it. “Why are you still with him,” she’d implore me. “He’s going to break your jaw.”
“Look. You don’t know how he is most of the time, all right? It’s not like he gets all scary all the time.”
I just want you to know that the reason why we broke up isn’t because he could get so mad he’d throw things around the room, or that he was stoned from morning to night (they call this type of person a “wake’n’bake” I learned. How cute!), or that he’d get drunk so bad every night that he could throw things and that the times that I did see him sober, I’d think, You know, I think he might have a psychotic disorder but I’m not sure.
Nor did we break up because he was intolerant of minorities and people in general from other countries who spoke other languages around him and it scared me.
Nor did we break up because of his anger towards women who report domestic violence abuse. It was his claim that they were likely manipulative b-words who deserved it.
We didn’t even break up because he had shoved me around in a hotel room in Lake Tahoe, after holding me hostage there, more or less, over a 24-hour period until finally having a break down and then calming his nerves with a cocktail of beer and Celexa (an anti-depressant).
The reason why we broke up is because after a year of growing rage and then, ultimately, the 24 hour stand-off, is that on our way back to the Bay Area, as I feared for my life as he weaved violently through traffic, flipping off and screaming at anyone who dared drive in his way, he announced: “You drive like a dork.”
He was alluding to the way I “shuffle steer”, which is a way of passing the wheel from one hand to another. You should try it. It’s fast and you don’t get your hands all tangled up. I’ll show you some time. Consider it a “secret of the stars.”
But in Hank’s world, this was “driving like a dork”. He proceded to mock me, imitating the quick (yet smooth) hand movements as they caress the sides of the wheel. All this was lost on Hank. You can’t teach everyone.
An ability to shuffle steer shows true command of your vehicle. This skill is engrained in me. I learned it from my mother and father. And so, no, Hank, I don’t drive like a dork; I drive like a woman who knows what she’s doing.
I broke up with him the next day.
You might wonder why this? Why I didn’t break up with him sooner, like after the first sign of potential trouble, when he barked obscenities during the television news when it was reported that a man had been jailed for throwing his wife down a flight of stairs, killing her instantly. Where is the justice, he cried. She had just admitted to birthing a child to another man, for Pete’s sake.
Why didn’t I break up with him then, I know you’re wondering that. Was my esteem that low.
Oh sure it was. But you know what? At least I had something. Some people don’t. They’ll stay with abusive partners until they die, one way or another. If this life isn’t going to get them, their partners will. Boy, am I being politically correct.
At least I had something.
*No it wasn’t.