Excerpt from Licking Honey Off a Razor Blade by Valerie Grimes
Being in a relationship with him was like licking honey off a razor blade. The sweet times were rare, but powerful. I saw something in him that no one else seemed to. Those times he would let me into his private world of pain and sob heavily as he shared with me about the abuse he endured as a child. Other times he carried a chip on his shoulder.
Then there were the days when he would detox for a job interview and being clear-minded, he could have discussions with me as normal couples do. However, I really had no idea what a normal couple’s conversations sound like, because I have never been in what I consider a normal relationship.
But mostly the relationship was painful, and many times I felt deeply cut so I would break up, resolving to stop something that wasn’t in my best interest. But my need for him to want me was overwhelming. So after a week of self-care, I was also ready to be cut again, knowing those honey licking times were there.
These sweet times were enough of a ‘drug’ to keep me coming back to get another glimpse of what seemed like normalcy. It was rare, but I knew it was there. I saw his potential. I also witnessed him acting like a raging caged animal, or behaving catatonically or just a normal guy watching football and telling stories. I never new which one I would get.
One sweet ‘honey licking good’ Sunday, he convinced me to stay rather than bolt for the door to go home. He said I never relaxed and that he dreamt of us just lying on the couch watching sports (his fantasy for sure). We ended up taking a two-hour long bubble bath. It was a beautifully balanced morning as both shared equally in the conversation, and for some periods of time, we just held each other in silence, soaking and watching the rubber duck bob up and down in the water as he stroked my hair. He was teaching me to slow down and relax.
This raging animal knew how to have his down time, something I was never comfortable with. I felt I always had to keep moving, working, cleaning, washing clothes, working on a hobby, or exercising, but never just sitting and doing nothing. Doing nothing seemed like a waste of time. But looking back that bubble bath was one of my favorite memories of him.
But this is Salvador I’m talking about, so those sweet times were always cut apart days later with conversations like this:
“Come over Princess.”
“No Sal, I’m exhausted.”
“I’ll exhaust you,” he laughs. “So when will you be here?”
“I’m not coming. I said I was exhausted.”
“Well that never stopped you before. Come over Princess and pick up some beer. I have money here to pay you.”
So there I would be standing in front of his apartment door where I could hear Kid Rock singing about leaving home at age fifteen and being the black sheep of the family, ‘sounds familiar I thought.’
As I waited patiently for him to answer the door, I had enough time to listen to my instincts, and they told me to leave the beer and go home, but I ignored them because they are no fun. I was ready for some drama. He opened the door with his style that pulls me in. I feel he choreographed his movements and selected his attire for the best effect, and it is certainly effective. It pulled me in, and he reached for my hand and pulled me in close to him. He kissed me quickly and with the other hand grabbed the beer and went to the kitchen to put two beers in the freezer and the other ten in the refrigerator. God, I’m dumb.
He was very anal about the temperature of his beer and after about fifteen minutes he would holler, “Get that beer out of the freezer and put two more in there.” If it got too close to the point where it would freeze, he wouldn’t drink it. A little obsessive, but when the majority of your day’s activity involves beer, I guess that makes sense.
After a few beers, his country boy voice came out, “Fix me some chicken princess. I’m huuunn-gry.” When I was with him, I would do things that were not typical of me: the independent, professional woman turned into a subservient girl, trying to please her disagreeable man. I agreed to fix chicken, but the whole time, I was aware of how I hated being there, so kept a fifth of Jack within reach, because the thought of leaving him and his going out without me kept me there to fix chicken in his tiny kitchen.
When he separated from the girlfriend he had had for fifteen years, he walked away with nothing, so his kitchen was a bit challenging to cook in. There was the way too big five-gallon pot (the only pot) that barely fit in the sink, a plastic bowl with holes punched in it for a colander, dried up onion and garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Being resourceful and determined to make it work, I managed to produce something from nothing, and because I was playing the traditional role of a wife, I also served him. His looking sexy on the couch and his calling me princess helped, but I was still madder than hell at myself.
I was tired, and I knew spending the night would mean another Saturday that I didn’t do what I wanted. I needed to stop pleasing him and start taking care of me, I thought as we ate together. I actually thought he would appreciate me more if I did the things he liked.
While I was still eating, he decided he was done with his food and demanded I get his unfinished plate ‘out of his face.’ Feeling a little shocked by this out-of-the-blue demand, I was still clear enough to see it was my out.
I jumped up. I think it startled him, but I continued, “Find someone else to do that. I’m going home.” I didn’t care if he did go out, someone else can have this wreck. I was going home. And I did.
Funny how just saying in a peaceful way, “I’m running tomorrow so I am going home” wasn’t enough or dramatic enough, I thought as I drove home.
He didn’t contact me all weekend, so I was lured back on Tuesday morning after my business meeting in his neighborhood. I wanted to check on him. Come on Val, you wanted to see him; it was about me not him. His truck was parked out front, and the side door open, I walked down the hall to #202 and knocked. A few moments later he opened the door looking like crap and angry. “You woke me up I just fell asleep!” I stayed only long enough to see that those damned dishes were still on the table. I thought of the John Prine song, “There are flies in the kitchen, I can hear them they’re buzzin’, and you ain’t done nothing since you woke up today.”
He demand, “Why didn’t you call first? You should know by now if I don’t answer to leave me alone.”
I felt ashamed like a child that did something daddy didn’t like. My head lowered and energy drained, I turned and silently left. I was wrong to bother him I thought, I’ll do better to keep that in mind next time.
In my car I turned on NPR to hear something intelligent and took some deep breaths and gathered myself together to prepare for my day of clients. As I drove to my office on McKinney Avenue, I decided I wanted to live in this part of town or have an office here full time. Currently, I was renting from a chiropractor one day a week. Since I was thinking of the future and plans for an expansion, I knew I had shifted back into my normal self. Each second was a second further from the wreck I left behind tossing and turning sleeplessly on the couch.