It was a cool fall night. I think it was the first time we paid a visit to what would become our regular haunt in town. One of the first times, at any rate. We were out on the patio of the Buffalo Bar and Grill to have a smoke. We were talking about the music that was playing. Tina was schooling me on the difference between Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones when we were joined by a black guy who was new to the neighborhood. He introduced himself as Daryl, but had to clarify that it was pronounced Dare-Ell, not Darrel.
We learned that Daryl moved to the area for work and was staying at a motel a few miles down the road. “Y’all smoke weed?” he asked.
I didn’t. Tina did, but I wasn’t interested in socializing with Daryl on that level.
Tina pointed at a yellow peace sign pin on her bag and, making air quotes, answered, “free love.”
That struck me as an odd response, but I could make the leap from weed to peace to hippies to free love as a bit of self-deprecating humor and rolled with it.
Daryl said he was looking for a more affordable place to stay, closer in to Buffalo and Tina suggested the Buffalo Hotel, where she and her mom were living. “Here. Let me give you my number and I can give you details, later.”
I raised an eyebrow at that, but rolled with it and shrugged. “There’s a sign in the window that says there are vacancies. It’s just a mile up that way,” I offered.
“There are always vacancies,” Tina added.
“Yeah. Cool. Cool.”
Tina declined to smoke weed with Daryl and after a little more friendly conversation, he announced that he had to be moving on and left Tina and I to our evening.
About a week went by and I was planning to spend another weekend with Tina out in Buffalo. Before I left Minneapolis, she texted, “can you bring your drill?”
She had another task for me. I never minded doing the little repairs and improvements for her. She made it like foreplay. She’d act like she was turned on by me doing man’s work, but it might have been more of a transactional thing. Sometimes she’d be explicit about that, like when we walked to the liquor store in downtown Buffalo and I bought her a big bottle of Windsor Canadian to keep her stocked. “Thank you, Dan. I’ll make it worth your while,” she’d said. “I’m going to thank the shit out of you later.”
I felt uncomfortable with the idea of trading favors or whiskey for sex. There was no obligation in my mind. I did things for Tina because I cared about her and thought we made love because we both wanted to make love. Maybe I’m a sappy romantic, but still, I wasn’t complaining.
I was certain that my drill was still in the back of my van from my last trip out to Tina’s. I packed a small overnight bag and grabbed my briefcase, in case my computer was needed and got on the road. It was about a 50-minute drive to Buffalo and just as I was crossing the city limits, I realized that I’d used my drill to help my dad earlier in the week and left it behind!
Letting Tina down was about the worst thing I could imagine, so I drove to the local Ace hardware store and bought another drill before proceeding to the Buffalo Hotel. I texted to let her know I’d arrived. Since the front door to the building was locked, she came down to let me in and helped me carry everything up. I helped hang an antenna and some art for Tina and we settled in to drink whiskey and watch South Park.
Tina’s phone bleeped and we both glanced it at. There was a text from Daryl. I noticed that his entry in Tina’s phone had a last name. It was an Irish surname. “What’s good?” read the message.
That looked more like fishing for a booty call than inquiring about an apartment for rent, to me.
She ignored the message that night and I don’t think anything was said about it, but another week or two later, Tina brought it up, just to let me know that she’d never answered Daryl’s message. That struck me as odd, but I took her at her word and didn’t think about it again, until a similar message came through from someone else.
Looking back over the years, I realized that there was a repeated pattern in the way Tina would randomly bring up past oddities and reframe them with new explanations or clarifications. It was like after some thought, she was editing history. For the most part, it worked on me, but my subconscious was still noting all of the inconsistencies and my body started telling me something was wrong. I’d get a sensation like anxiety when my perception of reality was being manipulated.
After observing her over and over again and coming to understand what was really going on with Tina, it’s not hard to imagine that Tina responded “free love” to an inquiry about smoking weed to signal she was “down to fuck,” providing there was weed to be smoked. Helping Daryl find an apartment was just a pretense to give her number to another guy right in front of her boyfriend. That’s just the kind of thing she did, but it was beyond my comprehension at the time. I just couldn’t imagine a person could be that shitty and Tina offered more innocent and preferable revisions to history so I didn’t see the obvious right away.
A pattern in Tina’s behavior I learned too late was that when she used superlatives or absolutes, whatever her statement, the opposite was true. For example, when she was putting her number in my phone at the bar the night we met and told me “I never do this,” the truth was she always did it. It’s like it was pathological. Actually, it was part of the narcissistic pathology. Narcissists are always on the prowl for potential new sources of supply, either secondary or potential replacements for their primary supply.
The psychology books ascribe unstable relationships to borderline personality disorder, but I’d wager it’s a common feature of all cluster B disorders, even though the diagnostic manual doesn’t include it for narcissists.
It’s just that they expect to eventually suffer some losses as they are discovered. It’s a lifelong repeated cycle, so replacements would have to be perpetually cultivated, tested and groomed.
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