Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The book

Andaloo has posted a picture of a postcard he bought, which showed up differently when he scanned it, which is odd. But this photograph reminds me of a book of Brassai photographs I bought second-hand many years ago, and whenever I think of that book I feel regret. I don't often feel regret.

At the time I bought this book, I was about three weeks into a relationship that I knew was not going to work out. The guy in question, let's call him John, looked like a young Harrison Ford. Everything had gone wonderfully for the first couple of weeks but then he had revealed a side to him that I hadn't seen before. He was insanely jealous.

I'd never been with anybody who got jealous before, and didn't recognise it at first. It was ugly. And it was a shame, because aside from that he was lovely. He was interesting, intelligent, funny, considerate, loving, enormously charming, and all the other things you want in a man (plus of course he looked like a young Harrison Ford). But then one day he turned into a horrible, sulking, nasty, vindictive and virulent arsehole because I spent some time with another man. And by 'spending time', I mean I sat around with about fifteen people after work one day, having a drink and chatting with one guy in particular. The guy I chatted with was happily married with five children, famously, madly in love with his wife, and was interesting and interested and fun to talk with. Later I made the mistake of telling John how much I'd enjoyed talking to him, and what an interesting character he was.

John immediately went peculiar. It took me a while to figure out why, because at first he wouldn't speak to me, and it took even longer for us to sort things out once he started shouting and throwing furniture around, because he wouldn't tell me what he was so angry about.

The results of that evening convinced me that it would be better to end the relationship before it went any further. I didn't want to spend three days out of every five for the rest of my life trying to talk John out of the sulks, and enduring his jealous rage. One episode was enough, and I discovered from people who knew him that John had had this problem before, and frequently. I wasn't under the illusion that I could change him, and I certainly wasn't going to put up with that sort of behaviour. He might have reverted to being the fabulous and perfect boyfriend, and everything in the garden was rosy, but it wasn't going to last. It was better to end it now.

One day soon after that I was in downtown Wellington doing a little shopping, and worrying about the problem of how to end it, and decided that today was the day. I was going to break off the relationship today. I knew it was going to be difficult, and had been trying to work up the courage to go to his house and have The Talk. I made the decision. Today. Now.

But before I went, I popped into my favourite second-hand bookstore and had a quick browse around, and while I was browsing I came across a book of photography by Brassai. (The i is supposed to have two little dots over it but I don't know how to put them in. You'll just have to imagine them there.)

The book was amazing. The photographs grabbed my attention. When I found myself going back to look at some of them again and again I decided that this was a book I wanted to have. I checked the price tag, and found to my relief and surprise that it was very, very cheap. I took it to the counter.

The young guy behind the counter took one look at the book and shouted,


"What?" I asked, startled.

"I meant to put that one aside for me," he said. "The owner underpriced it, I saw him doing it, and then he shelved it. I meant to hunt it down and get it myself. But then I got busy... OH, CRAP!"

"Oh..." I hesitated. Normally I'm not all that attached to books on photography, and my first impulse was to tell him to take it, it didn't really matter. But the words wouldn't come out.

"Don't even think of it," he said, reading my mind. "It's yours. Finders keepers - I was too slow. Congratulations - and well spotted!"

He wrapped it very, very carefully, using nice paper instead of the usual brown paper bag.

I left with my book, clutching it under my arm and feeling pleased with myself. I decided that after I'd had The Talk with John I'd go home and have a proper look through it. It would be my present to myself for going through with a scene I'd been dreading. It gave me courage.

I climbed the hill to John's place. I hadn't told him I was coming because I hadn't known myself.

John had shown himself to be an unpredictable character, and as I walked I started wondering if he would get violent. I really wasn't sure. He could certainly yell violently, and kick over chairs and so on. But he hadn't hit me or thrown anything at me. Could I trust him not to do that now? He was so very wonderful when he was sane, but jealousy turned him into a monster. Could I trust him to be reasonable?

I knocked on his door and waited. The walk up the hill had given me enough time to get really anxious.

He opened the door and I regarded him nervously. He looked at me, and then at the beautifully wrapped parcel under my arm. His face lit up in a huge and devastating smile.

"Oh, what a wonderful surprise!" he exclaimed. "How did you find out it was my birthday? You even got me a present? You are so... This is so... so..."

He ran out of words. He had tears in his eyes, and I was enveloped in a great big loving bear hug.

I was speechless, too. All the words I'd been rehearsing on my way up the hill had vanished. This wasn't quite working out the way it was supposed to. Someone had fooled with the script and I was in the wrong movie.

"Er, happy birthday," I said, thoroughly confused, and handed over the parcel.

(I handed over MY parcel.)

We went inside, and I watched him open it, head spinning, wondering how this had happened.

I had never seen anybody react like that to a gift before. He LOVED the book. He took one look at the cover and leaped to his feet, laughing.

"YOU DARLING!" he shouted. "I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR THIS BOOK! HOW DID YOU KNOW? THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!" He grabbed me and spun me in a little dance around the living room. He was overwhelmed with happiness that I'd thought of him, and brought him something so perfect for his birthday. He was incandescent with joy. It was intoxicating.

He was, amongst other things, a very good photographer, and passionate about it. I couldn't have chosen a better gift if I'd tried.

I felt horribly guilty, but if a young Harrison Ford had looked at you the way John looked at me that day, you would have waited another couple of weeks to break up with him, too.

And at least the book went to someone who appreciated it.

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guest said...

What a wonderful story. I hope it has a happy ending and you and John work out his jealousy issues together. Jealousy is a tough issue to overcome. Some people are jealous because of fears of rejection or because of thoughts of inadequacies in their lives. Those issues could probably be overcome.

If, on the other hand, he is a jealous guy because of a power thing or a control thing happening in his life, well I wish you the best of luck but I wouldn’t put all your eggs in his basket that’s for sure.

I once had a jealous girlfriend. She turned into a total psycho bitch even with me only giving the slightest glance at another women. It was rather embarrassing at times because she didn’t always reserve her psycho moments during times of privacy but rather let loose in public quite frequently.

Best of luck to you Badaunt

Cheryl said...

I dont think Mr BadAunt would appreciate that!
That was really lovely of you, BA. I really hope you find another copy one day.

Robert said...

You did exactly what I would have done. Rather than disappoint or confront, I compromise quickly and quietly.

Oh, to add the i with the accent marks, I do it in Microsoft Word and then copy and paste.

Ms Vile File said...

Great post. So sorry about the book! (I would have done the same...)

Note: Sometimes copying the 'i dotty thing' from Word doesn't work - looks funny in some browsers. Thus, in your Blogspot 'compose post' page, replace the i with...

& # 2 3 9 ;
(except without the spaces)

Hit preview.


Hey presto. 'I dotty thingy', which will render properly in all browsers!

Anonymous said...

What a fun post to read. I'm really glad you had the strength to get rid of John so soon. It seems like the longer situations like that linger, the harder it is to end them. I'm glad you knew you couldn't take that non-sense. It is really too bad about the book though! I hate confrontation and probably would have done the exact same thing.