21 years ago. I was walking in the old sky walk hovering downtown Cedar Rapids when I bumped into an old acquaintance from my bar hopping days at De Sodas. Her name was Clarice.
The bar hopping daze (a better term) was working all week and then hanging down at Desoda's for a night of drinking and hearing overplayed crap tunes and hopefully getting a chance to dance with somebody. Most of the times I went home alone. There was a three week excursion with Christine that ended badly, a effort for making woopie and about 4 Jacks and Cokes that I didn't venture back to her place and somehow ended up being back at my home. I was easily replaced as I tried to remember what was done wrong as like a three year old spoiled back she ran into the women's bathroom and wouldn't come out. The new boy toy apologized for her actions but I told him to enjoy her company while you can and wrote a Get Lost letter to her telling her growing up might help her in the long run.
Clarice was seeing Eddie, who actually third shift in our computer room and I remember her trying to burn my coat with one of her cigarettes as her and Eddie were discussing World Reform. However that didn't work for long and I did ended up dancing with her on occasion till she dropped out of site around the 1993 floods. When I saw her in on this day in 1994 we chatted a while, she gave me her phone number and I eventually call her and we got together to chat. And then she became the significant other for three and a half years.
There are things that I remember about her. She had three boys, two from her marriage and at that time was carrying Jessie, from another one nighter I guess you can call it. John and Josh, the two boys were typical kids, they get into trouble as they would go outside and play with the other kids, they must have turned out good, they have not made the news in a bad way. She lived in Wellington, on the infamous street where folks could by drugs at night and rap music boomed out of the speakers. To go home and not have a black dude on the steps of the apartment selling drugs was a rarity. The place was a dive and the cockroaches didn't help things either. Wasn't uncommon to watch TV and one of those dirty bugs crawl up your leg. But the boys they liked me and Clarice would surprise me in certain ways. At the beginning she was quite thoughtful.quite loving and full of surprises. Coming to her place, boys in bed with her wearing only a robe. It really was good times.
The first two years were the best of times, however things would change and they started around the time that I had to go to ER to remove a burst appendix which laid me out for a month. Taking advantage of the situation, Clarice brought a fairly new 1994 Corsica which she took me out on a test drive a couple days after my surgery and me still under anesthesia. By then, I moved her to a better apartment from the Wellington place and somehow the Cockroaches followed her over there too. The big blowup came on the 4th of July, which for the first time we had words. The spell was broken and we would go down the long decline. And in the process bought a trailer to move her out of the apartments. By then we weren't talking much, being intimate much less and I don't think I was over there that much. The woman that sang Unconditional Love was looking elsewhere and no matter what I did never seem to please her and just irritate more. The warm sunshine April afternoon of chatting ended on a cold Valentine's Day in 1998 when Clarice announced that she was seeing somebody else for six weeks and wanted to move in. I told her, get my name off the trailer and we can be done with each other. I would have to deal with her one more time when she was two car payments behind and I outraced the repo guy getting the Corsica back and trying to erase the black mark that she put on my credit report. We were two months shy of being together four years but in reality it was three and a half, I saw her but twice in the trailer house.
Clarice was a plus size woman when we met. By then I was more used to dating the heavier type. And they are quite fun to be with. She did managed to quit smoking for a while but she started back up after the fourth of July explosion but she did lived on Diet Coke. She was into country but was open to different types of music, Bob Marley made perfect mood music. The last year and a half she underwent a major diet which she lost half her weight, suddenly I outweighed her. As we together to a NCS company party she showed up a in a skimpy dress and managed to flirt with a couple co workers. I think that was early 1997. We dressed up for the occasion. And it's hard to fathom me in a three piece suit or seeing her in that skimpy dress perhaps it was in indication that she was ready to find somebody else. We weren't exactly getting along and it showed everything I showed up. The A hole boyfriend too busy hanging out at Relics buying new music while she had to deal with her ex husband and three screaming boys did give an ill thought. But then again she made it clear that when it comes to me and her children, I was strictly hands off. But I still have pictures of the boys and of Jessie, the third child and he turns 21 this year. And I wonder at times if he has met his real dad. Or if John and Josh are now leading grown up lives. I still cannot picture them being 26 and 24 now, where does the time go? Are they doing all right? Sometimes that thought crosses my mind. But as time goes on, I have not seen any of them since 99. What would Clarice say to all these albums and stuff that I accumulated over the years. I think she went along with it the best way that she could handle it. We did go see Blue Mountain and Kevin Salem play a acoustic set at BJ's in Iowa City but she had to get back to CR to get her boys so I missed out on that show at Gabes. Although she never said it, I'm sure she thought it that I spent too much time at the record store, but as far as I know she never gave me the "it's the records or me" ultimatum but I heard the usual accusations of seeing another woman. To which I told her I'm either at Relics or Rock n Bach or at work or at home. Don't have time for another woman. To which that fell upon deaf ears and sure as the sun rose the next day things would start all over again.
Life is a highway and every day I go down the road in search of something that I'll never find so I resort to the things I know best and that's collecting music. I could have been a good husband or good boyfriend but forty years ago, I took a chance on a girl far away and that didn't pan out. And then another girl in high school didn't help either and those two really sat the tone of a life that has been a music adventure and a love misadventure. I really never did find the right girl when everybody was dating and I was scouring the cut out bins at Target. I could count on one hand how many dates I had in the 80s and 90s before meeting Clarice. While friends were settling down and starting families, I was collecting rejection letters from girls that my best friends would set me up with, or taking chances with undesirables, hell I was seeing a stripper from out of town thinking that was going lead somewhere. And if you don't date on a regular basis, you really don't know what to expect from your significant other and that lack of knowledge came back to bite me on the butt on later encounters. Even with the best of them, I found myself wondering what to do if they were still around. In the end, it became too clear that I could never settle down; I would just be wasting everybody's time and getting in their way. I could blame Jeanette Ratliff for that, but only could look in the mirror to see who the real culprit is.
So I continue to search for what I haven't heard yet or continue to replaced the original records I grew up to with better shape copies. And just live alone since I do that better than being with somebody. It's a win win for everybody, I'm sure Clarice has a better man in her life and I continue to come and go and do the things that I'm used to doing. And that will never change before I'm dead and gone. And besides, it's much easier on my credit rating too.