I met Brian, my husband-to-be, after he got out of jail and came home for his father’s funeral. Meanwhile, I was getting thrown out of our house, again, after my dad died and I threatened to kill my sister.
We met at Mad Anthony’s, and later he followed me to the Tick Tock Tavern on Clifton Boulevard, on a night when I was out with my friends. I needed to get loose that night.
Patty and I had gotten into a fight at mom and dad’s house and when she tried to choke me, I told her I was going to punch her in the face and kill her if she ever put her hands around my neck again.
“I know how to break your nose and shove it up into your brain,” I yelled when I pushed her off of me. “I will do that if you try choking me one more time. I will lay you out flat.”
She never touched me again after that, but the threat of killing her didn’t go over very well.
Brian had been a bartender at the Tick Tock Tavern on the border of Lakewood and Cleveland. He worked there forever, although since it opened in 1939 maybe it hadn’t been forever, exactly. Whenever anyone mentioned anybody’s name to Brian at the bar he always said, “Oh, I know him.”
“Food, spirits, and characters” is what they say at that place.
After the fight with Betty, I went to my church, Bay Presbyterian, to talk to one of the pastors. I was born a Christian, raised a Christian, and will always be a Christian. I have always gone to Bay Presbyterian, took my family there, and I still go there.
I had been going to counseling for years, but still not accepted the fact that we had been abused as kids. I was freaking out that my dad had died, and I was upset, too, about my ex-boyfriend-to-be, Craig, who was the mayor of Lorain. We had been seeing each other for seventeen years. There was no reelection on the horizon.
“What are you doing with Craig?” my minister asked.
“Why would you ask me such a thing?”
“Why do you stay with him?” he asked.
“You really want to know? I’ll let you know! I made a promise a long time ago, when I was a Young Lifer and I accepted Christ into my heart, that I would never have pre-marital sex. When I met Craig, a couple of years into our relationship, I started having sex. I said to myself, well, I’ve made my bed and I’m going to lie in it.”
“No, no, no,” he said. “That’s not the life the Lord wants for you.”
We started praying for the kind of guy I wanted to meet, from eye color to personality. What I didn’t know was Brian was praying to meet me at the same time. He wasn’t being as specific as me, though.
After Brian got out of jail for DUI, and shortly after his dad died, Freddie, his brother, begged him to stay with him in Little Italy, so he did. Brian was a full-blown addict by then. When I met him, he was drinking a fifth of Yukon with beer chasers and snorting coke so he could keep drinking.
He had started thinking life kind of sucks. He hadn’t had a girl to talk to for more than two years, because he was an obnoxious drunk, and he was down. One day while he was walking the dogs, dogs Freddie and he rescued, he started praying, which was something he had never really done before.
“God, if you can, bring me a woman. Please make that happen. I’m lonely, I’m miserable, and I hate my life. Please show me someone who can show me how to love you as much as I can love her.”
Shortly after that my friends and I were out for a birthday party at Mad Anthony’s. Brian walked in and as he went by, he locked eyes with me. After he was past, I was talking to my friends when I got that creepy feeling that someone was staring at me. After another drink I kept feeling that steep stare. I went over to where Brian was sitting.
“I’m pretty sure we went to high school together,” I said.
“Yeah, Bay High,” he said.
Then he asked me out on a date and five more.
“Really, dude, six dates?”
He wanted me to go with him to the wedding of a sportswriter friend of his, but he thought we should go out six times first, to test the waters.
“Alright, alright,” I said, finally. “We’ll see what happens.”
I gave him my phone number.
“We’re going to the next bar,” my friends said.
“It was nice meeting you,” I said to Brian. “Call me.”
He followed us out. By the time we got to the Tick Tock he was a different person than the man I had been talking to at Mad Anthony’s, obnoxious and loud. By then it was too much Yukon on the brain.
“I’m leaving, so piss off,” I finally told him.
“Jenny, why don’t you come home with me?”
“Whoa, dude, you’re a jackass.”
“Jenny, Jenny, why are you going?”
“Because my name’s Julie and that’s why I’m not going home with you.”
As I went through the door, I shot him a look. “Great, he’s got my phone number,” I thought. But I gave him a second look. “He could be really handsome if we got rid of that huge monobrow.”
The next morning, he called me.
“What do you want?” I asked, ready and willing to hang up.
“Don’t hang up, don’t hang up,” he said.
“I can’t do it,” I said. “I have drugs and alcohol in my family. The last thing I’m going to do is put up with it in a boyfriend. It’s not going to happen.”
“No, no, no, I’m good,” he said.
We talked some more. When Brian wasn’t drinking like a nut, he was charming. He charmed me into a date and then another one, and another one. We always went out with a group because I wouldn’t go out with him by myself. I was leery. Every time I went out with him, I left him at a bar at the end of the night.
“You’re an idiot,” and I would leave. He usually walked the east west railroad tracks home.
But he started to get better, slowly, and as he did, we got better together.