Last days of madness

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 5 Jun 2022

By mid-April we knew we’d be parting ways soon. I was working with ‘C’ and rented a room in Berkeley, just a bedroom with a common room and kitchen and several other bedrooms, the top floor of a large house. My friend Louie had a room there. Lindsey had no plans except to buy a used vehicle and live with Ali somewhere. She put most of her stuff in a storage unit. This journal entry captures the spirit of these last days together. Breaking up is never easy, ugly in fact, in a million details because it was mutual hatred.

“Wens. May 1st, 1985. Revolution upon revolution in my personal life. When will it end? I didn’t mind the arguments so much (though they were violent) when there was a lull between them. But now they come hard on, one after another.

“Lindsey is leaving me by mutual decision. Such a crazy range of emotions filled the last seven months I couldn’t even write about it. In retrospect I may try to draw parts of this in time, but some scenes were too crazy and deserve only ‘oblivion’.

“Besides this relationship gone sour, I’m terminating my career as an electrician this week. (I'll quit electrical work for the next four years). I worked a few hours today at it and have a few more to finish tomorrow. After that I’ll find other ways to exercise, like taking long walks each day, which inspires thoughts.

“I thought today about the value of time, and it struck me with a deep and moving significance, more than such reflections have in the past”.

This was the week I was helping Maureen rewire a large house. She was still working at the Livermore Lab and took it as a side job. Jim had left and gone back to Boston six months before. The job was a little over her head, so she gave me a frantic call one day to help her out, and I, always a sucker for a pretty face, agreed.

I was reading The French philosopher ‘Montesquieu’ at the time and copied out two very telling quotes: “Tous les maris sont laids”. ‘All husbands are unsightly (or ugly)’. The next: “Il faut romper brusquement avec les femmes”. ‘When you break up with a woman, do it quickly’.

“Of last Sunday night, after working the previous five days, eating and sleeping well, I had it in mind to be high, started Sunday morning and did house chores. May came by about one to participate (doing lines). Lindsey was around and we were cooperative. All three of us sat down to liquor and lines, with Lindsey sometimes getting up and doing small chores.

“We talked pleasantly of ephemera. May and I took a drive from 4–7 p.m. and talked of break-ups, especially mine. We had a glass of wine at the ‘Upstart Crow’. Back here we sat down with Lindsey again. I tried to call Martin for company because here I was outnumbered and subjected to a bias more feminine than pleasing. We talked seriously though, Lindsey and I arguing sometimes, May fading out of it for a few hours around midnight but waking up by 3 a.m. as me and Lindsey were arguing semantics and I was getting down on her superstitious, anti-science, astrology, acupuncture, alchemy stuff, not as severely as I might, just trying to point out the limitations and false assumptions of pseudo-sciences. But she conceded not a jot…I retired to the bedroom and wrote this journal entry.

“At 4:30, listening to ever more animated conversation on women’s issues and men in general and me, I return to the fray, trying to explain some men’s views on rape, abortion, marriage. May thought I was defending such views as I tried to explain that I was only stating the common male views, which she only half-believed.

“Then Lindsey and I got into rehashing old difficulties, Lindsey’s finances and poor record keeping. She got upset and started to cry. But May acted as a buffer and a good mediator for two hours. I didn’t want this discussion, but we fell into it and L. pushed it very much further. Around seven we all slowed down.

“At 9:30 the landlord group comes by for a five-minute survey. We told him we were moving out sometime in May. At 11 I open the door and usher a friend into our bedroom for a large ‘transaction’ and by 11:30 I’m back at the table, our guest gone, divvying up the cash”.

I can’t believe we did an all-nighter, with May over, then our landlord showing the apartment to strangers, the apartment quickly ‘cleaned up’, all the while arguing, doing lines and drinking Vodka with such important matters at hand. I dump a paper bag with fifteen thousand in it, in hundred dollars bills and split it evenly with Lindsey.

“Then we continue arguing louder than ever, May trying to intercede with little effect. Lindsey is so hard-headed and self-contradictory that nothing I offer is acceptable. Now she wants all the money in return for her quick departure with her brother. Yet she still doesn’t have a car or know where to go. I told her where that would end up, just like what happened two months before. He would steal all her money and spend it in a flash on drugs and porno, to which I wasn’t about to contribute. But she was spitting venom in my face and screaming loudly now”.

May got up in disbelief and for her own safety grabbed her purse and fled out the door. Who knows what the neighbors were hearing? Lindsey stormed off a moment later, with her half and nothing more. Thank God she was gone for two days. It was scenes like these that proved her insanity and determined me to ditch her. The fact that even May ran out the door, after all the nightmare scenes she’d lived through, was telling enough.

It’s amazing there wasn’t some awful ending for us, the way she’d lose all sanity at the most critical junctures, because she could just as easily have lost it in the street as in our apartment, flinging hundred-dollar bills in the air in her rabid rage, with a squad car pulling up to arrest the both of us. I strongly suspect she finally did meet some tragic and violent end from her crazy behavior, always coming out at the worst of times, as if she were hell-bent on self-destruction, just like her brothers.

“Sun. May 12th, 3 a.m. Alone at home. I’m finally enjoying this place all to myself. Lindsey is almost completely moved out and stays at a motel most nights. I’m half moved out but will drop by to the end of the month, in comfort and safety, with all the valuables gone. May was here again Wednesday, getting high on lines and drink, being in the way a bit as Lindsey and I were having a rare, civil conversation trying to tidy up loose ends.

"May left in the evening but returned late, drunk and sad after seeing some lone drinker keel over and die at ‘Brennan's’ bar. Then she phoned her sister back East from our kitchen for an hour and a half and stayed up with Lindsey all night, conversing on men and me and themselves, while I tried to sleep in the other room, unsuccessfully. She left Thursday afternoon but called several times from a nearby motel hoping to be invited back for more lines. But Lindsey and I were too tired, trying to sleep together, one last time. She seems to have her sights set on me, at least for a part time companion”.

It wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities. She’d broken up with Bones again for the tenth time (I don’t know how long), had few friends besides us and was staying in motels. She’d been coming to our place each week, sometimes sleeping over on the couch all day long, in her clothes. At night we always did lines.

She was an emotional mess in her own life at that time and in our apartment, she was at least half in Lindsey’s camp, they spent so many hours talking privately. I was sad and confused and she was beautiful, even in her own sadness (which made me pity her) but I let go.

But it would have exponentially complicated matters and further scrambled all our minds, with Bones my old friend and Lindsey her new friend. But sanity prevailed and I saw my priority was to end the madness and make a clean break from the place, and from both. After I accomplished that I breathed such a sigh of relief I secretly swore off all women for several months.

“Lindsey was up 3½ of 4 nights this week but much less mad or vexing to me. May was there some of those days and talking to her and that helped. We’d finished all our transactions now (with another large gain) and talked much and she’s accepted our separation. Part of her late happiness came with her recent purchase of a used Toyota truck and talk of an imminent vacation to mountains and rivers with her brother.

“I still prefer her childishness (when she’s in a good mood) to May’s lone adulthood. Though in part silly and stupid, it has life and honest smiles and joys. May’s laughing seems acted, shallow, or desperate and has a note of grief or loneliness to it. She has no deep interests and depends on others for distraction from her private griefs. It pains me to compare the two, or contemplate their lives, too much sadness in both.

“Because Lindsey’s mind is so unpredictable, it’s scary. I can’t love her for her numerous infidelities. She thinks I abandon her for no good cause and hates me. Then the unstoppable arguments begin beyond all logic or reason. Added to this, I could never fathom the extent of her anger. But I do remember, from some hint she let drop (after a rabid, hours-long fight), that I thought she was going to stab me in my sleep that night, and I lay awake many hours half expecting it”.

So our parting was ‘well made’. It was a surprise to me, this show of final good humor after so many battles. I moved to my tiny bedroom at Louie’s, a little bigger than a closet, a single bed, a small desk, and window, with a bookshelf below. Lindsey disappeared, and I only had a few phone calls from her for the next six weeks, pleasurably brief. I probably told May where I was moving but I also described it. She never came by either. She must have deduced from the description that I didn’t want company. I had the means to rent luxurious apartments, fully furnished with spare bedrooms and she knew that too.

But by choosing this everyone could tell I wanted to be alone. And it worked its magic. I had none all summer, except one, the proverbial John Seebach, (like the prodigal son). He visited me one afternoon there, sitting on the bed that sagged under his weight while I had the only chair. He wanted to go to Sweden for two months. He had friends there he could stay with. He, like me, had been doing too much speed all Spring, (which I’d given him to sell and support himself). He looked haggard and in need of a break.

I immediately agreed to provide him with the necessary cash, feeling guilty but also glad to help my best friend. I gave Louie the money for the round-trip ticket which he handled and handed him the cash as he got on the plane. To do it any other way he might have changed his mind and spent the money on some binge. He was gone within a week and had a great trip. Unfortunately, he came back with Hepatitis, (he never told us how) which took months for him to get over before he could even sip a beer again. But he did recover, which we saw as his drinking and drug use slowly returned over the next year, to bullish new heights.

Bones too was worn out with overindulgence. Our trip to L.A. a few weeks earlier in a rented, red convertible was like ‘Fear and Loathing’, a week-long binge. It took Larry at the Plough one night to point this out to me, the hurtful side of my ‘largess’. And I did retract after that from giving freely to every request. My other friends like Bruno and Jim and Louie self-moderated themselves and never asked me for anything. We partied every few weeks, just like in former years, when we felt like it.

What a noble quality it is, when one of a group suddenly becomes rich, never to ask for anything and live on the same terms of comradery as when we were all poor together, even when knowing that to ask would be to receive. Then again, when John or Bones asked, our friendships were so rich and close it wasn’t a request, it was allowing me to return the favor, which made me happy.

I became myself again, much happier, and woman-free for the next seven months. All my dealings with women in that period were dates or trips. There was ‘M’ and Dale and even Lindsey, (and a few other late nights, barely remembered girls, mostly picked up at Bone's after lots of drugs) but no strings attached, lasting one night, and enjoyed it to the fullest. It was sex and mutual respect, with our heads above water, not under it.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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