In Naive Agreement
I was 25 when I began dating a handsome, outgoing and energetic man with glacier blue eyes that just melted my heart. Finn worked in my office, which is generally not the smartest choice for a relationship. He was also the second man I’d dated at my office. A really bad choice and probably not one that looked intelligent to my co-workers, but in my defense, I was working crazy hours. Where else was I supposed to meet people? There were no cell phones back then. No dating apps.
Finn’s energy awed me. He was game for anything, including coming home with me to meet my family in North Carolina when we’d only been dating three months.
My mother loved him, mainly because he was Irish Catholic and he was from Maryland. He assured her his goal was to get more experience at the TV station where we worked so that he could come back home and take over his father’s chain of radio stations. Mom loved the idea that, if I married Finn, I might not only tie the knot in the Catholic Church, but she’d also have Catholic grandchildren and I might end up living just five hours north of Raleigh.
As far as mom was concerned, Finn was the one. It didn’t seem to bother her that when Finn played flag football with my family at Umstead Park, he played to win, crashing into my ten and fourteen year-old sisters like they were 300 pound defensive linemen and relishing in his touchdown as if it were a Super Bowl tie-breaker. “He has spunk,” mom said, and I agreed.
He talked incessantly through the picnic lunch. “Isn’t he interesting?” mom said, and I agreed. But my brother felt that Finn rambled and his thoughts were disjointed. “I think he’s on drugs,” he said and I laughed, rolling my eyes. “You’re just jealous,” I told my single brother.
When Finn fell asleep on the couch at 3pm and slept through dinner, Mom chalked it up to jetlag, and I agreed.
But there was a pattern of crazy, funny, wild, dynamic highs and then the crash and burn. I figured when you celebrated life with zest and cared so deeply, you needed your rest. I found him endearing. Passionate.
When I was forced to move from my Hollywood apartment following repeated gun violence in my neighborhood and I wasn’t having immediate luck in my search for a new place to live, Finn suggested I move into his new condo. It was a bold gesture, just five months into our relationship. Ignoring the whispers in my head, I agreed. We bought new furniture together. Art for the walls. I enjoyed “playing house” and imagined these things going into the home where we’d one day raise those grandchildren my mother was dreaming of and that I was just starting to get an itch to consider.
Finn was one of the rare men I’d met whose energy levels matched my own. College friends joked that they’d hate to see me on speed. I already moved fast enough. With Finn, I had a partner on the dance floor until last call. Friends would often come over and we’d stay up late drinking, laughing and talking about everything into the wee hours. I’d be exhausted at work the next day, but Finn was as energetic as ever.
We got a Siamese kitten and named him Tar Heel. We both loved our little blue-eyed kitty and treated him like our child. It was beginning to seem like a real possibility that we might one day have blue-eyed babies of our own.
When I returned from a business trip and my perfume bottles were scattered on the counter, the gold-trimmed antique mirrored tray from my grandmother on which they sat gone, I asked Finn. “Yeah, I don’t know what happened there. Somehow it broke.” And I agreed. Those things do happen.
And when I was vacuuming one day and moved the recliner in the office and found at least a dozen empty magnum bottles of Seagram’s Seven, Absolute and Bacardi piled in the corner, I questioned him and he said something about not wanting them to clutter the counter before he could get to the recycling bin. But we’d hardly finished any whole bottles together as far as I could recall. We hadn’t had any big parties. “Don’t worry about it,” he said, and I agreed.
Then while I was writing at the computer one night when he wasn’t home, I discovered a streak of white powder under the keyboard. I’d never done coke, but instinctively I put some on my finger and tasted it. My tongue instantly went numb. So did my brain.
Seriously, the signs had been there all along. The things I agreed were no problem were problems. I confronted him. He went crazy. His beautiful blue eyes were blood shot and batty. He smashed his fist through a wall. He kicked our kitten out of his path as he stumbled to the office, slamming the door. Who knows what he found there to calm him, liquor behind a chair, coke under a keyboard?
I stayed with a friend that night. Another friend, a former defensive lineman for Notre Dame, refused to let me return to the apartment alone just in case I might meet the fate of Finn’s fist, so I went back the next day armed with muscle. Finn was passed out on the sofa as we packed up my things around him.
I slept on a girlfriend’s couch until I found a new place. But it didn’t allow pets. Finn assured me Tar Heel was fine. He insisted he was going to clean up his act, and having someone to care for helped him. I agreed.
Friends tried to get him into rehab. For a short while he seemed to be doing better. But I realized I’d never known him when he wasn’t on something and I didn’t know what the signs were that he was clean. I dodged Finn at work for a month or so. He was so good at his job, he could generally hide his habits, but his dark hair accented his pallor and I couldn’t look. I couldn’t listen to excuses for the red eyes or the alcohol I sometimes smelled on his breath when we’d occasionally cross paths in the break-room.
He invited me to visit Tar Heel. I went once and the apartment was a mess. Pizza boxes, liquor bottles and the pungent scent of unchanged cat litter. I plotted how I might find Tar Heel a new home.
But a few weeks later, Finn caught the apartment on fire. He awoke and escaped in the nick of time, but Tar Heel was found in a corner, dead from smoke inhalation. The furniture and art we bought together for that house I’d imagine we’d one day raise a family in, destroyed. Finn lost his job soon thereafter.
And I lost track of Finn. I heard he’d gone home to Maryland. I imagined his family was getting him the help he needed. I swore off men for a while, traveled a bit, and was far less reckless in my next relationships. Certainly more shrewd. A couple years later I learned Finn was dead. Crystal Meth had become his new drug of choice. “You’re lucky you got out of that relationship,” a friend declared, and, heartbroken, I agreed.
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As shared at Story Salon on April 24, 2019 and at Otter Story Hour February 1, 2020.