I saw a T-shirt the other day that said something like this: there are two kinds of crazy, the kind where you’re sure there’s something terribly wrong with you, and the other kind. I think the shirt was pithier, since that sounds like a lot of words to put on a shirt? What had caught my attention was that it was plastered across the rather nice chest of a bouncer, so I was a little distracted at the time I was reading it. But now that I think about it with a broad canvas of that size there was plenty of room for words.
Anyway. Later I was thinking, what does that mean, exactly? It was kind of clever, like it says hey, there are people who are paranoid that they’re crazy and think about imaginary problems all the time and then there are the other kind of people… and if you’re the paranoid type you probably imagine all kinds of insanity that the other kind could suffer from. And if you’re not the paranoid type you just think well, of course…?
But then I thought maybe I read the words wrong and it didn’t say “other,” maybe it said “opposite,” which would mean that there are people who are insane because they worry they’re nuts, and then there are people who think they’re fine when actually they’re insane.
Or maybe who insist they’re fine, when they’re really not.
Whatever kind of nuts you can imagine, of course, my family had all of them.
Courtney told us that Lilibeth had waltzed out on her first husband after proving to her local priest that he had been unfit, “a drunken gambler who did drugs with whores” as Lili had supposedly put it, and he was unkind to their pets to boot.
“Was he?” I asked.
“Unkind to their pets?”
“A drunken gambler.”
“I don’t think so,” Court said. “I mean, I know they say girls end up marrying their fathers, but in this case I think he was actually a completely strait-laced, utterly boring stiff.”
Ziggy giggled. “Which made it completely believable that he was actually a degenerate?”
We were hunkered together in the downstairs rec room conspiring like teenagers at a sleepover, looking over our shoulders every so often to make sure some adult hadn’t snuck down to supervise. “I think she set him up.”
I kept my voice down. “What do you mean, ‘set him up?’”
“Like she basically went to the priest and her church elders–”
“Which kind of church was this?” I asked.
“She didn’t get sucked into the whole thing with mom’s former guy, I think because the guy she married was already religious. Presbyterian, maybe? I forget. Anyway. She asked him for a divorce first and he refused.”
Ziggy leaned in. “Because he was a drunk?”
“Because she was ready to trade up to a better husband. Janine said she’s a trophy wife now? It’s the other way around. Or it’s mutual or something.” She checked the door again, craning her neck. All clear. “Hubby didn’t want to let her go, though, so she set about gathering proof that he was no good. Receipts from strip clubs, casinos, and lingerie shops, blurry photos of him with his arm around a woman, a blonde bombshell sitting in his car, all that kind of stuff.”
“And how do you know all this?”
Court put a hand on my arm. “D. She bragged about it to me. You can’t pull off a stunt like that and keep it a complete secret. Not if you’re Lili, anyway.”
Ziggy made a noise of appreciation. “And she basically trashed his whole life on her way out.”
“Yep. She said he had a choice. He could have just let her go. She told him she’d make his life a living hell if he forced her to stay. I think he thought that meant she’d just try to make him miserable while staying married to him. He wasn’t prepared for what she was prepared to do.”
Ziggy asked the thing that I was wondering in the back of my mind. “Why’d she marry him in the first place?”
“You mean that wasn’t obvious? Marrying out was the quickest, fastest way to get away from Claire and Digger permanently.” She looked up and down the bookshelf next to the small TV, then got up and retrieved a faux-leatherbound photo album. She squished herself between us on the worn-out couch and began to flip the thick pages. “Here. Here you go.”
She stopped on a photo of Lilibeth and her groom on the steps of a chapel, surrounded by various family members in their wedding best, including a young Courtney in a flower girl dress. “God, look at my awful hair,” she said, covering her image with her hand. “Mousse city.” She turned the page and there was almost the identical photo except it was a smaller print, and in that one Courtney was jumping across the frame giving a peace sign while she mugged for the camera and blocked the shot. “Ha! Lili hit me with her bouquet for that. Man. That thing was like a club.”
Ziggy examined the photo closely. “Where’s Daron?”
“I wasn’t there,” I said.
“You’d already left.” Court’s voice was neutral but something about her terseness made me think she might be a tad irked.
“Yeah, well, some of us couldn’t marry out,” I said.
She let that pass without comment, though, and turned a few pages until she got to Janine’s wedding. “Jan of course couldn’t wait to catch up to her, so she married this guy like six months later.”
“That isn’t Jake,” Ziggy pointed out.
“No. Shit, I can’t even remember his name,” Court said. “Not that any of their names matter.”
I looked closer. “The photo says his name was Barry.” In the picture, Janine looked very similar to Lilibeth, similar style of dress and veil, similar hair-do. “It had to be more like a year later, though. Look how much bigger you are, Court.”
“Yeah, I guess. Whatever. When she got Janine wasn’t even done with college.”
“And she’s still not, I take it?” It was starting to click why she was stuck with minimum wage retail jobs. Well, besides the fact she was in semi-rural Tennessee.
“Nope. Barry was supposed to take care of her for the rest of her life, right? Didn’t work out that way.”
“Not sure exactly, but they split up pretty fast.”
“I notice Digger isn’t in this photo, either,” Ziggy said.
“Claire had already given him the boot,” Court said. “It all happened pretty fast after D. left home. Boom, boom, boom. He left, then Lili got married, then Claire got re-married, then Janine, and I got packed off to the Reform School for Girls Insufficiently Puritan for their Mother’s Preacher Second Husbands. All within like a year.”
“That sounds properly traumatizing,” Ziggy said.
“Oh, no doubt. Greatest excuse in the world to be a world-class slut.” She put a hand on Ziggy’s cheek. “God, it’s such a shame you two are married and I’ll never get a shot at you.”
Ziggy jerked back and she laughed. “Just kidding, sort of. I mean, I’m kidding about the flirting, not about regretting it. Sighhhh.” She stood up to put the photo album back on the shelf, and Ziggy clung to me in mock distress.
“Save me from this masher,” he said, voice sly.
I put an arm around him rather more possessively than I intended. Court had shaken me up with that. I’d gotten used to her being a lot more low key but I remembered then how she’d given Ziggy a pole-dancing demonstration in our tour bus the morning after our reunion.
“Let’s go back to the motel,” Ziggy murmured in my ear.
In the car on the way back, he said what I was thinking. “I like the sane version of Court a lot better than the crazy version.”
“Yeah, I find that’s true of most people. You like the sane version of me better, too.”
“Well, possibly true, though I don’t love you any less when you’re insane, dear one.”
“Likewise,” I said. “Which is good, because my family is obviously going to drive us all crazy.”
“Speaking of things that will drive you crazy, we’re down to a very small number of days left to do our Christmas shopping.”
“Shouldn’t we talk that over with everyone else before we start buying anything?”
“Technically yes, but practically no. There’s a mall on the same road with the Pizza Hut. I think we should make a stop there and at least make a start.”
So that’s how Ziggy and I ended up spending two hours walking around a shopping mall, all while I had intensely uncomfortable flashbacks to being a teenager at the mall hanging around with a straight boy I had a crush on, and feeling all wound up by Courtney to begin with, and when I thought I was about to go out of my head myself, Ziggy dragged me into a fitting room in the menswear department of a department store and mercilessly emptied my nuts.
I wasn’t any saner afterward but at least I was the kind of crazy who’s happy about it. All those song cliches about “crazy in love” exist for a reason.
(My other favorite School of Fish song. Another one from 1991. -d)