Nick was drunk (no big surprise there) and he called and left a message on our answering machine. It was a rambling, curse- and obscenity-filled rant with no particular theme other than I wasn't there to answer the phone when he called. He had forgotten I had gone to play bingo with a friend, as I did most Friday nights, and then was going to a late supper with a couple we knew. I came home, saw the light blinking on the answering machine and listened to the filth coming out of it with my mouth open, something I didn't realize until the message ended. It wasn't that I wasn't familiar with drunk Nick but that he would leave such a message at all when he seldom called. This time he had forgotten something at home and wanted to know where it was even though he was out trawling the titty and drinking bars for another debauched evening or a one night stand. Evidently, that night he didn't get lucky -- or rather the women did get lucky because they didn't get talked into sex with him, but I digress.
I saved the message. The next morning when Nick woke up he checked the messages on the machine and heard himself spewing filth. He was shocked and then he got angry that some dumb jackass had dared to call our home and leave such a message. I asked him to listen to the message again and he did. While he listened, his face getting redder and redder, I calmly asked if he recognized the voice. He didn't . . . at first. "It does sound familiar," he said. "It should," I said. "It's you." At that point his face got so red I thought he was going to explode. He listened again and then all the blood drained from his face and his fisted hands went slack, his jaw dropped, and he dropped into the chair like all the bones had just gone as soft as his head. "It's me."
Later that day, after he was gone, I took the cassette out of the machine and stashed it with some of my things so I could retrieve it whenever he got into drinking mode and started being abusive again.
I ran across a cassette a couple of months ago and put it in the player and listened. It was the same cassette from our old answering machine with Nick's filth spewing out at me. I smiled, not because I was nostalgic for the old days but because somehow, some way that cassette, out of all the things I have owned over the years, has survived, and survived longer than my marriage.
With all the technology available, I wonder why people don't think about taping their parents, children, grandparents, spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, bosses, etc. when they become verbally abusive and letting them listen when they are calmer or at least less abusive. During one of those expansive moments when they are in the Prince/ss Charming phase of the cycle to make up for the Edward Hyde phase of the cycle, turn the tape, MP3, etc. on and let them listen. I'll bet they don't recognize themselves and are shocked that anyone would say such things, and I'll also bet it will be a hard, cold slap in the face with a big, reeking, wet sponge (like the one filled with Betadine they slapped between my legs and onto the pulsing warmth of my nether regions when I was about to give birth to my first child) and they might, just might be willing to see things in a different light. Or not. It might be safer to booby trap the replay so you are at least in the presence of Guido and Vito or an officer of the law or military squadron with weapons before you do. But at least give them a taste of the foul air they have been polluting your environs with for so long.
It didn't change Nick much, but it did change him. He was the kind of person who created a fantasy world in which he lived and the normal laws of physics and science and decency do not exist, except as he created them, and changed them without notice. He found out that my complaining wasn't just the usual bitchiness he attributed to PMS, which I have never had, but was valid. His own shock that someone would speak that way (and probably that he thought I had a lover who was audacious enough to get drunk and leave such a message -- I didn't) and leave proof made him see himself in a little different light. The light wasn't pink or rose-colored but it was clearly Technicolor.
That is all. Disperse.