Well, if you remember, "Painted on my heart" was in the 2000 film, "Gone in Sixty Seconds." Yeah, it's a favorite of film of mine, seeing Nicholas Cage hot-rodding around in "Elanor," also known as the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500. It's also a film I watched with Taz and it prompted me naming his Corvette "Vivian". Oh, that car. Forgive me while I swoon. Oh hell, if it has to do with Taz, it's either going to make me weep or swoon. There's eight years of history there that you just can't get around or get over. It's odd how seven months of your life can resound with you for eight years and leave you with the inability to shake it.
Ok, it's time. Let's tell the story of Taz. Break out your kleenex, you're going to need it. This story is guaranteed to make you cry, you might even hate me in parts, you might cheer in parts, but it's one hell of a story that I think belongs on the big screen.
Let's go back 10 years. I was working at Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, my ex was at that time my boss, that's how I met him. I was also scuba diving every day in the main exhibit, putting on a wetsuit, 16 pounds of chain-mail, and then a 20-pound pack, consisting of my buoyancy compensator (BC) and my tank with 7 pounds extra tucked in there so I could attain neutral buoyancy. It wasn't light. I used to drag my happy ass into the exhibit just to clean windows, fake coral and dodge seven-foot-long sharks, huge moray eels hiding in the nooks and crannies of the coral and do that for an hour before I had to get out, shower, then get back to my duties around the aquarium. Those ten hour days were long and physically demanding, but long and short of it, I had one kickin' figure along with long blonde hair. Trust me, when I walked into places, heads turned.
During that time my ex took me from being an addict to cleaning me up. That's right, when I started working at the aquarium, it was right at the end of my drug hay day where I was shoving all sorts of unnatural chemicals in my body to escape my low self-esteem issues and depression along with the cacophony that was going on due to the onset of Hashimoto's Thyroidits. I didn't know what was happening with my thyroid, that it was causing so much emotional distress, but yep, if you read about ol' Hashimoto, you'll find that mood swings are part and parcel of my auto-immune disease. But much less to say, over a year's time, my ex took me and cleaned me up, got me out of an abusive relationship and got me on my way to recovering from drug addiction. I quit cold turkey and I'm quite pleased that besides an occasional Xanax or Valium to control my anxiety, I've been drug free now for over 10 years.
Well, anyhow, after he got me cleaned up, my ex started expressing interest in me. I got pulled in, hook, line and sinker. I was so used to men, when I went out, just talking to my breasts and not my face, and after a while, I really got sick of it. The ex talked to my intellect, he challenged me mentally, but to boot, he saw that I was taking abuse and gave me nothing but positivity. He was a great guy to be around because he was so uplifting. It was such a refreshing break from what I was going through everywhere else in my life, it was a refuge from abuse (notice a pattern yet?) and he always had a way of taking my very erratic behavior and teaching me how to be more positive with what great communication and educational skills I had. So, as you can guess, I fell for the trap, but the thing was, he was married. Yep, I had a look at wife #1, she was 300 pounds and had curly blonde hair. I actually met her once, and she was BIG. I looked at my ex, with his 6'4 well-muscled body and couldn't figure out what the problem was. Why was she so fat? How could he be with someone like that? He had explained to me that his marriage had gone south because his wife was frigid...no shit, I'm not even kidding, he said that...and that he just wasn't happy with her. Ok, fast forward 10 years and guess what, he did the exact same thing to me as he did his first wife. I mean, he set me up. He knew EXACTLY what he was doing, he was using me for an escape route and yes, he did leave his wife or I couldn't have been wife #2.
As we all know, the ex, the arrogant ass that he is, loves nothing more than to tell his bosses that they're idiots and right before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we had gotten a new director of the aquarium. Trust me when I say the guy we got for director, he's probably one of the most horrible people on the planet and the ex went head to head with him, even to the extent of calling the man an idiot. You guessed it, just like at his job two years ago, he got himself canned. Now, here's where it affects me...he and I were already headlong into our relationship, but being as he was Canadian, he couldn't stay in the states because his visa immediately expired when he got canned. So, the ex, leaving me brokenhearted, packed up and went back to Montreal leaving me with the express instructions that he'd come back for me and we'd get married.
One month went by.
Two months went by.
Even with daily phone calls and so forth, the distance was starting to get to me. The abuse kept coming in and I was miserable. Since I was aligned with the ex, my work life started to suffer too because the new management at the aquarium wanted to get rid of everyone who worked there who worked well with my ex. Yep, I would get sneered at, called in for write-ups for really insignificant things like the length or color of my socks, and they just lived to torment me. So between Mom and her daily rants at my worthlessness, I also had work becoming worse and worse. I was in hell.
Lucky for me, I still had the self-preservation instinct to go out on Friday nights. I was hanging out at Spago, having all sorts of fun with my friends and just trying to maintain a shred of sanity. Dad, at seeing how miserable I was between dealing with the ex being so far away, work going to hell and Mom piling on her usual stuff, he used the excuse that he was going through the preparations for his colonoscopy to send me down to the pharmacy for medicine that was a part of him preparing for it. He told me, "Ask for a pharmacist named Taz, he's a nice guy and he'll help you." Ok, now you have to remember, my father really didn't like my ex. Mom couldn't stand him. So Dad, without me knowing, had decided to play matchmaker and well, he used the excuse of the ex being gone to intervene. When Dad sent me to the pharmacy, I expected Taz to look like my elderly Uncle Bill who was a pharmacist himself, so I really didn't think twice when I walked up to the counter and asked the technician, "May I talk to Taz, please." What walked up is NOT what I was expecting. Instead of a 70 year-old man, a 46 year-old, well built, tanned and absolutely gorgeous man walked up to me, smiled and said, "Hi, I'm Taz, how can I help you." At that point my jaw hit the counter, it was love at first sight. My mind said, "The Ex, who?" I stood there stumbling over words and barely getting out, "Hi, I'm Sam's daughter, Sheri...he sent me to pick something up for him." Taz smiled at me and went to find my Dad's prescription. He told me what to tell my father about how to use it and so forth and then sent me on my way with this amazing smile.
When I got home, I gave my Dad the package and he said, "How's Taz?" I looked at him with this huge smile on my face...and Dad just nodded. Well, it wasn't long until the colonoscopy medicine went to work on Dad. I'll leave out the more hysterical moments of what preparing for a colonoscopy was like 10 years ago, but let's just say, Dad had descended into his own personal hell and it wasn't long before he sent me back to see Taz for some Desitin. Yeah, it was pretty hysterical looking at Taz and saying, "I need some help...um, Dad's backside is a little raw from what he's going through..." Taz laughed good-naturedly and pointed me toward some things that would help Dad, along with the requested tube of Desitin. We had a good laugh at the whole predicament my Dad was in and I actually stood there talking to him for a few minutes about how I went out on Friday nights, worked at the aquarium and so forth. I even mentioned that I was going through a long distance relationship. Well, at that point, that was enough of that, I got what Dad needed, wrapped up the conversation and went home.
Dad is relentless when he's on a mission. It wasn't but a week later that Dad found another excuse to send me to see Taz. This time I walked up to the counter and he stopped what he was doing to come talk to me. We had an even longer conversation that time and well, it wasn't long until Taz asked me out. Ok, if you ever saw Taz, trust me girls, when a man that gorgeous is asking you out, any sort of will-power you have bites the dust fast. Yeah, I was digging on the drama-free way that guy handled himself. He was confident, gorgeous and had no wife to deal with. For a single gal in a long-distance relationship with a pompous horse's ass, and trust me I knew that about my ex even back then, I said yes.
The first time Taz and I went out it was like magic. Everything fell into place beautifully. You know the dates you dream of where you've got this gorgeous guy and he's romantic and funny and when you look at him, every single hormone in your body screams out because every molecule in his body just begs to be touched? Yeah, I was there. The conversation was perfect...we agreed on almost everything...the chemistry was incredible and everything was effortless, it just clicked.
What I found out along the way is that the first time I met Taz wasn't the actual first time he saw me. He had actually seen me at my old job as a dancer at The Beach Nightclub two years earlier. It was a happening nightclub with a beach theme where we did skits and had a blast. Every night I'd get to work at 9 p.m., do door duty where me and the other dancers would act as greeters, then go inside and take our places and dance to the latest dance music in the hippest club clothes from 10 p.m. to around 5 a.m. It was 8 hours of cardio five nights a week. One night, Taz and his girlfriend Tracy came in to The Beach to go dancing, what I didn't know is that he saw me dancing on top of what was called the Bamboo Bar in my Doc Martens, tight black pants and a shiny PVC shirt. He said when he looked up and saw me, he couldn't help but stare and Tracy actually hit him for staring at me.
After I got home from my first date with Taz, my whole world got thrown into doubt. There I was having to deal with the ex who was calling every day from Montreal talking about things I could care less about and on the other hand a few minutes later, Taz would call with some funny story or just good conversation. At that point, I knew I was in trouble.
Over the following months, things got deeper with Taz. We'd hop into Vivian and he'd cut her backend loose and we'd go swerving around corners and burning up the roads. We even sat in his living room and watched "Gone in Sixty Seconds." It wasn't long until I prepared him to meet The Boys, my pals in the Spago Boys Club that I hung out with every Friday. There was Alex, who looks just like Brando in Last Tango in Paris, Anthony who looks just like Joe Pesci, even down to the fact he's 5'4, and all of our other usual suspects like Topper and Dick. I introduced Taz around and well, the boys had met the ex and they ALL hated him...as soon as they met Taz, they absolutely LOVED him. Alex immediately took to Taz and before long Taz had become Alex's wingman and he sat talking to all of my friends and soon, Taz was one of us, he got adopted into the Spago Boys Club. There is nothing like when your friends love your boyfriend and they're all thrilled to death...again, everything just clicked.
Imagine it girls, you're young and good looking, well-known on the club circuit and to boot, you hang out with some of the richest men in town who all treat you like you're their little sister. Now, add onto this that you're going out to the best, most exclusive places with a man who looks like he just popped out of a romance novel who lives in the half-million dollar house and drives the sports car AND he's absolutely head over heels for you... Yes. I had that and for seven months, I was in heaven. But just as you think the story is going well, life likes to throw a wrench into the works.
It wasn't long until I realized I was in love with Taz and it left me scurrying, trying to figure my way out of the predicament I was in. The ex was on his way back to Vegas toting a $15,000 engagement ring in his pocket. Work life and home life were still hellish and Taz was the only good thing in my life. All the while, I had told Taz the truth about the ex and he was fine with it, why I have no idea, but as time was running out, you could tell Taz was none too happy about my situation either.
So there I was at a fork in the road. On one side, I could marry the ex, be transported to a different country, have a life that was free and without abuse, or I could take the other route, stay there in a dead-end job with an abusive mother who would never fail to remind me how worthless I was, but at least I'd have Taz. In retrospect, no one ever tells you that when you come to a fork in the road, there is more than two paths to take. Now had I known what I know now, I'd have gone up the middle, said to hell with it all and cut my own path. But you have to understand, I was still living with the old-school programming that what girls do in their lives is that they get married and live happily ever after. That's all I could compute at the time. Taz and I were WAY too new to even be thinking about that, and it was a shaky proposition at best to stay, so I quit my job, went to Taz's, took my belongings out of his closet, packed my bags and went to Montreal.
Before I left, Taz looked at me and said, "Eventually, you'll resent and hate him. I'm just glad it's not me that you'll end up being that way at because of the decision you've made." Damned if he wasn't right! When I got on the plane for Montreal, I started to cry. I didn't want to go, but it was really the only viable choice at the time.
When I got up to Montreal, I went into culture shock. I rode around in a beat-up, rusted-out Hyundai Scoupe, had to deal with all of the ex's mountaineering BS and his overall failure to keep a job, his psycho mother, his anorexic sister and his philandering father. Over the course of three years, I made few friends, had to go to these seedy BDSM nightclubs that the ex loved so much to frequent but gave me the willies. Every night after the ex went to sleep, I looked out the window and cried because I could see Taz's face, I could still hear his laugh and every song I played out of my CD collection reminded me of him. Eventually, when I realized there was no going back, I got so torn up, I overdosed on Lortabs and alcohol, resulting in a trip to the emergency room to have my stomach pumped. Then, I did the dumbest fucking thing of all time, I accepted what was happening to me and I jumped off the proverbial cliff, I married the ex, succumbing to the fact I'd never be happy again.
The pathetic part is that on our wedding day, it was just a clusterbomb from hell. The ex wouldn't listen to me about anything and we had a guy at the courthouse that sounded like Hank Azaria in "The Birdcage" do the ceremony. While it was funny and my cellphone did go off in the middle of the ceremony...(it was my sister), it was a day in hell for me. After all the papers were signed and everyone was cheering, my whole body cried out, "THIS IS WRONG!" I was uncomfortable, I cried and told the ex that I didn't want to do it, that I didn't want to be married and that I wasn't happy at all being in Montreal. It was then the ex looked at me and said, "Try it for a little bit, you'll find out tomorrow that nothing has changed and life will go on as usual." So, I got through the day, but the truth was, I didn't want to be married to the ex, I wanted to be with Taz. As I said, this is the pathetic part.
The next day, I found that the ex was right, nothing had changed. I was still my own person and I was still in control of my life and I fell into the routine of being a wife, which was the exact same thing as being a girlfriend except there's a legality involved. For three years I froze my ass off in Montreal being a doting and loving wife every day, cooking meals, throwing dinner parties that the ex loved to throw and spending every night crying, looking out the window and thinking of Taz. It was at that point that I became involved in online worlds. Instead of going to bed at the usual time, I'd stay up late into the night hanging out with my friends, finally sating my need to be social. I got to hang out and just have fun with people I liked to be with, not the psychos that I was surrounded with in my daily life.
Ok, so, the fall of the third year brought some changes, the fact that the ex got a job again in Las Vegas. Finally, I'd be going home. No more of the cheap clothes, horrid food and pathetic living in Canada. I was so thrilled, I'd get to see Taz again. But, the occasion never happened. I got to come home, but I never saw Taz again until I was having a serious bout with my depression and the ex had put me in the car to go to dinner. Behind us, I could see in the side view mirror a grey sports car, and in the drivers seat, Taz. My heart leaped into my throat and as we turned the corner, my eyes stayed trained on the car that carried Taz away from me again. It was a rotten day.
Well, for the next five years, I spent time looking for work, being immersed in my online worlds and being a doting wife, putting up with 18 hour days, excuse after excuse of why he wasn't coming home, the countless business trips and so forth. Even though I was busting my ass trying to make my marriage work, things were starting to unravel, but I still hadn't had the courage to call up Taz. I made a deal with the devil and I was keeping my end of the bargain.
By the time I caught the ex with the Bassett Hound Faced Bitch, I had become the ex's first wife. I was grossly overweight, frigid (how in hell did that happen???????) and extremely unhappy. It was no small wonder he took the bitch and headed for the hills of Kentucky. As I said before, the ex has his little M.O., he enables until you die inside and when you're a corpse, he takes off with the next great little piece of ass. It's just how he is, a locust. He did it to his first wife, he did it to me and the Bassett will get hers too. Still, it wasn't until the door closed behind the ex that I called Taz.
The late April afternoon the ex left was traumatic. After cleaning myself up from my initial cry, I called my parents, my friend Jon then got on the phone with Taz and told him what happened. He agreed to meet me for lunch. Over a really bad Caesar salad, I told him what happened, all of the details from top to bottom of the eight years we'd been apart and I apologized profusely for making the choice I did. I told him he was right, I did hate my ex because of the choice I had made. Well, after a not so great lunch, he showed me his new customized sports car, we talked about it for a minute and we both headed back to our respective homes. I didn't hear from Taz again after that. I don't know why, but he didn't call, but I did make sure to call him on his birthday and Christmas, just to leave a voicemail saying hello. Still, no return phone call. At that point, I threw in the towel. By marrying my ex, I had completely thrown away any chance of ever being happy again. I still couldn't dig into my CD collection and listen to any of the songs I had listened to with Taz because it just hurt too damned much. Every night, I'd go to sleep remembering everything he and I had done together.
What I hadn't fully realized is that when I got onto the plane for Montreal, I not only destroyed my life, I destroyed Taz's too. What I'm realizing is that after I found out he kept everything I ever gave him, I also found out that one day he was obsessing over me and he actually ruined the paint on his grey sports car so much so that the little spot he ruined he had to cover with one of those little bullet-hole stickers, he had literally buffed the car through the paint, all the way down to the primer. I guess he went through what I did, that everything he looked at and touched reminded him of me and he was just as tormented by the memories as I had been. He had even transferred to a different pharmacy so he didn't have to look at my parents and be reminded of me.
18 months went by without hearing from Taz until one Wednesday I went out to see my parents. I was driving home after telling Mom and Dad about a triumphant day at school when I saw this red sports car that reminded me of Taz's. I looked at it and thought to myself, "Taz would love that car." It wasn't until I pulled up beside it and looked at the driver. It was Taz. I started to scream and yell his name like a 16-year-old at a Justin Timberlake concert, when I realized, "Sher, you dolt, he can't hear you through your rolled up window!" So, I rolled down the window and going 65 miles an hour had an arm flailing out the window waving at him. It was then that his head turned to look at me, and at seeing who the raving lunatic was beside him, he gave me this incredible smile. I waved for him to follow me, but he said no. Not but five minutes later, the phone rang.
The phone has rang every day since. Sometimes he's in a lot of pain, so we don't talk long. Other days, we go on and on and sometimes I even get to go over and see him. I don't know how many times I'll say this, but I'm right back where I started before I got married, even down to the fact that I get to hang around with the one guy that knows me better than anyone else...
And as I've said before, I guess it takes a while for timing to be just right. Had I stayed, he would have pushed me away, but the one thing that sticks with me is something he said not but a couple of weeks ago, "Now we can speak from a common point of view." See Taz was married before too. He's gone through the relationships, with the psychos and so forth, been married and have it crumble the same as I have. Our paths are now equal. Whereas I wouldn't have understood what he was talking about on some topics, now I understand fully. It only took almost 10 years and two broken hearts to do it.
Hanging around with Taz on Monday night, when I rested my head on his shoulder, I heard the song from "Gone in Sixty Seconds," and it was one that I put on the CD I left him with so long ago, but as he said, he played that CD to the point that it started to skip, and I can only imagine he knew the song backwards and forwards. It also left me with images in my head that I hadn't considered, that over those years, he often looked at the photos I left him, that he remembered everything and every moment we spent together so long ago. That everything I had touched, he had kept, and simply, all those nights I spent looking out the window and remembering, he had done the same thing being equally as tormented.
You know, some relationships are like sports cars, they're just made for high performance and even though they take a lot of maintenance, there are lots and lots of people out there that wait a long time to get their high performance dream car just so they can feel the rush of something incredible. Yeah, well, I thought Taz was kind of like Elanor in "Gone in Sixty Seconds," my proverbial unicorn that I had crashed and ruined miserably. But one thing remains, the overwhelming desire to touch something so perfect that it paints itself onto your heart and you can't ever let it go because it is so special.
It never occurred to me that sometimes things worthwhile take a bit of time to restore. I'm willing to spend the time. Who knows what it will look like, but I'm willing to do the slow, painstaking work to see how it turns out.
So, for all of you who don't believe love can't go the distance or that it's ok to give up hope, I give you "Painted On My Heart," by The Cult.