During my weekly session, I spoke with Layla, the Brazilian sex therapist I met on the salsa dance floor. I told her about my recent encounter with a gorgeous Mexican, Melody Sonora, whom I first laid eyes on at the U.T. salsa conference earlier that year. Mel, tall and slender, had dancer's legs, lustrous black hair, and obsidian Aztecan eyes. She combined a beautiful creature with a shining presence and a body built for two. While sitting in the lobby of the ornate, chandeliered University of Texas Ballroom, looking at the floor as I waited for the doors to open, I heard footsteps. Looking up, I saw black suede boots with four inch heels, then skin-tight black designer jeans, then a black western silk blouse with red roses embroidered across the chest, then a beautiful face ringed by curled black hair. The coiled snake tattoo on her left shoulder, partially hidden by her blouse, should have warned me, but her looks had me too smitten to decode the hint needled into her body. I later regretted my inattention, as her beauty masked her reality.
I felt like a salmon, rising to hit the lure, as I stood up and asked her if she knew how to salsa. She looked me in the eye and replied:
"Yeah. You lead, I follow."
We had a wonderful time at the salsa conference; she and I danced with the stars. I gave her my card. She called me the next day, and we began a long-distance relationship, because she lived in Dallas, and I in Austin.
Over the next several weeks, Mel revealed that she was 50 years old, divorced, with five marriages hanging from her custom Gucci leather belt, four grown children, and ten grand kids. Dancing released her from the worries and strains of life. What she didn't tell me, at least not right away, was that she was recently released from an Dallas mental hospital, which she entered following a mental breakdown precipitated by her fifth in an unbroken string of violently abusive husbands. As I came to understand, she was half crazy, and the other half was on medication. Mel, under the care of a psychiatrist, had her equilibrium maintained by the anti-psychotic drug Topamax, a.k.a. Dopamax. The manufacturer of Topamax recommends that you call your physician if you begin to kill small animals while consuming this drug. Mel endured large mood swings, from fear, to rage, to shame, as she battled her memories of physical, mental, and emotional abuse at the hands of her "loved ones". With her story slowly unfolding before me, I became more and more engaged, as her situation was crack for my co-dependency issues.
I felt an overwhelming urge to play Savior to the rotting lepers in her mind. As our relationship endured, her mood swings became more and more problematic. She would go from happy and carefree to angry and repellent in a flash. Her moods were brittle, like a glass rod, bending under pressure only slightly before breaking with a loud snap. She would change from sunshine and butterflies to rain and roaches in the space of a comment. But, when she was nice, she was very, very nice. I loved her when she was nice. I still remember the taste of her smile. I especially loved her when we were alone together on the dance floor. The first time we made love, I found a small arrow, pointed down, tattooed below her bikini line.
Layla listened to my rant with a non-committal gaze on her face.
When I finished, I asked her: "Well, help me out here. What do you think?"
She replied: "Most people have certain requirements for a good relationship. Generally, things like sex, comfort, and companionship head the list. What you want is someone who loves you like you love you. But, at the end of the day, you have to take a hard look at yourself, and then come to Jesus. Some people are the exact opposite of "good for you". You need to be able to recognize when you are in a dead-end, destructive relationship, and get out, even if your self-indulgent, lizard-brained pleasure center is happy rolling in the puke generated by the misery inherent in such a relationship. Mel has a border-line personality disorder, and has been broken by her experiences."
"The border-line," I asked her, "between what and what?"
"Between neurotic and psychotic," she replied. "She can only drag you down. Get out NOW."
I sat sadly looking at her, shaking my head no, knowing she was right.
Now, everyone has baggage, and what you have to do is weigh the baggage and see if it's worth the freight. Well, I checked, and Mel had a thirty mule team pulling her baggage train. She was as crazy as ten rats in a burlap sack. Still, I knew in my heart that underneath all that craziness and suffering and pain there was an eight year old child dying for love. As I left the session, I resolved to ignore Layla's advice, and continue on in my relationship with Mel. I thought perhaps Layla was overreacting, and everything would be fine.
That next week, one of her exes contacted her, and she suffered a psychotic relapse that broke through the Dopamax. She drove me in the ditch, pulled her plates, and split. I still miss her, the way the memory of a painful, infected tooth lingers after an expensive trip to the dentist.
I have learned something, though. From now on, when I meet a beautiful woman, as soon as possible I'm going to check her purse for drugs. Not only coke or crack or meth or barbs, but finding an anti-psychotic like Dopamax will make me run like hell.
To Mel: Songs of the Year 2010