Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

“I saw a bag of coke sitting on his desk, and that was the last straw so I broke if off,” my friend Amy said, “but then he called me last night and I was so confused.”

“Confused about what?” I replied, rolling my eyes so far back into my head I could almost see my brain. “What’s to be confused about? Cut him loose.”

I was trying to be patient with her but finding it difficult. We’d spend hours discussing why this man was bad for her only to have her go running back to him again and again.

The thing that annoyed me about it the most is she sounded exactly like me.

It got me thinking about the most pathetic things I’ve ever done for love, as if any of it had anything to do with love. It was more like a game and I was like a bull in a ring. Let’s just say whenever I saw a red flag, I’d go charging at it even though I knew what was on the other side. I’d see that thing blowing in the breeze and I just had to have it, had to go back for more even though I got hurt time and time again. There was one problem: the game wasn’t fun.

Like my tryst with Florida Boy: He was one of these high-rolling surfer punks who struck it rich selling real estate or drugs or some kind of industrial piping, I’m not sure which.

Even though he had money to burn/drink/snort and was well into his 40s, he dressed like a punk kid in oversized flannel, wool beanie and baggy jeans. He told me he was 36 but the deep lines around his eyes told another story. They were like rings inside the trunk of a tree, one for each year of hard partying, lies told, and hearts broken.

I probably should’ve gotten a clue when, after our first date he introduced me to a friend of his and the first thing out of her mouth was, “How’s the baby?”

I was like, “You have a baby?”

I probably should have hesitated when we were having a drink one night at L’Hostaria and the hostess came up and asked, “Is he bothering you?” when he was in the bathroom. And that was after he bought an $80 bottle of wine.

I chose not to listen to the one friend we had in common when I asked her what she knew about him and she said, “He’d sleep with anything that moves.”

I rationalized the hell out of this information. I decided things would be different with me. I insisted we had a connection or that our meeting each other happened for a reason and choosing to surround myself with marginal people was somehow an integral part of my identity as a writer. I fancied myself adventurous when I agreed to go to Cabo or Panama or Costa Rica with him on these extravagant surf trips that never materialized. I’d spend weeks preparing, shopping for sun dresses and getting Brazilian bikini waxes and going on crash diets only to have him cancel days or even hours before my flight was supposed to take off.

Even that didn’t do it.

When we finally met again, he abandoned me in an airport hotel and stuck me with the bill, not only for the room but the mini-bar that was emptied out by his gangster friend after he went on a coke bender at the strip club.

“Strippers and gangsters and pimps!” I boasted to Amy when I returned home. “I mean, that’s seriously good material!”

Let’s just say I paid the price when I came home with nothing to show for it but the E. coli virus that I likely picked up at some point on the Petri-dish Florida tour and there was no one there to take care of me. It was something straight out of a “Sex and the City” episode, like the one when Samantha gets the flu and realizes no one is there to greet her when she wants to get off the party train.

That was nothing compared to the humiliation I endured with my last relationship. I did the exact same thing Amy’s doing, except I did it for years. It was the same cycle over and over again. I chose to ignore little things, like the fact that he didn’t want to refer to me as his girlfriend or how he screamed, “I can’t do this!” every time I tried to talk to him about his emotions. I’d go crying to my friends about it, spending countless hours trying to justify things like why I cleaned his projectile vomit off the bathroom wall after he mixed alcohol and prescription drugs or trying to understand why it didn’t turn him on when I kissed a girl.

It wasn’t until I stopped by his house (announced, mind you) to find his wastepaper basket filled with used condoms and wrappers scattered all over the floor that I saw things for how they really were. The bed was made and the room was clean otherwise. It was his way of rubbing my nose in it, sending a message I couldn’t choose to ignore.

It wasn’t until I saw those sperm-filled jellyfish bottom feeding that I finally woke up and was able to smell the difference between crap and roses. When I was in Amy’s shoes, I didn’t realize it was simple as finally making that choice. But good god, it was a long journey to get there.

See, I had it all backwards. I thought I was getting off on the party train when the thing I needed the most was to stop it so I could get off. It was a wild ride but at least I’ve finally arrived.

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