Stupid Fight (Volume 64, October 1998-January 1999)
Thursday, November 5, 1998
Ellis is losing it. The financial pressure he's under is making him weird and mean.
He picked a fight today, which he rarely does - going on and on about how I'm destroying him, making him crazy, because of the way I criticize everything he does.
What precipitated this outburst is that I said, "Aren't you going to put a return address on it?" as he was carrying my VISA bill to the mailbox.
He gave me the bill, angrily, and I said, offhandedly, "It's a shame to waste a good stamp on a bill," eyeing the Gone with the Wind stamp in the corner. This drove him nuts, this proved his point. "See? See? You oversee everything I do!"
"Ellis, " I say, "it's not a personal criticism of you to say that it's a shame to waste a good stamp on a bill." He's livid now - on the edge. "So what! SO WHAT! I do things differently than you! I only buy good stamps! I'll get more good stamps tomorrow! Your way isn't the right way!" etc. etc.
He doesn't believe that he does the same thing to me that he criticizes me for doing to him. He does grudgingly admit that he represents all men; I represent all women in this regard.
"Women are always trying to train male savages to inhabit a house properly," I say. "You don't know how many times I struggle to not say anything when you're doing something that bugs me," I say. "I don't get credit for all the times I refrain from saying something."
"This isn't the real issue," I say. "You're worried about money and you resent me for not making any, for being a financial burden." This he denies. "Someone's got to support you," he says. "And I guess it's me. You have to keep painting and writing, that's obvious."
He really hurt my feelings today. He told me he'd called his shrink because he was feeling so anxious and angry and about to explode. His doctor said it's the Wellbutrin, and to cut down his dosage.
He has been comparatively erratic lately; his behavior has led us to bring up the possibility, to ourselves, that he's manic depressive.
Last night he got into this energy jag in which he insisted, right then and there, in getting his saw and cutting a hole in the living room ceiling so he'd get heat in his office, which is situated right above the living room. The vent is there already, on his office floor, but the hole to the living room had been plastered over at some point. There's no other heat source to Ellis' office. It's just a little weird.
Of course we battled over the need to cover the living room furniture and floor with tarps before he began sawing through plaster. I convinced him to get a tarp in spite of his protests that there would be very little dust.
I watched the clouds of fine particles drift to every corner of the room from the dining room chair where I sat, soothing Elroy. Halfway through Ellis' sawing I convinced him to put a tarp over the other sofa section. When he was finished sawing I had to wipe off the TV, lamps and all my paintings, which were covered with a very fine layer of plaster dust.
I hate how it looks now, and how it sounds. It's creepy. We don't have a vent cover yet so I can hear him walking around. And he periodically throws little wads of paper down for the amusement of the cats.
I kept thinking of "The Big Snit," the great animated short in which the husband keeps sawing things and his wife keeps shaking her eyes and yelling at him for it, while they're playing a drawn out game of Scrabble.
I told Ellis last night, "I should call the sheriff and tell him you've gone nuts, that you have a saw and you're hacking a hole through the plaster in the ceiling and I can't stop you."
Ellis: "He'd be right over. Then he'd see my neat, precise little rectangle, perfectly lined up with the vent, and the tarps carefully laid out in the living room."
He just came in here while I was writing this. (I'm sitting by the heater in my studio.) He was nice, soft-spoken. Asked if I'm still mad. I said I'm hurt. "It hasn't even snowed yet and you're already getting into your winter meanness."
He said everything's been building up. Money, money, money, money, money. He feels bad that I feel like I'm a financial burden. "I am," I tell him. "Obviously I am. I cost you money, I'm not earning any."
His goal, he says, is to let me not work until my show in August. I don't know what to say. I should have gone into Math. I could be a hugely paid math professor, or a gigantically reimbursed corporate consultant.
Then I could take out my few moldy art supplies left over from high school once or twice a year and pretend I was going to sign up for an art class at the local community college, as soon as I had time, or as soon as I could stop traveling for my job...
My math colleagues would say, "I didn't know you could draw. You should have been an artist."