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i believe this to be a true story

My upstairs neighbor doesn't seem to mind bumming me his Nat Sherman MCDs. He comes from Virginia and his family were tobacco farmers so he only smokes the best. He is a serious man, and well read. Well read compared to me anyway, which is not hard, but he's really well read.

When I first met his wife, it was just a glance, she was in the car. She looked older, with wide, almost perpetually terrified eyes. Over an MCD, we discussed her a little. He said that he would like to move to a different place, someplace with a little more space. "I bet your wife would like that," I said, knowingly. THose studios were really only for one person...no place for a couple to make their home.

"No," he said, "She's had some really hard times, and she doesn't mind at all."

I had a good talk with my gossipy neighbor about it (it takes one to know one, I know it) and she said, "That lady seems like she's seen some serious abuse or something."

"Hmmm," I said.

Weeks later I knocked on his door to bum a smoke and procure some company. He asked me if I wanted to walk with he and Mary to the music store so he could pick up some guitar strings. He plays folk and flamenco guitar. She held his arm, but was skittish and unsteady. Every couple of blocks or so, she would drop down to both knees and hang out for a moment. After she did it the second time I looked at ther and said softly, "Mary, do your legs give out, or does it just get overwhelming?"

She looked at me dolefully. She is a native German speaker and her English is not so good. "Overwhelming," she said. After about the fourth or fifth time he started to get annoyed with her. "C'mon Mary," or "Not in the middle of the street, Mary!" By the time we were halfway back from the music store he had really lost his patience.

I think she appreciated me not treating her like a freak, however, and whenever I saw her after that she would say "hi" and just beam at me with her biggest smile. One time, as we were having a smoke, she was standing in the doorway and a motorcycle passed. "I like motorcycles," she confided, and her eyes brightened for a moment.

Meanwhile, my neighbor's mood seemed to darken day by day, and I soon found out why. We were talking philosopically about something, and he made it known that he was really bummed. "Mary's gone," he said. He told me that she'd been wanting to get a place of her own and had been talking about it for months and months. All of her counselors and doctors advised against it but she was determined. Her aid was less than $40 more then her rent, and he had heard that she had been out on the streets asking for money. "I've got a thousand dollars in her account," he spat. "She won't spend a dime of it. She calls me and says I just married her for her money. I try to tell her, Mary, you don't have any money. All the money is mine, but she won't listen."

At that moment I wondered what on Earth would make this seemingly lucid man generate a romantic relationship with someone so deeply damaged. I had wondered it before, but at that moment I got an answer.

"Listen to this..." he said. "When I was in the hospital for drug and alcohol treatment, that's when I met her. She was undergoing electroconvulsive shock therapy at the time. During those few weeks that I was there we fell madly in love. Later, when I tried to contact her, she didn't even remember it, they took that memory from her. I had to woo her all over again...she still doesn't remember. Her sister tried to stop the wedding, she called the doctor and the minister performing the ceremony and said, 'she's just using him to get out of the mental health system'."

Say what?!?!

"She still doesn't remember. I said to her just the other day, 'Mary, if you could just remember those weeks you would understand.' But she doesn't remember."

That shit broke my heart. Right there on the porch with a Nat Sherman in my hand. But man...those cigarettes are so sweet and good.