“Six Warning Signs of a Troubled Relationship,” by Greg Gerke

Jun 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Prose


By Shiva Lila, M.A., ASCAP

1. The Locks Are Changed Nearly Every Time You Return Home

This has happened to three friends of mine. Ironically they were all born in Pittsburgh and strangely enough they are all women.

On the bright side you can know this is simply a plea for more space. Yes, the locks are changed and they don’t want you coming in and bothering them now, but in tracking down a locksmith and the police to explain what is going on you can be assured that your partner will get at least two hours of alone time. As in movies where running times of one and a half hours are too short and three too long, two is the optimum time to regain your senses and not get too used to having someone out of your life. So keep a special set of locksmith phone numbers, including those who work on holidays because when the space seeker verges on four hours of freedom, breakup could be inevitable.

2. The Butcher Knife Set Is Missing And You Discover A Headshot Of Yourself Pasted To Particle Board With Cuts Everywhere But Predominantly Through The Eyes And Mouth

This is a tricky one and I’ve had some personal experience with it. When I used to be a man I lived with a woman from Hungary. Frusina was beach blond and she pronounced “moron” as “murder.” You murder, I said by two boxes of cake mix. Look out for that bicycle you murder. We were living in Baltimore and one evening I came back after an Orioles game. She had left a note that she would return with my favorite desert-a Napoleon. Great, I thought and looking for duct tape to repair a broken set of dishes from our last fight I found the dreaded photograph. Calmly I checked the kitchen to find all of our knives gone, even the butter ones. There weren’t really any more weapons in the natural sense so I took a log from the fireplace. When Frusina entered I thought the Tasmanian devil had arrived. I’m not even sure what she shrieked was Hungarian but the log blocked seven eight-inch knives that assuredly would have entered my face and brain pan in the six seconds it took for her to throw them.

If you don’t have a log of good size and think an attack might be imminent I’d suggest a resort area-Hawaii, Barbados-and if money is an issue, most city missions will let you stay for the price of two Hail Marys.

3. Your Partner Wants To Watch The Movie Breaking The Waves By Lars Von Trier Every Night

In my opinion psychological intimidation can be much more harmful and scaring than physical, except in cases of death. Though Von Trier’s film was a Palme D’Or winner at Cannes it smacks of pressing questions that ultimately guilt trip and wreak havoc on any relationship that is not adamantine in strength. Seeing a young Christian woman carry out her paralyzed husband’s sex fantasies with strange fat old men to prove she loves him is always a little upsetting, no matter if you’ve seen it fifty times.

If your partner chooses the Breaking the Waves option you can be sure there is something that he or she is not telling you and unless they are mute I prescribe the following course to stop the passive-aggressive aggression and start communication:

Incinerators are usually located in junk yards and to find such an establishment all you have to do is pop open the local yellow pages. Next take everything your partner personally owns and some joint purchases, including the DVD or video of BTW and deliver them into the fires in front of their eyes. Then simply ask “Are you ready to talk now?” If no, then immediately take them to some roof of a building ten or more stories and threaten to jump and if that doesn’t do the trick (whatever you do, don’t jump), calmly walk away and leave the relationship knowing you did the best you could.

4. Not Being Able To Fit Into The Bed Because Your Partner Insists All His Or Her Other Lovers Must Sleep With You Too

After spending my late twenties as a woman I decided I’d had enough and switched back to being a man and oh was I overjoyed that I didn’t go through with the sex change. Turning thirty with daily hard-ons was definitely the way to go. I moved to Oregon and became involved in a polyamorous sect called “All Love.” In this group of one-hundred or so people, we freely shared each other but my primary lover Phyllis, a former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter who spoke Mandarin and had to have her secondary, tertiary and quaternary lovers also in the bed. This was okay for a while but when Phyllis gained an extra eighty pounds to max out a seven-fifty space became especially limited. What she originally wanted was to have the four of us sleeping on her, one nestled to each leg and one pressed to each breast while her eight foot belly sloshed and jiggled but kept steady as a barrier so none of us could see each other, thus obviating some jealousies. I was stuck on the leg for too many nights and also my butt kept slipping off the specially constructed 10×10 bed the Carter foundation had given Phyllis as a parting gift when she weighed only four-fifty. I lobbied for breast duty but Phyllis judged me too demanding and downgraded me to her tertiary lover. By then I’d had enough and I told Phyllis I had not only voted for Reagan the second time but the first as well and immediately took up with a petite girl from Walla Walla, Washington by the name of Moonkale who eventually bore my two twin daughters, Sunnykale and Starrykale.

But enough about me. If you can’t fit into the bed, just tell all the other sweaty people to move the hell over.

5. Your Partner Tells You That They Don’t Love You Anymore

Again the psychological. They may have had a bad day at work. Maybe they like to watch documentaries about Nazis, but whatever is going on for them, it is serious.

Wait it out friends. Anyone can turn a little in one day and a little can build to a lot before you know it so soon the two of you will be merrily picking your noses in front of each other again.

6. Your Partner Smells Like Trouble

Approaching forty I asked Sunnykale and Starrykale if they were happy and they stopped playing with the cadaver our friend the scientist Henry Heinz gave them, stunned that I talked about something other than Puccini. “I have to follow my heart,” I announced, meekly.

I gave Moonkale my undying support, had the operation and acquired 42D breasts. A pretty enticing figure for someone six foot six.

I then moved to Silver City, New Mexico and became a gym instructor. My first boyfriend that year was Dwight Teague. He was a foot shorter but cooked amazing gumbo. At the club I perfected a class called Cardiac Kicks Your Ass that Dwight insisted on attending every week. In a ritual of sorts he would punctuate the end of each class by rising on his corn-infested toes and ferociously kiss my bulging Adam’s apple in an effort to push it back so I looked more womanly. Besides the minor insecurities, it was love. I sank into Dwight and he held me, teetering under the two-hundred thirty pounds of flesh and baggage but he persevered. I never asked for someone like him to enter my life and many days I would stare at the sky and blow kisses-even extras to Moon, Sunny and Starrykale, my continuing Oregon congregation, that I hoped to one day return to with a husband all my own and blissfully we could live and love as a small cadre of people who are interesting and special.

But one day Dwight met me for a walk by the distillery and though he was the same old Dwight he now smelled like a bouquet of coaxial cable, not his usual tangy, Chinese hot sauce scent. I squatted down on the sidewalk and didn’t know if I could love that bilious, clinical odor.

I shoved my hand deeper and deeper into the mouth, furious that love had gripped me close to its pretty belly only to gurgle and blister into gruesome bed sores the color of night.

Dwight began to massage my shoulders. “What are you doing down there sweepy?”

“Dwight, will we last? Will we one day have to force our hearts to open?”

“Oh my sweepy,” he chanted. “Peaks and valleys sweepy. Peaks and valleys.”

We went on and I thought I had harnessed what was needed to survive but then Dwight asked about us growing old, where we should retire to and where we should take our grandchildren.

This was right before teaching my Cardiac Kicks Your Ass class. Flustered, my hands started shaking. “But we don’t have children yet Dwight.”

His face grew celebratory. “We can change that. I’ve been charting your ovulation. Tonight could be a great night.”

Five minutes into left jabs and hooks I felt a bouncing in my chest. I had to stop and my heart shimmed down into my belly button, slashed through and popped out on the floor. It was comely but pruned. “Even if you go on with this headcase. I’m not,” it squeaked.

“She doesn’t need you,” Dwight grumbled.

“Oh yeah,” it replied. “See how she collapses.”

I did fall and breathlessly Dwight promised to leave if my red beast would jump back in and charge me up.

Trust the nose people. I’m seventy- will soon be eighty. Check in with your partner. Make sure they haven’t hatched a future that you aren’t in on. Fantasies are great, important and juicy-when mutual. Alone they are a torrent of sugar-coated ca-ca regardless if they have often ruled the trials of love.


Greg Gerke lives in Buffalo. His work has or will appear in RosebudFourteen HillsPedestal MagazinePindeldyboz, Flash Forward Press 2009 Anthology and others. There’s Something Wrong With Sven, a book of short fiction has been published by Blaze Vox Books. His website is www.greggerke.com

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.