2001-2005 Jim Williams Pt. One
Jim Williams was the other love of Jenny’s life besides me, probably even more so than her ex-husband David. Jim was some fifteen years or so older than Jenny, a semi-retired businessman who loved to sail, eat and get drunk. I met Jim several times, and spoke to him on an almost daily basis for several years as he tried in vain to subdue and harness Jenny’s alcoholism and mental illness. This was hard for Jim because of his vast wealth and his own issues with substance dependence and insanity.
The first time I met Jim was in a Double Tree hotel in downtown Columbus in 2002. I was living in Gainesville visiting Used Kids and trying to keep my wits about myself as I struggled with trying to reinvent myself with the same parts that I always had. Jim and Jenny were living in Miami, with his elderly mother, a cankerous woman who never thought her son had amounted to anything. She would take broad shots at him, causing the giant ape of a man to slump at times into a moldering mass of hic-huppy tears and panicked breaths. There would be times when I would be talking to Jim on the phone and I could hear his mother’s shrill voice in the background, sounding like a prop from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. She would berate him as he struggled through braced teeth and watery mind to vent his frustrations and ask for advice from me.
It was in the spring of 2002 when I met Jim; I had been warned by Tom Shannon who had met Jim at Used Kids that Jim was a character even by Jenny’s standards. Jim opened the door in his bathrobe, he had a thick thatch of black hair, combed over as if he were a police detective in some mid-seventies Roy Sheider movie. He was large, with broad shoulders and a wide face that looked pained and stiff even through his smile. He acted as if it were normal for a man to open his hotel door in a bathrobe at three pm.
He showed me in, and as he sat down in the large plush chair his penis poked its way out of the rob, just checking on the company. Jenny came bounding out of the bathroom, eyes wide and her mouth motoring away, she (thankfully) was dressed, and she gave me a big hug and said I looked good. I was in perhaps the best physical shape of my life, I was running anywhere from five to seven miles a day and had recently given up alcohol, I was getting plenty of sun in Gainesville. I was hesitant to be there, I had been speaking with Jim on the phone, and these mostly consisted of helpless angry phone calls from him or her with the subject matter pertaining to the other.
It was a large hotel room, actually a suite to be precise, a front room with a bedroom attached. It had a small table and several large comfortable chairs. There was a litany of prescription pill bottles hunkered around one another on the table, each one hoping to be the next pill popped. Jim, knowing I didn’t drink asked if I wanted a mineral water, I declined; I actually wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could. The room smelled of excess, a palatable feeling of uneasiness overtook me. Jenny and Jim glanced at one another, giving each other quiet cues that I was not supposed to understand. Jenny told me her little brother, Tony had spent the night and he was thinking of moving to Florida. Tony, lived in Columbus on and off, and I realized that if he stayed the night then this was still nighttime for them.
We made small talk, it was obvious there was more going on than I could place. Jenny grabbed a Heineken and pulled me into the restroom. Jim said he was going to get dressed. In the bathroom Jenny said “I don’t know what I’m going to do with Jim. He is going to kill himself, or me.” This was a repeat of all the phone conversations we had been having the past few months. I eyed her over, looking for any signs of physical abuse; Jenny had a propensity for getting the shit knocked out of her by men. Something to do with the mixture of alcohol, lack of sleep, cocaine (or lack of), jealously and unnecessary comments. “I’m fine” she said, following my eyes, “he hasn’t hit me.” She peaked through the doors, “no, it’s the coke and prostitutes combined with all those medicines he takes.” Looking for a way to bolt through the door, I insted twisted my foot, perhaps I would be able to bore my way through the floor. “I think I love him but things get crazy sometimes” she went on, “I don’t really do the coke, he does almost all of it” she stated through blood shot eyes. I knew nothing about the drug and prostitute scene, I had kept my vices to the dive bars and night clubs, shying away from drugs and limiting my exposure to prostitutes to late night Showtime movies.
I was stuck dumb for a moment, I was roughly six months removed from my last drink, flailing around emotionally as if a toaster had been dropped into my inner bathtub, and I didn’t know what to say. I said “well, why don’t you get your shit together and move back to Columbus?” She regarded me with contempt, “there you go again, trying to run my life. You don’t even listen. You are no fun, Mr. High-Horse.” I was baffled, I certainly had no idea what had just happened, “was she asking me for help?” I asked my self. Jim opened the door, dressed in casual slacks and a collared short-sleeve shirt that had a gold anchor embroidered over his heart. “Everything, o.k. in here?” his voice was tight, and I noticed for the first time that he seemed to be speaking through clinched teeth. Jenny nodded. “Yeah, Bela was just saying he had to leave.” I was relieved, I had spent a life time trying to stay in the pressure cooker and now it took all an army full of uncertain actions to try to stay out of the heat. Jim shook his head, “We wanted to take you out for lunch, where ever you wanted to go. As a gesture for all the help you have given us.” Confused, I shook his clammy hand; I noticed he too had opened a beer. I always noticed this; I could spot a bottle of beer from 300 feet. Always have, most likely always will. Roughly five years ago my friend Chris and I drove to Cleveland to see Dinosaur Jr. at The House of Blues and I counted how many beers Murph drank. Four beers and he chugged the last one right before sitting down for the last encore. My friend Chris had three whiskey’s.
“Jim, nice meeting you in person. Perhaps we can drive down and see you guys in Miami?” I offered. Jim replied, “I’d love to take you guys out on the Lord Jim and out to dinner.” The Lord Jim was his yacht; Jim was a trophy winning sailor. Jenny flatly stated “bye.” I left, shaking with anger and frustration as the elevator took me down to the lobby. I wanted to call my support persons in Florida but they had all warned me that I wasn’t ready to go back to Columbus, let alone see Jenny. I pulled a pack of cigarettes from my glove box and proceeded to make the long drive back to Gainesville.
Between 2002 and 2005, Jenny and Jim would battle back and forth and the weirdness would get weirder and more bizarre. Jim felt an affinity towards me, he admired me because I had been able to quit drinking and stayed quit and for the fact that I cared deeply for Jenny and had spent an inordinate amount of time trying to keep her from dying to ending up on the street. Jim was a man of a vast wealth, his Aunt had helped develop South Beach and while he worked for many years as an engineer for airlines, at this point in his life he hadn’t worked for several years. His mother and he had a large house just outside of Coconut Grove and soon Jenny was living with him in the small apartment attached to the back. Jenny and Jim traveled a great deal, to the Caribbean and to Colorado where they no doubt got hammered and skied. Jim told me that he was mentally-ill which didn’t take very much convincing for me to believe that, although he denied that he ever had a substance abuse problem. He compared his use with Jenny’s which is like comparing a head cold to leukemia. Jenny, at this point would suffer extreme withdrawal symptoms with severe tremors , vomiting and pain in her back when she tried to quit drinking. Jim, on the other hand would suffer through a few days of headaches and crankiness when he quit for a week or so.
In the summer of 2003 I got a call from Jim, they had taken the Lord Jim out into the ocean where they planned to detox themselves. Jenny or Jim had smuggled some cocaine onto the boat, although it may be better to say that they had just brought it along for one last hurrah as they gave up the last hurrah. Jim was concerned about Jenny; his voice more bound and pressured than usual was a whisper. He made no sense. “Bela,” he slurred, “you gotta help us. We are out in the ocean and Jenny is claiming that there are people on the boat making her perform sex acts. Listen, I’ve searched the boat, we are the only people on here.” Dumbfounded, thinking “why would someone have to search the boat anyway if they were the only two who left Miami.” “Um, why don’t you go back and take her to the hospital?” I offered. Jim, suspicious as a possum said “well, I’d like to but she says they’ll come and get us if we go back now. I think we should wait it out.” Taking several deep breaths, I tried to wrap my mind around the conversation, as the thoughts were trying to be corralled I asked “what the hell is going on Jim?” It appeared as if he wrapped himself small, “I dunno” he clinched, “but there isn’t anybody on this boat with us and she insists there is.” I heard Jenny in the background.
“Who are you talking to, is that Bela? Put him on.” Jenny’s voice was animated and manic. “Bela, you gotta call the Coast Guard or somebody, we are out on the boat trying to get clean and there are these…o.k., don’t laugh but I’m serious here, there are these miniature people here and they are making these pornos and making me participate.” I paused “Fuck,” I thought, “Jim is making her make midget porn. That fucker.” Incredulous, I asked “what the fuck is he making you do!” Jenny replied “nothing, Jim doesn’t know about it, they hide when Jim comes to the front of the boat. It’s crazy, they aren’t like midgets they are like normal proportioned people just real small. The bald guy is the leader. You gotta help, Jim doesn’t know what to do but they are real evil people. I don’t know why he can’t find them. They’re sneaky as hell.” Jim came back on the phone. “Jim,” I offered, “I think you need to take Jenny back to Jackson County Hospital. I don’t think there are any real people on the boat with you guys.” Jim’s response was measured and thoughtful, “I suppose you’re right. Maybe we should, huh? You think she could be imagining all of it?” Taking another deep breath, “maybe.”