The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2010

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APR 2010 Issue

Natural History of Dissolution

While every romance of the conventional style ends in a wedding, this history treats of the common experience of all unhappy couples, whose bonds do not link them to sources of love, delight, support, succour, or any of the deep wells they expected when they bound themselves together. In a froth of white and garters, on horseback, by the ocean; in religion, by justice of the peace, by late-night ecstatic agreement among the pillows—however they pledged themselves, the love respect desire will etc. that made them view their bonds as ties to more life! more love! more adventure! have begun to dissolve, are dissolving, have dissolved.

This is a natural process. What lives, dies. For some, the bonds only begin to dissolve upon the physical death of the beloved (and for some, the bonds remain past death), but of these happy few this history shall not treat. For others, the bonds dissolve so quickly after they are formed that they seem to snap. Here the process of dissolution seems impossible to trace, due to the rapidity of the change; yet dissolution is a natural process which follows its own natural laws.

This history will observe the most common progress of dissolution, where the bonds begin to dissolve soon after they are formed, i.e., the honeymoon is over. For these, while dissolution generally progresses in the most common fashion, remember, please to remember, that when the first ecstatic connection begins to dissolve, it is, it is, it is possible to re-form them, to create a new, more perfect union of more durable bonds that resist dissolution, even bonds that grow stronger over time, like the joints that hold a ladder’s rungs to its uprights, so constructed that they tighten as one climbs them.

As an observant scientist, this writer, sadly, does not know how dissolving bonds can be re-fashioned. It is the intent of this work to accurately record observations on how bonds dissolve, with the hope of discovering methods by which dissolving bonds can be replaced by stronger, more complex, more enduring, more supportive bonds, as opposed to the simple dissolution which most readers know only too well, that brings emptiness sadness futility etc. in its wake.

The way you begin is the way you end.

Thus, Nora and Tom, instead of leaping between the sheets to exchange passionate embraces, began their first evening of married life sniffing cocaine and drinking champagne with their best man and the maid of honor, ended it with visits by large Dominicans who sought prompt repayment for a softball-sized rock of cocaine. These are not the kind of visits that, in general, strengthen the connubial bond. Traditional advice to married couples is of little use here. Such visitors will not be satisfied by a candlelit dinner of vol-au-vents and boeuf bourguignon. They are most unlikely to join the couple around the coffee table for mojitos and tapas. In fact, nothing short of the immediate surrender of objects of value, assuming cash is as unavailable as cash usually is, cash being one of the shyest creatures in Nature, will satisfy such visitors, and the objects must have durable value, to boot. Gold and diamonds are the surest methods of pacifying large Dominicans,1 who are able to appear at one’s apartment door in even the best doorman buildings.

This visit by large Dominicans contributed no little to the dissolution of the bonds between Nora and Tom. How had this come about? Let us examine the couple more closely:

After Tom unscrewed his wedding ring (he had grown somewhat corpulent from fast food), and after Nora slipped off her wedding and engagement rings (cocaine had helped her maintain a slim figure), and unfastened Tom’s mother’s diamond studs from her ears, for all of which the Dominicans resolutely refused to offer a receipt of any kind, reminding the couple of their rare fortune in surviving the visit with all of their extremities intact, after the Dominicans secreted the goods of durable value about their persons and took their departure, how were the bonds between Nora and Tom affected?

They began immediately to dissolve to a measurable extent along rips then revealed to have existed in the weave for some time. Nora upbraided Tom for having obtained a softball of cocaine with but a promissory note in lieu of payment. Moreover, she added, she herself had not been privy to his possession of so large a quantity of caine, and by this ignorance had missed many opportunities for the pleasurable consumption thereof. In fact, she expressed herself in vulgar though admirably clear phrases: “You fuckin bought a fuckin kilo without breathing a fuckin word of it to me? What the fuck were you fuckin thinking?”

May the reader please observe, here, that the bonds, though dissolving, were still intact. Nora believed that Tom, her partner in adventure, probably had some sound reason for his action, as witness her final question, which was genuine, not rhetorical. Rhetorical questions are almost always a harbinger of fatal dissolution. But let us hasten on to hear Tom’s reply.

Tom began to embrace Nora, then wisely refrained. At such moments, embraces but hasten dissolution, as the bonds are too frail to support either tender or erotic responses. He sat in one of their two armchairs, in a posture of sweet reasonableness, even steepling his fingers as he spoke: “Honey, I got the rock to sell. We were spending a ton on coke and I figured this way we could for sure get a few grams for us for free, and if we cut it, we can even make some extra cash.”

The reader will note, here, Tom’s smooth segue from “I” to “we”. The concealing of this purchase from his wife, he considered, had been deftly glossed over, and he had included her in future plans, which he rightly held to be of great importance in the present instance, as indeed it is in most instances of married life. The necessity for maintaining some secrets, some private, separate life, was one he chose not to put forward at that time. Most sapiently, as Nora asked, “How much extra cash?”, to which Tom replied, “Depends on how hard we step on it.”

Nora was prepared, at this, to begin diluting and packaging cocaine immediately. She did not ask why he had concealed the purchase, nor what type of promissory note had originally persuaded the Dominicans to deliver a kilo of cocaine, nor what payment arrangements Tom had agreed to, nor to whom Tom planned to sell the cocaine. Upon which two important observations may be made. First, that the hedonistic temperament is usually an enduring one which seldom suffers any measurable change upon marriage. Most young people enjoy a brief hedonistic spell during which they give and receive dueling scars, drink unto unconsciousness, hop in and out of strangers’s beds, place umbrellas in the laps of statuary generals, streak naked through bowling trophy awards ceremonies, etc. But most people, after this brief spell has run its course, put off the child to assume the adult, think of the morrow, assume commitments; that is, they obtain employment, pay rent, acquire objects, insure their objects, take out loans, and otherwise become the adults whom they derided while tipping cows and spraying graffiti. The hedonistic temperament, however, does not make this transformation, and continues to seek pleasure today, letting tomorrow take care of itself. Nora, it is clear, possessed this enduring, happy temper—happy for its possessor, certainly, though the amount of happiness it affords to others is debatable.

The second observation which should be made is that Nora, perhaps because of her temperament, made no effort to discover the existing or future state of their common finances. This is a grave error. Where finances are held in common, so too should be the knowledge of said finances. It is a fundamental error to let one partner assume control of the finances through convention, distaste, or sloth. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

But let us return to Nora, who has just expressed her eager interest in sharing her husband’s plans for their common future.

“How hard can we step on it? How hard do they step on the stuff we buy?” she asked.

Tom explained amounts and methodology, mentioning, in passing, that he had been waiting for “the right time” to tell Nora, that being the reason he had not yet paid the Dominicans. She was so intent on their plans that this explanation passed muster with her.

They left the building after dark, not caring to encounter any more large Dominicans until such time as they could fully reimburse them, and purchased scales, packing material, measuring spoons, and adulterant.

Some who use cocaine may make a profit by selling it, doubtless. However, the majority of user/dealers end up like Nora and Tom. One morning, when all but a gram of their kilo had been sold, shared, or snorted, Tom said, “We’re two hundred short.” It had seemed impossible not to share their good fortune with their suddenly enlarged circle of intimates, either by giving them a few snorts or by selling to them at near-wholesale prices.

“Two hundred!” exclaimed Nora. “Let’s do a line and think about that,” she added.

“Sounds good,” said Tom, and cut a couple of generous lines, after which he made a couple of rum and pineapple cocktails “to take the edge off”, so that by noon they were laughing and talking and halfway through their third cocktail. By which it can be seen that Tom also possessed the hedonistic temperament.

“We gotta get the money together to pay this off,” said Tom, when they were down to the last quarter gram of their supply.

“We don’ wanna hafta go to work,” slurred Nora.

“Hell no.”

“So whatta we gonna do?”

“Gotta get enough to pay this off, right?” Nora nodded her assent, adding that it would be advisable, in addition, to purchase another large quantity.

They decided to invite their intimates to subscribe to the additional large quantity, which they would not, they would not give away so freely as they had the last one, nor would they partake so freely themselves. Subscribers would receive a discounted price for delivery within 24 hours. In the execution of this plan, they were most diligent. By that evening, they had collected enough to purchase half a kilo and to redeem their gold and diamonds.

Here we see the marriage bond working as it was meant to, furthering mutual ends mutually agreed upon, both exerting themselves to please the other, and by this means pleasing themselves.

For several months, they continued selling and using in a ceaseless round of pleasure. At the end of this time, Nora came home to find their flat-screen TV, DVD player, and surround-sound stereo system gone. Tom came home as she was beginning to report this loss to the police. He strode forward and forcefully depressed that button in the cradle which terminates the connection.

Nora, not unnaturally, remonstrated with him. “What did you do that for?”

Here Tom dripped irreversible acid upon their bond. “I felt like it,” he said.

“What do you mean, you felt like it?” Nora asked, wrapping her cardigan around her. Suddenly the room felt cold.

“I don’t like cops,” was all the answer she received.

Where the acid had dripped, the bond was a little weaker forever after that. Still, one can tie a knot and go on, as Wellington did; a place of weakness can become a place of softness, a flowering grove in the forest; a weak place can become a door, a heart that has been broken can become a heart that loves the more—but Nora and Tom had set their faces against all that. The tie that bound them had become a rope with which they played a tug of war.

The more one pulled, the more the other pulled back. The more Tom tried to control the flow of drugs and money, the more Nora tried to control it; the more information he kept to himself, the more information she kept to herself; the more she told herself she was in the right, the more he told himself the same, and so, and so, and so on. That both of them were always either high or drunk, skating past hangovers with hair of the dog, that neither of them had any real work in hand, that they were subject to the same external requirements to pay for housing and the electricity that lit the housing and the gas that cooked their very infrequent meals that are required of all people which they could less and less frequently meet—all of this doubtless exacerbated the process. Still, the essential dissolution was the same that you, madam, and you, sir, have known—where the acid had dripped, the bond was weakened, and a competitive tug of war is the worst thing that can befall a weakened bond.

The sordid exchanges that accompanied this tug of war will not be detailed, for they must be equally well known to the reader as they are to the writer.



  1. The reader is to note, here, that while Dominicans appeared to Nora and Tom, no prejudicial generalization can or should be drawn. Threatening bill-collection is an entirely democratic field, which welcomes leg-breakers, nail-pullers, and flesh-slicers of every race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.


Anna Mockler

ANNA MOCKLER's story collection, Burning Salt, (StringTown Press) was published in 2004. Her fiction has appeared in Brooklyn Rail, Exquisite Corpse, Crab Creek Review, Raven Chronicles, Dial, Smoking Poet, Oxygen, Point No Point, etc. Other fiction was included in The Big Book of Sex (2011, Unbearables/Autonomedia) The Worst Book I Ever Read (2009, ibid.), Wreckage of Reason: Anthology of XXperimental Prose by Women Writers (2008, Spuyten Duyvil) and Dogs Cats Crows (2001, Black Heron).


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2010

All Issues