STORY # 11 THE DELIRIUM DAY ONE It`s early in the morning, and

STORY # 11 THE DELIRIUM DAY ONE It`s early in the morning, and
STORY # 11
An acutely disturbed state of mind that occurs in fever, intoxication, and
other disorders and is characterized by restlessness, illusions, and
incoherence of thought and speech. Wild excitement or ecstasy.
It’s early in the morning, and you’re laying there in your king sized
bed, looking at his back, inhaling his scent. And you realize that the
smell of his body no longer comforts you. The same smell that’s
made you feel safe, for the last ten years, in a way you had never felt
safe before in your life.
And you realize, that you no longer want to be married, to be a wifeanybody’s wife.
And you no longer feel safe.
As you’re lying there he stirs, as if he’s sensing your gaze, and he
makes those little soft mewling sounds of awakening, which means
that he’s getting an erection.
So you abruptly get up and out of bed; and as you leave the room, he
curls up compliantly and goes back to sleep. He couldn’t have been
too disappointed. He hardly ever gets laid in the morning. For that
matter, he hardly ever gets laid at night. Ten years is ten years.
You are a narcissistic frigid bitch.
You lock yourself in the bathroom and fill the tub with hot water and
rose-scented bath salts. And as you lower yourself into the steamy
tub you cry, because you are filled with the realization that you no
longer love the man who is your husband... a good man; kind and
provident, dependable as the sun, the backbone of your life, your
safe harbor in stormy seas.
What is this ridiculousness? You have not been unhappy in your
marriage; no not at all- only in yourself. It’s not his fault that you feel
like an ill-fitted shape in the jigsaw puzzle that is your life.
But what the hell is this all about?! Love can’t stop so abruptly with
no warning; and for no apparent reason. Can it?
And you close your eyes, and sink deeply into the hot water, and an
epiphany projects itself on the red-black screen of your closed eyelids,
There is a reason.
You’re in love with someone else.
You had no idea until this very minute, shortly after the scent of your
husband had no longer comforted you.
How could this be? Not you! You’ve always had the perfect marriage.
You‘ve always been the best of friends. He has always taken care of
you. He saved you when you were a train wreck, an emotional
zygote, a twenty-three year old virgin with no foreseeable future.
Love another man? That’s insane!
And you sink lower in the water, for a moment contemplating going
under, and you are astonished, horrified, giddy, transported... you
have stumbled blindly unaware into a delirium of love for a man who
is not your husband. And the strength of that delirium is overpowering.
You are in a state of shock.
You pop up out of the hot water. Rose-scented rivulets run down your
face, as if you are crying.
Perhaps you are.
You have rudely discovered the difference between fond love and
passionate love.
You go downstairs for breakfast, still in your warm terrycloth bathrobe,
and your head is floating; you are an automaton, as you fill the
coffeemaker and scramble the eggs.
‘Ah Hah!’ you realize, as you stir the eggs; this is the reason you’ve
been so depressed for the last three months. You’ve been falling in
love with a man who you’ve always thought of as a best friend. And
you’ve been in a complete state of denial. This is not in your life plan,
not in your wildest imaginings, to fall in love with another man.
And you forget all about scrambling your eggs, and they are turning
into a nasty congealed lump.
And you are not in your right mind. You are Madame Bovary.
And then the child comes downstairs, grumbling about having to eat
eggs again, and why can’t he have pop tarts like all the other kids.
And you realize that you love the child, your only child, your beautiful
son, more than anything in the universe. How could you let this
happen to the child? Or, for that matter, your husband who you love
with great fondness- but never with the same intensity that you are
feeling now toward the other man, the memory of whom who eclipses
everything and everyone.
Your scrambled eggs burn.
And you feel like you’re going to burst- like a suicide bomber; explode
all over your kitchen.
“Hey Mom, it stinks in here,” the child says, as you scrape burnt eggs
into the disposal.
And then your husband comes down the stairs, with a smile and a
cheery greeting. ”Hi Mom”, he says, like he says every day, even
though it annoys you. What’s for breakfast?” He ‘s always cheerful in
the mornings. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.
You avoid his eyes.
Your husband and your son both have cold cereal for breakfast.
The minutes pass like hours. You are an automaton; you hand your
husband the paper, your son his lunchbox; your son who is getting
too old for a Muppets lunchbox and wants Batman instead. And you
numbly promise yourself to buy him a new lunchbox.
You kiss them both goodbye and your husband drives your son off to
school, as he does every morning on his way to the office. It’s a
perfect arrangement. He does drop-off, you do pick-up. Your
marriage is a well-oiled machine, which you value highly, having
grown up in stultifying suburban dysfunction.
Having grown up unloved. And now you are loved.
Graditude! You’ve been grateful. Perhaps gratitude is not sexy.
The minute they’re gone, out of sight, and the taillights of the Lexus
no longer visible, you come to life. The core of your being is hot lava
bubbling to the surface. Your hand shakes as you pick up the phone
and you can barely enter the number, but then you do automatically,
and you realized that you’ve memorized his number; without even
knowing it.
Your breath stops, and you are aware of the tsunami you are about to
unleash on those you love.
His ‘hello’ has you gasping for air.
“I must see you,” you say to the other man. And then you tell him you
love him. He’s neither horrified or shocked, or delighted.
He says, ”Yes. Of course.” But his voice is soft and welcoming, his
guru voice.
You agree to meet him the next morning, at the house where he is a
All the rest of the day, you wander about in a hopeless haze of
confusion and lust. You don’t know what to do; you think of going to
the market, and buying a lunchbox. But you can’t even pull yourself
together enough to find your keys. At one point, you call your best
friend, who is in the middle of a divorce.
“But your marriage is perfect,” she gasps in astonishment.
“Apparently not”, you answer.
When you hang up, you cry.
That night, in your dreaming sleep, you have your first orgasm- yes,
the first real orgasm of your life- ever. It’s as if a cork has been pulled
and the champagne explodes like a rocket out of the bottle. It wakes
you, and you can still feel the radiating waves of heat. You, who have
never felt sexual love for any man before- only sexual like.
You know that you will forget to pick up the Batman lunchbox. Again.
The man is not to be taken seriously. First of all, he’s an alcoholic,
second of all he’s greased-lightning-crazy and erratic.
He’s a brilliant artist. You love his talent.
And he makes you feel beautiful. You’ve never before felt beautiful.
Not with a husband who calls you ‘Mom’.
This man knows how to manipulate you, and you know that he knows
that you know, and for some reason that very quality makes you blind
with passion because he divines the depths of your soul. He sees
who you really are, certainly more clearly than you do.
He is temporarily living in a house on one of the Bird streets, above
Sunset Drive, not far from the Chateau Marmont; a house on a hill
with a private driveway. The man he‘s staying with is a hotshot
producer, who too is in love with your man. Perhaps they fuck,
perhaps not. It’s unclear. You don’t care.
It intrigues you. So very Noel Coward.
You are not used to such sophisticates. Your husband is rather
conventional. Something else that had never bothered you before,
when you were still a nice person. Conventional does not mean
boring- does it?
Your new man had once revealed to you, after you had become
friends, that he sometimes liked to dress in his wife’s underwear. Not
that he was transsexual; he just liked the feel of silky lacy underthings.
You had been impressed by his openness.
Your husband does not have a scintilla of outrageousness in his
being. The man who you love once told you he found your husband
“ineffably boring”.
There are drawings in black ink all over the living-room walls of the
immaculate house in the hills, which your dazzling man, drew on a
drunken two-day binge. The producer forgave him. He too thinks the
man is a brilliant artist. The drawings are still there.
After your man left his wife, he moved in with the producer who loves
him. He does not love the producer, any more than he loves you. But
he loves being loved, and he plays at loving, and you know he’s only
playing. He is happy being a receptacle; you are happy filling it.
Giving love is somehow safer than receiving it. Especially when you
don’t expect it to be returned.
The view from the house on the Bird street is magnificent- the whole
L.A. basin stretches our beneath your feet.
He feeds you aquavit and marijuana. You’ve never liked alcohol, but
with him, it’s an elixir of the Gods.
You drink aquavit on the balcony and feel like a queen. He tells you
that you’re beautiful. As you stand there floating above the city, he
kisses you and tells you he adores you. And you somehow realize
that he’s not saying that he loves you. And you accept that. You
understand that he is a man who does not love other people. He
desires them to love him.
Your father once told you, when you were an adult, that he had
stopped loving you when your brother was born. “You were no longer
cute,” he said unashamedly.
So is that the reason you’ve fallen out of love with a perfect husbandonly to be mad about a lunatic?
But mad you are.
And this intensity is so blinding, that for a moment it eclipses even the
love for your child, so that you almost forget that you’re supposed to
pick him up from school in twenty minutes, and you’re thirty minutes
And you head down the private driveway, and wait for the gate to be
opened from upstairs. So far it’s been chaste passion. So far, there’s
been no genital contact except between layers of clothing- very high
school. You never did this kind of thing in high school when you were
supposed to. Perhaps that’s why it’s come to life to bite you in the ass
now. You tell him that as long as you don’t actually fuck each other
the betrayal is less severe. He understands. You are overwhelmed by
his patience.
But you know, even as you’re convincing yourself of the wisdom of
such restraint, that you will wind up fucking the man who you love,
even though you also firmly believe that this is a threshold that can’t
be crossed.
You drive to the school like a fiend, fueled by dopamine and guilt, to
make it to the pick-up line at the front gate. You’ve shut your thumb in
the car door, in your frenzy to be on time. The pain is excruciating,
and your thumb swells to a vivid purple.
You’re five minutes late and the pickup guard gives you a dirty look.
Your boy gets into the car, unaware that his life is changing in a way
that can’t be good for anyone concerned. “What happened to your
thumb?” he asks, as he climbs into the car.
“Oh silly me,” you say. “That’s what happens when you’re in a hurry,
and not paying attention.”
He asks you for his snack, which you always bring him- cranberries
and nuts in a little baggie. He only wants cranberries. For some
reason he hates raisins.
You’ve forgotten his snack; he is surprised and a bit sulky. He likes
his ritual. He gets over his sulk quickly and starts chattering
animatedly about his day. You listen and nod, but hear nothing.
You take him to the local gourmet ice cream shop to make up for the
lack of a snack- in truth to bribe him because you’re such a reckless
idiot. You stand in line with him, waiting for your turn. You hold his
hand. He is seven; still young enough to hold hands with his mother
in public.
You want to die, and at the same time the lava core is bubbling away,
blinding you to everything but a remembrance of the scent of the man
you now love.
You want to die, and yet you have never felt more alive. And for the
first time, the word ‘Divorce’ pops into your mind. And the word
horrifies you.
And you remember that you have not had time to buy a Batman
That night you make dinner mindlessly, your head a swirl of guilt and
delirium, your body aching for the man you left on the hill, your soul
weeping for the husband you are lying to, and the child... that is the
hardest part.
No. You will make it work. You will have a different kind of marriage.
You throw together a dinner of pasta and cheese and frozen broccoli;
a dinner no one will love, but you didn’t have time to get to the market.
You find a Sara Lee frozen banana cake, and you slice up a couple of
bananas to dress it up, and make it look like you took a moment’s
thought and lovingly put things together for your family.
You’ll make it work
At this point, you’re under the illusion that you can maintain two
loves- because you do love your husband; but not in that way. And
you can’t bear to inflict such primal pain on a man who adores the
child. The child who adores the father... You will never leave them.
Of that you are certain. But my god, your head is exploding with lust.
You have started listening to the music your man listens to- Jazz;
Brubeck, Coltrane, Chet Baker. You play Chet Baker singing ”My
Funny Valentine”, endlessly, the song you associate with Him, until
your husband asks you to knock it off, perhaps more forcefully than
usual. For a moment you are stirred by his forcefulness. Your
husband is always a mild mannered man; gentle and kind; nonconfrontational.
You loved your husband for his softness. Now it repels you.
He calls you ‘Mom’ when he wants to make love to you.
You are such an idiot. He’s a profoundly decent man. A professional
man, a handsome man, whom other women covet, a man who you
know will never cheat on you. And yet you have fallen into a state of
delirium over a crazy bastard, because he’s cleverer than you,
because he makes you laugh; because he makes you feel beautiful.
For the first time in your life you think of killing yourself.
And at the core of your being you know that you do not have that
option. You can’t kill yourself; you have a child- who in the end, you
know you will choose over the delirium.
But yet you cannot resist seeing the man. Every morning, as soon as
they’re gone: off to school, off to the office, breakfasted and lunchboxed; after the last fume from your husband’s car has left the
driveway, you are off and running, filled with desire, stupid with love.
And you race across town from West L.A. to the Bird streets off
Sunset, wild with frustration at the rush hour traffic. Your mind is
exploding with impatience and lust. You are no longer you; you are a
helpless thing surging to completion with what is surely your soulmate, your other half- the yin to your yang.
You have never thought in such lush romantic terms before. You are
astonished by what has been released.
You wind up the Bird street, to the private driveway, to the locked
gate, and press the button. You announce yourself to the alarm
system- “It’s me, I’m waiting breathlessly; If you don’t open soon, I’ll
have to drive though the gate...consequences be damned.”
Indeed, consequences be damned. More lives have been ruined by
those words, more hearts broken, more wars fought... nonetheless,
such is the state of the delirium.
Ah those moments at la maison de plaisir, as you, in your addled
state, refer to the house on the hill; the house with a view to the
ocean on one side, and downtown on the other. You are no longer in
a house- you’re in a chateau in Nice, or on the prow of a ship, in a
castle in the clouds; You and the man are transported from the real
world- until a quarter of three- when, like Cinderella at the ball you
must race down the hill, and hope that you’ve remembered the
goddamn cranberry snack. You leave in a cloud of rose scented
idiocy, knowing this has to end; but knowing you can’t stop it. So you
leave with the dopamine roaring in your ears, still feeling somewhat
virtuous because you have never completely consummated your
affair- not fucked; only in your mind. He is so patient your man,
passionate but patient. He respects your boundaries,
And you pick up the boy on time, and he chatters away, and he
doesn’t noticed that your cheeks are flushed and your hair is
disheveled, and you smell of sex, even though you have not officially
had penetration. But you have abandoned the proscription of several
layers of fabrics between your nether parts. You are still officially
virgin- so to speak. Thank God the child is too young to begin to
imagine what the smell of sex is.
There are clues that you leave for your husband, little bread-crumbs
you purposely drop as you wander deeper into the forest, so you
wont get lost. You drop clues right and left, as if you want to be
stopped. You tell your husband how you have been having lunch
regularly with the man, who he knows. The man whom he has bought
several painting from; the artist he discovered and introduced you to
a year ago. You tell your husband that you and the man who is an
artist talk about art- you are suddenly very interested in art, and he’s
so up on everything, blah, blah blah... You and your husband have
been to his studio together. You have all had dinner together, at a
restaurant near his studio. The man was with his ex wife then. They
fought all night. You were impressed by the passion between them.
At one point the ex wife commented on how well you and your
husband got along. And your husband replied that you and he are
best friends. And the words sent a chill of foreboding down your spine.
Even though at that time you still loved your husband in the only way
you knew how to love.
So at dinner, on this particular evening, you tell your husband another
lie; about the trip you took to the Getty, with the man he knows; and
you talk about how knowledgeable the man is, and what a brilliant
artist he is...” And your husband listens and refuses to hear the note
of delirium in your voice.
And your son mercifully interrupts your truly boring, obsessive details
about the man’s talents. He wants to tell you about a fight he had with
his best friend.
And you shut your mouth and pretend to listen to your child, in the
attentive way your husband is listening. In the same attentive way he
listened about your trip to the Getty.
It doesn’t even occur to your husband that there‘s something
unnaturally fervid in the way you talk about the man he knows, the
artist. Or maybe he does know; and hopes it will all go away.
One night the man calls your house, and your husband answers the
phone. The man is drunk on aquavit and stoned on grass. He gets
very emotional with the combination sometimes. He weeps and tells
your husband that you are mistaken; and you are really in love with
him- the husband, not him- the artist.
When your husband hangs up the phone, he looks bewildered. He
relays the conversation to you, and, quick as a wink you say... “the
poor bastard; when he’s drunk he confuses me with his ex wife. He
forgets that I love him- but only as a friend.”
And your husband buys it, and you’re astonished at what a good liar
you are; or perhaps at what a great denier you are married to.
And you cry all the time when no one is around. And you want to die.
You buy your son a Spiderman lunchbox. They are all out of Batman
lunchboxes at the store. You hope the boy will not be disappointed.
If he is, he doesn’t show you. He’s delighted to be rid of the Muppets.
And you continue to visit la maison de plaisir, and you are hardly ever
late for pick-up. And you always manage to throw a credible meal on
the table- somehow.
You keep leaving breadcrumbs. You’ve told your husband that you’ve
decided to take painting lessons with the man who he knows. And he
thinks it a good idea. He notices that you’ve been distracted lately,
and thinks it will be good to have something outside of yourself to
focus upon.
You develop a condition called glottis hystericus; a lump in your
throat, you can feel it all the time, whenever you swallow. The body
makes interesting metaphors. You develop a rash under your
wedding ring.
And you continue to lead a double life, and continue to want to die;
now you have fantasies of killing your husband.
You feel that you’ve become a monster, and the lump in your throat is
driving you crazy and you can no longer wear your wedding ring.
Your husband picks up a salve for your ring finger. And doesn’t have
a clue.
And you are no longer the person you once were. And you are filled
with the delirium for all your waking and sleeping hours, and you don’t
know what to do. It obliterates everything else. The rest of your life is
lived on automatic. You are only alive when you’re with the man, up
on the hill, in the house in the Bird streets, with the scrawled upon
living-room walls.
So,, . finally, you have sexual intercourse with the man who you love
madly and deliriously.
And as you are walking toward the bedroom with him, you know
everything will be ruined now.
The sex is not nearly as passionate as the fooling around has been.
His penis is ugly, and lazy and awkward. He has an unattractive
penis. ”I don’t really do sex,” he says, as you are both awkwardly
getting dressed, avoiding each other’s nakedness. Talk about
And you know that it’s over; not because you want it to be; but
because the fantasy is over for him. He has been outed.
He will have nothing to do with you now- which you half expected.
You think you will die. But you don’t. Yet you can’t stop wanting the
man; you still love him. Even though the pain is as intense as the
pleasure had been. The delerium still has you in its grip. You are
unable to let go.
And you stay alive for the child and your heart breaks for him.
So what you do is tell your husband. You confess.
And he finally, in a fit of rage, after the child is asleep, walks out of
the house and breaks all the windows in your car with a shovel. And
it’s the first time since you’ve known him, that he’s ever shown such
intensity. Alas, too late...
But you both decide to work on the marriage, and you try therapy and
you try open marriage and you try everything. You look at duplexesone side for you, one side for him. He finds a girlfriend and talks
about her, to you, all the time, but his heart isn’t in it and you both
know he’s only doing it to make you jealous.
And you? You are somewhat wanton, like a frat boy. Discreetly
wanton, but wanton none-the-less. And you do not want to divorce
and you do not want to be married.
You cry for four years; and he cries, and for four years it’s a neverending misery.
Until of course it all ends in divorce.
But somehow, through all of the awfulness, you have managed to
become your own backbone; your own harbor in stormy seas.
And as for the man, who you loved, he goes back to his ex wife.
They move to Woodland Hills, he stops drinking and becomes very
boring- at least so you hear. And the rich producer who lives on the
Bird street, falls in love with a writer, a Pulitzer Prize winner who’s a
psychopath; who beats him up one night and puts him in the hospital.
So you hear.
Your divorce is amicable- for the child’s sake. You have joint custody.
The child seems relatively undamaged. You and his father have both
been very careful.
He’s a very good man. Everyone thinks you’re an idiot. You think
you’re a selfish bitch.
But you’re not really. It had to be done.
You are no longer a fish out of water; although you are still a Pices.
You have been forced to take care of yourself- a good thing, all told.
If you had stayed, would you know how to take care of yourself?
Would you have had a career of your own?
It often occurs to you to wonder what your life would have been, had
you not had that chance encounter at that fatal gallery opening.
Would your marriage have gone on contentedly, with you unaware of
your sexuality, still feeling like the odd piece in the jigsaw puzzle; or
would it have been one of those marriages that endures through
indifference and boredom: one of those compromises that people
make in life. Would you have stayed with the husband because of the
child, and resented the boy for your lack of freedom. What would your
child be now? Would he have excelled, as he is still doing now? Or
would he have become one of those kids caught in an unhappy
Had you not gone to that opening, would you ever fallen
into delirium? Who would you be had you not ever experienced the
delirium. There are a lifetime of questions one can ask , if one
chooses to dwell in the past- a lifetime of ‘what if?’’.
In the end it all boils down to this.
One hour in a smoky crowded gallery changed everything. Even for
the man-who is no longer an artist; he has become a recluse; or so
you’ve heard. His wife has left him. Your husband has re-married.up as it turns out; to a woman who loves him in the right way; a
woman who loves the child to; for which you are grateful. You were
never meant to be a wife; you were meant to be a mother.
As for love of a romantic nature- the delirium returns. It’s like an
addiction, or perhaps more like a killer case of sexually transmitted
disease and you can’t get rid of it so you really shouldn’t have sex.
Because sex makes you nuts. You will fall in love over and over
again with the same man in a different body, the man who dazzles
you with his brilliance or his talent; a man who you know will never
love you, but will adore you, and find you beautiful. You are a
dopamine fiend looking for the high of the delirium.
Better you should try rollercoasters.
In truth, you are damaged goods in the love department.
But at least you know who you are.
And your love for the child is the purest love you will ever have.
Something way beyond delirium.
Please visit Living on the Fault Line… Tales from L. A. to read all the short stories in this
And while there, sign up for a newsletter to receive announcements of upcoming new fiction
by Judy Strick.
#1 When Love Congeals (February 2015)
#2 Mick and Lila (March 2015)
#3 Ugly Toes (April 2015)
#4 Buzzed (May 2015)
#5 The Rabbit Hole (June 2015)
#6 Memoirs of a 70 Year Old Stoner (July 2015)
#7 Venus and Mars (August 2015)
#8 The White Cat (September 2015)
#9 The Woman Who Loved Donald Trump (October 2015)
#10 40 Days & 40 Nights (January 2016)
#11 The Delirium (March 2016)
… and if you enjoyed “Kafka-esque,” please share your thoughts with Judy on her
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To read more by Judy Strick
Please check out Judy Strick’s critically acclaimed debut
Kingdom Come, CA
Read an excerpt here or on Amazon
Praise for Kingdom Come, CA
“In her debut, Strick successfully writes with the confidence of a seasoned author… A clear
new voice offering a startling, memorable debut.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Remember the name Judy Strick. She is a riveting teller of tales. Kingdom Come, CA is a
seductive and compelling journey into magical realism.”
– Elizabeth Fortsythe Hailey, author of A Woman of Independent Means
“Touching, magical and haunting, a story about the wounds we futilely try and hide, and all
the ways they climb back into the surface.”
– J. Barton Mitchell, author of The Conquered Earth Series
“A taut, supernatural thriller, haunting and eerie.”
– Edward Cohen, author of Israel Catfish
"Judy Strick is a true storyteller. I was immediately taken into a dark, fascinating world of
her creation and couldn’t follow her fast enough until the last page when I was summarily
booted out and left blinking in the sunshine, bereft. I was left with that familiar sweet sorrow
on finishing a book I wished I had yet to read."
– Kendall Hailey, author of The Day I Became an Autodidact
"Kingdom Come, CA is an enticing title for a book that won’t let you stop reading. Judy
Strick sets up the various mini-denouements with seeming ease and grace, yet each one
nevertheless brings a satisfying surprise."
– Kathy Cohen, screenwriter of Imminent Pearl
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