SOUNDTRACK TO HEARTBREAK: PART 2 (See Part 1 HERE)
ELTON JOHN: MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER
Connor pursued me fiercely and persistently. As flattering as it was, I wasn’t interested in him in that way at first. I eventually agreed to go out with him because he wore me down. And, if I’m completely honest, because I was tired of being alone when almost everyone I knew was in a relationship. I should have known better. I should have BEEN better.
He was a great guy – generous and loyal to a fault. But he attached himself to me too quickly and held on too hard, and I didn’t know what to do with that. He loved my family too and tried to make a place for himself within it. His intentions were pure; he didn’t have a manipulative bone in his body. He bought my mother a gift for Mother’s Day and he once bought my father a fancy wine jug when he found out he was making elderberry wine. My Dad was just puttering around, though. He rarely drank and he certainly didn’t know what to do with the gift so it became an exotic knickknack in the living room.
Connor’s own family was complicated. His mother was a sweet lady who at times wandered through life listening to voices no one else could hear. Other times she was a shadow of herself because of the medication to keep the voices at bay. She had 7 children from 3 different men. When I met Connor, three of her children, including him, were already living on their own; two were in foster care and the youngest two were living with their mother in a small, dark apartment.
Connor was a small, wiry man with a physical strength it was easy to underestimate. He was also one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He didn’t go to college and instead took a job in a local restaurant. I think it was something he felt he had to do because a fair amount of his earnings went to his Mom. The novelty of having money made him more generous with everyone he cared about too. He bought gifts often and liberally for many of the people in his life, including me. One of the most memorable was the Madman Across the Water album by Elton John. I loved that album and listened to it over and over again. It’s only now that I realize that it was so dark.
Inevitably, things began to sour between us. I began to distance myself and, in response, he just came on stronger. He called all the time or turned up wherever I went, even if we weren’t supposed to see each other that day. I know, it sounds like he was stalking me, but he wasn’t and I was never afraid. It was the only way he knew to show his love. Then it got hard to look at him or think about him without feeling irritated. I didn’t like who I had become in this relationship and I knew I had to end it.
I expected him to be hurt; what I didn’t foresee was how distraught I would be at being the one causing that hurt. I went home and listened to Madman Across the Water in the darkness of my bedroom and cried all night long. Over and over again, I heard Elton John sing about Tiny Dancer, Levon and Razor Face and, of course the Madman himself. The pain was physical. Every time I thought about the hurt in Connor’s eyes, I felt a spasm grip my stomach and squeeze hard. The weight and guilt of having caused someone pain felt unbearable but I thought it was a punishment I had earned.
I guess the old adage “Time heals all things” is true. We both went our own ways but always stayed connected through our friends. Later in life, Connor became a strange character – a rough, semi-recluse – but you only had to scratch the surface to see the soft, generous person with the big heart beneath. I think that big heart was his downfall. Twelve years ago next month, Connor passed away of a heart attack in his sleep.
I can’t listen to Madman Across the Water anymore; I find it too depressing. And wherever he is, I hope Connor is listening to something uplifting and that he loves and is loved by someone who deserves him.