The first time I met The Gorilla was about six months into my marriage.
I didn’t know that was to whom I was talking at the time.
My ex and I (let’s call him Glenn) lived in an apartment behind a hospital in the early 90s, a charming little complex with a pool and trees and (mostly) lovely neighbors.
But it was the Era of the Car Alarm, and our bedroom window overlooked the back driveway of the complex, which bordered the back parking lot of the hospital, where employees would park for the night shift and set their car alarms. As if, should Car Thieves find their way back there in the wee hours of the morning, an alarm would make everyone in the surrounding residential area get out of bed to rush to the rescue of the car, brandishing folded umbrellas and crying out, “I say, unhand that car, I tell you. It’s not yours. Bad form, what?”
The security guard at the hospital ignored the alarms, because they went off on a nightly basis for no discernable reason. No one ever brandished any umbrellas, as far as I could tell.
Needless to say, we spent that first year somewhat sleep deprived.
One of our (not so lovely) neighbors also had a car alarm. He must have been a bartender, because he would return home from work promptly at 2:30 a.m. four to five days a week and park in his assigned space, which was inexplicably the one on the edge of the driveway against our bedroom window, while our assigned space was further down the driveway. He would pull in with his music blasting, and as if that weren’t enough, would set the car alarm as he walked away. So if the music didn’t quite wake me, the “woop-woop” of the car alarm setting would.
One night I had had enough. I got up, pulled out a yellow legal pad and wrote a scathing treatise on our neighbor’s intelligence, his inability to notice the bedroom window next to the passenger side of his van, his complete oversight of the fact that most people were asleep at 2:30 a.m. and the asinine assumption that said people, after having been woken up repeatedly by his nightly parking job, would rush to the rescue of his van should someone attempt to steal it. His apartment was nowhere in the vicinity of the parking space, so who else did he think was going to react to the alarm, should it be set off?
I then inserted the page into a sheet protector (not wanting it to be rendered illegible by dew and possessing the kind of mind that considers these details even at 3 a.m. in a sleep deprived state) and started putting on clothes.
At this point The Gorilla woke up. Or perhaps at that point he was still the Nice Guy, but one of them asked me what I was doing. I quietly explained it while walking past the bed to retrieve my jacket, and all of a sudden there was a very strong hand on my arm preventing me from leaving the room. I told him to let go, but he continued to hold on, not really saying much but making it clear that I was Not To Leave. He pulled me down to the bed and held me there, telling me to get back into bed and forget about all this nonsense.
This alarmed me even more than the neighbor had, but I hadn’t yet learned that my opinion counted, so I put down the treatise and took my shoes off. I’m not sure how I fell asleep next to the Gorilla, but during my time as a missions student on field trip, I had learned to sleep in the most unlikely places, so I must have compartmentalized until my exhaustion took over.
When I awoke in the morning, however, I was furious. How dare my new husband treat me that way! I stomped around the apartment, glaring at him as I got ready for work, until he finally asked me what was wrong. I told him how appalled I was at his behavior the night before. He acted shocked and claimed to not remember any of it, although he said he had had a strange dream and that I was somehow describing it perfectly.
We laughed it off then. Oh, he must have been sleepwalking… or sleep-grabbing at any rate. I made a mental note that when he was fast asleep, I couldn’t get upset about anything he might say to me.
Boy did he capitalize on that misconception over the years.
That day was the first day I felt a little crazy. I had made such a big deal over nothing, and I had been so upset when of course he Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly. Despite the fact that he had, actually, hurt my arm a little, and definitely scared me. But how silly I was. I ended up apologizing to him and vowed to never disrupt his sleep again with such shenanigans.
Let that sit for a minute. I ended up apologizing to him.
It was the first of countless times.
It’s only recently that I realized what that encounter revealed. The Gorilla had been in hiding up until that point, but the first time that Glenn’s guard was down and the Golden Rule of Thou Shalt Not Wake Up Glenn was broken, it revealed its ugly face. I didn’t learn to recognize it until about 25 years later and when I did, I didn’t connect back to this night.
I did, however, wonder how long it had been there. Was I somehow to blame for its creation? Was it the stress of having a wife and children and holding down a job that caused this particular fracture in the personality?
But now I realize that it was there all along. Unbeknownst to me, I had married it.