Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Make sure you have a full tank before you leave your abuser...

On average, a woman leaves an abusive relationship 7 times before finally making a break from violence. This was one of those times…an emotional morning in the middle of dysfunction, but it wasn’t the end. There had to be a higher focus and a plan formed in order for us to leave and live which would require me to take on a role of someone that was not me anymore, hiding who I really was deep down away from his abuse as if to protect her, my inner child.
We lived on a sand packed alley beside a bait shop in a house that was one hundred years old. At one time the house was surrounded by an orange grove, but that had been replaced with the highways leading to the Skyway Bridge that crossed the mouth of Tampa Bay from Palmetto to St Petersburg. We found the house for rent while we lived in a motel for 6 weeks from a previous eviction from the beach condo. The old rickety house was full of issues, more than just our marriage, which were contained its rotted walls. A tropical forest with Tarzan vines hanging from the trees grew in the lot next to our house which was where the big tarantula looking spiders came crawling into our house and died. They looked like calamari when they were dead and were usually found in the corners of the floor or counters and cupboards. One day when I was in the bathroom, my son four year old son came running in and blurted out that the roof fell down. Yes it was true, the ceiling fan proved to be too much vibration and low and behold the entire length of the room was now topped with black soot and rotten wood dust that formed between the drop ceiling and the upstairs floorboards. The second floor was rented to a couple that was completely insane, literally. They met on the funny farm and moved there as couple. Each of them was on 25 different meds to keep them from jumping out the window. Once she came down and stated how thirsty she was. I got into the fridge and pulled out a picture of fresh squeezed orange juice from the oranges picked  that surrounded the property that were left to grow after the grove had been removed. As I reached in the cupboard for a glass, she had the picture held up to her mouth drinking with it spilling down the front of her shirt. “What do you think? Tasty?” She was not thirsty anymore I was guessing… I tried to avoid visits from her asking for odd things by not answering the door. She became violent one day with ‘him’ and she pounded on the door demanding that we fix something like heat or electric or cable I don’t remember. But it was not our job, but it was the responsibility of the landlord. She was confused and crazy and big, like 6ft, over 200 lbs. Her man was a googly-eyed bottle glass kind of guy that really liked to smoke weed. He was definitely in charge of their relationship. Once he had to go visit his family in Seattle, so to keep his woman safe he put her into the detox center while he was gone so that she would be taken care of. They were perfect for each other, the kind of people that you only read about. A newlywed couple that we met at our last rental that at the time I thought were our friends (until she had that slept with ‘him’ while she was in chemo for late stage hepatitis), came over one evening. We had an enormous campfire that the fire trucks showed up in full gear to put out because people called in from view of the highway I guess it looked like there was a house fire. They were awarded with a case of beer and went on their way. Early the next morning we sat out beside the smoking embers. The neighbor from the second floor came out to wish us a good-morning from the top of her balcony, after which she turned to return to her apartment and did not have a stitch of clothing on her ass. We all scoffed and laughed at how we were certainly “ruined for life” at the sight.
Our immediate neighboring building was the bait shop. It was owned and run by the landlords, the local pastor at the church down the street. He was a cross between Captain Kangaroo and Phil Donahue his wife was like the coal miners daughter without the song. They tried their best to reform us by taking us to see the newly released Jesus movie. We went to the bar after if that says anything about ‘his’ stance on what he felt. I think that the day that they were truly broke down to the point of yielding to ‘him’ was the day that the Cerwin Vega twins were placed outside on a Sunday afternoon, in the middle of the busiest hours of the bait shop’s business, and George Thorogood’s Bad to the Bone “I’ll pay my rent by next Friday…” was turned up to 7 or 8, which for the twins, that surly vibrated the rotten wood walls of their dinky business full of shrimps. Not even the motorcycle with the side car that they rode around in could bring them out of that ego pounding. Yes there are ways to get under everyone’s skin if you are good at it, especially after a case of beer and a handful of pills.
That was in my own private circus, a small portion of my life with ‘him,’ my owner. I spent my time with my two small children in this Florida heartland acre of lunatics for about a year. We even had a couple fun incidences of shrimp purchasers pissing on the side of our house, one of which had a gun and had to be run off, of course by ‘him’. ‘He’ was always looking for a chance to scrap, and his mind set matched his many scars over his body; the one down his nose across his eye, the 8 or 9 that ran sideways across his left forearm…definitely a scrapper. He had the mouth to back it up and the size and strength and the ability to manipulate all parties included. If he wanted a fight, there would be one. But most of the time, he found more enjoyment in the other person being afraid enough to back down. Even the guy with a gun who peed on our house said “sorry man.”
The day came when I had enough and why - let me remember- no I cannot, because it was a lifestyle, not a one event, or maybe it was, doesn’t matter…I was leaving. I was packing and by that I am talking panic. He left to go check out a job on the island. He had a concrete business. He had good sales and good work. The problem was that he was usually really messed up on a multitude of habits and usually spent the few thousand dollar payment received in one night and then never finished the job or some type of drama. We had people calling forever filing their complaints or demands, seeking something from me…. me, the one person that ‘he’ owed more to than a simple concrete slab job. Of course that was when I had to say just take him to court and stand in line that is all I can tell you. The day he went out to check the island job was the day I decided to leave. We had this ghetto pink conversion van with the whole velour bed couch thing inside, so hippy love swanky embarrassing to be in type of vehicle that his mom bought him when we were on one of our PA visits. She loved to help him get laid is all I can say. I was throwing clothes in it as fast as I could, making trips to and fro, sweating, dry mouth; kids were wondering what was going on… then he kept calling. I had to try to make my voice normal enough. He wanted to discuss the issue of the police that were there a few days beforehand which to me was just an excuse to keep calling… the “oh… and one more thing” calls. They wanted to put me in jail. My first ex was trying to get me put in jail for not paying support. He didn’t realize my circus that I lived in wasn’t hiring or paying. I didn’t even have shoes nor was I allowed to go to the gas station ever. You know how those men would eye me up wanting some of me like a piece of candy. The real world doesn’t think that way, but this was not a real world I was in. I was owned and not to do anything, ever. I got it all in the hippy van from hell and put the kids in and he still is calling, and I am still trying to sound like I am normal and not out of breathe as I was from hauling things so quickly --and from the panic of it all. I had no plan. I just drove down the highway. I called my mom…”I did it mom!” my mom “did what?”…..”I left, mom!! I am driving down the highway right now! I did it!” My mom was quiet. Then she said “where are you going?” “I don’t know! I just threw it all in the van and drove off! He keeps calling...he is beeping in right now… I am not going to answer it….do you think I should answer it? No I am not going to answer it! Oh my God he is going to kill me! Oh my God!!!!” I started to hyperventilate and my mom directed me to pull over for the sake of my driving was erratic and my kids were in the van. I got out and stood in front of the van that was pulled to the graveled edge of the highway. I paced. I panicked. I cried. I was so scared that I thought he would come pulling up at any moment, which was virtually impossible for he was at least 45 minutes away. My mom tried to calm me down. “How much money do you have?” My answer was “nothing, I have nothing” and my gas tank was completely empty. Calls were made, my phone went dead and I sat and waited there for my Grandfather who was a retired Floridian to pull up in his station wagon to give me gas money. I tried to calm down myself and the kids, who at this point were starting to get curious as to what we were doing. Then my Granddad showed and we sat in his car and talked about things. He comforted me because I was crying. I did not tell him about our life out of respect for my Grandfather, not because I was ashamed, but he didn’t need to know how horrible the reality was.

“Friends don’t leave friends when the going gets tough” ...was what I got.

I went back with my head down and with a story about how I was just feeling crazy and how sorry I was so that ‘he’ wouldn’t be too hard on me…he knew something was up when I stopped answering his calls he went back to the house so he was there when I returned. I endured another two years before I left again. Within those two years however, his metamorphosis into the demon of the end days evolved slowly, forming another claw and scale on what was once the cute little neighbor boy I knew as a child.

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