Today a man stood in my kitchen. He was dressed in fluorescent yellow, wearing a hard hat. We had just finished a bath and the two my babies were at his feet, dressed in nothing but their underpants. It is mid morning so I am in progress of our household routine. I have every window open, and every door unlocked. The garage is facing the morning sun which is shining in with the fresh air as I continue to load the washer and dryer that dwells.
“Hey I just wanna let you know I am turnin’ off your gas mam, okay? I see your meter is runnin’ real fast and I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t cooking somethin’.” He stood there in my kitchen, beside my glass top stove. I stop dead in my tracks, not expecting to look up from my fast paced strut that I acquire while I am on the house cleaning mission of the morning. My clothes are half together, for I am not expecting company today. I make eye contact with this man as he renders me helpless, as I assess the situation with my children, who are both standing at his feet looking up at him.
“Okay no problem…” is all that I can manage to say. He stalls a minute, then turns, walks out the back door and goes off into the woods behind the house.
There is not a “gas” van or car on the road, no ID, no knock, just a man in my kitchen with my babies. Immediately I close everything, locks in place, and finish cleaning. Thoughts run through my imagination. “Have I attracted the white supremacy, government, some weirdo in my blogs or in my school as I try my best to educate people on the fact that their beliefs are based on half truths?” I wonder if it is worth it all. Then I remember my past.
I lived for years in confidential addresses with my two middle children because my ex-husband wanted me dead. Our “case” or should I say our lives, were so attractive to the various agencies that stepped in to evaluate and analyze our predicament that we were living in. My ex-husband was my neighbor-boy, lifetime friend, who had gone off of the deep end. He was addicted to pain killers of every shape color and content for almost three years heavily, as in, he could not make it through each day without worry of the six or seven pills of “whatever effect” that would wear off in a couple hours that he would need to ensure that there would be more waiting. Our family was revolved around his habit. We walked on eggshells, and in poverty because in the street drug world, “one” pill can be anywhere from five to fifty or more dollars depending if it is a roofie, vikes, zaney bar, oxy, blue morphine, perks, valium, demerol, darvies, selmas, kolatapin, on and on and on…. Like I said depends… I knew from looking at him what he was on and approximately how much and the dollar amount that would have been gone, for years… I was aware of my surroundings at all times. I had to be sure of my safety. There was never a set rule to follow. The rules changed every day. I only had to do one thing, and that was to not feel. When I felt something, my eyes would express that, and that was my folly. His twist on destroying anything that lived inside my soul was relentless and I knew to keep my soul as far away from the surface as I could, acting as if in a play, every day of my life… never crying or showing anger, no happiness or laughing… only complete and careful manipulation in order to stay alive literally.
Then he switched to crack which anyone who knows, the power of the pain killer addiction is the most powerful addiction to overcome, almost impossible. However if a person smokes enough crack, somehow it can wipe out the pills eventually. He had this new guy around (who eventually OD’ed and died), who was about five foot four, long stringy black hair, with a wife that was known to give head out back of the bar. She was toothless and a crack head. We used to have to go to the bar, with my kids, to check in on the weird friends of his in the roadside Harley bar, with at the very least one hundred bikes parked outside. Around back of the bar was a campfire that seemed to burn nonstop. I sat with the babies on a log, while he did whatever he had to do. This guy had a huge knife collection that he displayed just as my ex had displayed a different piece of a rifle or shotgun that were throughout our home, leaning in every corner. There seemed to be a common interest between them of their weapons, constantly cleaning and stroking them, possibly wishing to use them. This is all but a small fraction of exposure to the dark side and a passing moment of our entire history. I think it was worse when we were actually in the car and he would pull into the worst slum neighborhoods, pick up some random guy on the corner, and drive to wherever, especially when he would get out of the vehicle and go inside. What a vulnerable feeling that is. He has had fights through car windows, guns pulled up to his head, and still he felt we were a normal family… I could not wait to be free of it.
Life was full of entanglements of society. Concrete truck arrived one morning on time and it was poured into the form that would be the base for the enormous water fountain that was due to be delivered from
Europe for this new condo neighborhood in . It was a wealthy establishment construction taking place throughout. The plans for the fountain were to be at the entrance, in the circle drive in front of the clubhouse, and then another pad in the courtyard within the center of the clubhouse for another smaller fountain. That’s all that we had to do… “get ‘er poured”… however, the important thing was for it to be precisely level to hold the enormous fountain. My ex was on a binge and as many times before, had no help because of an undependable crew and his troubled guidance over them. He spent the night smoking crack so in the morning, there was me, stuck with helping him in all of his fragile glory, pour this big money job. We got the concrete down, the babies sat and watched, as did about six or seven men in business suits. I kept looking over at him and he was sweating profusely. There had been several occasions that he had heart palpitations for hours on end after his binges, so I was wondering if he would fall over dead. Then he said “I’ll be back” and off he drove in the truck. Florida
Time went by and my kids were bored. They were only maybe two and three years old, out there with their mom trying to think of what the hell she was going to do… I had to handle the concrete many times before this so I knew how, but I was not on the same level as he was in skill, which was top notch, as to why he got so much business. The time came to start the straight edging and toweling of the concrete, after I ran the bull float over and let it set up first, all the while these men in suits watching me, whispering, looking concerned. I tried not to show it though, especially when the kids kept running off. I would glance up to see if the truck was back, but he never came back. I had to finish the job acting like I knew what I was doing, talking the language of men, with quick concentrated moves of finesse.
I received a call a week later telling me that the fountain arrived and the pad was not level enough and they wanted it to be re-poured. I said to them that the money that they paid him had been long gone. The threat of lawyers and credit were mentioned but my only answer was “You are going to have to stand in a long line.” Pressures build when you are the only parent making the responsibility calls like dinner and bills and normal society functions. Add that with a huge guy that was consuming everything in his path like an F5 intense funnel of furry, telling me calmly, “You know that if you leave, I will kill you,” out of the blue, as it were normal conversation in marriage. He could possibly see from an outside point of view that we were horribly abnormal and antisocial with our Bonnie and
Clyde personality disorders.
There were may nights that he would never return home from work, instead he would show the next morning or in the middle of the night, wide eyed, on a thousand dollars worth of crack, fragile and weakened by the let down of the euphoric past twelve hours. He always had a woman accompanying his binge, and most of the time I knew which one he manipulated at the time. This may be why we had to keep moving around so much… other than the obvious evictions. His concrete business and ability to sell awarded him endless supplies of large amounts of money. I was owned, and could never leave, and I was made aware of that every day.
The downfall that brought window of opportunity was that while he was weakened by his addiction, I was strong, patiently watching him, waiting for my time to go, every minute of every day, day after day, year after year. His mother came to stay for a holiday. He and his sister, a child protective agency case worker with a Masters degree in psychology, were on a binge together, constantly disappearing, while I was left to entertain the mother with my children. She was dysfunctional herself with a love of Stoleys, however, unaware of the depth of the true situation with her own children.
dinners with family, complete with the trimmings of table placement and side dishes, can bring long distant relative visits a feeling of love and bonding with their children. So when she handed him a twenty to go pick up a turkey baster around , I knew something that she did not. She just left the gate open and he ran for it. We did not see anything of him until the next day, Thanksgiving was over, and he was weaker than ever, with now his mother’s attack. I had my chance and I took it. After she left town, I contacted someone to help me and I was put into a confidential address for the following year. His rights were taken from him in all aspects, he stalked me, he installed fear into every lawyer and county agency that worked with me and most would only come to me because they did not want me to be seen coming in and out of their offices, because of him - including the psychologist that took my case only because I fell apart in his office. He was only to evaluate me for the drugs that were in our family life, to see where I fit in, and concluded that I had no addictions, but had some deep trauma of abuse. He took every Friday morning for three hours for six months to talk to me or listen to me. He also evaluated my ex as psychotic when they caught up to him on one of his multiple stops in the local detox, which is where his divorce papers were finally sent. The counselors at the shelter installed the paranoia that protected me, telling me how the last girl in a similar “owned” situation three years before was without children because her husband murdered them to hurt her, on Christmas, that was who they compared us to… the woman that I was without anything left of myself. I was owned. Turkey
Since then I have had another life full of immigration woes and foes. Tired is the only word that I can think of… wondering when I can just relax already. I used to walk through my life scared; I never went in public because of fear of him being there. I kept the curtains drawn, the kids inside, and many things – too many to list - to ensure our safety.
And now this man stands in my kitchen. The size of his body is not something that I would be able to overpower even on a good day. I am reminded of my paranoia from the past, the life of living in fear, of constantly looking in the rear view mirror, of scanning every store upon entering, of hurrying across wide open spaces, and always with an eye on the babies, no matter where we are, holding them close. We have been through so much. It continues to be victim and player, just line ‘em up it seems…I am so numb.
Now left with decisions of tomorrow, how far do I take the argument against so many who insist that our survival as a family with an immigrant husband do not make it. It crosses my mind of the stories I’ve heard. I guess we will be ok.
I do not want to live paranoid. I just want a normal life, with a house that has a fence around the yard and a swing set in the back and lots of flowers, fruit trees, and pets.
I really miss Ricardo, and wish he were allowed in the country to protect me, laugh with me, cry with me, "us," his family that he loves, so much. (ugh)