Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Could I say "no"?

A long time ago when I was a young 'un, my dad was a raging drunk and was frequently abusive to my mom. There was even a secret "code" involving porch lights so that our neighbors understood when to call the cops. This probably explains why my previous relationship wasn't very stable, affirming, or at times even safe. It's OK now. I've finally forgiven her, and we're actually friends now. I love her wife and son. I enjoy hanging out with her - probably because I know that I'm not in danger any more.

But, there are times when something will happen that reminds me how difficult it was. There was the cheating, but I actually expected that for some reason. (A therapist would have a field day with that statement, right?) Except for the devastating blow to one's self esteem that comes from being betrayed, there was no mental abuse. It was the physical stuff that was hard to comprehend and tolerate, but I followed the cycle of abuse to the letter.

Example: One night, something happened (no clue what) that triggered her anger (which wasn't hard to do), and I ended up with a fat lip and bloody nose. But, I was done, fed up, ready to do something. I just didn't know what that was. I did know that I needed to get out of the toilet that we rented, so I grabbed my keys and ran out the door. Great. So, you've started the truck and pulled out of the driveway, but now what?

I knew that I needed to go somewhere, but I didn't want her to be embarrassed by her actions (what?!?!) and I didn't want our friends to know just how stupid I was (what?!?!), so going to one of their houses was out of the question. If I was going to escape, I had to do it right. The thought of going to the shelter for domestic violence victims was out of the question. (Why????) But, as I drove, it occurred to me: a friend that my partner didn't know that just wouldn't let me down. I knew just the person!

I was working some nights and all weekends at a local bar as a DJ. (I actually wasn't half bad, either!) One of the bartenders there was/is an awesome person, and I love her to pieces. We had a great friendship over a shared love of Lenny Kravitz and roots in Sanpete county. I just knew that I could count on her. So, I drove to the bar where everyone was cleaning up for the night. She wasn't working that night either. I coudn't possibly be seen in there in the condition that I was in, so I convinced the owner to come outside where I begged for my friend's phone number. The owner wouldn't give it to me, but agreed to dial it and then let me talk. OK, that works.

It was the middle of the night (after 1am). I knew even then that if someone calls that late, it's considered an emergency. I felt badly for waking someone/anyone, but I needed someplace to go. So, sobbing into the phone, I asked for a place to stay for the night - just one night so that I could go back and get my belongings the next day - just one night to collect my thoughts and make a real, actionable plan - just one night to sleep without fear. I asked, and she said no. The reason? She had company. She. Had. Company.

I will never forget that. I still love her, and I think that she's a great person, and she probably doesn't even remember this incident. I, however, will never, ever forget it. I ended up driving back home to the fake tears and the empty apologies and the cycle that continued for two more years.

So, flash forward to three weeks ago when a friend of ours called us and wanted to talk. Even though we hadn't spoken for more than two years, I invited her over because I knew exactly what it was about. I've known for what seems like forever. When she described the mental and physical abuse that she had been enduring, I understood her. When she asked if she could stay in our basement as she filed for divorce and found a place of her own, I said yes.

Could I even consider saying no?

So, we moved all of her belongings into our garage and basement yesterday. It went smoothly. We packed up her stuff, her son's stuff, and left the husband's stuff alone. She left him with more than half believing that everything will be worked out in the divorce. For the first time in her life, she is "living like a gypsy," and she is ashamed and embarrassed. I know what she is feeling right now.

I thought that it would take a while before her husband figured out where she was especially since she hadn't spoken to us for so long, but there he was, sitting outside our house (smartly, on the street, not the driveway - we couldn't do a thing) about 15 minutes after he read her good bye note.

We were just nervous enough that I wouldn't let the boys eat supper* at the dining room table. We ate in the kitchen, away from all windows, instead. It was at this moment - watching my two little stinkers eat pancakes for their dinner - that I realized I could have said no to our friend.

I don't actually think that the husband will do anything. As he was calmly talking to Bub last night (he in his truck, she in the doorway), he indicated that there are two sides to every story. She, in turn, let him know that if he steps foot in our driveway, we will call the cops.

I still think that we did the right thing.

(*this word used in latent defiance - only one other person might ever know how stupidly happy using this word makes me feel)

1 comment:

Becky said...

You are a great person Kaye! I am proud to call you my friend! Love you and your family!