He opened the door and he smiled at me. This man 10 years my senior when I was just a girl of 23... with tan skin and green eyes and strong arms. He opened the door and I was caught almost in an instant and as we talked I could see that he was nervous. As we talked I could see that being next to me made this man, so strong and confident and self-assured, visibly nervous. He asked for my number and I could feel my heart swell. This was something new, something different. Ten minutes later he called me and asked me to go out with him, our first date, the same day that we met. We talked and talked for hours and when I finally drove away he called to tell me that he needed to see me again, that he could barely wait for tomorrow. And in a series of events that felt to planned, too perfect to have been merely chance, I fell head over heels, hopelessly and helplessly in love with him. I fell in love with the way he spoke to me, the way he encouraged me and believed that there was nothing I could not do. I loved the way he wanted me, the way he thought that I was perfect. At a time when I had just purchased my first home and my father would not let me use a power drill because he thought that I would break my wrist, this man showed me how to change a tire, how to check the oil and how to change a fuse. He spoke to me of possibilities. Of the purity and innocence he saw in me. He loved me in a way that was possessive. All consuming and demanding and, at the time, filled all of the empty spaces in my soul. I needed him in the same way that I need air to breath. His love sustained me and it made me whole.
I don't tell that part of the story because it makes me happy. I tell it because it makes it easier for me to understand how I could have allowed the rest of the story to unfold. How I could sink into what would be the worst two and a half years of my life so blindly. When I met this man I had friends who loved me and the many blessings of my family. I had a career, a new home and a 3.9 GPA. I worked out every day and volunteered to clean roads and wash windows. Above all of this, and at the heart of all of this, I had a blonde haired, blue eyed girl who thought I'd hung the moon. I did everything I could to be worthy of her love. To give her the life that she so deeply deserved. But already, even before I met this man, I could feel things slipping out of my control. It starts with a mild strain and distance between me and my family. Then there is drinking more nights than not. This or that just to feel something different. A long and lonely list of one night stands. Days missed at work and working less and less even when I was there. My schoolwork starts slipping in favor of nights out with my friends. And all the while an emptiness. A deep and all consuming loneliness that all of my achievements and accomplishments somehow never fill. I knew something was wrong. I tried to ask for help but the counselor that I picked was less than helpful. If I knew then what I know now I would have known to leave the minute that he showed me pictures of the wife that was divorcing him so I could see how much we looked alike. I wish sometimes that I had met the right counselor at this time, that maybe someone could have saved me from myself.
And it was here, in this place in life that Randy came into my world. He put me on a pedestal and made me believe that he was the person I deserved. It starts so slowly that I want to say I was caught unaware. But I don't know if that is true. There were signs. Moments, almost instantly, where I thought something here is wrong.
It's not like me to sever the relationships that so far in life had nurtured me. My best friend, Brent, who loved me so completely, I cast aside without a second though. He sat me down one day and told me that he loved me, but that he could not watch as I destroyed my life. Other friends... John and Evelyn and Tim and so many more... I wrote them out of my life because it was required. When they accepted my abandoning them without hesitation I was told it was proof that they never loved me from the start. Every trace of my life before Randy was thrown away or burned or broken. The ties to my family, much to his dismay, were more tenacious. Eventually I severed those ties as well, although this came so much more from the shame I felt about what my life had become than out of any sense of loyalty. Eventually he would tell me that the reason he would leave me, the reason he could not love me, was because I never put him first.
The time line in my head gets fuzzy sometimes here. There is so much that I don't remember, or that I only remember bits and pieces. I know it makes my stomach turn to admit how fast it happened. I know that it was weeks, just weeks, after meeting him that I cut ties between me and my friends. After one month I was pregnant with his child. A child I did not keep because he said he would leave me. The singe worst decision I have made in my entire life. A choice that I can live with only because I know it is not possible for this child, and my son to both be alive right now. I found out that he was married. That he lied to me about his age, he lied about his entire life. I learned that three years earlier he had been released from prison after spending ten years there. And none of it mattered to me. Because when you need someone like I needed him, nothing else matters.
I know that by two months he had moved in with me and moved back out, to his wife's home. He was never really gone though. One night I tried to kill myself because he would not come to me. And at no point did I really want to die, I only wanted him to come to me. To love me again and never leave. And I guess, in a way, it worked. Two weeks in the hospital and the minute that I could, the minute I had a phone and an empty room I called him. And when I was home again he came to me and he loved me. He lived with me and I put his name permanently on my skin and my son was conceived. If before my life was in a tailspin now it was a free fall. This relentless push and pull where I hated him and I loved him and I needed him to never leave me. Whatever boundaries I had known vanished. If he asked I said yes. If he left I would do anything to get him back. There are places I did not know existed, things I did not know myself capable of doing. This is the point where the words become hard to find because as much as I would like to pretend, I know it was not only him who did terrible things. It's possible to get to a point where you think it's okay to ram your car, over and over, into his, just because you can't bear the thought that he is leaving. It's not possible that it was me. I need to believe that it was not really me. How could I... a strong and capable and intelligent woman... how could I become a girl so weak and pathetic? How could I allow... how could I think... how could I believe. How could I?
I don't know what to say now. How to explain what life was like for me, how it doesn't even seem possible that it was me at all. I don't even remember the first time that he laid his hands on me. But I do know that a kind of hopelessness sets in. Where you know that this is the bed that you have made and you have no choice now but to lie in it. This is what you wanted, it's what you asked for and it must be what you deserve. That your life is in shambles serves as glaring proof of your intrinsic badness.
I like to tell myself that no one knew what was going on. And while it's true that no one knew the details, no one knew what happened behind closed doors, everyone knew. Sometimes strangers knew. My neighbors who were scared to speak to me knew. My midwife, the one time that he came with me to an appointment, she knew. I was planning a home water birth, and he came with me, though he did not approve of my decision. I don't know now what it was he said or did but I knew that it was not going well. I thought she was going to tell me that I could not have my baby there. And then when he went outside she looked at me with an expression that I couldn't really understand and asked if I was okay. She asked if he was hurting me. I said no, of course not, that's not true. Because, really, what else are you supposed to say? She said that she was worried and she apologized to me. I never went to see her again. Instead of another perfect water birth my son was born in a hospital delivered by people I had never even met before while his father yelled at me for refusing an epidural and acted like it was all a terrible inconvenience. And then things got really bad.
This is the part of the story that I am most ashamed of. Parts that even Steve heard only just a few days ago on one of my famous nights of drunken word vomit. This man, father of my child, showing up at the place where I worked to threaten a coworker who had done nothing wrong because he could not contain his jealousy. Hitting a stranger at a bar who I made the mistake of speaking to. A person should not remember sitting on the kitchen floor while a man kicks her over and over. Should not remember sitting in the car, crying and holding her infant son and seeing her blood fall on his clothes. Coming home too many times to find him hiding somewhere in the shadows. Being hit, in the face, hair pulled by someone who is so much stronger than you are. Being spit on, literally, spit on. Who does that to someone?? And everywhere you go, and everything you do, it feels like he is there. I don't remember the details now, what came before or after, but I remember driving with him one night. He told me to get in the car and it was so quiet and it wasn't even me in the car. It was late at night and and just the two of us and he drove to an old industrial area, and I was certain, I was really certain, that he was going to kill me. That's what he wanted me to believe. And I didn't even care. For a long time I thought that I would die at his hands.
I tried sometimes to get out of the mess I was in. I lost my job and pushed my family away. But sometimes, when it was too hard, I would go to them, in tears and out of desperation and I would ask them to let me stay. For a day or maybe sometimes for a week... but he was always there and always I went back. And eventually, how do you even ask anymore? How much can the people who love you be expected to bear? When you go back again and again, when you get pregnant by this man again. And you think you can fix it and he will love you. He will love you again. When as much as he gives you are willing to take and you are scared, not that he will hurt you, but that he will leave you.
The last time I saw him was 8 years ago, when I was 8 months pregnant with my youngest son. He had an errand to run and needed me to drop him off somewhere. He gave me money and told me to go and buy something for Dallas, who was just 14 months old and come back to get him in an hour. And in an hour I went to get him and I was told that he had gone... And the world started spinning because I knew that it meant that he was really gone. Driving home and walking inside and seeing that he had been there, that he took his things and he was gone... even now, looking at the list of emotions I can't pick out the ones that match.
And all the while, there was that blonde haired, blue eyed little girl that I can't even bear to mention in the same story. It can't be true that any of this can ever be part of her story. I need that not to be true. Because while she may have been sheltered from witnessing the worst firsthand, I don't pretend for one second that any child can survive my chaos unscathed. And when you try to tell me that this somehow does not make me a terrible person, a terrible mother, I am going to tell you that you are wrong.