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Black eye, 3rd day

Black eye, 3rd day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A chance meeting through a friend of a friend.  Our eyes met across a crowded room (well, I think there were five of us).  Soon we became the perfect little hippie couple.   At the end of it all,  I would be completely mad.  It would take a decade to fight my way back from a pit of despair so deep that’s it’s a miracle I survived it at all.  And oddly enough, the madness would start with an invitation to a Tupperware party.  To this day, I don’t like Tupperware parties…but I digress.

I thought he was gorgeous (they always seem to be gorgeous).  Michael.  I thought of him as Michael the Archangel.  He was poetic and spiritual.  He was calming.  He was smart. He took over the parts of my life that I couldn’t seem to manage on my own.  Everyone around us seemed to be as drawn to him as I was.  My Svengali.

He talked me into moving away, making the break from Los Angeles and most of my friends and family.  Technically still a teenager, I felt like a grown-up, striking out on my own.  Only I wasn’t alone.  I was with Michael the Archangel.

The first time it happened we were walking down the street talking.  The conversation seemed to be going well enough, although I had been feeling more and more uncomfortable with the topics he brought up.  Lately he had been telling me about his foray into white magic.  At times he didn’t make any sense at all.  At other times, I felt a definite darkness in my spirit, as if someone had turned off the lights.

“Do you believe in reincarnation?” he asked.  It seemed like an innocent enough question at the time.  I didn’t sense a set-up or anything.  But I already knew I had better say, “yes,” so I did.  “Well, I’m Jesus Christ reincarnated.”  My breath caught in my throat and I stopped, turning to face him.   “Yeah, right,” I said.

I didn’t even see it coming, an explosion of pain and blackness.  My face went numb and I thought my eye had popped out of its socket.  I screamed.  Horrified, I tried to run, but he caught up to me and pulled me by my blouse.  I thought someone would have had to hear the crack when his fist landed on my face and I hoped someone would come out of their house and rescue me, but the silence, other than the barking of a dog, was deafening.  Suddenly, a beautiful sunny summer day turned gray.

“I ran into the kitchen cupboard,” I later lied to my friends.  They just stared at my face and turned away.  I wanted them to know I was lying, confront me with it, and demand an explanation.  I wanted someone to take charge and hide us somewhere safe.  But no one did, and I kept silent, and I was 360 miles away from home.

Once you tell your first lie, the first time you lie for him, you are in it with him, and then you are lost.

Anita Shreve, Strange Fits of Passion

There was calm after that storm but it was just the eye of the hurricane.  One night soon after, I was beaten while the soundtrack of “A Clockwork Orange” played in the background.  I was left with lumps all over my head that were covered by my hair.   A friend didn’t believe I had been hurt at all because my face looked fine. Resigned, I went back home.  And of course, that wasn’t the worst of it.

I tried to spend my days taking my son to the park or long walks downtown, anything to keep us away from home as much as possible.  Every so often we would stop and I would watch him while he gathered his “collections.” I pulled these treasures out of his pockets before I did his laundry and it was one of my greatest pleasures.  I never knew what I would find; rocks, leaves, olives that had fallen off of the trees lining the street on which we lived.  He was a little over two-years-old and so funny already.  One day, I flipped a cigarette into the street.  “Does that look like an ashtray?” he quipped.  I laughed out loud and stared at him. He’s only two and he’s already got our family’s sarcastic sense of humor!  I felt so proud to be his mom.  Somehow, I had to get us out of there; somehow I had to save us.

Soon I was pregnant again and leaving was out of the question.  There was no way my parents would take me in again and all my friends were Michael’s as well.  I was awakened one night to find the police in my living room.  A friend had called them after Michael had slit his wrists and smeared his blood all over the walls, throughout the house.  The police coaxed him off of our property by telling him the neighbors wanted to ask him a question, and took him to the hospital.  It took me until dawn to wash the walls before my son woke up and saw it.

Then there was the problem of the heroin.  I watched his addiction happen just like in a film we saw in middle school.  New friends in fancy cars came by with freebies.  They made Michael feel as if they would do anything for him…best buddies.  I came home one day from a walk with my son and walked into the bedroom I had fixed up for the baby.  They were sitting cross-legged in a circle on the floor, handing each other the syringe.  A drop of blood marred the brand new crisp white of the Winnie the Pooh rug they were sitting on.  I fled to the garage, blood pounding in my ears.  I stooped forward, trying to catch my breath, hands on my swelled belly.  I suddenly knew what it was like to want to kill someone with my bare hands. I began planning our escape in earnest.

The next morning, I casually mentioned how fun it would be to move away, to begin again; to be closer to our parents and friends.  Maybe after the baby is born.  A “start-over” of sorts.  Instead, another year of hell followed me like an angry bee, sometimes stinging me, sometimes leaving me alone, but always buzzing around, too close, keeping me on my toes.  Adrenaline released into my bloodstream, attempting to keep me safe.  The trouble was, there was no where to flee…not yet.