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Michael the Archangel and I had finally found our way back to Los Angeles.  His mother had allowed us to temporarily move in with her.  She already shared the three-bedroom bungalow with her elderly mother, who had lost a leg lifting a car off of a six-year-old girl.  We were supposedly saving money for our own place.  I had a different plan in mind.  I just hadn’t figured out how I was going to pull it off.

The next time I felt Michael’s fury,  the blow to my face was so loud it woke his mother out of a deep sleep.  She flew into our room, screaming for her son to get out of the house.  Instead, he dashed into the bathroom and ran a razor blade over wrists already scarred from previous attempts.  Somehow his mother kept him in the bathroom so he wouldn’t bleed all over the house, but neither one of us made an attempt to call for help.  We just stared at each other, as if daring each other to make a move to the phone.

Finally, his mother made the call and an ambulance arrived. This time Michael landed himself in a facility for a three-day evaluation, but as always, he convinced the docs he was ready to face the world again.  Looking pale and haunted with his wrists bandaged up, he attempted to gain my sympathy.  He related how the EMT told him that if he really wanted to end it, he would need to slice vertically up his wrist, and not waste his time marking up his arm side to side.  Information offered too late.  For the next several weeks I hid out, not wanting anyone to see my face in public.

As soon as my eye was almost back to normal, I applied for a job where Michael’s mother worked.  Garrett AiResearch manufactured and sold turbochargers to the military, so to even get into the plant I had to drive up to the guard shack and show my photo I.D. badge.  Once in the building, I felt safe.  Michael the Archangel would not be allowed in.  But my children were not there with me.  So I waited and then made my move.

I was hardly ever left alone, but one day Michael decided he could trust me long enough to take my car to the repair shop.  He’d hitch back, so I figured I had about 45 minutes.  I carefully pulled the curtain aside and watched as he backed out of the driveway.  I waited about one minute and then ran into the kitchen and pulled a large green garbage bag out of the cabinet.   Scarcely breathing, I pulled socks, underwear, pants and shirts for my son, diapers for the baby, bottles, a couple of toys, and tossed them without looking into the bag.  I threw the bag into my son’s Little Red Wagon and pulled the baby up onto my hip.  “Come on!” I told my four-year-old.  “Follow Mommy!”  “Hurry!”

My son didn’t even question me.  It was as if he knew exactly what we needed to do.  The three of us raced out of the house, with Michael’s grandmother helpless in her recliner, yelling at us to stop.  I walked as fast as I could and still keep us all together.  We went around the corner, up a few blocks, down a street, up another block, zig zagging away so as not to be found easily.  I was petrified, sure that if Michael found us I would be killed.

I knocked on a door in the middle of a block.  A middle-aged woman answered the door.  She took one look at us; me at eighty-two pounds, long, stringy brown hair, shaking like a leaf; my son, a look of bewilderment on his face.  And then there was the baby in my arms.  “Could I use your phone to call a taxi?” I said.  She hesitated, folding her arms.  Surely she’s not going to say no!  I almost began to scream, “Let me in your house!!”  “Please!”

There are far too many silent sufferers.  Not because they don’t yearn to reach out, but because they’ve tried and found no one who cares.
― Richelle E. Goodrich

She let us in and with fumbling, shaking fingers I looked up the number and made the call.  She asked us to wait on the porch, exposed.  I saw her watch me out the window.  Thoughts of being killed in front of my kids raced through my mind but I felt trapped, cemented to the spot.  If I left the taxi would not pick us up.

The driver looked incredulous as he lifted the red wagon and the garbage bag into the trunk of the cab.  I wondered if he was going to call the police on me, as if I were some fugitive from justice.  I gave him the address of a guy I had met at work.  He had stopped me in the lunchroom one day and asked me what was wrong with me.  Why was I so thin?  Why did I shake?  I unburdened myself and he offered to help.  I was sure he didn’t really expect me to take him up on it and show up on his doorstep, but I gave the driver his address anyway.  It was our only chance.  I felt myself begin to breathe again as we drove away, and I melted into the back of the seat.

I didn’t stop shaking for weeks.  I never saw Michael the Archangel again…ever.  I never showed up for another day at Garrett AiResearch, and within a week we were living miles away in another city.  I heard years later that Michael had died of an overdose in a fleabag hotel in San Francisco.  As for me, I made it for another year before I really began to unravel, before I began to lose myself completely.  It was finally safe to let go.