Category Archives: Death

The Slap

By the time I looked down the barrel of a gun for the third time in thirty seconds, I started questioning the wisdom of living with an ex-con.

I’d hung in there for four years, but watching my boyfriend, Brad, play with the handgun his buddy Mark just bought, I realized the only way Brad would be upset if I were shot is how much trouble he’d get into with the cops.

Like the time he grabbed a knife from me when I was opening a box. If I’d succeeded in the way I was doing it, considering the resistance of the tape, there’s a good chance I would have stabbed myself in the chest. He clutched the knife, closed his eyes, and whispered, “Oh, my God.” I thought he was relieved that I wasn’t hurt.

Brad was five-foot-five to my five-foot-ten, with a large purple nose and ruddy complexion from too much alcohol by thirty-six, but that didn’t matter to me. He seemed charming and intelligent, with a lot of Bad Boy in him. I was enthralled after being married to an Air Force officer for seven years, and I was ready for someone with a rule-breaking attitude.

But two months after Brad moved in, I became depressed.

A friend asked, “Don’t you think he might be bad for you?”

I said, “Oh, not at all,” and something about how he lets me be myself and isn’t it great I can relax around him enough to feel my depression?

Two years into our cohabitation, I swallowed a couple handfuls of sleeping pills. I spent a week in the psych ward at the University of Washington after the stomach pump. When depression hits me, it’s always in the spring, and it was beautiful during my stay. The skies were clear, buds were sprouting on the trees, and the temperature was cool with a hint of summer ahead. It felt like life was full of possibilities—for everyone but me.

Brad didn’t visit or call during that week. I choked down the pain and thought, “He assumes I’m okay. That’s a good thing, right?” I called him every day, though, just to let him know I was fine, and I tried not to hear the impatience and irritability in his voice as we talked.

When I was discharged, he told me he was busy, so why don’t I just take a cab home? I told myself, “That just means he believes I can take care of myself, which is great.” I tried to silence the whimpering voice in my mind that asked, “Doesn’t he care?”

Life returned to its routine loneliness for a while, and then Brad got into an argument with our landlords, the Borbas. I can’t recall what the disagreement was about, but we received an eviction notice over it.

I told Brad I just wanted to move. I didn’t want an eviction on my record.

He gave me a pamphlet distributed by the City of Seattle regarding tenant/landlord disputes and assured me that they couldn’t evict us because “We have rights. Look, they’re in the pamphlet.” I felt nauseous because I’d always liked the Borbas, but I thought Brad would be impressed with me if I stood by him. So we fought the eviction.

I took a second job on the weekends as a stripper in order to keep up with the attorney fees. Brad continued just working the one job, but he said he was hard at work, researching our rights in his spare time.

I thought we were a great team, and he seemed to find me attractive at last. When I was just an administrative assistant, he would tell me, “Sometimes you’re pretty” in a tone that conveyed I should feel flattered. But now that I was taking my clothes off for strangers, he found me sexy. I was relieved and felt as though I were worth something to him.

In addition to our full-color pamphlet about tenants’ rights, Brad brought our white phone receiver to court in a plastic baggie. It had a black smudge on it, and he told the judge it was proof that Mr. Borba had entered our apartment without our permission, did some unauthorized work, and then used the phone.

As we waited for the court reporter to stop drooling on his machine because he was laughing so hard—which was fine because the judge was guffawing and unable to speak—I started to wonder about where this was going. Minutes later, we lost the case.

After we moved out and I caught up on the attorney fees, I stopped the stripping job. Brad didn’t mind, though, because by now he had developed an addiction to going to strip clubs.

I felt useless again, but then one day he mentioned a casino robbery he and a former cellmate were planning. He described the plan in detail, telling me that it would be foolproof because “Indian casinos have terrible security.”

I heard myself offering to help, and I held my breath as I waited for him to think about this. The nausea I’d gotten with the eviction was back, but it was much worse. I tried to ignore it, but that just led to profuse sweating.

Brad was silent, and I chattered about how people who know me would be blown away to hear I’d participated in something like that. He listened and frowned, then told me two weeks later he’d changed his mind. I was hurt, but I could breathe again. I suspected he didn’t think I was discreet or smart enough to help. I felt ashamed because I was willing to commit a crime—and I was ashamed because I wasn’t good enough to commit it—but I was grateful for the reprieve. I thought, “I was willing to risk prison for him. He’s gotta love me now.”

I spent two more years with him, feeling lonely, waiting for him to come home at three in the morning after visiting bars, gambling joints, and strip clubs. Anything to avoid being with me.

I’d kept my body in good shape and always been supportive of him, even as he sat in the shed out back every evening, smoking, drinking, and looking at porn because “I need to warm up.” But my anger was building without my realizing it.

One day as Brad knelt next to the cage where our pet rats, Thelma and Louise, lived, he made a remark about my needing to keep the cage cleaner. I was their sole caretaker, and I was meticulous about cleaning their cage and keeping fresh food and water in there. The girls even got to run around the house for long periods of time twice a day.

His criticism caused something in my brain to click. Without hesitation, I strode to him and slapped him up the side of his head. I apologized and blamed my parents’ violent marriage for my actions. Then there was another click in my mind, and I heard the echoes of that excuse from a thousand times before. I didn’t want to hear myself say it ever again.

It was as though I’d slapped myself. I woke up and began to see Brad and me, as individuals, with clarity. He’d never cared, he never would, and I started to get okay with that.

Two weeks later I came home from work to find Brad and Mark examining the new handgun as though they were forensic experts. They passed it back and forth in reverence, caressing the silver barrel and cooing to the gun as though they wanted to make love to it. I watched Brad display more affection for a weapon than he’d ever displayed for me, and the truth of this made me flinch every time the barrel flashed at me.

His statements over the years came flying back to me, but now they didn’t sound like almost-compliments, and my mind began to scream in response. I could hear a new voice, and there was no whimpering.

Flash—“Sometimes you’re pretty.”

What the hell are you doing?

Flash—“I need to warm up.”

You asshole.

Flash—“Can’t you take a cab home?”

This time my rage was out loud: “Get the fuck outta here with that thing!”

Brad looked at Mark with regret and embarrassment. He handed the gun back and apologized for my behavior. As Mark and his gun left, Brad strode out of the room in a huff, out to his shed to be with his booze and his smokes and his delusions of being desired by air-brushed women.

But I knew the shed wasn’t far enough, and one more evening’s separation was too short. I needed him to leave forever, go wherever, and soon.

He left without protest or sadness. Just a shrug and a suggestion on how we might divide the VHS movies. Of course I could keep Thelma and Louise because caring for anyone simply wasn’t in his nature.

*****

Twenty-one years later, I decided to Google Brad, as a bored person with exes might do. I didn’t expect any solid hits because his last name is common, and when I Google him, there’s usually a famous sports figure who pops up.

But this time the search brought forth a news article about him. Early one morning that year, Brad stepped in front of a train that was going forty miles an hour.

If he’d done it right after I’d kicked him out, his death might have pleased me. But the decades had changed me, brought a sense of empathy I didn’t know I had until I read about his suicide.

It was difficult to process my feelings.

How could I feel sad for someone who had been so cold and mean?

Was he capable of feeling the kind of despair I’d felt when I took all those pills and irritated him with the inconvenience of my depression, or was his death merely a choice of expedience because he’d lost the ability to charm, manipulate, and abuse a vulnerable person?

My newfound empathy surprised and disconcerted me, and I began to wonder where this might lead regarding my fractious familial relationships. Could I begin to forgive? Could I ask for forgiveness?

Of Police, Pillows, and Pizza

This afternoon I heard screaming in the upstairs apartment. It sounded alternately like a man, then a woman. The footfalls were unusual too. Some rhythmic in one place and some short bursts of running all over the unit. I’m used to Stompy up there, and this was different.

As the warm glow of domestic violence PTSD washed over me, I called the cops, hoping I was just overreacting. They told me I was their second call about it, so I took the next sensible step and began hyperventilating and calling Paul’s cell until he picked up.

In the midst of this, the part of me still connected to Earth knew I was losing ground with my work schedule. I had to call my clients to ask for deadline extensions. While waiting for the police, texting my clients was out of the question because I was shaking so badly that my finger kept missing the phone altogether.

The cops arrived pretty quickly, just after what I swear was a woman screaming, “Oh, my God!”

There was a brief discussion at their door upstairs, then quiet. One of the officers came down, grinning, and said, “Yeah, it’s just one guy up there watching a soccer game.”

I’ve worked in a sports bar, and while I’m indifferent to sports, I detest rabid sports fans. Especially dudes who shriek like a woman being stabbed to death.

The officer and I agreed that it’s better to call just in case, and isn’t it nice that there’s nothing violent happening and all, so I didn’t confess my plan to smother the bastard with a chloroform-soaked pillow later this evening.

So the breathing is back to normal, and my chest pain has subsided. But now there’s a tic underneath my left eye, and I feel like a wet towel that’s been beaten on a rock.

Some of my exhaustion may also be due to the dead guy we found in our carport this morning. Naked, pants around his ankles, staring up at the ceiling.

Either way, I’m having wine and pizza, with a Sominex for dessert.

Mexican wrestling fan_free
I know it’s not about soccer, but I’m still getting my pillow.

 

Neeners from Beyond

I’m trying to decide if it’s weird that I enjoy planning what will happen after I die, especially because so much of my pleasure is rooted in vengeance.

The last time I updated my estate documents was four years ago, just two weeks before I was scheduled to have a bit of cancer removed from my right kidney (or, as one of my bosses speculated, it was just a wine cork. My surgeon declined to confirm). So that go-round wasn’t as much fun as this time.

I recently reconnected with my cousin Lesli, who has an only daughter, Megan, so now I have blood relatives I actually speak to again. And unlike when I communicate with a couple other members of the family, when I talk to Lesli and Megan, I don’t want to kill myself, which is cool.

Plus this reconnection got me thinking about my will’s provisions if Paul dies before me (which is fairly moot-ish because he’s ten years younger than I am and takes way better care of himself than I do; although we Valleleys have a tendency to just keep living in spite of logic, so things are a tad mentally swirly).

Lesli and I grew up like sisters, which was handy because we’re only children, and Megan is like a niece to me even though we haven’t met yet.

Such is the power of the Internet to render the in-person meeting unnecessary to form relationships. Paul and I put our estate-planning and tax return preparation in the hands of an attorney and an accountant we couldn’t pick out of a line-up, and neither of us thinks it’s all that strange.

The control freak in me likes the idea of dictating my last wishes, and it tries really hard not to imagine anyone not following them. I mean, how would I do anything about it? I hope haunting and poltergeisting are real, just in case.

As for stuff and money, I get to decide who gets what and how much of it. There isn’t a vast empire to begin with, but even if I only had five beans, I’d enjoy the thought that I get to withhold all of them from certain people (and yes, to those two or three people who may have read all of my posts, I’m talking about Paul’s middle and younger brothers, MB and YB).

Maybe I sound petty, but I know those two boys will see everything I own as belonging to them just because I was married to their brother.

I know that because two hours after their father passed, as we were driving YB over to console their stepmother (because, as YB put it, “I’m too much of a delicate flower to drive myself anywhere at this awful time because this shock is affecting me more than anyone else, including Dad’s wife”—I paraphrase), out of nowhere, YB said, “We’d better get over there and divvy up Dad’s stuff.”

No need to offer an anecdote about MB to support my theory. Two peas. One pod. As YB’s girlfriend once described the group (both boys and their girlfriends), “We’re as thick as thieves!” Surgically precise writing.

So yeah, despite how heartbroken they’d be to see me go, I have good reason to believe my death will trigger a plundering that would make the Vikings look like a bunch of pantywaists.

So in addition to denying them a single penny, here’s the part of estate planning that has me cackling and rubbing my hands together like a B-movie villain:

Lesli and Megan are sweet, but they’re also tough people who can—and will, for me—body-block MB and YB from even crossing the threshold after I’m gone.

And I’ve got news from beyond for those two loving, caring lads: Megan is a total martial arts badass, and if they try to get in with their empty boxes and sticky fingers, she will have signed, notarized authorization from me to kick them into the next century.

Now it’s time for spreadsheets and office supply shopping. This is intoxicating. I hope reincarnation’s a real thing. I’d like to believe that I’ll be able to do this again and again throughout eternity.

I’ve decided. If it’s weird, I don’t care.

Mwah-hah-hah, etc.

 

Even the Bee Gees Can’t All Keep Stayin’ Alive

When I reconnect with someone from my youth, my first thought is “How cool. They’re still alive.”

This leads to a couple of questions:

One: Just how old do I think I am?

(Answer: Dead any moment now.)

Two: Is my reaction a glass half full or half empty?

(Answer: Half full because I’m happy these old friends are alive, but half empty because see question number one.)

I blame celebrities. If they’d stop dying, I might not think about my own mortality so much. I keep calling the still-alive ones to request that they live forever, but it usually results in restraining orders. Then they die. Probably to spite me.

I’ll just keep enjoying my life each day I’m here, working at home, hanging out with the cats, and listening to the newest certainly sane neighbor as he shouts helpful advice to all the “fuckin’ bitches” to “shut the fuck up.”

It’s the little things.

The_Lunatic_Asylum_public domain
Our neighbor warming up for his musical, “Shut Up, Bitches!,” based on a lesser known Bee Gee song.