That awkward moment where a song comes on, that you maybe haven’t heard in “ages”, and a vivid memory arrives suddenly and you’re struck with how awful that was and how strong you were to persevere. Fuck! The memory, long forgotten, of how my abuser would insist on “clearing” or approving of what music I listened to. He hated Bush so I blasted “sixteen Stone” a lot. And a fuck ton of L7, specifically their song, “Slide”. I think he feared my getting boosted up by strong female messaging. Not that he’d have said as much. Little did he know how much Tori Amos “Boys for Pele” album would give me so much food for my broken and battered soul then. This morning the song, “Marianne” came on, I keep music on throughout the day when I’m working to avoid other distractions. I usually have it so that my Pandora stations are shuffled and when the song begins, the memory of his grabbing my discman and insisting on listening to it as I grinned from ear to ear. I could see his face change from insistence, anger, confusion, and then when he handed it back to me and said it was “fine” and that he liked “That song about tuna rubber” and I realized that he had only listened to 5-10 seconds of the beginning of each song and how little that could mean or convey. Internally I laughed my ass off. Externally I was the ever grateful actress for him.
We lived in a shared house with his best friend and that friend’s grandma. Weirder still is that my very first boyfriend (and kiss, tbh) rented the garage in back as well. There was a constant tension of how much the grandma would allow in the house, and how much she actually knew of what was going on. Drugs aplenty, though his friend was strictly an alcoholic and wouldn’t touch anything else. It was a delicate dance for me to keep peace between the friend and grandma, the grandma and me, my abuser’s ever changing demands and cruelty, and keeping the house in semi order as I was the only one in the house with the grandma half the time. I cooked, I cleaned, I applied for jobs everywhere I could when I could get out of the house. I honestly don’t know how long I lived in that house, a year or two, I am only starting to retrieve some of those memories, and none intentionally.
I remember my insomnia has reached its absolute worst and I would walk to the 7-11 about a half mile from the house for nachos. What else does one buy at 3 am? Ha-ha! I was 18, but my every moment was tracked and accounted for by my abuser. What I wore, what I ate, what I listened to was only part of it. He insisted on a rundown of everything spoken between myself and the grandma, what I did for her, what I did for the house, if the ex-bf in the garage said anything to anyone at all when he came to use the shower. To say this was an exhausting existence is putting it mildly. He would also lock me in the back bedroom for hours if anything wasn’t to his liking. It was around this time I got into Anne Rice books. I needed to pass the time and had seen the movie Interview with a Vampire the previous year. I had no recollection at the time that my bio mother was super into her books as well, as I’d had no contact in years and hadn’t paid much attention as a child.
It was at this time that my abuser somehow met a woman who helped him with his various schemes. Drugs sure, he sold those for ages but always weed or pills and in such small quantities that no one would notice. But when he met Olga it got bigger and broader and I don’t know what else was involved, honestly nothing would surprise me. He once insisted I meet her, much to my revulsion, and forced me to get super dressed up to meet her for dinner at The Pasta Market. I laugh now because that place was such a dump by today’s standards, but considered “fancy” to me and many others back then. I don’t remember much except her face, how pleasant she seemed, and the horrific pressure and stress he put on me throughout that evening. I figured he was fucking her, but after meeting her I wasn’t so sure. Maybe they pimped other women out, at least I suspected as much for a brief period. I know she helped him sell stolen jewelry and goods.
That house. Ugh! I had visited that house once previously, not sure if this was before I met my abuser. Time is fuzzy, but it’s possible he left me there while he went out drinking with his buddy. I was hanging out with some stoner friends I knew in high school there, smoking weed, listening to 60’s music (we were hippies, sort of) and they were drinking Goldschläger (I refused to drink at that time) and we all marveled at the gold flakes in the bottle as it swirled around. Okay they may have been on harder drugs, but I remember laughing and having a great time. One of those guys would later save my life by reading the situation as bad and offering me a place to live 20 miles away. I do not believe that I would have lived much longer had he not done that on my 19th birthday. I left the very next day. I never saw that dreadful house, his friend, or the grandma ever again. Some of you may think that’s awful to leave the old woman alone in that house with two drunken monsters, but I can assure you that she a) did not live in that house much longer, b) likely knew some of what was going on and didn’t care, and c) treated me like shit along with the other two so I don’t really give a fuck about her.
That boy that saved me though? What a beacon of light in the darkest of nights! He had come by the house to give something to the grandma, he had married and divorced her granddaughter (they had a child together), and caught me in the house without my abuser there. He simply said, “I don’t know what is going on, but I have an empty bedroom if you need somewhere to stay, you wouldn’t have to pay rent or anything, no strings attached.” and I immediately accepted and asked if the next day would work. Ha-ha! The first few months in that apartment were bliss. We just did silly and nerdy stuff and tried to find footing in the world. He, recovering from a divorce he rarely spoke of and me figuring out what life even is after giving up hope of ever having a say of my own for the last five years. We had a whipped cream fight one night after buying bogo pumpkin pies and just being super dorks. I know how that sounds, but it was all strictly platonic, at least on my part. Only once did he admit to ever having an inclination towards me and he was very intoxicated on multiple substances at the time so I never gave it much thought.
I do wish I could have been a better friend to him later on when a mutual friend (another ex-bf, but these were all non-sexual bfs, I was 14 and younger when I dated these boys hahahah) stayed the night once and refused to leave ever after. That friend got him into harder and harder drugs and truly wrecked his life, in my opinion. At one point there were four guys and me living in that apartment. That ex-bf that used to live in that grandma’s garage? He moved into the walk-in closet in the bigger bedroom. I had my own room with a lock on the door, thank the stars. The dumbass that refused to leave and some kid whose dad would come check on him from time to time shared the living room. We were all mostly happy stoners, but that dumbass introduced meth into the equation at some point and it all went downhill from there, even getting us evicted. The level of filth was worsened by the meth introduction as well. It went from hilarious dinners where I’d make spaghetti and they’d give me a bag of weed to mix into the sauce, which led to my painting an exact likeness of a Dr. Pepper can that we all seemed very entertained by. To just barely be able to make out that there was in fact a table in there, under a mass of trash and discarded things they would use to make or smoke their meth (I was sooooo unaware of the meth, except for the worsening odor). When I caught them freebasing in the kitchen one night I had assumed it was crack and got really upset about it. I was off in my own world creating my new life and at that time wasn’t at the apartment very much at all.
Almost exactly a year after moving into that apartment I fell in love and then was so heartbroken I nearly took my own life on my 20th birthday. “I get by with a little help from my friends” is putting it mildly. Friends I had reunited with after escaping my abuser were there for me in the ways they could be and we drank Cuervo Gold to forget about the rest. We lived on Pepsi and Taco Bell, Lean Cuisine frozen dinners and Marlboro Lights. I was soon introduced to the goth scene and a club in SF called The So What. I met my best friend who later became my husband very soon after. In a year’s time I built a whole new life for myself. I can’t say that I was happy though. I mean, no one really knew what happened to me, no one asked and it was never spoken of. I hated myself, had zero self esteem, and while not exactly self harming, I drank more that year than I did for the next 20!
When we got evicted from the apartment I moved into my grandma’s house with my family, my grandpa had passed away a couple of years previously and she had extra rooms. The internet was still new and my bff was in college in Oregon. Email was so damned exciting! I would sit in that tiny bedroom my grandpa had used as a den (and mostly still looked the part), up late into the night unable to sleep and I would do shots of cuervo with diet 7up until I didn’t want to die anymore. I would talk to people in chat rooms on Prodigy and AOL, and even made some friends that way. I remember feeling so hollow and wishing that I knew how to feel real because I always felt so invisible. To this day the smell of Cuervo makes my stomach do backflips, I cannot even consider drinking the stuff. Truthfully, once I turned 21 I didn’t want to drink anymore. I had found my life’s love and didn’t feel as though I deserved to die or live in perpetual pain anymore. I found a new family in friends that started as coworkers. It was a really good period of my life, especially once my love and I moved in together. It felt like freedom in a way I hadn’t ever felt before. I had a say, in everything! Wow!
All these years later it’s hard to believe sometimes all that happened during the 1990’s to me. I started high school feeling like I could conquer the world and ended that same first year wanting to take my own life every moment I had to myself just so my abuser wouldn’t get the satisfaction of doing it himself. Now I am single, living my life on my own terms, with my sweet lil’ puggo knowing that my walls are strong for a reason and that if I never have another “life’s love” again that I will be okay. There is so much more to life than only that, though I lost years believing otherwise.
I’m here for realness and sincerity, honesty and vulnerability, I’m here for the good and juicy bits of life that shine for me when I know I’m heading in the right direction.
Rad Fatty Love to ALL,
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