The Mask Continues to Fall.

After hearing about his “encounter” at age 14, I wrote this now 71 year old man a letter.  I told him, again, that I was not coming back, and I gave the same reasons: impotence, disability and toothless.  I asked that he reimburse any and all moving expenses and other expenses I’d incurred.  When we talked, he agreed to do so.  As a precaution, I had my mother listen to him promise to reimburse me in full.

We had almost the same circular conversation every night.  He wanted me to come back, I refused to agree to come back, over and over, ad nauseum.  Finally, I told him that I would consider coming back if he’d agree to marriage counseling.  He would have to pay for it, and find a marriage counselor who did not stress religion and was licensed to practice as well as experienced.  After pretending that he’d go along with it, and me calling his bluff, he agreed to do it.

I explained to him that he’d have to agree to take responsibility for abandoning me when I was pregnant at 17.  He had to admit that he coercively raped me when I was 32.  His response to the rape?  “Heh, heh, heh, you were special.”  The tone of his voice sounded unreal, almost like a cackle.  It frightened me.

He had mentioned before that when I was 17, I should have come to him and insisted that he take care of the baby.  I should have had the baby and trusted that he’d provide for it.  It became all my fault that I’d had the abortion, even though he was 24 at the time and legally could be jailed for statutory rape had I had parents who were responsible.  I was again shocked that he took no responsibility for the pregnancy, and for the fact that he’d abandoned me.  I was a child with no means of supporting a baby, living at home, and finishing up my senior year of high school.  I knew nothing about life, but I certainly learned.

He agreed to find a marriage counselor.  But, he began to call me every morning and argue with me.  Argue that he was getting better, argue that the shack could be fixed up, argue that he could take care of me.  I would go to work every morning stressed and confused.  I began to question if I’d been wrong about him.  I began to think that perhaps something was salvageable.  Confusion and fogginess were my friends.  I became uncomfortable in my own skin.

He could be loving one moment, and ugly the next.  I didn’t know who he was.  I was beginning to not know who I was.

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There was more to come…

I had escaped.  I was safe, and my shipments were on their way to California.  My daughter picked me up at the airport.  I was so happy to see her, so happy to be back on California soil, and out of the Mississippi Twilight Zone.  I was home.

But, little did I know that the trauma bonding would continue.  The mask was about to come completely off.

I phoned him and told him that I’d arrived safely, and also told him, “You know that I am not coming back, don’t you?”  I told him that there was no way I could face a winter living in that shack he lived in.  There was no heat, the windows were all broken or cracked, and one of the dogs lived in the house about half the time.  Plus, even if he lived in a palace with all of the amenities and luxuries a woman could possible want, he was a broken man.  He could only walk very slowly and laboriously.  Most of his teeth were gone.  He was impotent.  He was a shell of the man he once was.  I explained that I did not want to be burdened with a disabled man, especially one with no resources.  But even with resources, I would not have stayed.  I would not go back.  I told him, “you are twenty years too late.  If we’d married twenty years ago, I’d stay and take care of you, but I don’t owe you anything.”  He insisted that the land could bring some money.  He insisted that he could walk better, and was “getting better everyday.”  I reminded him that I’d just left, that I knew what his condition was, that I knew where he lived and how he lived.

He kept trying to paint an illusion of happiness, freedom and travel.  He knew that I loved to travel, so suddenly he was also a lover of travel.  (I was to learn later that mirroring is a narcissistic behavior because they are empty).  I asked him when he was last on a plane.  He couldn’t remember, but he remembered that he had a fear of flying (!).  I patiently explained that he would not be able to travel without a lot of support, and would need to practice flying for short distances, then build to longer flights.  He insisted that he could.

I knew that he wanted to trap me, keep me in Mississippi working for him, being his assistant, nurse, cook, housekeeper and driver.  As well as financial consultant and occasional sex partner.  For me, that would have been the ultimate prison.

We would go back and forth like this night after night, with no real resolution.  It was like talking to a wind up toy, who had rehearsed his lines and waited for the full effect, which never came.  I never agreed to go back.  Then his frustration set in.

“You know, I used ta go with my father and work in New Orleans.  His sister lived in New Orleans, and we would go there sometimes to work around the yard for the white woman his sister worked for.  One day when I was about 14, I went there, and the housekeeper called me upstairs.  That was the first time I saw a woman’s pussy.”

I was shocked.  Shocked that he told me that.  Shocked that he was molested at 14.  Shocked at his trauma. Repulsed at the act.

I asked, “Why did you tell me that? You realize that I’m your wife and not somebody on the street?  I did not need to know that.”  His response was to shrug it off.  He’d had the desired effect of wounding me with the information.

There was even more to come.

Out of the Craziness

On September 25, 2018 I packed everything I owned, except a printer and stationary bike.  What I couldn’t take on the plane would be shipped via Greyhound from New Orleans.  He’d contacted an associate to help drive the van I’d helped him buy, to New Orleans and back.  I decided that I would drive to the Big Easy; that way I knew I’d arrive safely without any “accidents” happening along the way.

I packed all of my bags into the van, made a final sweep of the house to make sure I had everything, helped him into the van, waited for his friend to get in, locked up his shack, and left.  New Orleans was about a 2 and 1/2 hour drive away.  I had been in the backwards town since June 9, or about 3 1/2 months.  I’d married him on July 13; I was leaving him about 2 months after we’d married.

Even though I told him that I’d return for Christmas, I knew I wasn’t coming back.  Dealing with a mentally disordered, disabled man was too much for me to take on.  And, I had my own health issues, albeit not serious ones, that I had to deal with.  If I stayed with him, I knew my health would deteriorate, I’d be financially depleted, emotionally abused and a complete wreck in a very short span of time.

On the drive to Louisiana, we talked about the scenery.  I marveled at the beauty of the countryside.  It was green and lush, with forests and farms everywhere.  I tried to reconcile the beauty with the past brutality of slavery, and the present mind set of the people who lived there.  There was still a largely slave mind-set among the Black people there, and a slave master’s entitlement attitude with the white people.  It awed, amazed and disgusted me at the same time.  I wanted nothing to do with any of it.

We also talked about his upcoming court case, where he’d learn that the land he thought he owned, and the house on it (which he promised to me – another lie) belonged to him.  He would go to court in early October, and he was sure he would win.  I’d prepared all of the paperwork and organized it for him.  He only needed to appear in court and present his paperwork.

We talked about the future and how we’d live in the house that wasn’t really his; how the other structures on that land could be rented out as an Air B&B, and how he would sell the remaining land.  Of course, none of this came to pass.  When he went to court, the other side presented a deed where my so-called husband had given the land back to his brother.  A fact that my husband had conveniently forgotten.

We arrived in New Orleans in the middle of a thunderstorm and downpour.  The rain was so thick, it reminded me of the Bay Area fog on a bad day.  I drove carefully to the Greyhound depot.  His “friend” helped me to take my bags in for shipping, and asked me if I was coming back.  I assured him that I would, if I had a decent home to live in.  He informed me that they’d told my husband that “no woman is gonna live in this place,” where he was living, but my soon-to-be ex didn’t listen.  His certainty of my undying love for him and acceptance of everything to do with him, combined with his cheapness, convinced him to try to force me to live in his nightmare.  He was wrong.

Shipping, even on Greyhound, wasn’t cheap, but I was willing to pay for it.  I sent my things off, got back into the van, and drove to Louis B. Armstrong airport.  When I got there, I hugged and kissed my husband, turned away and almost ran into the airport.  I was on my way to freedom.  It was almost over.

An Exit Strategy …

I had arrived in this small, backwards community in June of 2018.  It was now September, 2018 and I was ready to go.  The school superintendent who had promised me a teaching position reneged on her promise.  At one of two or three meetings I had with her, she suggested that I “take your husband and the two of you go to California.”  I thought that was odd advice coming from someone who was supposed to hire me.  She further stated that “it will be hard living here; you will struggle.”  I was already struggling, living in an environment that I’d never lived in.  But, she was suggesting that my struggle would be even harder.  She went on to say, “it gets cold here in the winter.  You need to be in a warmer place.”  The thought of spending a winter in a cabin with no heat, broken windows, a leaky roof and concrete floors sent a shiver through me.  I had to get away.  I needed to work, and it seemed next to impossible for me to find a decent teaching position in the community.  The only other jobs for Black women were working in a chicken factory, cleaning homes and cooking at a restaurant.  There was no way that I could survive working like that, and my husband could not afford for me to not work.  I had bills to pay, so I planned my exit.

I first contacted my family to make sure that I had a place to live.  My mother agreed that I could live with her as long as I needed to.  I knew that I would be able to find work in California easily.  So, I began packing my things to ship to California.  I had sent a few large suitcases to my new husband’s home, and needed to get those to California.  I could carry two suitcases on the plane with me.

Before I left, I looked around me carefully.  Since I’d arrived, I’d arranged for my husband to buy a working refrigerator, a microwave, washer/dryer and most importantly, a van.  I was leaving him in much better shape than I’d found him.  I’d also contacted the Department of Rehabilitation in his state.  They would come out and evaluate his living situation, build a walk-in bathtub for him, a ramp for his cabin and van, and provide help for him in the house 2-3 days a week.  I’d done what I could do.

Of course, my husband did not want me to leave.  He called out the big guns.  The Jehovah Witnesses that he studied with suggested a marriage counselor from their church.  An elderly white couple came out to counsel us.  The husband told me that “God won’t like it if you don’t keep your marriage vows.”  I countered that God wouldn’t want me to sacrifice my life for nothing either.  I asked the wife to “look around you; would you live here?”  She didn’t answer, but decided to take a neutral stance and state that she could see both our perspectives.  Right.

My “husband” had already broken more of God’s commandments than I could count.  He’d lied, he’d stolen, he had pretended (another form of lying) that he was someone he wasn’t, he’d schemed and plotted to entrap me into taking care of him for the rest of my natural life.  In exchange, I’d get nothing.  I recalled that he kept telling over the phone in Saudi that I’d “be married.”  As if that were some sort of pay off for a life of hardship and servitude.

On September 25, 2018, my husband, his friend and I began a drive to New Orleans.  Once there, I would ship my bags via Greyhound to California, and then I would board a plane for San Francisco, California.  I knew that I would not look back.

A Marriage In Name Only …

My soon to be husband was having a myriad of land issues, courtesy of his brothers.  It appeared that they had stolen, bartered and borrowed money off land that he owned for years.  His plan was for me to help him untangle his legal issues, pay for my own wedding, pay to remodel his cabin/shack, bring my car and personal possessions to his “home” and become his personal assistant/nurse/caregiver.  Of course, I would do all of this because I loved him more than life itself, I loved him more than I loved my life.

I began to help him with his land issues, and found out that the land he claimed he owned, he didn’t own at all.  What had been more than 40 acres, now dwindled down to 20 acres that was actually owned by him.  I learned this after spending many, many hours at the tax assessor’s office, looking through deeds, writing letters, and setting a court date for him to reclaim land that he no longer owned.

All this time,  I was cooking, cleaning, running errands, and helping a disabled man get around town.  His offering to me?  “I tell you that I love you.”  Of course, I would still rant about the environment, physical and emotional, that he’d brought me into.  I was sinking into a depression.  I had no friends, family or acquaintances in his small community.  And, the devaluation began: “I like women who look like Lena Horne.”  Or, “I like a woman like Alicia Keys.”  At one point I asked him, “If that’s what you like, why am I here?”  He claimed because he loved me; I now know it was because he wanted to use me.

I became exhausted.  I stopped tending to my needs, and focused more on his needs.  Almost no one came to visit him, almost no one called him with one exception.  A woman who lived in Dallas kept calling him.  She never gave up, even after he told her “I’m getting married.”  He denied that they’d had a relationship.  And, I believe he would speak with her while he sat out in his van, smoking weed.  I think there had been an ongoing ‘phone sex’ relationship with that woman for years.  She was his narcissistic supply.  Now he wanted to discard her.

I soon began to plan my exit.  I had no job, no means of generating income, except some online teaching that I’d started doing, and no happiness.  He would sit and watch TV, and expected me to sit and watch him.  He didn’t talk; I was not to know his secrets.  I often wondered how many abortions has he had?  Or, how many young girls had he broken and abandoned?

He had many cousins in the community.  Only one visited him regularly.  And this cousin’s visits increased after my arrival.  His cousin’s lasciviousness drove me into the tiny bedroom during every visit.  I wanted nothing to do with him.

Why did I marry him?  I had hope.  I had hope that he would get physically better, that he could raise the money to build a real house, that we might be able to build a life together.  So, I married him.  Then I learned that he’d had a stroke 10 years earlier, and that he had recovered as much as he ever would.  I learned that he was almost hopelessly impotent, and even the strongest dose of Viagra only helped minimally.  I learned that he would never give me anything.  Very little affection, no cards, no flowers, no gifts, no appreciation.  Even when my birthday came around, I got nothing but a begrudging “happy birthday.”

I had traveled halfway around the world to face hardship.  I had moved and shipped my things to a place that was moldy, dirty, broken down, and useless.  I had come to a man who could not give, did not know how to love, and would destroy me. I knew I had to leave.  He was taking, taking, taking.  He was giving nothing but hardship and more heartache.

He had lost his looks, his physical strength and health, his mobility, his teeth, and his money.  Now he wanted to take everything I had from me.  I could not allow that to happen.

Wedding Plans?

When I arrived at the two room cabin/shack, I went into shock.  It wasn’t a house, it was barely a dwelling, and almost uninhabitable.  The floors were painted concrete, and there was dog hair everywhere.  Was this where I supposed to live?  That couldn’t be possible … all kinds of things ran through my mind.  I was facing a man who couldn’t walk, barely talk and, as I later found out, was also impotent.  He had no operable transportation, no microwave, no working refrigerator, and none of the basic creature comforts I’d lived with all of my adult life.  This wasn’t living, it was barely surviving.  I felt as though I’d just stepped into The Twilight Zone.  Surely no one in their right mind could live that way.  I would soon find out that he wasn’t in his right mind.

I tried to settle in.  I tried to be comfortable.  But the environment invited only discomfort and hardship.

When I questioned him about wedding plans, and asked him for wedding money, he had none.  He expected me to pay for my wedding.  There would be no wedding.

My prince had transformed into a disabled and broken toad who lived on a damaged lily pad. And expected me to squeeze onto that lily pad with him.

Still, I dug my heels in and thought I should try to make it work.  After all, he’d just had his stroke 2 years before, and there was hope that he could regain additional body functioning.  Almost every night, I would ask him why he’d misrepresented himself?  Why had every photo displayed a man who looked whole and healthy?  (In fact, I found out later that he was actually using a wheelchair when he took those photos.)  Why brag that you had no problems with sexual functioning in a normal and healthy way? Why not fix your teeth or at least tell me that half of them (or more) were missing?  Why didn’t you tell me that you lived in a two room dwelling?  Why tell me that it was a house that just needed some remodeling?  I demanded all of my moving expenses be reimbursed to me.  I wanted the beautiful wedding ring I’d bought for him returned to me.  He promised me (with my mother as a witness) that he’d give all of my money back to me.

Everything had been a lie.

Still, I held on to the fantasy of a man I’d known 45 years earlier.  It was more important to have true love with a kind, generous, loving man who had a whole heart.  I told myself that I would try to deal with a broken body.

I was going to find out that I was dealing with a controlling, angry, bitter and exploitative man who had no heart or soul.  I was dealing with a man who had out of control narcissistic personality disorder, and only wanted to use, manipulate and control me for his own purposes.  One of those purposes was to get me there.  He’d succeeded in that.  However, unbeknownst to me, he had many plans for me to.  Plans that served only him.

Dreams and Fantasies … The Homecoming

My soon to be husband and first boyfriend made a lot of promises. He emphasized the amount of land he owned and how that land might sustain us in some vague, promising way. He painted a picture of an idyllic life filled with enjoying each other’s company, travel, and living an adventure filled life. Just the kind of life I’d been living, and the kind of life I wanted to continue living, but I’d have a partner to share it with.

I booked a flight to New Orleans from Saudi Arabia. I’d travel from Dammam to Bahrain, Bahrain to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to New York and New York to New Orleans My multiple flights would take almost 24 hours to complete, but I didn’t mind. I was in love and going to meet my love. I was going to be with my life partner, my first love, my last love.

I arrived in New Orleans and went straight to the car rental counter to book an SUV for the drive to Mississippi. I got a nice, large SUV that was comfortable and smooth. I settled in, drove away from the airport, and called my intended. We chatted excitedly as I drove through the darkness. He pointed out places of note and places that I should avoid. We laughed as the miles between us got shorter by the minute. I drove quickly through the southern darkness, across Lake Pontchartrain, into Mississippi and finally his home town. He lived on the outskirts of the town and I had to find my way through the damp darkness to his home. But, finally, I found it. I had arrived…

I pulled up to his front door, and he was standing in the doorway leaning on a cane. As I climbed out of the truck and walked around to him, my spirit voice yelled “RUN” with such an urgency that it made me hesitate. As I walked up to him, again the voice cried out “RUN” and I spoke back to it: no, no I’m not going to run, I have to see this through. I’d come too far to listen to that panicked voice. I had already invested too much time, energy and money.

I saw him. He looked a little like the man I’d known 45 years before. But his right side was completely paralyzed, and he dragged his foot as he walked. His right hand and arm hung at an unnatural angle. When he spoke, most of his teeth were missing. He was much much thinner than I remembered. He was not the same man. His speech was difficult to understand and it took a big effort for him to speak.

When I walked into his “house” I discovered that it was a two room dwelling, barely above a shack, with a refrigerator that didn’t work, and an added unfinished extension that was filled with mold. Every window was either cracked or had a hole, and the floors were painted concrete. There was a stove, makeshift sink and deep freezer at one end of the large room. Against a wall was a ripped up leather sofa which sat on bricks. In the corner behind the door was a large bag of dog food for the two dogs he owned. There was a bed in the room and a dresser that was dilapidated and falling apart.

To the right of the large room was a bathroom with a stained bathtub, makeshift sink and small toilet. Just beyond that was a tiny bedroom with a full sized bed, and new air conditioner. This was my new home. Parked to the side of the cabin/shack was a van that barely ran. It would not run at all in the very near future.

When I walked in, there were no flowers, no candles, no wine or champagne. There was just some cold food that someone had brought. That was my homecoming.

Impossible Dreams and Falsehoods …

I had a boyfriend in Saudi Arabia.  I wasn’t supposed to have one, because dating is actually illegal, but I did.  He was a very handsome Egyptian, who was a bit younger than me, but I had no intention of trying to marry him, and he had no intention of marrying me.  I was having fun.  There were a number of other men interested in me.  Dammam is a male Mecca.  There are at least 10-15 men for every woman and a variety of men from all over the world.  It’s really Candyland for women.

One day, in October of 2017, I got a call from my sister who told me that her oldest daughter’s father had died.  The father that happened to be my first boyfriend’s brother.  He had contacted my sister and wanted to reestablish contact with me.  I was shocked.  All of my good memories of him, from my teenage years, came flooding back.   I thought about the handsome, business savvy man who was a building contractor.  The man who had bought his first home at 19.  The man who treated me like a princess.  I conveniently forgot about the man who had abandoned me when I got pregnant.  The man who came around after the abortion and wanted to continue having sex with me.  The man that I’d walked away from twice.

Of course I’d talk with him.  Of course, he could contact me.  In a day or two, my phone rang and he was on the other end.  After some small talk, I offered to call him on Skype.  And that quickly became our routine: he’d call and hang up, and I’d call back via Skype.  His phone was an old fashioned flip cell, so we couldn’t do video chats.  I had to rely on photos that he sent.  He had to rely on photos that I sent.

He told me that he’d had a stroke, but had recovered from that stroke.  He didn’t tell me that he was at that moment in a wheelchair.  He didn’t tell me that his right side was paralyzed.

He wanted to marry me.  The woman he’d been married to for over 40 years lived in Houston, and he was finally divorcing her.  According to him, they’d been separated for many years.  On reflection, I believe that their separations had been sporadic and inconsistent.  I believe he had probably lived with her off and on over the years, when it was convenient for him.

I agreed to think about marriage.  I bought him a watch for Christmas.  I sent him ice cream for Valentine’s Day and for his birthday.  He never sent, or even tried to send me anything.  Never.

He told me that we could “remodel his house.”  We started planning for a future.  I started preparing to leave Saudi Arabia.  I broke it off with my handsome Egyptian boyfriend.  I was falling in love again.  I would have a partner, a soulmate, a man I could love and be loved by.  My future looked sweet.

But, he didn’t tell me that his “house” was really a two room cabin (almost a shack) with a bathroom and a shell for another room that was covered in mold.  He didn’t tell me that he had no transportation and lived 20 minutes from the nearest store.  I didn’t know that the floors were concrete and and the roof needed replacing.

I didn’t know that most of his teeth were missing.  He said that he had “no problems with performing sexually.”  I didn’t know that in reality he was impotent.

I started shipping items back to Mississippi; to my new home.  I started thinking about being married again.  I resigned from my job.  I told my wonderful friends that I was getting married.  They had a celebration for me.  I talked to my friends about visiting me in my new Mississippi home.  My soon to be husband chatted with my friends on the phone.  He invited them to the wedding.  He offered to pay for everything.  He told them that I could “have whatever I wanted.”  They fell in love with him.  I fell in love with him.

I was on my way.  The narcissistic magic was working, and the spider had caught the fly.

Falsehoods and Impossible Dreams …

I should have known not to do it.  I should have known not to allow this man back into my life.  He had shown me who he was when I was 17.

He showed me again at 31.

I had recently gotten a divorce, and was thoroughly enjoying my life.  My sister and I were living in an apartment together, I was working part-time and thinking about going to law school.  My first daughter was 11 years old and growing up fast.  She had gained some independence, and so had I.

This same man contacted  me through his niece.  She phoned me, and told me that he wanted to see me, and that he was now living in Dallas, Texas.  I agreed to talk to him.  He called and invited me to Dallas.  He offered to pay for the plane ticket and all of the expenses.  We decided to take a road trip to New Orleans and party there for a few days before heading back to Dallas.

The plane ride was mostly uneventful, except that I had to fight off a slightly drunken white man looking for a good time.  He sat right next to me, and slurred as he talked about youth and beauty, while looking at me lasciviously.  I shrugged him off, laughed at his attempts to pick me up, and looked forward to seeing the man who had been my first love.

My ex-boyfriend picked me up at the airport, looked at me sideways, and said, “Geez, I didn’t know you were so good looking.”  I remember the almost complete compliment and felt slightly pleased that he found me attractive, even after almost 15 years had passed.  He was 38 or 39, and still as deceivingly handsome as ever.  His beauty again distracted me.  His beauty had always distracted me from who he really was.

He drove up to a hotel, I don’t remember which, but I do remember that the room was large, and well-decorated.  He wanted to have sex right away.  He began kissing me, and I allowed it.  He lay me down on the bed and climbed on top of me.  I remember feeling repulsed and disgusted as he stated through short breaths and gushed, “I knew it would be good, I knew it would be good.”  I felt dirty after he finished.  I felt used.  He got up, showered and left.  He came back later that night and repeated the act.  I felt trapped.  I had no money, no transportation and felt that I had no choice but to comply.  I was afraid of what might happen if I didn’t.

That night, I barely slept as I desperately tried to find a way to leave without being harmed.  In the morning, I got up and dressed before he could climb on top of me again.  I told him that I had been throwing up and felt very sick.  I needed to go home.  He looked surprised and disappointed, but he believed my frightened lie and took me to the airport.  I almost jumped out of the truck before running into the airport.  I had to wait for a couple of hours for my flight to take off.  In that couple of hours, I became so enraged that my head started pounding.  The anger made me cry, so I had to go into the restroom and close the door so that my violent tears could come freely and privately.

I slept on the flight back home.  When I got home, I called his niece and told her not to ever put him in contact with me again.  I explained to her what had happened, and her response was “you shouldn’t have let him do that.”  As if I had enjoyed it, as if he was really my lover.

Again, I moved on with my life.  I forgot about him.  I forgot about that encounter in Dallas, the coercive rape, and the trap he set, the mindless contempt he held for me and all women.  I forgot and moved on.

But, he did not forget.  Narcissists never forget.  He kept me tucked away in some corner of his diseased mind for 30 years before showing up again.

Falsehoods and Impossible Dreams, Pt. 1

I am not, by nature, a person who is pessimistic.  I believe that life is a gift, and that each day, if at possible, is made to be lived in gratitude.  I see beauty in the gray clouds that are heavy with rain, marvel at the engineering genius of the women and men who build bridges over endless miles of hard, and unforgiving water.  Smiles are like drops of sunshine for me.

I say these things because my life has taken a turn that was unexpected, in more ways than one, and on more levels than one.  I am on an unexpected, surreal journey that is unlike any I have ever taken.  I have no idea what the destination, if there is one, will look like.

Last year at this time, I was feeling hopeful, happy and looking forward to a future with a partner.  I had re-established contact with a man who had been my first boyfriend.  I was 15 when I first met him, and 17 when the relationship fell apart.  That was a long time ago, and I had fallen in love with this man, who really was a man.  He was 7 years older than me, and should have gone to jail for statutory rape.  But he didn’t, and I loved him, and as these stories sometimes go, I got pregnant in my senior year of high school.

I felt certain that this man loved me.  After all, he never pressured me directly to have sex with him.  I chose to become sexually active.  Of course, I now realize that I was coerced, conned and played with so that he could get his prize.  But, at the time, I thought it was freely and completely my choice.  I went to Planned Parenthood and learned all about birth control, reproduction and clinical sexual activity.  I armed myself with “the pill,” shut my eyes tightly, and took the plunge.  I thought this brought me closer to the man.  And, perhaps it did in some meaningless way, until I got pregnant.

This man, who was 24 at the time, single, working full time, and a homeowner, abandoned me.  I sat at home, and took my high school lessons from a visiting teacher so that I could graduate with the rest of my class.  And home was safely away from the prying eyes of my classmates, who I knew would whisper and gossip about me.  I learned later that many of them knew about the pregnancy, despite my efforts to hide it.  I took my home schooling and waited for the man to come back and rescue me.  I waited and studied for almost 4 months.  I grew slightly larger, and saw my stomach and breasts swell from the pregnancy.  At almost four months, my doctor told me that it was “now or never.”  Keep the baby or have a late term abortion.  I had a decision to make.  I tried calling the man, and he usually answered and hung up on me.  So, I stopped calling, and made my decision.

Early one morning, my mother took me to the hospital.  I don’t remember which one.  I just remember that she dropped me off, told me that “we just went through this,” (referencing my sister’s child who’d been born a few months earlier) and with that, she left me.

An IV was attached to my wrist, or maybe two of them.  The amniotic fluid came out, and the saline went in, as a kind, warm nurse held my hand through the labor pains I was experiencing.  She wiped my face as the tears came from my sheer terror, loneliness and heartbreak.

The baby came and was caught by the nurse.  She looked down at the bundle, and told me, “you had a boy.”  I later named him Amari.  I still miss him.

I had to pick myself up, and go on with my life, which I did.  I didn’t fall apart.  I didn’t slit my wrists, or have any desire to do so.  I didn’t become a drug addict, or drunk, or randomly begin to have sex with anonymous men.  I just kept going on with my life.

After one, brief appearance in my life at around 31 or 32, Amari’s father and the memory of him, faded away.

That is, until October of 2017, when his brother died and he reached out to me half way across the world, where I was working in Saudi Arabia.  I talked with him daily, exchanged pictures, and cried with him about the baby we lost all those many years ago.  I was about to have a new life, an old love, and a beginning that I’d never had all those years ago.