So tell me, if you will....which is the best beginning?

  • Cuban express: Chapter one

    When a company sends out a head hunter to find someone perfect for a job, then you know if they find the right person, they put some effort into it, you also know that if that person takes the job they are expected to do it right.  The mafia has a sense of humor when they send out a head hunter because they do some hazing for the process.  I didn’t know if someone really died or if they didn’t.  I’ll never know and I don’t want to know.  Let’s just say I thought I heard a murder and later I was fed some REALLY tender elk meat, then I was summoned to a meeting of the minds where everything was vague except the funeral attire.  My husband didn’t have a clue what part he was playing in this game, he thought it was all about him, the difference was, to my knowledge, his life later on went on as normal and mine never did, never again.

    I think it all started when I was younger and my skills in sensing things about people was honed as a child.  It wasn’t her fault but mom was unpredictable, dad was MIA on the truck most of the time and I had to guess what was coming at me next from the time I was six years old and up.  The better the guess, the easier the ride and if I could stay one step ahead of the game, even better.  We were a family of six and that meant six different personality types.  My brother was the loner and I was the dreamer, my sisters had survival instincts that made them more normal than most people and mom, well, like I said, bi-polar is unpredictable, throw in a little diabolical along with it and some intense immaturity and it was a recipe for me.  Biological dad hated and avoided, step-dad loved babies because they are cute, he loved integrity because he was taught to, but mostly he loved flying under the radar, therefore he stayed gone on the truck.

    I think the best tactic I learned from living with mom was to ask for more than I wanted, something I knew she’d say no to, and then dial back to what I really wanted so that she felt we’d made a compromise, that way she always wins.  The best tactic I learned from my sisters was to remain out of the loop, of course I didn’t fully “get” that until way after middle age so conflict was always there when I talked to them about anything relating to mom.  Ironically mom never did ask herself why I was the only one doing any talking, which I wasn’t, I just wasn’t the one running back to her with what everyone else had to say.  I think I received the least financial help from her due to my stubbornness in this regard.  I think the difference between myself and my sisters is that I KNEW what it was like to be on mom’s bad side so I tried to keep them off there and they knew how to milk mom by being on her good side, kiss and tell.  Oh well, that was them.  This is me.

    I met the first ex when I was a teenager.  He ignored me the first time he saw me and then he never ignored me again.  I don’t know what it was, the fuzzy home perm, probably deliberately allowed to burn, the long face, average at best, the nose, opposite of cute as a button, green eyes, perfect for my disposition when it came to Barbie dolls.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my intellect because that sort of thing leaks out over time and sounds pretentious if you use it all at once, not that I’m an intellectual by any means but I’ve been told I’m “too deep” for the average person to want to be around in large doses.  I think it was because from the neck down I was more than acceptable and I dressed to reveal that and at sixteen I’d surely be easy to manipulate.  Why else would a twenty one year old military man look at a sixteen year old twice?  My dad, in his delicate way, tried to get me to think on this but my insecurities jumped to conclusions and rebelled against the facts.  Regardless of the genesis of this nine year monstrosity we will call marriage, I can honestly say that thirty plus years later, in some ways, I’m still tied to that military man even though he out-smarted the military and got out a year early to keep me from being an army wife, something I desperately wanted to be.  Back then, in my mind, I was going places and seeing things other than a small town people with small town dreams.  I might even have been able to go to college, get an education, BE somebody, something I’d never been up to then.

    As it turned out, my military man loved having friends and had two really good ones, both of whom spent a large part of their lives chasing the next party.  I would spend the next nine years like that.  It was a lifestyle that requires many friends and if you played your cards right, gives you lots of friends.  However, it’s also a lifestyle that requires you to be careful of who your friends were.  As the scripture says, a little leaven leavens the whole lump.  One “wrong” friend and your behind is in the pokey and depending on how popular you are, being in the pokey for a sizable amount of time is possible, maybe even probable, unless you, yourself, are the “wrong” kind of friend.  In a case like that, depending on your connections and how you played it, you might find yourself with more worries than being in the pokey.  That’s just the way some people roll.  It just so happens that I was pretty good at knowing who was likely to be a good friend and who was likely to be a “wrong” friend.  My ex was so impressed with my accuracy that he gave me a nickname.  Lucky for us and most of the people that we partied with, hindsight was seldom twenty twenty.  Lucky for me, I was always able to stay on the fringe, never part of the fabric but all the cops knew who I was, all of them.

    The ex contributed to honing my “people” skills by widening my social circle and by being as hard to live with sometimes as my mother had been.  He was as mad at me sometimes as he was about me.  I’m stubborn in that sometimes I like to have my own friends, I wanted to be treated as an adult, I wanted more out of life than the party.  All of these things went against his ideas of what a wife was there for.  As does most people, he had his personalized way of gaining compliance from me.  Bruises and bloodletting if it was something extreme, learning what HE considered extreme was the key and for him, he made it clear that murder was not out of the question, being caught for it would have been.  Unfortunately, a couple of times he claimed to consider suicide.  I never took these claims serious because his lust for life and his drive to win wouldn’t have allowed it but I figured it only takes a second to change the direction in which a gun is pointed and pull the trigger, which is how his version of suicide would have went down.  Of that I was positive.

    One night I wanted to go out and he didn’t.  I talked him into letting me go to a friend’s house but I’d informed him of a lake party that was happening that night.  My friend wasn’t home when I called from the payphone.  You see, in houses like mine, you didn’t own a phone, or air conditioning, or Christmas trees, or brick a brack.  It didn’t happen.  In any case, she wasn’t home.  I was thinking I could go home and tell him I was going to the party and argue for two hours and miss the party, or I could go to the party and tell him where I was after.  I opted for the former and went to the party and had a great time, not as great as I’d hoped for but enough that I needed to sit for an hour longer than I meant to so I could drive home and therein was the rub.  Something told me all the way home not to go there, it was a nagging feeling I couldn’t shake.  Finally I told the Lord that he’d have to help me once I got there because if I didn’t show before morning, it’d be worse the next day.

    When I walked through the door he was sitting there with the gun and I saw in his eyes something I’ll never forget.  He was fully intending to kill me.  He was beyond furious and he’d called my friend, I wasn’t there, obviously.  I walked back out of the door and sat on his truck.  He followed me and asked what I was doing so I told him, “If you’re going to kill me it’s not going to be a ‘I was cleaning the gun’ accident, you’re gonna have to explain why you were cleaning the gun outside in the dark.  Secondly, if you get by with it, you’re gonna have to think about it because you’ll be cleaning me off your truck before you drive it or you’ll have to drive my car.”  He thought about it for a minute, then he smiled and told me to come inside.   I asked him was he sure and he said he was but he made me wait long enough for him to unload the gun and show me the bullets.

    This is exchange was the end of the marriage.  He didn’t know it because I didn’t tell him, you don’t tell a man like him something like that.  When you live with a man who has control issues to the degree that your life depends on letting him have the control all of the time there is only one way to leave and live at the same time.  I minded my p’s and q’s from that day forward and he settled into the comfort zone of having won by convincing me that he was in charge and always would be so that there should no longer be any kind of power struggle between us.  Him believing that was very important, it was everything.  This was a man who’d forced me to have an abortion at seventeen and then insist I marry him after………”wherever you go, whatever you do, whoever you see……….”  Echo company wasn’t just the base he’d been stationed at, it was a tone set for my life from that day forward.

    Something happens when emotion becomes absent when dealing with an individual.  Once you remove that, clarity is easier.  Somehow my lack of emotion brought about a calm in the marriage and he began to focus elsewhere.  He actually started going places without me.  I had a clue why but I was “trained” now to be the good little woman, finally, I could be trusted to my own devices because they would never cross his.  Twenty dollars a week in the bank, no paperwork lurking about, a new engine in my crappy car, designed to last for years if need be, then my Dad took me to the races, just the two of us, and we had a conversation.  His company was moving and he planned to move with them but he wanted to know what I thought about it.  Splitting up the whole family, what did I think?  Twenty dollars a week, a state line between the ex and myself:  escape.  I didn’t tell Dad all of this, I just told him whatever he thought was best is what he should do.  It was just another day. 

     I had instructions on a piece of paper and two hours and thirty minutes to prepare, that was the time between him leaving the house at lunch and returning after work.  No tearful goodbye, when you want a tearful goodbye, you’re hoping they’ll ask you to stay.  In a case like that, you don’t really want to leave, you just want them to behave better and you’re at risk of going back and things getting worse.  The only place I messed up was when I separated the laundry I’d done that morning with his stuff on one side of the basket and mine on the other.  He noticed.  I played it off to convenience.  I left with what I could fit in my car.

    Nine years of hearing how much he hated people, but I loved them.  Nine years of wanting children, but not with a man who deliberately let me get pregnant and then forced me to have an abortion.  Nine years of a mother in law who called me spider because she thought I was the diabolical one and he was some kind of victim to my whims.  Nine years of dealing with the physical challenge of being a member of the weaker sex.  Nine years of behavioral modification tailored to make me believe that most people are trash and didn’t deserve to live and get that pie in the sky attitude out of your head.  Nine years of “don’t talk about Jesus at parties” when the truth was, Jesus is all I’d ever had standing between me and disaster since I was six years old and probably before.  It just wasn’t the Pentecostal way.  First you clean up, THEN you talk to, and about, Jesus.  Not one day before.  Nine years of paranoia every time we got pulled over because I was always holding a bag of weed.  Nine years of a double standard that meant he could mess around if he wanted and keep any secret he wanted, but I had to be an open book with nothing in it he didn’t think belonged there.  I didn’t know what the next day was gonna be like and I didn’t really think it through.  That’s the problem with me: I think it through for others at times, but seldom for myself.  Later his closest friend would tell that I was like the glue that held everything together and that a lot of things fell apart when I left.  To this day I’ve never asked him what he meant and thinking on it now, I wish I had.

    When I found mom and dad’s house I parked and sat outside for a spell.  Mom was sitting in the kitchen that was illuminated with lots of lights.  I could see her through the large windows sitting there in her robe and drinking coffee waiting for me and I wondered what she was thinking and if it was a new day for me and her, a chance for a different type of relationship, maybe even friendship?  I don’t know how long I sat there just watching her and wondering what the future was gonna be like and how was I gonna do in an unmarried situation.  Someone had always had control over me, would they still?  How is it, I wondered, to have the upper hand?

    I’ve had this theory that people who insist on always having the upper hand over others feel the least in control over themselves.   So far my life had been controlled by people like that and even in this new chapter, I didn’t know how things would go with mom and I desperately wanted a close relationship with her, close enough that she might reveal to me why she was the way she was.  I was naïve enough to believe that everyone was born good and if there were bad things about them it was because of some outside influence in their lives.  When I’d met the ex, he had tales to tell about being bullied in school because of his religion, his parents were like my own to me, better really because they loved him the way I’d wanted mine to love me and because I was his wife I’d benefitted from that.  I had really been foolish enough to think if I was good to the ex, eventually I’d find in him what I wanted to find.  But you can’t find something that isn’t there or something that had died before you met that person.  I was determined not to lose the good I thought I saw in myself.

    Having been immersed in the party crowd, I’d studied the book of Proverbs.  I know this sounds blasphemous, but I figured if I could glean from Solomon the things that taught him to find a real mother of an infant in court, then I could keep myself out of jail by understanding human nature and by following some good advice on who you could trust and who you couldn’t.  We had some good connections for weed and one of them got tired of the ex coming by so often to get stuff for other people, so he’d give us several bags to hold so that it would be less traffic at his house.  Our reward was having one for free for ourselves.  I had some strict rules for who I would trade with in order to stay out of trouble.  I’d noticed that the feds only stayed in town a few months so one of those rules was that I had to have known you at least a year.  If you told me you got something from someone and you’d never seen me at their house or partying together, I wouldn’t trade with you because if you’d drop their name, you’d drop mine to people I didn’t know.  I wouldn’t trade with someone who brought a stranger to my house and then asked me for something in front of them or while you were there with them there, just because my friends trusted someone didn’t mean I did.  After all, the only reason I had anything to trade was for convenience, I wasn’t in it for the money and I never made any money holding weed.  And the most important rule of the day was that if you didn’t have cash, you don’t get a stash.  This business of chasing someone down because they owed someone money for a product that wasn’t mine just is something I never wanted to have to concern myself with, and I for sure didn’t want to have to worry about someone else’s habit coming out of my pocket.  These simple rules kept my life simple.  When you like to party, simple is best.  Jail is a very real place and going there because I liked to get a buzz just wasn’t on my list of things to do.  My friends adopted these rules, many of them did and to my knowledge it kept a lot of them out of jail.  Another thing I did was let my friends know when I thought someone was an informant.  Not someone who’d always lived in the area, but when the feds sent in their people.  How did I know who these people were?  Well it was easy, they were open about what they did, too open.  Someone who isn’t worried about going to jail doesn’t have to be careful and if they weren’t careful about themselves, you know they won’t be careful about you.  Informants don’t go to jail:  they had the best of both worlds.  The problem with that though, is that occasionally you run into someone who is so determined not to go to jail, that they will eliminate someone if they think that person is jeopardizing their freedom before they can jeopardize it.  I figured if someone like that knew who to avoid in the first place, then escalating a bad situation would be totally unnecessary.  Telling who the narcs were kept the narcs alive, ironically.

    I never liked meth but people who are into selling drugs for the money do.  They had guaranteed customers, it was easier to dispose of in a pinch, and it was easier to hide pound for the pound for your money than weed was.  I remember when meth hit town and the powers that be shut down the weed for awhile.  I boycotted the meth after a couple or three weekends of using it and refused to buy anything unless I could have my preferred buzz.  I saw others who wanted A buzz and they didn’t really care enough to think about how meth would affect them eventually.  I guess nothing gold can stay, it can’t in that world.  Things got more serious after meth came to town.  I loved how it made my brain work and made me feel smart and alive, but common sense is something I’ve always felt I was cursed with, I knew eventually on meth, you turn back into a pumpkin, or worse.  I didn’t have enough faith to stick a needle in my arm or let anyone else, so I never ran meth in my life, to this day, and I never plan to even use it ever again.  All you have to do to kill a meth addict who runs needles, is to give them stuff that’s been stepped on fairly heavily for a few months and then give them something pure to run.  If they overdose, no one ever questions what happened.  I was too paranoid to be a meth addict.

    So there I sat, gazing at my mom wondering what she was thinking, believing she was looking forward to me walking through that door as I sat there in the dark taking inventory of myself.  I wanted to keep weed in my life and add a good man, a couple kids, maybe a house……..  Time to get out and start over.  Can you ever REALLY start over?  I wondered.