An aged Andy Gibb look-a-like sat at the table next to me, facing my direction. Shoulder length blonde hair, both the color and texture of rope, and a gray beard. His white linen shirt was unbuttoned deeply enough to display on his chest a large smooth rock hanging from the leather string around his neck. A real statement piece. The man looked like sex. Probably a writer, judging by his laptop and behavior. He was as interested as I was in the conversation that was going on at the table on the other side me. This was evidenced by the fact that he literally stopped and looked directly over there from time to time, dumbfounded by what was said.
I gathered that the two women talking at the table next to me just attended the same workshop. They were critiquing a Post-it note activity of some sort. Beyond the workshop, they didn’t know each other well. It didn’t seem to matter. Despite the unfamiliarity, they were sharing details so intimate that they most likely regretted the conversation as soon as they climbed into their individual cars and heard the silence.
I never looked at the woman directly beside me, but I did see that she had a black Kate Spade tote on the floor by her feet. She was happily married to a man who was fucked up. He suffered from PTSD after being in an explosion and seeing friends die in the blast. He survived, but with physical disfigurement. At Costco last weekend, he had a breakdown of some sort.
The cute white woman whose skin looked weathered by summers spent poolside spoke of her last marriage. She had a dear smile, freckles, and twinkling blue eyes offset by her mostly black hair– cut into an expensive bob. She was wearing a Tiffany charm bracelet and a pastel pink manicure that she said she regretted.
“When we were first dating, I was so in love. He was handsome. So handsome and sweet. Everyone was happy for us.”
In actuality, her former husband was a horrible human being. She offered ugly details of his behavior in a matter-of-fact, unemotional manner. Now I know what I must seem like when I disclose the hardships in my life. I need to keep quiet from now on. It’s disconcerting to the audience. People want to see damaged ones cry and show weakness, to openly display sadness so that they can offer comfort. It was odd to hear personal, nightmarish stories told in a removed tone. Almost like the atrocities didn’t matter, like they had no effect on her. But that’s how survivors function.
As soon as they were married the abuse began. Out of nowhere she said. He beat her so badly that she couldn’t go to work. Her face, her body. I looked at her beautiful, open face and wondered how anyone could want to hurt her. It was more than one time. He installed a lock on the outside of their bedroom door and would trap her in there for over a day. She stopped talking to friends and family. She lost her job.
“I’ve killed someone before, so it’s not a big deal. Don’t think I won’t kill you,” he attested.
The woman spoke of how he was a social worker and was very charming. He’d been with the same organization for 20 years.
“But his criminal record was weird,” she said. “A lot of DUIs, 20 or more speeding tickets, bouncing checks, hitting people. The gal that he beat up in Mexico…she waited to file charges until later. She went to the police in Lake Oswego, and they couldn’t do anything about it. It happened in Mexico. Not their jurisdiction. So I didn’t even know about her when we met.”
He was adopted as a baby. The mother didn’t want her boy to be a sissy, so she abused him. Beat him up. The woman at the table next to me talked about nature vs nurture and explained that his sister grew up side by side with him. She was not abused, and she was one of the nicest people anyone had ever met. The mother, still alive today, took no responsibility for her son’s propensity for violence and claimed she did the best she could. The storyteller was not convinced.
“I knew if I was going to leave him, I was putting my life at risk. My family knew, too.” She did, in fact leave, and she filed for divorce. Thinking of her safety, she rented an apartment that had a doorman. The husband still managed to break in while she was, thankfully, not home and spread KY jelly all over her artwork, took scissors to all of her clothing, poured cleaning fluids all over the bed, and hid dog shit under the furniture. She didn’t find that until later. The police could not prove he committed the crime.
He threatened her life again, so she went to a judge to get the guns removed from his house. He was a pro tem judge who said that having guns was a civil liberty, and he wasn’t going to take either– not guns or civil liberties– from anyone. The judge also pointed out that in a text, she threatened the abuser. The abuser sent a text saying that he was going to find her and burn down her house, and she responded by saying she was going to get someone to kick his ass. That threat was held against her, and it got in the way of her procuring a restraining order.
Her attorney told her which gun shop to go to. She needed concealable mace. “The good kind.” She said she had mace everywhere. In the car, in every room in her apartment. She did not have to use it. The man shot and killed himself. They never divorced.