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Last week the boyfriend and I went out for Mexican food at our favorite Nolensville Road restaurant and just happened to be seated by the managing editor, Mark, of the news station where I work. He was sitting alone because his family was out of town, so I asked him to join us. Since he was already drinking a beer, he did the sensible thing and invited me to sit with him. We accepted his kind invitation.
He asked me about my day, and I told him it's always been a good day when you've been called a pro-anarchist baby killer. The boyfriend found it funny that I'd been labeled pro-anarchist since I am so laughably not at all like that. I grew up a total goody-two shoes and even now, I explained, I'm always afraid I'm going to get in trouble. I always want to know the rules and try to follow them out of general fear. The few rules I do break I break willfully and after giving it much thought.
Mark asked me why I was like that, always afraid of getting into trouble. I paused because the answer is so complex and sordid it would take days to tell. I found the right words in, "My childhood was somewhat chaotic." We all left it at that and dove for more salsa.
But after spending a wonderful afternoon with my mom and my sister yesterday reminiscing, I was able to think more about the chaos. And learn more. My mother told me things about very messy part of my past that, frankly, I don't remember much about.
She told me about the divorce from the man she married after she and my Dad split up. He was abusive mentally and physically, and he had been hoarding money. He controlled every aspect of our lives and worked us like little slaves on his propery, raking leaves for hours on end, picking up cigarette butts he'd thrown on the ground. I was too young to fully grasp it at the time, but my stepfather was exploiting this mentally disabled man who was poor and lived on our street for labor. He'd work him for hours on end with payment of only a meal for his effort. He was such a sweet man, and I felt so sorry for him.
My mother, who worked at the time as a church secretary, spent hours in counselling with the pastor at our church. She finally found it in her to leave him, even with the little money she had. I never thought until now how much that preacher saved my family. I should contact him and thank him for that.
So, she told him she wanted a divorce. Then he bugged our house.
Seriously. It's like something out of a movie, but it happened. He installed a surveillance system in our home and on our phones to monitor her every move. He was going to try to prevent her from leaving in whatever way he could. He was hoping to catch her in an affair with the pastor of the church who was helping her flee his abuse. He listened in on her conversations, then would take phrases or snatches of her speech he couldn't have possibly heard and repeat them to her later. She thought she was losing her mind, and how could she not have?
My stepfather confronted the pastor with the tapes as if that was proof my mother was cheating. That is how far gone this guy was. He's the one who told my preacher about bugging our house, which is how we all knew. Luckily, this information saved my mother from losing her mind. Can you imagine having someone repeat your private conversation back to you when you know they were somewhere else entirely?
It wasn't long after that that we left. We actually fled his house in the night and ran to my uncle's house. But not before he hit my mother one last time. We stayed at my uncle's house for two days, and I was just happy to be out of there.
We got a tiny apartment in Ashland City and for a while my stepfather stalked us. He would follow my sister and I on our walks home from school and offer us donughts if we'd get in his car.
I learned last night that soon thereafter he had a heart attack.
My mother went with my aunt to visit him in the hospital. She knew his children who lived out of state didn't know about his heart attack, so she thought she'd do the decent thing and contact them. She looked for his children's numbers in his wallet, but they weren't there.
She called to his room a few days later to check on his status when she was told she'd been barred from contacting him in person or in phone. When he awoke, apparently, he thought that my mother had been going through his wallet to steal his money. And with that phone call she ended her relationship to a severely sick individual.
He moved to Phoenix with his childeren after that where he had another heart attack and died. My mother did not learn this until she saw that mentally disabled man my dead stepfather also once abused working as a greeter at our hometown Wal-Mart. He stopped to tell my mother that my stepfather's family had flown him out to Arizona for the funeral. Apparently that sweet man did not know he'd been mistreated, or could not hold a grudge.
Then he asked my mother if she'd been the one to send dead flowers to his funeral. She said no, that that was the first she'd heard of his passing. And with that we made our way to buy whatever it is we were there for.
Dead flowers will always be how I remember him.
She's peeling bandages from her thigh in the floor of his bedroom, long legs splayed, and the sound of salve and raw skin reminds him of sex. She's so beautiful and it's so obviously effortless since he's only seen her wash her face once before bed and they've been dating 3 months. She exudes a rare grace and comfortable confidence that she wears as simply as a sweater. She's tall, thin and when she walks people notice that she's coming their way. Then they turn to follow her before they can stop themselves. She's a dancer. Or, she was, at least, until he set her on fire.
Halloween night was their third date. He'd already been thinking
that maybe he did, but when she arrived at the door dressed as a mummy
he knew he loved her. She was concerned about not being able to afford
a good cosutme on her restaurant hostess salary, so she needed to be
creative. She fretted for weeks about what to wear, then decided
Halloween afternoon to wrap her long, toned limbs in gauze and go as
the undead. They attended a party that night where the women were
dressed in cheerleading uniforms and french maid costumes and catholic
school girl skirts, but he couldn't stop smiling at his martini-sipping
They left the party early and went to her favorite dive bar to play
darts. Hours passed and several bottles of wine were consumed.
Enamored, he couldn't stop touching her when it was her turn to throw.
The last time, as she got up from his embrace to take her turn, he lit
another cigarette and she wrinkled her nose at the smell. He wondered
if she was incentive enough to actually quit this time. In a flash he
decided she was, and teasingly flicked his lighter near what he thought
was the floor near her feet. Instead he made contact with her ankle
where her costume began, sending the gauze encasing her lithe dancer
body into flames.
She's applying more clear gooey sauve to her right thigh where they
cut away flesh for skin grafting. After the accident she didn't go
straight away to the doctor because she wanted to protect him. He
couldn't stop crying for having hurt her. She wanted him to stop
crying, so she said it didn't hurt. The next morning it felt like her
bones were bruised so she saw a physician who promptly treated her
third degree burns. He told her no dancing for twelve weeks.
She didn't see him for two days after her hospital visit. She stayed in bed for 48 hours and rocked herself, numbed from the pain pills, numb to his desperate messages.
It's been three months since that Halloween night, and she tells him she's not sure she'll ever feel like dancing again. She's rewrapping her once perfect legs with white, clean sheets of gauze. Despite her delicate beauty, he's repulsed by how she lookes in the gauze.
He loves her, but she's gained weight since she quit dancing. Her
skin has become dull and her burn scars are extensive. Her legs will
heal, but there will be knotty scars and ugly discoloration where yards
of mole-specked creamy skin used to be. When they fuck he never touches
her below her hips if he can help it. He doesn't understand how, but he
wishes he could tell her he is sickened by the bumps of her wounds when
she locks her legs around him. He often comes too soon by thinking of
someone else, a girl in his office with a preference for seamed
He doesn't know how, but he'll leave her when she's stronger. When she is healthy. For now he'll be still, be silent and wait. For now he'll just sit and finger the lighter that caused it all and try not to watch as she covers her trauma in the floor of his bedroom.
We took Tootie to the dog park again. It is the best way to wear her little ass out. I brought my camera along again and got some really great photos that I'll post a little later. In the meantime, I want you to watch this lil' home movie I made. It stars Tootie and two other dogs, one of which was feeling slightly amorous. Trust me, you've never seen dog on dog action like this.
UPDATE: The dog park photos are now up on Flickr. You could probably not give a shit, but if dogs humping on each others' faces makes you laugh, then right this way.
All of the sudden and for no apparent reason Tootie began barking loudly and constantly. It quickly became very annoying. So, the boyfriend walked with her outside. She took three steps and stared at the trash can. And that was it, she turned around to go back inside.
So far as we know she was barking specifically in order to go look at the garbage.
We took Tootie to the dog park in East Nashville. It was her first time at such a park. She did surprisingly well.
You can look at the entire set here. There will be more pictures to come, since she slept about 14 hours straight after her play date. Like Benadryl, but better.