When I was a teenager, I was in a band. One day, another band came in on their day off, and heard us play. The band members said “Hey, if you ever wanna move to Florida, you could join our band!” Of course, I took this as a serious invitation instead of the casual compliment it really was.
So a few months later, sick of the cold and the boarding room floor I was living on, I packed a few boxes and a few suitcases. I got on a greyhound bus, and got off in Kissimmee, Florida.
It took hours for the guy I knew in the band to bother picking me up at the bus station. I’ve always believed that if I was then who I am now, I would have left the station, and I would have left him wondering. But today, it is I who is wondering…would I?
Eventually he picked me up. We lived with his parents at the end of a dirt road in an orange grove. And nearly immediately, I got in a relationship with him.
I didn’t have money; he kept everything that I had. I was young, and I was afraid to object.
He was a bit controlling. He wanted to tame me. He liked attention I got and wanted to own me, and I believed this to be love. I saw how the other girls wanted him, and perhaps a part of me wanted to own him, too.
One night, when he was gone, I got in our closet to get something from my suitcase. I saw my mom’s handwriting. What? I hadn’t heard from my mom in months, and thought she was mad because I had moved. He’d told me it was $5 a minute to call home collect, and I didn’t have a way to pay for that, so I hadn’t called home.
I pulled the first letter out of the envelope that was already opened, and read my mom begging me to write her back because she had terminal cancer. How could I be so cruel?
How could HE be so cruel.
There were other letters from her, along with letters in someone else’s handwriting that I didn’t recognize. Those other letters were to him. My respect of privacy evaporated, and I pulled out one of the letters to him. In it, the girl was telling him how much she loved when he said a particular sweet phrase.
It was a phrase he’d said often to me, something I’d held as uniquely our own. I read more letters from my mom, and from her.
I had nowhere to go, but I had my boundaries from years of standing up for myself. I was so grateful for them. I packed my suitcases, I packed my boxes, and for well over an hour, I dragged them one at a time down that dirt road.
I got to the highway…2 lanes each way with a median between. It was dark, I was afraid, I was so devastated. I had no money, and the ditch was deep. I got my boxes and bags across the first 2 lanes, and I just couldn’t do anymore.
I laid down in the ditch, and I went to sleep.
In the morning, I remembered there was a trailer park on that dirt road. If I’d had any kind of sense the night before, perhaps I would have sought refuge there. Or perhaps I was afraid he would find me if I had.
In the light of the day, I went back down that road and found the community center. I found an ad on the board looking for a live in sitter, and begged the woman to give me the job. We went back to the ditch and got the rest of my things, and I moved in.
I didn’t have a car, so he couldn’t find me. I contacted his brother, who I knew didn’t like what was going on, and begged him for help getting on my feet.
He got me a job at Disney, and he never told his brother where I was. There is so very much more to this story. It turns out he found me eventually, and worked hard to get me back. It turns out I was pregnant. It turns out that I was also very sick. It turns out my mom died. It turns out I lost everything that I owned.
And as it also turns out now, I’ve found myself again in a ditch because of a man telling me what he was telling another.
I am not starting to dig my way out from a real ditch anymore; I have come so far from that. But that ditch I am finding my heart in now, is far deeper than any ditch I was ever in with that boy so long ago.
I only hope I will in this case, as I did last time, faithfully honor my boundaries, and be strong enough to dig my heart and my life out of it.
~ cj 2011.09.02