The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “relationships”

The Great Rift

 

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Aki

I lived in a small village at the edge of a large salt lake. We did not have much that we didn’t make or grow ourselves, or trade for other goods. We had existed in this place, on this dry, inhospitable land for as far back as our collective memory and stories went. We followed a careful social order which kept everything and everyone stable and status quo. We each knew our duties and responsibilities — to our family, to our neighbors, to our small tribe. There was a strict hierarchy, and we all knew our place. The chief was at the top. His was only law we knew and the only law we needed.

One day, some wazungu arrived on a small bus driven by a man known by our chief.  The driver spoke our language and also that of the mazungu. Some of the men in our village had seen white faces before, in the city, but never had they come to us.

They were completely strange creatures to most of us women…not just their skin color, not even the texture of their hair or their impractical clothing… but the way the conducted themselves. There was no chief. The women laughed and talked among themselves, mostly ignoring the men, who never thought to scold or beat them.  What kind of women were these? Where were their children?  Did they have no important work to occupy them?  Why did they behave so freely, so foolishly,  as if they had no care in the world?  Were they not aware of all the misfortunes that might befall a woman if she let down her guard even for a moment?

We stared at them, and they stared at us. The driver told our chief to tell us to simply ignore them as they came from far away and wanted to watch us go about our lives in our usual way.  For this, the driver paid the chief a few shillings.  As he kept the entire amount for himself, he was quite happy with this arrangement.

After that, they came approximately once a moon, sometimes more, sometimes less.  This went on for many years.  Sometimes the driver gifted us all with a large bag of rice or beans, and then perhaps we might have a feast.

These wazungu were pleasant and friendly enough even though we could not communicate with them in words. Mostly, they wanted to watch us women doing our work…fetching water,  cleaning grain and pounding it into flour, weaving thatch, gathering wood and making a cooking fire, nursing our babies.  They liked to see inside our huts, where we slept. They seemed to particularly like watching the children, playing and climbing and running.

They pointed their small boxes at us but it was a long time until most of us understood what the purpose of that was.  None of us had ever seen a photograph of ourselves. I doubt I would even have been able to identify myself in a photograph. Some of the friendlier wazungu seemed to ask permission before pointing their camera box at us, but since we had no idea what they were doing, we just shrugged and smiled and let them do it.  We found it inexplicably strange.

We became accustomed to the visits. Some groups were nicer, more friendly,  more polite than others,  but mostly they were a waste of our time. Usually, we could truly ignore them as we went about our business but sometimes, they got in our way and made things more difficult. And for our compliance, we got nothing for ourselves.

We villagers knew better than to ask them for anything as compensation. That arrangement was strictly between our chief and the driver. The visitors also understood this and never offered us anything.

And then one day, the village was turned upside-down.

The wazungu came and their visit was going as they usually did.

There was a woman, in the village, of very low status. Her husband had left her and their infant son, and run off to the city, (so we were told.) She had been a bad wife (for why else would he have left her?)  and now she was a burden to the rest of us.

This woman, I shall call her K, was always far more fascinated by the wazungu than the rest of us. We used to tease her that one day she was going to hide on the bus and go away with them, but of course, it was a joke because where would she go?  What would she do?  She might have been low status in the village, but at least she was cared for.  Would any mzungu care for her out there?  She, as we, knew the answer.

Then, one afternoon, just before the guests climbed back into the bus, one of the mzungu women pulled the colorful scarf from her own head and gave it to K.

This small, soft, useless square of cloth nearly started a war.

After the bus left,   K tied the scarf around her head, the way the mzungu wore it,  and strutted around the village, acting better than the rest of us, behaving higher than her status.  She wore it like a crown and carried herself like a queen.

This immediately caused anger, resentment,  and jealousy among the village women.  The girl had done nothing to deserve any such honor, and in fact, she’d only received this gift because she’d lingered too long around the bus people, and let them hold her child,  when she should have been working.  It seemed doubly unfair that she was rewarded for her bad behavior.

We grumbled and gossiped, but she pretended not to care. This went on for several days, until one afternoon the chief’s first wife walked across the village,  her eyes burning with anger and purpose.  She walked into K’s small hut , pulled her outside, struck her knocking her to the ground, pulled her hair, grabbed the scarf off her head, and triumphantly tied it around her own.  K lay crying and moaning in the dust.

Violence among women was unheard of in our tribe, and this was shocking. None of us had liked K’s attitude but we were appalled at the behavior of the chief’s wife.

The women were immediately divided in opinion. Some believed the chief’s wife did the right thing, that it was the only choice.  Some believed that as badly as K had behaved, nothing justified violence. And along this line, we fell into two camps.

The rift threatened to tear us all apart. Finally, the chief himself,  who tried as much as possible to remove himself from the petty problems of women, stepped in to settle things.

It was a delicate matter since his wife held high status, and it would be a humiliation for her to beaten publicly. This would only cause further problems.  He had the right to beat K, if only for her inappropriate behavior in the days prior. But he could not beat one without beating the other, and fortunately for all of us,  he was not the kind of man who enjoyed giving beatings.

He consulted with each woman alone, and heard some other opinions (whether he wanted to hear them or not.)  In the end, it was arranged thusly:  His wife returned the scarf to K, and in turn K made a show of giving the scarf to the chief to use as the village flag.

The wazungu never returned.

Throughout the rest of my life and even now, my mind returned to those few days.  I recognized how close we came to being destroyed by divisiveness and unrest and lack of forgiveness; how easily the fabric of our society might have become completely unraveled despite the fact that we depended upon each other for survival.

We were fortunate to have a wise leader who resolved the problem in way that satisfied everyone, and allowed us each to learn some important lessons.   The wrong decision might have destroyed us.

 

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Lay That Burden Down

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Len

If you’d asked me if I was a good friend, a caring and generous person, I would have said, unequivocally, yes. In many important ways I was all those things, but I was also deluded about myself and about how others saw me.

I was happy to give my time and my energy and my money to others, and I could always be depended on for a favor.  Even though I rarely asked for anything in return, truth was, I did expect something very big in return.  But what I wanted could not be bought with time or energy or money not matter how much I gave.

What I wanted more than anything  was to be loved exactly the way I wanted to be loved, completely as myself with no need to fit myself to another.  I wanted my every flaw to be overlooked.   I wanted to be seen as perfect. And in this I was most needy.

Oh, what heartache I suffered when the ones I loved (or wanted to love)  did not love me, even after all I’d done for them.  When my expectations were not met, I grew resentful.  In my resentment, I became angry.  Angry people are difficult to love.  This anger was a heavy burden which I bore without ever truly understanding how the weight of it bent and crippled me.

I understand now that people don’t always love you the way you want to be loved.   To be loved, you must allow others to love you in whatever ways they do,  in whatever ways they can.

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Sloppy, Painful, Glorious

 

First published Sept 1, 2015

messy-heart

Ge

For some, love is theoretical. All the action takes place in the head. Emotions are based on fantasy which  is within control,  and thus cannot disappoint. These people cannot bear to be soiled by love’s sloppiness and unpredictability.  They play at love, but never truly engage.

For me love was real and big and sloppy and painful and glorious. I wanted to be in it elbows deep, mucking about the unknown. I wanted to roll around in its stink; smelling everything and everyone who preceded me.

It was never going to be perfect. I knew I’d be lucky if it was merely good. But I relished the mess; the challenge of unwinding a knotted ball of yarn;  the stains and scars standing as witnesses.   This is living! To jump first and learn to swim as you’re drowning!

In the end, complex, challenging, emotionally-muddled love affairs cause far less heartbreak than those which never get started.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

The Choice of No Choice

first published 7/29/15

 

drought-cow

Ka

When you’re poor you do not have a lot of choices. The poorer you are, the fewer choices you have. We were so poor, I had only one choice.

I had seven to care for…my wife, my five children and myself. I had no work. The soil was so barren, nothing grew. We were starving to death.  We had already lost two little ones, but we didn’t have the luxury of mourning. Poor people living in such dire conditions know better than to become too attached to infants until it’s clear they have the strength and will of spirit to survive. Life for us was difficult and precarious. Chances of living to an age of self-sufficiency were not high.  This is not to say we did not do our best for our children, but we were philosophical when they did not survive. So many died young. That was just the way of life.

Of course, as they got older, as their personalities developed, they became more precious to us. My oldest daughter was 14, born during better times, when we had some hope. She was quite lovely and graceful, a very sweet child.  She was strong and smart. To look at her made me happy and proud, and yet sad and ashamed that she had been born to me — I who could do nothing for her. I wished I could have offered her more.

One day, I was approached by a man from the city who offered to give me money for her. He promised to take her to a place where she could have a better life – lots of food to eat, pretty clothes. My wife wanted to do it. She knew the promises were hollow but she would have sacrificed her for the benefit of the rest of us.   But I was not naïve. I had heard about what they did to the girls from the small, poor villages. Stories came back, in bits and pieces. They were horrific. I  had heard of the kinds of things they made the girls do. I knew the kind of lives they were forced into. It was said these girls were usually dead of drugs or beatings or suicide in just a few years.

I couldn’t do it. I could not sell my daughter like a goat, to be slaughtered. I could not condemn her to a life – such that it was — of slavery and abuse. It was not her fault she was born to such a useless father.   As desperate as I was, I knew it was immoral to sell my child. I could not bear the guilt, even if it meant saving my other children, at least for a while.

So, I did what I had to do. This was discussed with my wife who finally agreed that my plan was the only way.

I knew of some plants that would put us all to sleep so we would never awaken. We fed them first to the youngest, then the older ones, then my wife and I took ours.

There was no pain and at least we died together, in our own hut, as a family. It was more loving and peaceful and compassionate than watching each other die, one by one, from disease and starvation, counting the days until finally Death came for us, too.

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Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

A Late Lesson

old-woman-with-cane

NEW!

Zor

We were a love match.  School sweethearts. We married young and within a few years, together we opened a men’s haberdashery.  We worked hard and slowly made a success of it.  A few years later, we had a son.  He was a clever boy.  We put him to work in the shop when he was old enough to wait on customers and handle money.   You could say he grew up there.    My husband expected him to take over the business.   Our son had other ideas. The store was stifling for him.  He had no interest.

Eventually, he went off on his own,  pursuing a line of work more suitable to his talents.

We had a falling out.  It was mostly with his father, but since he regarded us as an indivisible unit,  he stopped talking to me, too.  He moved far away.  We never repaired our relationship. We were not close. I barely knew his wife or his children — my own grandchildren.

My husband didn’t seem to mind this loss too much.   If his son had no use for the business, he interpreted it to mean he had no use for him, either.  The business was his baby.  Over the years, he nurtured it, dedicating many hours to making it thrive.  I was always at his side, doing whatever I could do to help.  But the vision was his.  He knew where he wanted the business to go, and he was good at finding ways for it to get there.   I did not resent that my own dreams never had the opportunity to manifest because, to be honest,  I did not have any big dreams.  I was content being a mother (until I wasn’t any longer), and being my husband’s helpmeet.  This provided me all the satisfaction I needed in life. The business grew into a successful enterprise which allowed us to live an agreeable and secure life.

We grew old together,  still working side by side in the shop.  We continued to live, as we always had, in a comfortable apartment above the store.  Over time,  the world changed and it was harder to keep up.

Business had not been good for a few years already when my husband suddenly died.

I was completely lost.   I had little idea how to run the store — what to stock,  how to negotiate with suppliers,  how to balance the books.    We had almost nothing in savings – every last coin had been spent trying to remain afloat.  My husband had been good at treading water.  I began to drown immediately. It did not take long for the store to fail completely.  Without any source of income, I soon lost the apartment, too.

At 83 years old, I was alone,  without a home.  I reached out to my son who was kind enough to send me a pittance, just enough to pay for a roof over my head, but not much more. I was grateful not to have to sleep on the street but in all other things, I was completely at the mercy of strangers. Most were not very merciful.  I was sick and frail.  I was consumed by the pain of loneliness.  I’d worked hard my entire life.  I’d been the good and faithful wife of a good and faithful husband. I’d lived in relative security and comfort.  I did not understand how all this misfortune had befallen me so quickly.  I resented the world for taking everything away from me.   I became increasingly forgetful. Confused.   It was easier to let go of reality which had become simply too painful to bear.

I was dead within two years. Two years which seemed to stretch out to an eternity. Two years which, looking back,  defined my life more than the eighty three years lived before it.

Sometimes,  life lulls you into a stupor and doesn’t give you the lesson until the very end.

 

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Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

A Leader for His Time

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let-go

Soa

I was a leader of my people for many, many years.  I was chosen because I was wise and good, and I had learned to lead from the leader who went before me. I was fair in my judgment, even-handed in my decisions.  I understood that if my people were to live in peace, everyone must believe their needs are being met.  For some to prosper while others suffered,  for some to win at the expense of others,  caused resentment, and this caused problems. No one went without, regardless of how little they were able to contribute. These were our values and we understood that they kept us whole.

But there came a time when I was old, when the bravery and boldness of youth was more important than the wisdom and steady guidance of age. And so I relinquished my power to a warrior chief.  I did not agree with all he did,  but once I ceded my position, I did not question his authority. He was the leader who was necessary for the times.

One must never hold too tightly to what must be let go in order to achieve  the greatest good for the greatest number. This is not a sacrifice.  It is the minimum requirement necessary in order to consider oneself a member of the human race.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

An Uphill Battle, One Step at a Time

New

rock-uphill

*

Ruf

We were the same age, but she was so much older than I was. She always seemed to to know what she wanted, and what was right for her, and even what was right for others.

She inspired me to be a better man. To do the right thing. To take the high road. To push my limits. To do the things that made me uncomfortable so I could get past my discomfort. She never asked me to do anything that she wouldn’t do, herself. She held herself to a high standard and expected me to hold myself to that same standard.

I knew she was right and for long time, I worked hard.  I wanted to become that man she wanted me to be because I knew it would be an expression of my best self. But I was lazy and fearful and I didn’t trust my own instincts.

Eventually, I had to acknowledge to myself that I was never going to get beyond my limitations.   I was never going to be the kind of man who was truly worthy of her.  Trying and not succeeding made me feel like a failure, although she, herself, never suggested such a thing. For her it was enough that I remained dedicated to trying.

I started to resent her moral and spiritual superiority. I resented her certainty in always knowing right from wrong. I resented the way she was always sure of herself. It made me feel less certain of who I was and who I should be. I felt I was losing myself in her image of who she thought I could be. And so I stopped trying to live in the world as she saw it. That was her world. I needed to live in mine. I didn’t want to have to think about things so deeply. I lost my drive to see how good I could be. I simply wanted to be left alone, unchallenged. And so, eventually she obliged me.

Four years of marriage ended in acrimony. It took me many, many years to understand that love.

We had no children to hold us together and so we went our separate ways. Eventually we both married other people. I heard from mutual acquaintances that she married happily, to a man who saw life as she did. I married a woman who was easy and kind, undemanding and simple in her outlook. She didn’t require much more than casual kindness and some basic respect, which is as much as I gave her. I appreciated her but there was no deep love.  Her most endearing quality was that she let me be.

In the end, that was no good for me, either.  I reverted to my lazy ways; no longer pushed myself uphill.   Instead I remained down at the bottom where no effort was required, surrounded by those who were as lazy as I was.

In my life, I never accomplished anything without being challenged by someone else, yet when challenged, I grew resentful, angry; I backed away so as not to drown in the secret humiliation of inevitable failure.

I understand now that my first wife was right.  She wasn’t pushing so much as encouraging me to create my own challenges.  Positive changes are positive changes, even if they are small and incremental.    It’s the not size of the change but the direction.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

*Artist: Janusz Kapusta

He Carried a Torch

originally posted May 23, 2014

George_Rennie_Cupid_Rekindling_the_Torch_of_Hymen_at_the_V_and_A_2008

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Dim

I married her because she was the closest thing to the One Who Got Away, but she was not the same girl at all. I probably should have married someone who was the total opposite so there would be no temptation for comparison; so I would not be constantly reminded of what I was missing.

The reality, of course, was that I had no idea what I was missing, or even if I was missing anything important or worthwhile.

I idealized her insanely; nobody could reach that impossible standard.  I hid this truth from my wife but such feelings cannot be concealed.  They permeate every action, every thought, leaving a whiff of disappointment and regret on everything.  My heart was elsewhere; my desires lived in the past.

My wife deserved to see love in my eyes, but I never fully gave myself to her. I held back a large part of myself for a phantom. I refused to let go of this fantasy of a missed lifetime of perfect love based on a few hormonal months when I was seventeen.

My wife didn’t know any of this. She just thought there was a piece missing from my soul; that I was crippled and unable to trust. I let her believe it. She was patient and loved me anyway, always hoping that someday I would let it all go and that she would be there when the floodgates opened, that she would finally be washed in all the love I’d been holding back. During the occasional discussions about my inability to embrace intimacy, I let her believe that this was the issue. I never told her “the truth.”

Looking back, it’s obvious that she was right the whole time. I was the one who didn’t understand the issue.

I never cheated. I was good and kind to her. I treated her well. I genuinely liked her and didn’t want to hurt her. She loved me and was good to me; she believed in me and was there for me whenever I needed her. And I really did appreciate all that. But still, I refused to give her my heart.

After she died, when I was in my late seventies,  I made a serious effort to find my lost love, as if it were my last chance to finally have what I’d been missing my entire life.

I never found her. (I know now that she died in her 20s. Oh, the irony of that!)

I lived my entire life chasing some imagined love out there when all the while, all I had to do was turn to my wife and look at her and really see her. If I had done that just once, everything after that might have been different.

I thought I was worshiping love, keeping it holy, when in fact I was avoiding it.

Perhaps it’s the same thing.

There are a lot of kinds of love, and one type is not necessarily better or worse than another. Most people are lucky to have even one kind of love in their life. To have more than one is to be truly blessed.

I was blessed, but I didn’t know it.

I should have trusted her with my heart. She would have taken gentle and good care of it.

 

 

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-Adrienne

 

My Husband, My Jailer

New Post

falling down stairs

Am

I didn’t know him when I married him.  I was a young woman and he was much older than I was. He had never been lucky with women, never been married. My family arranged for me to travel from my country to his to be his wife. They said my life would be better there.

I was taught that wives should behave in a subservient manner towards their husbands so I knew my place.  I was clever enough to know I should hide my cleverness. I was efficient.  Reliable. Pliable.  Not too demanding, at least not initially.

This was my appeal for him.  He was a sad, weak man who needed a weaker woman to make him feel strong.

After a couple of years, we had a child.   I devoted myself to motherhood which gave me far more pleasure than my marriage.  I did not have too many friends.  My social circle was very small.  For the most part, I was limited to the wives of his friends, of which he had very few.  Some of the wives were also foreign-born, married sight unseen like me, but they were not from my country.  The language barriers made it difficult to share our experiences although I assumed their stories were similar to mine. I would have loved to have had a friend to talk to about my marriage,  but it seemed my own husband was not the only one who preferred to keep me from getting to close with others.

Initially, he was kind to me.  He sometimes lost his temper but he went through the motions of apology.  He pretended that we were a happy couple in love.   But we were not.  Soon he made less of an effort to control his temper.  He was an unhappy man and nothing I could do could change that, although I worked hard to be a good wife and give him what he needed.

I eventually realized that any intimacy we had at the beginning was purely fantasy. In reality, we had nothing in common.   When I first came to him, I respected him.  He seemed to me smart and successful and knowledgeable about the world, but of course this was only in comparison to the men I knew from my village.  When I got to know him, however, I recognized that he was not worthy of even my insignificant respect.   I tried to hide my growing contempt for him, but such things show on the face,  in the tone of voice, in the  lack of genuine interest in pleasing him.

He took out his anger at the world on me.   I could do nothing right.  I was useless.  He was going to send me back and keep our son.    No man would ever want me again.  Even my own family would reject me because I was such a terrible wife.  I would go back to my village and live out my days sweeping the streets, an outcast, a pariah.

I believed that he could do this.  Worse, I believed that he would do this.  I tried harder to put on a good face for him; to be obedient and of service.  I made myself small and invisible when I was not fulfilling his present needs.

And then, one day in the market, I saw a woman who had a face typical of the women who came from my country.   I said something to her in my language to see if she would respond.  To my delight, she did!  We became fast friends.

She had come over as a young woman and found work as domestic help.  The family she worked for was kind, and even allowed her to take some evening classes in school to improve her language skills.  This was something I dared not even ask my husband about. I already knew the answer.  I’d be punished in one way or another just for suggesting that I wanted to become more independent.

We met once or twice a week, me with my son and her with her charges.  We would do our shopping then steal a few minutes for ourselves in the park, while the children played. We chatted in our mother tongue,and for the first the first time since I’d arrived, I felt that I had a friend of my own, someone who understood me.

Even though, as a married woman, I had more status than she did, I was envious of her position.  She knew things about this new land that I never would have imagined and never would have discovered on my own. She was a window into the culture.  She might not have had much that was her own, but at least she was free (so it seemed to me, anyway.)

Eventually, I confided in her how unhappy I was.  I felt like a prisoner in my marriage, with escape being worse than captivity. I didn’t want to stay but I had nowhere to do. I had very little of my own money – just the little bit that I managed to hide away from my household budget.  It wouldn’t get me and my son anywhere. I had no skills and could not support us.  In any case, my husband would not rest until he had hunted me down.

I felt like a trapped animal.  The isolation of my marriage was unbearable.   If it weren’t for my son, I might even have killed myself but I would not leave him alone to be raised by that man.

In the early years, when I was merely unhappy, I used to pray for more kindness and understanding from my husband, more patience for myself.  Eventually, however, my prayers were not so noble.  I began to pray for his death.  I knew this was a sin, but it was the only path I could see to my salvation.  With him gone, I would be free and have the house and his money.

These wishes soon became manifest in my actions.  At first, I was defiant in small, secret ways.  For example, I would not wash all his clothes but rather fold them and put them back as if they had been laundered.  One afternoon, as I began to prepare dinner, I noticed the meat had gone bad.  I fed it to him anyway.  Slowly, I became emboldened.  Sometimes, I would pull plants from the side of the road and add them to his food, hoping that they were poisonous.  One day, after he beat me, I was so angry, I picked up some dog feces in the street and added it to his soup.

I would “accidentally” leave small objects, such as toys or shoes, near door and along the hallway, hoping that he would trip while drunk and break open his head.

I didn’t have the nerve to actually murder him, but I tried to give Fate a helping hand.  But none of these efforts,  not any of my prayers, seemed to have any effect on him.  How could a man so evil be so lucky?

I never told my friend about my prayers or small sabotages. I didn’t want her to feel responsible if I succeeded.  Maybe I was afraid she would encourage me to do worse to him, and that I would allow myself to be led.

Finally, one day, after many such miserable years, he was drinking in the local bar and simply fell over, clutching his chest.  I pretended to others to be sad – I had become quite good at pretending – but I was relieved that he was finally dead, and that I was not responsible for his death. (I didn’t figure my prayers had killed him because I’d been praying for a long time with no results.)

There wasn’t a lot of money left after everything was sold,  but it was enough to let me start over somewhere else.  I took my son and my friend, and we went far away, and made a new life for ourselves. It was sometimes a struggle, but at least we were free.

—–

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Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Bully Bait

originally posted 5/6/14

prison cell block

Le

Life works in mysterious ways. At first, I couldn’t wait to marry her. At the end, I just wanted her dead. I wanted her mouth shut; her body rotting in the ground, where it belonged. I’d been helplessly in love with her and she had betrayed me; turned me into a cuckold; made me a fool; built huge, flashing arrows pointing to my weaknesses.

If anyone had asked me, I might have said I loved her, but I guess the hatred and resentment was always bubbling beneath the surface. I hated being in her power; hated myself for not being able to break free. She baited me all the time: Compared my “assets” to those of my best friend, who, I was often reminded, had a “much better set.”   Mocking me for every mistake, large and small. Belittling me just because she could.

Maybe I should have just left, but when she’d torment me, she would always say, “Look at you! You aren’t man enough to do anything about it!” and because I knew she was right – I wasn’t man enough – I obeyed and did nothing.

She was beautiful and a bit exotic.   When I met her, I couldn’t believe a woman like that would be interested in me. When I’d ask her why, she told me I was her “diamond in the rough.” She said she would teach me how to be a man, and I believed her.

In the beginning, she doted on me and built up my ego. I didn’t feel like merely a man; I felt like “The Man.” Ultimately, however, no matter how much she tried to polish me, no matter how nice a setting she put me in, I was always the same old hunk of worthless rock. Soon, she hated me for it. She believed, if I’d only loved her enough, I would change. My apparent inability to grow a spine was a slap in her face.

In our dynamic, every time she gave me a challenge and I failed to live up to her expectations, she was elevated in my esteem; and I was debased in hers. With each of my failures, the chasm between us grew.

It was a brutal transition between her believing in me and her no longer giving a damn. I ached for the early days. I still believed I loved her because I remembered how she used to make me feel.

She took so much pleasure in tormenting me, and I accepted it. I believed I deserved it. My thinking went: “At least she’s still here; at least I can satisfy her in some way.”

I was pathetic. I wasn’t even man enough to stand up for myself.

And then one day, I snapped.

My father had just passed away a few months before. I hadn’t had much contact with him since I’d left home years earlier. I had no use for him. From boyhood, he, too, belittled me. At the time, I would not have said I was deeply affected by his death.

It’s funny, but I can’t remember the exact words she said that set it all in motion, but it was something that cut me so deep, it opened up all the wounds from my youth.   Every last scab was ripped off and they were all stinging and bleeding again:  The existential fear of my own worthlessness.   The self-loathing because I didn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself.  The inability to trust my own judgment in any situation, thus deferring to anyone and everyone, and never having a voice of my own.

In that moment, I remembered the bullies who used to tease me, especially the day I came out of school to discover they’d set my brand new bicycle on fire. I remembered my father whispering to family members and friends, and them looking at me and laughing. I was never sure exactly what he was telling them, but I felt it had to do with my most recent failure at sports or at school, with the way I’d mishandled a chore or errand. Nothing – and I mean nothing in my entire life – had ever impressed him. Even when I got married to that beauty, he made sure I knew he didn’t believe she really loved me. She must be some kind of gold-digger, he suggested, then corrected himself. “Nah, you’re never going have enough money to make it worth any gold-digger’s time.”

“Maybe,” he then suggested, “she’s going to take out an insurance policy on your life and kill you for the money” (the subtext being, “because what else are you good for?”)

She and I were standing in the living room, next to the fireplace. She was on a rant, haranguing me with the entire catalog of my flaws and weaknesses.  After a while, I didn’t hear the individual words; I just felt the toxicity of their intent.   I couldn’t breathe. The poisonous cloud was enveloping me, choking me. I had to make it stop.

I picked up the heavy, metal mantle clock, and without thinking, hit her with it on the side of the head. She crumpled in a heap. Dead. Oh yes. Definitely dead.

Panicked, I ransacked the house to make it seem as if there had been an intruder, then I called the police and told them I’d found her this way.

It didn’t take them long to figure out the truth. She was dead and I was crying crocodile tears. I had motive and opportunity. It took about ten minutes at the station for me to confess the whole thing. I was actually relieved that it was over.

At least in jail, it would be free of her incessant emotional assault. In jail, I’d be a disappointment only to myself.

I forgot, though, about the bullies. Prisons were full of them.

I was in my own private hell. It was as if every torment in my life had been distilled to its very essence and applied here. There were no lessons to be learned, only pain to be avoided.

After about four years, with another 20 before I was even up for parole, I wanted to die. Ironically, in prison, they do their best to keep you from killing yourself.   They prefer you alive so they can take their retribution one cut at a time.

So I committed suicide by bully.

I knew what to do to provoke them, and they did me a favor of literally beating the life  out of me.

Next time, I would like the confidence to stand up for myself. I would be interested to see where that might lead.

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

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