What event occurred to finally convince you of what everyone had been trying to tell you?
I was 23-years-old, freshly out of college, and living with a 27-year-old recent divorcee named Janice with a toddler she called Wilson.
What could go wrong?
My parents were understandably concerned. My friends thought I was nuts. Strangers seemed to be coming up to me with regularity wondering why I was spending so much time with a woman who was so obviously treating me with disdain. For my part, though, I was certain that I was in love and totally committed to being a caregiver for her young son. Whatever misgivings I had about the way she was treating me, I remained convinced that I could weather those storms and saw it as a virtue that I could be so patient through her rather, uh, mercurial behaviors.
She was estranged from her parents, the divorce had been ever-so nasty, and most of her friends seemed to have disappeared. I didn’t detect any red flags. I was in LOVE, I tell you.
I finally convinced her to go visit her parents during one of her crying jags related to not having any friends and feeling alone in the world, my company apparently notwithstanding.
She agreed, but insisted that if it went poorly, it would be my fault. I was resolute in my belief that if we had a positive attitude during the weekend at her childhood home, all would be well. I was certain that I could help her repair that relationship. She was convinced that her parents were meddlesome, out-of-touch, and generally cruel people.
Once we arrived, it become very quickly clear that her parents were EXTRAORDINARY people. They doted on her, were incredibly kind to me, and they adored their grandson. I couldn’t believe that these were the same people she had been complaining about from the day we had met.
She tried to pick a fight with her mother at dinner, but the lovely woman just wouldn’t participate. Everyone was so patient with Janice, which only seemed to infuriate her more. She angrily retreated to her bedroom in the middle of dinner, but I elected to stick around, engage her family, and see if I could figure out what was at the root of all the belligerence.
The behaviors I had seen since the beginning of our relationship, I soon learned, had been a factor in their lives from the time that Janice was born. She was paranoid, inappropriately aggressive in virtually all interactions, and suspicious of everyone else’s kindness. They also told me that her husband had been an absolute doll. They all agreed that I was yet another “nice guy” that she had latched onto and was abusing. They didn’t exactly tell me to head for the hills, but they certainly weren’t shy about warning me. I told them that I loved her and they gave me wan smiles and attempted to encourage me, but I could see in their eyes that they were genuinely worried about me, too.
When I went to the bedroom that night, she was sound asleep, and I continued to hold out hope that, somehow, tomorrow would be different.
She woke up in a tirade the next morning and declared that we were leaving. She refused to be treated this way any longer and she wasn’t subjecting her son to such abuse either. She told me to get in the truck or she was leaving without me. I apologetically followed her to the door, hugged her parents goodbye, and told them that I would keep working on her.
I drove because she was far too emotionally overwrought to keep her eyes on the road. She spent the first hour of the ride just venomously bitching about her parents and she refused to hear anything remotely approaching rationality with regard to anything that had occurred on our visit. It was starting to dawn on me that she was, perhaps, not entirely sane.
Finally, I pointed out that she was blaming everyone else in her life for her unhappiness, despite the fact that she was surrounded by people who were incredibly accommodating to her. I pointed out that if there’s a person who is always declaring that everyone else around them is the asshole, then maybe they need to look within to see who the real asshole is.
That did it.
She started battering me with her fists. Wilson was asleep in his baby seat on the right side of the cab and she was in the middle, doing everything she could to make me wreck her F-150. I used my right arm to block most of her blows and kept the truck on the road with my left, but I was immediately very concerned about safety for all of us, but particularly for poor Wilson. When she tired of attempting to land a solid punch on my face, she started slamming the back of her head into the rear window as hard as she possibly could. I still cannot believe that she was unable to shatter the glass. After about the third blast, Wilson awoke and started wailing. I pulled the truck over as soon as I could find a spot on the median and she slammed her head at least five more times before I got out of the truck and started walking.
She said nothing more to me, slid behind the wheel, and drove off. I was about an hour’s drive from the home we shared as the truck disappeared from my view.
I felt relief that I was out of the truck, but I was immediately worried about Wilson. This was long before cell phones and I was nowhere near anywhere that might have a pay phone. I started walking and eventually thumbed a ride.
My rescuer asked me what I was doing walking on such a desolate stretch of country road and I told him the story. His only response was exactly what I’d been hearing from virtually every person in my life: you gotta get out of there, man.
It took a lot of walking and several more really fortuitous rides with some very friendly folks, but I ended up making it home in about four hours. Her truck was parked askew in the driveway and both doors were still open. I looked in the window of the house and she was asleep on the couch while Wilson entertained himself on the floor.
When I let myself in, she awoke and asked, “What took you so long?”
What took me so long, indeed?
I packed my things, said goodbye to Wilson, hopped in my own vehicle, and drove to my parents’ house. They asked me where Janice was and I said, “Thanks for trying to tell me what I finally figured out.”
I called Janice’s ex-husband and explained everything, focusing on Wilson’s well being. I was eventually subpoenaed to testify in a custody hearing which gave full custody to Wilson’s father, who was, indeed, a heckuva nice guy.
It took me a few more relationships, but I finally figured out that a true romantic partnership should not require me to be my lover’s constant counselor or punching bag. I still have a profound appreciation for windshields in Ford trucks, though.
Edit: To answer some common questions:
This is how my love life took a turn for the better the following year:
I was attracted to Janice because she presented as very confident, she was stunning to look at (hey, I was 23), and I was drawn to Wilson.
What was her illness? I think Borderline. Her flights of fancy and constant perception that her issues were caused by other people are telling. I have seen her around town a few times and she has been friendly briefly but also elusive, so it is hard to say how she is doing.
Wilson went on to a stellar high school athletic career and was heavily recruited by college coaches. I lost track of him when he left town, though I have not seen him in person since the day I moved out.
What is something common that you see most people do wrong?
By lanreadeyemi •
September 21, 2019, 12 PM
What is it like to have a sibling of more than 10 years of age difference?
By lanreadeyemi •
September 20, 2019, 01 AM