Trespassed. (part 1 of 2)

It was a Tuesday in either late august or early September or maybe it was in late July. Sometime during the warmer part of the summer of 2009, on a Tuesday around 1 p.m. I was wakened by a loud banging. “Dan, I think someone’s at the door.” No reaction. He just continued to lay there, flat on his back, mouth gaping, fast asleep – as usual. I decided that if he was asleep, I should be too. So I shrugged off the banging, assuming it was the mail carrier or the oil guy or someone who could just leave whatever they had on the porch and let us sleep. It really had nothing to do with me.

That’s when I heard stomping, followed by rapping on my bedroom window and “Dan, I know you’re in there! You need to come out here right fucking now!” It was Michelle.

As the stomps headed toward the other end of the porch that stretched the length of the front of my mother’s house, I glanced over at Dan who was now laying rigid, vaguely terrified, like he’d been caught in the middle of cleaning up a murder. His long, thinning, stringy bleach-blonde hair was disheveled and greasy as I got out of bed to peek at what was going on; my years of moving through my house, paranoid that a sniper might be aiming for me finally being of use. I crouched and hugged corners, catching sight of Michelle’s mini-van in my driveway and her frantic angry movement up and down my porch as she repeatedly yelled for Dan to stop hiding and come out to talk to her. I made my way back to my bedroom and stood in the doorway. “You really need to go out and get rid of her. What the fuck is she doing at my house?”

He just shrugged.

“If you don’t get rid of her, I will. She’s trespassing. I will call the cops,” I was using my best stage whisper and I was livid.

He voiced some disagreement.

“Dan, what the fuck. You need to man up and fucking deal with her.”

“Your car’s in the driveway, I know you’re here. How fucking stupid do you think I am?” She was still stomping around on my porch.

Dan sat there on my bed, a 29-year-old child, terrified he was in trouble; unsure what to do knowing he’d been caught. However, as we were exchanging tense words, she finally gave up and drove away.

“Why was she here? I thought you were supposed to meet her at 1:30,” I asked as I tried to slow my pulse and regain calm.

He was checking his phone now and he started feeding me some story about her being pissed that he didn’t show up at his father’s to see his son at 11:00 and that she had definitely told him 1:30 and she was insane.

“And how did she know where I live? This is so incredibly not okay. You really needed to go talk to her.”

“I don’t know, Tammy probably told her and no way was I going to go out there and let her do that.” It was always someone else’s fault.

“She better not fucking show up here again, I really will call the cops on her ass. I swear to fucking God, Dan. You need to deal with her,” at 20, it didn’t even occur to me that I was involved in a very trashy and complicated situation or that it was more than I could handle.

He told me that she wasn’t letting him see his son, he should have met her at 11:00 and somehow, for once, I was not the one being yelled at. Instead, his response was that we should go to Kaaterskill Creek in the Catskills, where there was a massive waterfall and it was supposedly a great place for swimming. It was summer  after all, it was hot, the sun was shining, and we both needed to relax after that wake up call.

Jarrod.

When I was a freshman in high school, I joined a weekend orchestra program to replace cheerleading after I’d unexpectedly quit three weeks into basketball season. My Saturday mornings became a ritual of waking up earlier than I wanted to and riding to Poughkeepsie in the passenger’s seat of my mother’s Winnebago. I’d been placed in the orchestra which housed mostly middle school students, partly because my private teacher was the conductor and partly because I was very behind the well-educated students who had taken private lessons for longer and more consistently than I had, therefore I was seemingly one of the oldest people there.

We rehearsed in the dank basement of an older church, the church where my grandparents were married, and I quickly drew the attention of a boy who was very tall (at least, compared to me) with dark brown hair and bright blue eyes – he looked like one of the “popular” kids. I’d never been hit on before by a boy like that and was very much anorexic at the time. So when he started teasing me about having to pay him a toll to get past him during our break, I gobbled it right up. I was starving to have a boy pay attention to me. This was when I was wearing skirts that were way too short (only 15 inches from waist to hem) and heels that were way too tall and shirts that were too tight and worked their way up my abdomen until my lower back and belly button were showing. I wore makeup almost every day and still bothered to straighten my hair. I just wanted someone, anyone, to pay attention to me.

I don’t remember much about how that romance blossomed, we saw a movie (I don’t remember which),  he came to my house once (we made out the entire time while listening to Good Charlotte), and he brought me to a family function at his cousin/aunt/uncle/something’s house near the old train station across the street from the river. I remember standing in the wind, wearing my blue American Girl rain coat/windbreaker (that’s how young I still was; I was wearing American Girl clothes) which was warmer than any coat I own today and which would probably still fit me had I kept it, while he was hanging upside down from a tree. At the time, I felt so grown up, looking back it’s hard to imagine I was ever that young or that innocent.

We were still at the playground, he leaning against a tree while I leaned my body against his, holding hands as we kissed when he started pressuring me to flash him. I’d had a boyfriend before, so this wasn’t exactly the first time I’d been asked to do something I didn’t want to. It just felt so inappropriate to risk some passerby seeing me simply because it was something we couldn’t do in a house where parents were. I think I finally gave in; the first of many times I would waive my comfort at the request of some random boy.

The next day, he broke up with me.

Goodbye

The hallway was empty as I leaned my back against the push-bar of the exit door for what I knew may be the last time. This moment was it. I was taking pause to remember everything that had happened in that hallway and in the rooms attached to it. Immediately to my left were the double doors to the stage, through I’d walked every morning I’d attended high school. There were so many moments, on-stage and off. There was the time my orchestra teacher tripped over the podium and smacked her face on the floor. I also remembered sitting in the middle of the second violin section as a freshman terrified and excited and completely lost trying to learn second position. I also remember the frustration I’d felt as a senior when I was told that I not only had to audition for concert master, but that the seat was not going to be given to me and would, instead, be given to a junior.  As a sophomore I stood off-stage, nervously planning a house party – the first real house party that would be hosted by one of my friends – and was picked up early from fall drama rehearsal to go to it.

It was in this hallway that my best friend and I would gorge ourselves on the refreshments for the cast of the spring musical during intermission each year, strangely disoriented after a couple of hours reading music in the pit of an unlit auditorium. “Copa Cabana,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Into the Woods,” and “Meet Me in St. Louis;” these were the chapter titles for my life each spring. Making the mad dash to my car and racing to the nearest deli to get food between school and rehearsal was added to our routine in my junior year, along with skipping class to go to Dairy Queen and calling each other’s cell phones from different classrooms.

The second door to the left, string storage, was where my violin had lived and it was where I would sit on my instrument case and hang out and chat with a couple of friends, it was where I stored my candy for the First Ladies’ fundraiser the one year we had to raise money for competition; it was also where I stored most of my other belongings.  The first slot to the right of the divider in the center of the wooden instrument rack was mine, along with the red folder that once belonged to the girl who had given me private lessons and which I superstitiously believed would make me a better violinist since its two previous owners had been fantastic musicians whom I greatly admired.

To my right was the band room where I’d had guitar class with several boys who had meant so much and so very little all at once. The freshman who hit on me mercilessly and for the first time made me feel incredibly attractive, the boy from my graduating class who was so talented and who partnered up with me to get an easy A, I playing the melody and he playing the chords, and my friend from childhood whom I’d met by chance on the playground at age 6. This was the room where we’d had so many initial rehearsals that involved more laughter than music as we attempted to sight read and in my senior year it was where I zealously copied 300 pages of piano music so that I may transcribe and write the string parts since there were none, being watched by that boy who spent so much time practicing improve on his bass. Having almost no classes, we’d both become fixtures in that hallway during our final year.

The chorus room was where I’d spent the majority of my time, it was where my a capella rehearsals took place, it was where we watched The Crosbys, I’d had violin and voice lessons in this room, the orchestra occasionally rehearsed in there, and the choruses both did. This was the room that housed AP Music Theory, a class consisting of eight students and perpetual chaos.

This hallway, as I stood there staring into my past, had been my home. Walking up it singing “I’m a little acorn” with my best friend, vomiting in the bathroom nearby to get sent home early from school, sitting against the wall eating a Chipwich playing around with my cousin after school; this hallway was filled with ghosts. There were so many people who I’d known only in this hallway and so many people who I would never see again.

I inhaled deeply through my mouth and nodded to those infinite memories. With my yellow graduation cap in hand, I bounced my rear against the bar to release the latch and with a quick, awkward motion turned and walked out the door.

Mundane

It was 10 a.m. on Sunday February 20, 2011 and I woke up to see his face near mine; with his curly, dirty-blonde hair, that crease down his forehead and the mole on his left cheek which was already so familiar. I wriggled over until my nose was touching his face and kissed his cheek to wake him before I shifted my weight to my left and threw my leg over his hips so I was straddling him.

Wake up, I’m hungry,” I said.

He groaned, “I hate you.”

“No you don’t,” I replied.

“You can’t prove that,” he said.

I kissed him deeply and his hands came up to grasp the back of my head. I pulled away. “See.”

He pulled me back to him and we rolled so that we were side by side, facing each other.Large and small skillets

“I’m hungry,” I repeated.

He groaned again, “Alright, fine.”

Wearing a t-shirt and a pair of his old Frisbee shorts, I went out to the kitchen and started grinding some coffee. He joined me shortly wearing a pair of generic green mesh basketball shorts and opened the fridge asking me what I would eat in my omelet. He handed me a frying pan and while I heated it and melted some butter he began chopping the onions. I browned the onions while he chopped the peppers and added them to the pan. Standing in the kitchen in our pajamas, we worked in a simultaneous harmony that suggested this was a well-rehearsed routine. Dancing with each other in the 2 square foot space between the counter and the stove, it was just another mundane Sunday morning that should be repeated every Sunday for the rest of our lives.

Six days later, I said goodbye and with tears in his eyes and rolling down my cheeks, I would drive out of the parking lot for his building and drive the 1,800 mile journey back home.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

The time I spent with him is almost as fractured as my memory of what he looks like. The moments we shared, the moments we didn’t – they drip through my mind penetrating every surface, pooling in the dark hidden places I dare not explore. The time before is a blurry glowing mass of life before innocence was lost. There are so many nights while I lie in bed that my thoughts slip, tripping over the quiet dark of night and fall until they drown in those pools. This is when I remember the most. The feeling of complete exhaustion as my grandmother tucked me into the freshly made bed in my childhood bedroom after a long day in June filled with so much screaming, crying and pain. The numb horror which filled my core as I washed a blood clot down the shower drain with my big toe weeks earlier, wondering if that could have been my child. The claustrophobic panic that gripped me when I came home to find an empty dresser after I’d received an apocalyptic voicemail. If every person we meet teaches us something, he taught me what it feels like to be scolded by a bailiff to get off the floor in the lobby outside a courtroom when. He taught me that I have the kind of defensive reflexes you can only know you have once you’ve truly been afraid. He taught me how easy it is to allow someone to completely strip you of every sense of identity until you wake up one morning a pale shell with no memory of life.

The part that no one talks about is the horror of trying to remember who you were. That living like that is the easy part. It slips into your life one tiny sacrifice at a time. One unspoken sacrifice, one microscopic chip of self-esteem, until eventually there is nothing left for him to take. The friends who once cared have been ignored and mistreated for so long that they no longer have your phone number. The family who was concerned has been lied to in so many ways it seems impossible to even begin to tell them the truth. The things that once occupied your time have receded into oblivion and his needs, his whims, his thoughts and his manipulative logic are all that remains until he too is gone.

The truth is surviving is easy. Survival is instinct. Recovery is something entirely different.