Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Red Flags, Cont. The Note



Yesterday, I began a story, Red Flags. It's a true account of something that happened to me decades ago, but always comes to mind when I hear in the news of a stalking, or violence, or physical and psychological intimidation of a woman.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This past Sunday, only 40 minutes from my home, a man shot and killed his wife, and two other women. His gunfire then wounded four others. By the time his shooting spree was over, seven women in all were shot, three dead.

He shot SEVEN women in all. 

His wife had just filed a restraining order and divorce papers against him. He claimed he loved her so much he couldn't live without her. 

Stories like these are terrifying. I hear women say, "but that would never happen to me. I'm too smart." They think they'd know better than to be involved with someone like that. Their thoughts are that they'd pick up on warning behaviors and would know to stay away from that kind of person. They question why someone would become involved with someone violent.

But the thing is this, you can't control another person's actions. Even if you don't get involved with a person like that, even if you have no relationship with a person like that, it doesn't guarantee that they won't become obsessive and possessive about you.  

Even if you've never spoken a word to them in your life.

*TRIGGER ALERT*

***


Red Flags, Part II

Just as I knew they would be, my two brothers stood waiting and watching for me outside of the school building. I moved in between the both of them and we crossed the street, walking to our house at the end of the block. We took our steps in silence, they were performing the duty of keeping watch over their sister, and I was lost in my thoughts of all that had happened to me in the last few minutes of class tonight.

Though the note that was tossed on my desk at 8:45  landed with only a scratching sound, it felt like a dynamite explosion in my world. I wasn't the type of girl to get notes from boys. I was as far away from anyone who would especially get notes from a ring leader of a group of street boys.

These guys weren't my world. They were nothing I'd ever be attracted to or interested in. I had decided to live a quiet life on purpose. When I was six-years-old, my father killed himself and since that day, I did everything to keep myself safe, because I never wanted anything bad to happen to me again.

I didn't want this boy talking to me.

Though his attention fed me in a way that only a teen-age girl can understand, I still wanted to--and planned to--stay far away. But even with my mind made up to never speak to him, the moments until I was home and alone and able to undo the folds in his note and read what he said to me, felt as if they'd never come. As we walked home, I held onto the blue strap of my purse, thinking of how no one knew the enormity of what it carried inside. I thought of all the possibilities of what he could say to me. Would he tell me I was pretty? Did he remember my name? Would he ask me out? I wasn't allowed to date--and my mother would never let me be with someone like him. Would he get mad if I said no and never write me again?

My brothers and I were only two houses away from ours when we saw our mother's shadow waiting in the back door. Spotting the three of us, she waved and shouted, "Good! You are home! I begin to worry!"

"No, mami, we are fine. Sometimes we get out later," I assured her. She held the door open and told me again, how she didn't like that I had to be out late at night. My brothers left to go finish watching their show, and after I stayed in the kitchen answering my mother's questions about what we learned that night, I went to my room and closed the door.  

Finally alone, I sat down on my bed. I felt my heart pounding. I felt scared, and yet I couldn't wait to read the note from him.  With my purse on my lap, I held open the top flap and stared inside. I looked at the crumpled torn-out piece of paper on the bottom and the pretty blue lines that ran across it.

I pulled out his small note, and thought about how odd it was that he had folded it over and over, rather than just in a quick half, or even quarters. It was if he was talking himself into giving it to me with every crease he made. I began to undo the wadded paper and I saw his writing in dark blue ink. It surprised me at how deliberately neat it was. I had expected hurried, impulsive letter scrawls--but this was more like a studied exercise. The careful letters were so opposite of the jagged, torn out angle of the paper that they were written on.

As I began reading his message, a slow realization of what I was reading came over me. With shaking hands, I crumpled the paper back up and shoved it to the bottom of my purse. I felt on high alert, threatened, unsafe, and at risk. I knew I could never return to class. My palms were sweaty and my scalp tingled. I scolded myself for dressing so pretty. Why did he think I would do those things, or even know how?

I worried that he had followed us home. I knew I had to tear his note up, destroy it, and pray that no one in my house would ever see it. My heart was in my throat, and I wondered how I could rip the paper up in pieces small enough so that it would disappear. I could tear up the paper--no, I could get it wet and flush it down the toilet. But what if the pieces floated back up? My mother would know then that I had something I needed to hide. I couldn't burn it. I could rip it into shreds and put it back at the bottom of my purse and throw it out at school tomorrow.

I was furious with myself for the care I had taken with his note.

As I began ripping up the paper, the physical force that it took to tear it into as many small pieces as I could, surprised me. Holding the scraps in my hand, I got it wet with my spit, and rolled it up into a small ball. I put it at the bottom of my purse. I lay in bed that night, unable to fall asleep, the thought of what was only a few feet away from me, keeping me awake. I hated the thought that his depravity was in there with me.

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I had never said a word to him -- not even seen his eyes -- but already he made me feel helpless, and like I was being dragged into a world I wanted nothing to do with.

***


Tomorrow: Part III, What Happens at School





39 comments:

  1. Gripping and well-written. This happened to me recently. I identified with the awkwardness.

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  2. You are freaking me out! I need to know what happens next!

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I'm so sorry you removed your comment, NKE. I thought it was so compassionate.

      And full of knowing.

      Delete
  4. Can't wait to read part 3! On pins and needles...

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  5. the stress and fear are palpable.

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  6. I will be waiting to read but I'm nervous, too!

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  7. I left a man in San Francisco who was very possessive. I moved to Paris, France, 6,000 miles away. One day a friend of mine called me from San Francisco. He said he had someone I knew with him and this person wanted to talk to me. It was the guy I left. As I talked to him on the phone I mentioned I was dating a French boy (I was) and was never coming back to the States. (I did eventually) When I hung up I was so freaked out that he'd tracked me down at my mom's.

    I never heard from him or saw him again. Stalking can happen to anyone. So can violence.

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    1. Suzy, you know it. This is what I want to shout to the world: don't blame the women involved.

      A person who stalks decides to stalk, and to say that it's the victim's fault for being with someone like that ... so wrong, it can happen to anyone.

      Thank you for your story.

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  8. Oh girl, thinking of your adolescent self with so much love and sending hugs to both of you. Anticipating Part III. xo

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    1. Thanks so much, Kristen.

      When I read of someone involved in violence, through no fault of their own, and I hear criticism as if they could have controlled it, I just go crazy with that perception.

      It can happen to anyone.

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  9. This is wonderful. I am looking forward to following your story. I was in an abusive relationship before I met and married my husband. So this hits home to me.

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  10. This is really not where I thought the story was headed...to something bad. Thank you for always keeping us aware and thinking. Anxious for the next part...

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    1. I know.

      I don't like thinking about it, either.

      It puts me back there, but we can't be silent about some things. Especially when I hear someone blame the victim of stalking, or the very worst: the victim of violence.

      We don't choose this, it's the ones who choose to hurt that do the choosing.

      Thanks, Andrea.

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  11. ugh....a hard reality and i can only imagine what was on the note...and i hope you find freedom from that fear he has put on you...

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  12. Replies
    1. I don't know why, but your comment made me laugh.

      Maybe the honesty and efficiency of the words?

      Either way, thank you.

      My goal, to make everyone think before they blame.

      Thank you.

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  13. Wow, Alexandra...

    You really took that adolescent moment, perhaps one we so quickly and willingly wanted to dismiss as soon as we possibly could, and brought it back to life...so much so that I felt like I was there with you in your bedroom. And my heart just jumped out. I'm sorry this memory and experience have to be a part of you. It also brought me back to a Friday night in high school when the jealous ex-boyfriend of a friend of mine followed us around all night. Ugh...I'm only glad that is 25 years behind me now.

    Can't wait to read again tomorrow!

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  14. I know that feeling - excitement but in the end, complete revulsion.

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    1. Right?

      The thrill of someone noticing you, and then backhanded by the circumstance of that very one.

      Hope you're doing better!!

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  15. Damn him. And damn whoever taught him to treat women like that. Damn that early introduction to misogyny.

    So sorry, sweetie. What a terrible way to have fear sneak into your home.

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    1. Oh, sweet thing.

      But if we don't encourage a dialogue then the loudest ones, the ones who say it's the victim's fault: for being noticed, for dressing this way, for acting this way, for choosing that person--then they win.

      We have to tell our stories--it's what saves us all.

      xo

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  16. please tell me you are going to tell us what he wrote eventually.

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    1. No. I'm still afraid of him.

      The story will unfold here--there's so many parts to it.

      It takes me back to a very scary time, but maybe it'll change how people are so quick to know what they'd do.

      We never know what we'll do, because we think if we don't invite something, then it won't find us.

      Hmmm.

      Delete
  17. Alexandra,

    Your writing has really grown over the past couple of years. I think this might be the best thing I've read from you. I look forward to Part 3.

    KiKi

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    1. Kiki, oh Kiki: It's been so long since I've seen you.

      This compliment is such praise to me, I admire your writing and think of how your words take me into your world.

      You are the queen of opening doors to your life and making me feel as if I were there with you.

      Thank you so very much.

      Tell me what you've been up to. I hope it's writing .. and lots of it.

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  18. Alexandra, YOU'RE JUST PLAIN MEAN, do you know that? Dragging this out, making us wait. Do you torture small animals, too?

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    1. Oh, I'm so sorry -- I know it must seem like I'm stretching it out.

      But so much happened in that time. And all of it important.

      What I hope is that people stop and think before they hear of a domestic abuse situation and say, "that's their fault. Why were they with a person like that."

      Thanks for your patience. In the end, I hope to maybe make a change to someone's thinking.

      Delete
  19. This is something we all need to hear about. Unless a person experiences it....there is a tendency to overlook things, to brush them aside. This is real. It is happening to real people and we need to be concerned. I can't imagine anyone thinking the abused asked for it or deserved it. That is just a very ignorant and judgemental person. BTW, I have some patience now. Take your time.

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  20. My palms are sweating, my heart pounds. Your talent sweeping me into a world I want to rush into and rescue...and avoid in the same moment.

    I pray your heart and your message are clear and gripping, passed on...

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  21. I wish you didn't have this story to tell, although you tell it beautifully. Gripping. And chilling. xo

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  22. OMG, Alexandra, your story has me on the edge of my seat...

    Lovely storytelling with an undercurrent of menace. Looking forward to part three!

    XOXO

    A.

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  23. This is an excellent personal essay. As someone who was harassed by boys all through high school I understand how horrible it makes you feel. You did a great job at describing it.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Lovely.

      Those days, we never forget them ...

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  24. Oh no. My heart sank - I expected it to be nice. I'll be back tomorrow.

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