If I were to be honest, I think my husband would’ve been happier with a mail order bride, especially if he could’ve found a blonde-haired, blue-eyed one who stood six feet tall. If he had, my life would have turned out very differently. I wouldn’t have lived in a little piss-ant town, if you can even call it that, filled with trailers that should be condemned. I wouldn’t have loathed myself, abused myself. If I hadn’t met my husband, I wouldn’t have sunk so low my toes grazed rock bottom. Looking back—how I treated my body—it’s as if Mother Nature blessed me with a Rolls Royce and I locked in the hubs and took it four-wheeling.
Anyway, back to my marriage. Although my husband wasn’t physically abusive, he was verbally abusive, emotionally unavailable, and downright mean. His favorite past-time was to belittle me to others—friends, co-workers, or total strangers. Whoever would listen. His most common complaint was my cooking. As if a woman’s worth was found only in the kitchen.
“Bitch could burn water,” he was known to mutter after describing something I had made. “Like burnt-mush-goo,” he would snicker.
I never learned to cook, my mom never taught me; her mom never taught her. The bedroom was the place to keep your man, or at least that’s what I was told. In retrospect, I’m not sure I ever really loved my husband. Desperation to get out of a bad situation landed me here and now that I think of it, staying with my dad and his obnoxious wife probably was better than feeling like a second-rate hooker.
As the old saying goes, I was ‘young and dumb.’ My husband was only twenty months younger than my father, and twenty years older than me. Some people may say I had daddy issues, who am I to argue? As much as I hate to admit it, Leonard treated me more like a daughter than a wife. Perhaps he had daddy issues too.
I looked down the hall of my single-wide trailer, past the tacky wood paneled walls, and stared at the mullet draping over the top of an over-stuffed Lazy Boy recliner, his hairy hand holding the remote control. My mind reeled backwards to when we met, how we ended up together. Him, his wife, and their dark-eyed daughter were my neighbors at the little trailer village that became my home when I took a job at Pipe Spring National Park in Arizona. Their daughter, Christy, was a sweet little thing, polite and pretty. His wife was spicy in both her looks and attitude.
One afternoon, Leonard had shown up at my door with a fifth of Captain Morgan’s rum and a couple cans of Coke. I should have noticed the alcohol to soda ratio was way off. We drank, I smoked a little weed, we drank some more. Once buzzed we ended up on the couch. MTV’s Beavis and Butthead was playing in the background for five minutes and then commercials for ten. During one ad break, he turned to me and kissed me. He jammed his hand between my legs hard and pulled them apart. “You’re wet,” he huffed.
“You’re married,” I replied. It was my only hesitation before our clothes came off.
Beavis was laughing that stupid guffaw of his as Leonard pushed inside me, grunting and groaning. All I remember thinking is his back is hairy, the rest was a rum-induced blur until he pulled out of me and grabbed me by my hair, trying to force his penis in my mouth. I clamped my lips shut as he came all over my face.
“I respect a woman that can take a good face shot,” he laughed as he put his clothes back on. As he walked out my door he took a slug from the quarter-full rum bottle. “Thanks, Dee,” he said as he disappeared through the front door.
Later that night, there was someone beating on my door. Loud and angry, like a cop knock, one that jolts a person and leaves them startled out of their skin. I could see through the cracks in the curtains that it was Leonard’s wife. Quickly, I locked the door.
“You fucking tramp!” she screamed, still pounding on the door. I moved to the far side of the window to get a better view.
Leonard strode up behind her, “I told you I was trading you in for a younger, sexier model.”
“You bastard!” she screamed, and it was then that I noticed she was wielding a wooden baseball bat. “You made me abort my baby! You said we could fix things!” Mascara was streaming down her face, making it look masked and ugly.
My eyes flickered to their trailer, only twelve or so feet from mine. I could see their daughter watching ring-side like I was.
“You said you forgave me—that we could start over,” her rage was ebbing.
“Fix things?” he hissed, “Kind of hard to fix things when IT WASN’T EVEN MY BABY! That’s beyond fixable. You’re a lying, cheating cunt! We’re done.”
“But you said you still loved me,” she sobbed.
“I lied.” Now his face had contorted to ugliness too. “Payback’s a bitch,” he spat at her feet and stormed back to his front door. Their brown-eyed daughter’s head disappeared from the window. I pictured her darting down the hallway, identical to my trailer, to hide in her room. Leonard jerked the door open, then slammed it as the bat flew end over end, landing several feet short with a dull clatter.
“I hate you!” she bellowed towards their house. She turned towards my front door, “I hate you too!” Her fists pounded on the door and I retreated to my room. Nervous energy caused me to lock that door too.
The next day, a U-haul appeared hooked to the back of her little Honda. Even though Leonard and I have been married for eighteen months, I never saw either of them again.
My mind returned to the present, the eve of my freedom. As I glared at his hand, a realization came over me. If I were deranged, I could walk into the bedroom, grab one of the dozen guns he collected, and shoot him in the back of the head. All the odds were in my favor. At such close range, I would have hit him no matter how bad of a marksman I was, and I’d get off on self-defense since he was known for his temper around town. But I didn’t. Instead, I channeled that energy into planning the last few details of my escape. Breathing slowly, I reminded myself that everything was ready.
Within a matter of days, I’d report to my new job at a call center in Northern Utah, five hundred miles from where I lived. When I’d given my two-week’s notice to my current supervisor, I’d made it clear that my departure needed to stay confidential. Thankfully, she had been cool about it. She knew the story of Jackie’s infidelity. Nobody had blamed me for their divorce. Everyone knew how Leonard and I had become a couple, there were only around a hundred-people living in our tiny trailer village. Everyone’s business was just that, everyone’s business.
For housing I had found a woman—a single mama with a boy and a girl—who desperately needed a temporary roommate. Although I hadn’t seen the house, it had five bedrooms! I’d have my own room and bathroom and would share the common spaces and everything else. The price had been right and she didn’t want a huge deposit. It was doable, unlike the situation with my husband.
Throughout our short-lived marriage, he had insisted on controlling everything from what I wore to when I worked, when I went to bed, when I got up, and what I ate. He also took my money. My check was getting directly deposited into a joint account from which he paid the bills. He would give me fifty dollars a week as an allowance, like I was his kid instead of his wife. God, I hated him. Little did he know that, for the past year, I’d hidden most of what I’d made. I’d created a tiny nest-egg to get a new life started and had slowly packed my belongings into four cardboard boxes, putting them into the back of a car. I did it little by little so he wouldn’t notice. First my keepsakes, then my clothes. I didn’t have much. Finally, the plan had come together...for the most part
The one hiccup in my escape plan was that my car hadn’t run in a year and even though my husband was a mechanic, he hadn’t even popped the hood to look at it. Lazy fuck. Since we lived in a campground and I worked at a visitor’s center close by, he had told me to walk or bike to work, suggesting it would do wonders for my backside. What an asshole! I was twenty-three and a size eight. How much work could my backside need?
Since hitchhiking out of here wasn’t an option, I had to find a solution. After convincing a friend of mine to look at my car, he informed me that the battery was the problem, so he tried jumping it, and that worked, only for it to not start again on the next try. But, on the bright side of things, at least I knew that it ran.
I left the cream-colored wedding dress hanging in the closet. Leonard had insisted that was what I wear when we exchanged our vows at the Justice of the Peace. It was short and borderline slutty looking, not really a wedding dress at all. He wouldn’t let me wear heels either and told me how I was to wear my hair. There was no talk of whether or not I was going to change my name, it was assumed. The biggest red-flag I ignored was that he insisted on the traditional ‘obey’ in my vows.
To this day my stomach turns whenever I think of how he had stripped me of the last bit of my youth, as if his sole purpose had been to pluck me from my formative years and make me old, cynical, and cold. I was freaked out about uprooting my life, especially since it could be another ‘from the frying pan into the fire’ situation, but I knew I couldn’t take one more day of this loveless, sexless marriage. I refused to be his doormat or pissing post any longer.
Tomorrow, come hell or high water, I was outta there.