Fighting a Ghost

The brutality didn’t begin right away. From what I understand about abusive relationships, it never does. There’s a method to an abuser’s madness. Handed down from generation to generation, I suspect, but it’s certainly not fucking rocket science. They do it unconsciously perhaps, or perhaps it’s with perfect intent.  Our arguments were intense. I always used logic and reason, and OG hated that. Hated that he seemed only relegated to force.

OG. Obviously not his name…so let’s just call him “Phil.”

Phil was a lanky sort. 6 foot even, with auburn hair, green/brown eyes and prominent nose. His skin color was quite ruddy, fairly typical of someone of Native American decent. Choctaw, I think, or was it Cherokee?  He seemed both proud of his heritage, yet repulsed by it.  There was a simmering rage there, but I was too naïve to think it anything but good ol’ fashioned Rock and Roll anarchy. Something of which I felt myself: Rebel through music and art! My idea of “sticking it to the man” was skipping school, running away from home, dating a man 14 years my senior and piercing my ears (twice). It was pretty far removed from the good girl cheerleader act, after all. Anytime I felt myself edging toward a place of no return however, with drugs or alcohol or sex, my instincts kicked in – and I would retreat.  It’s what made me both a friend and an enemy to my peers. I never got in trouble for anything, cause I never crossed that line – but I certainly watched others do it.  And if I liked you, I argued with you about it. And if I didn’t like you, I smiled and waved and watched with curiosity as you crossed your own line.

I think Phil was like that. He didn’t drink, but certainly watched others do so to excess. He talked about doing drugs, but I’d only ever seen him smoke a joint. His other vice was sex, obviously. He carried around this stack of European pornography. The gross stuff. The pissing and the shitting and weirdos of every shape and size and color, doing IT in the most awkward, nasty fashion. I looked at the magazines once or twice, and although I was completely disgusted, I believed him when he said they were collector’s items. I remember shrugging and shaking my head. I was fucking Nineteen. Remember that. I was thinking that this was my awakening to the real world, to sex, to growing up and breaking free from my family’s abuse – It didn’t occur to me that he was treating me disrespectfully. It didn’t occur to me that he was “grooming” me, or trying to.  It didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t fulfill every dream that I wanted to pursue.  And to be honest, I got a little thrill at surprising him, upsetting his preconceived ideas. I was smarter, stronger, and more willful than he expected. And I fucking loved that.

Phil had to choose wisely when it came to “fighting” – or trying to break me down.  It didn’t work to call me names, or disrespect me in public.  I would do it right back, only faster and more vehemently.  Not that I was all that patient, or controlled back then. But I did believe “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.” It became my motto.  It became a game.  If he treated me badly, I would find the most inopportune times to embarrass him while he was with his friends or colleagues, or I would ask “innocent” questions that I knew he couldn’t answer.  I couldn’t help it. If there was anything all that psychotherapy taught me in high school, it was that I really was worthy, that I had a brain – and could fight back.

Because you know, I thought I was in love.  And if you’re in love, you try and work things out, right? Nothing else matters. And he counted on that.  I mean, even after my mother found out that her husband had been getting drunk and sneaking down to my room at night, she still stayed.  Even after she found out his little brother had been sexually abusing me since I was eight, she still stayed.  For ten years after I had turned in my step-father, she stayed – and made everyone’s life miserable.   Including mine.

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