Dancing with Earthquakes
VARIOUS—When you are being asked this question, you usually are the victim of a domestic abuse relationship. When you begin to realize that the question is rhetorical, the person who is asking it is likely to become the victim of a violent and brutal assault himself. But, before you grab your blow torch, take heart. It is obvious that he is not familiar with the tangles and dynamics of such situations, let alone has experienced them himself.
Besides that, when it comes to putting up with such situations, it is difficult to give a clear-cut reason for doing so. There are many, many, factors that may keep us from climbing out of the bowl once we become trapped at the bottom. Among them are places with names like “Angels of Freedom” that continuously claim to have no additional space. What are they called? Oh. Domestic violence shelters. There is also the fact that you were foolish enough not to wear your telepathic sensors on the day you met him (You usually find them in your car dashboard later). And never mind all the goofy excuses such as the fact that you have no job skills, no housing, no social support other than your batterer, or that the majority of victims are stalked and killed by their batterers if they do leave. We’ve heard it all, so unless you come up with something more lame, (especially that really good one, “Oh, he was so sweet and charming when I first met him,”) then there is no way we will take you seriously.
Besides, do you really think we’ll believe that this loser walked hand-in-hand with you along the shore at the Santa Monica beach, wining and dining you in the fanciest of restaurants in Beverly Hills, taking you on motorcycle rides along the beachside cliffs at Pacific Palisades? Even if he was such a fantasy come alive, you’re the one who still allowed your schoolgirl infatuation to blind you to all these subtle red flags, right? And besides, didn’t he have a point? Certainly you COULD have thought to use a Tic Tac on the first date. And you HAVE embarrassed yourself for the past two weeks wearing those old bobo shoes. And check out that hair! Could you be more eighties?
So quite frankly, you need to lighten up. After all, that is what he constantly tells you, and even some of your self-righteous friends are starting to agree. After all, an obvious oddball like you is lucky to have landed such a selfless do-gooder such as him. In fact, he treats strangers so much better than he treats you. The fact that you are so singled out in his relentless criticism proves that there really must be something wrong with you.
Further, the declarations of your obvious singular psychosis is a widely respected opinion of those who know him well, including all his family members, and especially, for some undefinable reason, his mother.
So it is only as a final resort that you turn to his nicest, most reasonable, and most non-judgmental of buddies.
“No can do,” the police officers tell you. “You were stupid enough to let him move in with you, so, sorry, we can’t kick him out.”
“I’m telling you!” you wail, “this guy does not bring in any income. He just sits around the house playing video games all day.”
“Well, you knew that when you first met him, didn’t you?”
“Okay, maybe I did forget to take my anti-hallucinogens on that day, but now that he is here, and now that I know how he is---”
“---then you have no one else to blame but yourself,” they finish, then high-five, cackling self-righteously.
Being that this is the feedback you receive from everyone, for once you decide to be a good sport and go along with it, good-naturedly chuckling, slapping your knees, until they look disturbed and stop, and you then say, “Okay, quite hilarious, but listen. I just discovered that he isn’t going to star as Tygra in that upcoming ThunderCats movie like he claimed he would---I mean, I kind of had my suspicions, being that he is kinda short and fat and ugly for the role---but now that he is living off my income, and refuses to move out, I really would like to see you gentlemen KICK him out. You know, like sorta…do your job?”
The two officers sigh heavily and shake their heads. “Look, he isn’t beating you up, so why don’t you just be grateful that anyone is even paying attention to you, see ya.” They tip their hats and walk towards the police cruiser.
“Wait!” you insist, unbuttoning your blouse. “I got bruises right here! See? Look!”
The two officers stop, staring at you, then at each other. They look deeply concerned, as if they have finally reached a moment of epiphany. They look as if they feel they really SHOULD do something about this.
So they arrest you for indecent exposure that night, and when you return home, you see your new beau has apparently seen your place as worthy for a wild house party. So, apparently, have the two officers, who are high-fiving and chuckling and dancing with him. They see you, go flared-eyed, then put on their serious faces as they tell their old buddy, “Anyway…the neighbors are telling you you’re playing your music too loud, so keep it down!” They pointedly wink at him and give him the go-along-with-it point of the eyes, as they grin sheepishly at you and leave.
As soon as you walk in your place, your gentleman caller, who seems to have forgotten altogether that you were in a relationship with each other, is going into your room, evidently transferred into a game room, complete with a pool table, Arcade games, and scantily-clad women. You are sure he drained your bank account of all your life savings to pay for all three.
“Well,” you mutter. “Apparently there is nothing I can do, being that it’s my fault for trusting him. So I might as well make the best of it.” So you go into the kitchen to grab something to eat from the refrigerator, in which there appears to be nothing besides beer. Well, it’s sustenance, and besides, it might make you relax a bit, so you grab a can and pull up the tab. PSSSSSSSSST! it says.
The music stops.
Everyone goes silent, staring at you.
“Who is this tool?” someone asks your cavalier.
He shrugs, hugging one of his female admirers. “Somebody from the neighborhood.”
For the next few seconds, “I must love this, that’s why I deserve this!” is the new mantra you utter. Others, including your best friend, have encouraged you to use it in a shaky situation. It turns out to be very life-affirming, since nothing beats crashing through the window and flying through the air and out into the front yard of your own home, where you huddle on the doorstep, watching helplessly as your house is slowly torn to the ground by all these exciting and amazing new people. AFTER they had all stripped you down to your underwear. (Your sweet party host had initiated the order.)
“We’re practicing for a play,” you explain, as basketballs drop at the same time as the mouths of the kids who were holding them. So do the knives and guns of the gangbangers who were getting ready to start a brawl right in front of your house. You grin, showing your pleasure at having given them a reason to stop fighting. Being that this is the City of Angels, it really can be lived up to its name, they seem to think.
“Well, anyway, nice chatting with you,” one of the gang members in red says.
“Thanks,” you say, “same here---“
“You look good in red, by the way,” the gangbanger continues, ignoring you entirely.
“Oh, thanks,” his rival says, looking down at his jersey. “I got it at Foot Locker, they’re having a sale right now. You know, they have blue sneakers just like the ones you’re wearing, too!”
“Hey, we should check it out.”
So all the gangbangers walk away with all their arms intertwined around each others shoulders, dropping their bandannas, pulling the visors of their caps from sideways to front, looking back at you and rolling their eyes (several of them high-fiving with a few by-standing police officers). Meanwhile, a few kids ride by on their bikes.
“Need some clothes?” one of them asks you.
“Why, sure,” you say, “that would be nice...”
“Then put some on!” He throws a water balloon at you, and rides away.
In a minute, he rides by and says, “So, sorry, ma’am. I never shoulda threw that water balloon at you. Would you like a blanket?”
“Why, certainly, I would most appreciate---”
“Then go get one!” He hurls a maple syrup balloon at you, and rides away, chuckling self-approvingly.
One hour later, and fifty degrees lower, the child comes back, looking deeply remorseful, and says, “You know, I thought about it, and that was really mean of me. I never shoulda threw that water balloon and maple syrup balloon at you. Besides that, you must be hungry. Would you like somethin’ to eat?”
“Then go back to the L.A. Zoo!” He hurls a fistful of peanuts at you. An elderly lady laughs on her porch swing across the street. So do the cops and gangbangers, who have returned from their shopping spree at Foot Locker. A few news reporters ride by and snap pictures of you from their vehicles, and when it starts raining in a sudden and expected June storm with all your house guests and even a gaggle of stray dogs and cats stopping in their own gang rumble to point and laugh at you, you pull off a rat gnawing at your ear and say, “Okay, this means war. I am going to stand up for myself, ONCE AND FOR ALL!!!”
So the next morning, you beg, “Please let me back in!” crying on your knees to your knight in shining white armor, just minutes after everyone has left. (Mostly everyone.)
“Only if you call yourself a doody-dum-ding-a-ling ten times,” he says, handing one of his female flames your cutest outfit before she sticks her tongue out at you.
“This is uncalled for,” you say, “this is my house…”
“Not anymore, LOSER!” he shouts, throwing more peanuts at you through the window, which sends his girlfriend into hysterics. “Now say it, if you want a place to stay for the night.”
“Okay, okay, okay, I’m a doody-dum-dum-ding-a-ling, I’m a doody-dum-ding-a-ling---” you mutter, getting tongue-twisted at the first one hundred or so rounds, so that he and his trophy queen slap their knees and roll on the floor.
The entire while, the elderly lady across the street talks to a new set of journalists and points at you. The reporters snap more pictures in the middle of your groveling. A rolled up newspaper hits you in the head, and as the paper boy rides by laughing, you read the front page headline: “Loser Causes Man to Improve Condition of L.A. Community.” Your suitor seems to relish his new fame, and admiration.
“Now give me the key to the house,” he says when you finally get it right.
“Come on, now, this is idiotic,” you say. “You promised---”
“Naw, I didn’t. I just wanted to have something that me and my buddies could laugh at later,” he says, holding up your Camcorder, his Beloved sniggering on his arm. “Now hand over the key!”
“All right. But you promise you’ll let me in?” you ask.
“Scout’s honor,” he says, holding his hand up.
So he holds open the door for you. “Thanks,” you say, as you hand him the key. “You are so generous, letting me back in my own house like this, after having me stay out all night half-naked with dogs peeing on me and...”
“I never was a boy scout! Ha!” He shoves you outside, and slams the door back in your face, nearly suffocating from laughter as he continues to record you on your Camcorder. His honey jumps up and down on your sofa, pointing at you and laughing, swinging around your dress from Forever 21. Further, a snowball that someone who had probably moved to L.A. from Wisconsin, (or better yet, Alaska), had had the foresight to save by keeping it in their freezer until June and bringing it here, throws it at you from behind.
You feel the sheer cold of it dripping down your bare back in little icy trickles as you hear laughter and skateboard wheels thumping over sidewalk cracks from behind. You whirl around, red as a fire engine, expecting to see little kids riding them, but the skateboard crew appears to be adults, some of them middle-aged, as one of them points at you, giggles, and hurls another snowball at you. (Another camera flashes from the bushes.)
So what it boils down to is, you sleep in your car that night, (in which it turns out he had not only taken a few joy rides already, but has engaged in other activity that requires plenty of deodorant spraying, cleaning, and puking---on your part). But after you steal a few of your still amused elderly neighbor’s clothes from her clothesline, (“They should throw away the key on fruitcakes like you!” she shouts at you,) you call your bank and change the pin number on your ATM card.
As a result, your squire’s former party guests seem to slowly lose interest in him, and your house, and he recognizes that checks require an endorsement and I.D. check, neither of which he is able to come up with. Your I.D. picture does turn out not to look like him, (thank goodness) and even the fact that he has decided to disguise himself as you by wearing some of your jelly shoes and baby doll Tee’s doesn’t quite cut it with the bank people, (thank heavens for that, too). He cries quite profusely when they do not honor the checks written in your name. And he sheds a flood of tears when he begs for your forgiveness, mercy, (and money).
“Definitely!” you shout, as you walk back in your ravaged house, which evidently has been ransacked bare by the party poopers. “Why don’t you stay here for…oh, another twenty minutes.” You put on your clothes, which evidently had been worn and unwashed a hundred times over. “That should be enough time for you to locate employment, and solid housing in oh, say, in the L.A. Mission.” You disrobe the remaining of your now unusable clothing and put on a potato sack. “Meanwhile, I have one final task.”
“What? To call your attorney?”
“That. And one more thing.”
So you go across the street to the elderly lady whose clothing you had stolen. “These are actually the most stylish things I’ve worn all week,” you tell her, handing her clothing back to her. “I’ll pay whatever I owe you. Sorry to take them, I was just really desperate. And…kinda ticked off at your making fun of me…you know.”
She waves dismissively. “Keep ’em, I pulled ’em off a dead body. By the way, you pregnant by him?”
“Pregnant? By who?”
“Better get that checked,” she says. She slams the door, and you hear her low chortle rise into a clamorous guffaw.
“Get an abortion,” your sweet baby’s father says, cleaning out your refrigerator, after you show him the results of the home pregnancy test.
“I…was kinda hoping you would say something like, ‘Okay, if it’s mine, I’ll take care of it.’ You know…considering I was sort of…nice enough to let you stay here after everything you did to me..."
“Never expect a favor for a favor.” He wipes out the remainder of the fridge, which happened to be the food you had intended to use for yourself and your unborn child.
He burps in your face and settles in front of the TV to play the X-Box and settle with his fiancé, with whom he shares your few remaining provisions. “So,” he says, patting her hump, “What are we havin’?”
You could swear you feel the little one in you kicking you and saying, “Are you gonna let this continue?” So it is for him---or her---that you step up your efforts.
“Try this,” the kid whispers. You lean your ear as closely to your tummy as possible to listen. The more you listen, the more your face beams.
"Tell me more," you whisper back.
So at the direction of your little tadpole, you stuff all the closets and cabinets and the always empty refrigerator with all types of newspapers, magazines, movie star photos with forged autographs.
“I was in Hollywood Hills last week,” you explain to him later, “and I got to see Drew Barrymore!”
“Yeah, but, why would she even talk to...”
“And YOU---!” you shout, pointing a shaking finger at his new sweetheart, “You stole my husband from me! You slept with my beloved Russell Crowe!” You start for her, fists flying, and her hero pulls her away from you protectively.
“Uh, baby, I think we should stay in a hotel tonight,” he tells her, as you jump around like Rumplestiltskin, eyes crossed, tongue wagging, pouring a bottle of beer on yourself, slobbering and laughing like a mad scientist.
“I think you should let ME drive this time,” his darling says, grabbing the keys to the car and going outside.
“Wait! Babe, there’s somethin’ you gotta know!” he calls after her, as she goes in your car. “That car has a LOOOOOOOOOOJAAAAAAAAAACK!” he shouts as she screeches off.
So when he comes back the next day, covered with bruises and fingernail markings, he brushes the dog hanging to his butt by its jaws and fits the key into your door lock. “What did you do, change the lock?” he demands.
You kick back on the easy chair, hands folded behind your head, listening to the colorful new language pour forth, as he continues to beat the door down, (“Can I at least have back my clothes?” he asks, dressed in his own potato sack), as you use one of his shirts to clean the fridge for real, (now filled with enough food to nourish both you and your little munchkin,) and at the sound of a siren, you peer through the curtains and see a new set of cops arrive. One of them happens to be a female.
As he is handcuffed and taken away, you drop on the sofa, toss your new key in the air, catch it, and kiss it. You’ve reclaimed your home, your life, and your dignity, and you know that having given up the latter is something you will never again give to anyone. As your little one ∑ congratulates you by doing a back flip, you believe this is the only part in which you take real responsibility.
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