I remember it like it was yesterday, even though I don’t want to remember it at all.
He had called to ask me to come over. I was at a mutual friend’s house right down the street. I wasn’t interested in going over there. I was having a nice time where I was. But he sounded so sweet. He said he needed to talk to me. I was the only person he could talk to. Could I please come as soon as possible?
I shoved my wet bathing suit into a plastic bag and gathered the rest of my things. I hugged my friend goodbye. We made plans to spend another day on the beach together tomorrow. I was happy there.
I slid my flip flops on and pointed my nose in the direction of his bungalow down the beach. I started walking. It was only a few blocks. The sun was just starting to set for the evening. I squinted at the blaze of beauty and smiled into it.
I stomped up his steps. His front door was open and I could see him through the screen door, sitting in a chair across the room. He had been watching me walk up. He waved for me to come inside.
I guess I should have suspected something as I walked into the bungalow, when he quickly got out of his chair and closed the front door, but I didn’t. He had asked for my help. I was there to try to help him.
I had my back to him. I was walking over to sit on the sofa.
I never made it there.
I felt him grab my hair. I remember that it felt like he had set the back of head on fire because it burned. He jerked my head backwards and turned me around. My bag fell to the floor. It was like time stood still. I locked eyes with his. Confusion was all I could muster. I wanted him to let go of my hair, but I couldn’t speak once I saw his face.
His face was full of rage. His teeth were bared and his eyes were wild. He wasn’t going to let go of my hair. He yanked me towards him. I tripped on my flip flops. I put my hands over his to try to reduce some of the hold he had on me. Tears were running down my face. Then he swung me around and planted my face in the wall.
I remember hearing the skin burst over my eye. Just below my eyebrow. I still have a tiny scar there. I remember seeing the blood splotch on the wall as he yanked my head back again. All I could do was pray he wouldn’t keep smashing my face into the wall. I was dizzy. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to pass out.
I let go of his hands and slumped. He held fast to my long hair.
In my mind I was reciting “don’tpassoutdon’tpassoutdon’tpassout” I forced my eyes open. My own blood was dripping into one eye. I took a deep breath to steady myself. He let go of my hair and I crumpled on the floor at his feet.
That’s when I saw the gun.
I had never seen a gun up close like this before. It was small and silver and looked like the guns I had seen in western movies. And here it was right in front of my face. He was holding it in his other hand. And it was pointed at my nose.
“Get up” he said. I was woozy and wobbly, but I managed to raise myself to a standing position. I wanted to grab his leg for support on the way up, but the gun pointed at me made me think I should probably not touch him, so I didn’t.
He motioned for me to sit on the sofa. I started to sob and hyperventilate a little. What was happening here? He was supposed to be my friend! I flopped on the sofa and touched the bloody cut on the head. He bent down and dumped the contents of my beach bag on the floor and started going through it with his free hand.
I sat there and cried. And bled. And trembled.
A whispered croak made it past my throat and into the room “Why are you doing this, Marty?” He picked the bag up and threw it across the room at me. I cringed and cried out. He grabbed the chair he had been sitting in and dragged it in front of me. Turning it backwards he sat down and leveled the gun barrel at my face.
“Lean forward.” Lean forward? Why did he want me to lean forward? I froze. “LEAN FORWARD!” he yelled and so I leaned forward. With his arms resting on the back of the chair and the gun leveled at my face, he could press the end of the barrel against my forehead with no effort. And that’s just what he did.
He pressed it really hard for a few seconds and it slipped in the perspiration and blood on my face. This made me gasp. Could he shoot me by accident? I kept my eyes on the floor. I didn’t want to look right at him. I was too afraid of provoking him.
Never having been around guns or hunters my entire life, I had no idea what damage a gun could do. My brothers were in the military, but guns were never allowed in our home. I didn’t know what a gun barrel pressed to my forehead could mean, or how easily he could have shot me, or if I would have died from it. I just didn’t know.
I sat as still as I could. My head was pounding, but the bleeding had stopped. We sat there like that for a very long time. I tried to cry as softly as I could.
Then he started talking.
“You bitch. You rotten, lousy bitch. You just had to be like every other rotten, lousy bitch in the world, didn’t you?”
I sniffed. I wanted to wipe my face. I wanted to move, but every muscle in my body shouted for me to remain still.
“You know what you did.” He took the gun and smacked the side of my face lightly. It was cold and I jumped a little. “Look at me!” I slowly raised my eyes to look at his face. He was crying too. “Do you think I like doing this to you?”
I had dated Marty once or twice. He had a quick temper and it could flare at the least provocation. But I had never seen this side of him. After more than one tantrum I just didn’t want to deal with it, so I asked him if we could be friends instead. I thought that’s exactly what we were until he had his roommate drive him to my apartment one evening.
I let them both in. Marty was dressed up in a blazer and he was acting strange. His roommate took me aside and told me he would wait downstairs. Marty had something to tell me.
He asked me to marry him.
He told me that I was the best girl he knew. He thought we had a chance.
I turned him down. I tried to be as gentle as I could be. He was okay. He nodded and we hugged and then he left.
That night was months before this one.
We sat there in his living room like that for hours. Neither of us said much. He would get up and pace the room and rant and yell at me. I cowered on the sofa. I finally worked up the courage to ask to use the restroom. He told me to leave the door open.
I stood at the sink and starred down at the pile of dirty hypodermic needles. I hadn’t been this close to a “using junkie” before. But I knew the detritus they left behind. I also knew that this wasn’t the first time Marty had used needles. The wall around the sink had a light spray of brown droplets from where he had been jabbing the needles into his veins. He was getting high again. I turned on the faucet and pulled tissue from the paper roll, dampened it and tried to clean up my face. I rummaged in the medicine cabinet for a bandaid.
I never looked for a weapon while I was in there. It never even occurred to me that I should be trying to escape. I knew I should be terrified, but my defense mechanism wasn’t kicking in. I wasn’t even working out a way to reason with him. I starred at myself in that dirty, broken bathroom mirror and I decided that being scared wasn’t going to help me. I just knew that I was stuck there, in that bungalow, with a man and a gun.
I was eerily calm. I wasn’t resigned. I hadn’t given up. But I felt nothing.
He had turned in his chair to watch me. “I don’t get it!” he yelled. “Who the fuck are you? You think you’re too good? You think you can throw me away like that and everything’ll be fine? Little Miss Goody Two Shoes!”
I bit my lower lip hard. So this was the problem. And I had no solution.
The night wore on like this. He yelled and waved the gun around and I watched him from the sofa. He ranted about how I could have changed his life. His mistakes were my fault. He pressed his fists against his forehead, one hand still gripping the gun. His eyes were closed tight and his face contorted, “Look at me! Look at me damn you! Look what you’ve done to me!”
How could I reason with a madman? I knew he was ripped out of his mind. I had no idea what he was on. So I said nothing.
He drooped as the night wore on. He continued to ramble and wave the gun at me, but his motions were becoming less steady. He was getting tired, probably coming down. Perhaps he had gotten me out of his system and was starting to see that his actions were for nothing. I wasn’t on my knees begging him to let me go, to not kill me. I wasn’t a groveling, sniffling mess. I was just sitting there in front of him.
“I have to go home now, Marty.”
That’s all I said. I got up. I picked up my bag. I slid into my flip flops and I walked to the door.
I never looked back.
He never said a word.
The sun was just starting to rise as I walked down the sidewalk to get my car. I squinted at the blaze of beauty and I sobbed.
Addendum: Marty got clean for a short time after that and then died from an unintentional drug overdose a few years later. In the scheme of things, I think this was a blessing for him and for his family. I don’t know why, but I knew he wouldn’t hurt me and I knew he wouldn’t force himself on me. I think the drugs that had already ravaged his brain, had also ruined his body. There wasn’t much left inside of Marty, except rage.