My Journey to and From My Self-Made Hell
“I don’t mind that you lied to me, but you lied to my mother.”
No one should ever lie to their mother, or anyone else’s mother, for that matter.
I spoke those words 20 years ago, the last words, to a woman, to her face. Who, to be blunt, used me worse than Shamu the whale at SeaWorld.
The story of how I ended up in that position is long and convoluted and too boring to tell 20 years later. Rather, this is a story about surviving.
Her name isn’t important, neither is her daughter’s. They were a blip in my life’s journey, but they set me so far off-course in nine months that I almost lost my family, friends and life because of it.
But I didn’t. That it happened did.
When I look back on how it happened, the experience and the aftermath, of how much emotional damage it caused me and left me with virtually nothing, sending me down weird, dangerous detours and just being in a state of continuous unknown for close to six years would have been too much for many.
Because in the end, I figured out that we all survive. Had I stayed and fought it out with her, I wouldn’t be here today. So, even though it took me through the darkness of the unknown and depths of depression and rejection — in many forms — I outlasted them.
The weirdest came about a year later, when I “applied” for mental health services. They did a phone interview with me. Keep in mind, I was staying in a Motel 6 at $40 a night. When I tell people I needed $100 a day at the time, they don’t believe me. But it’s true. Being homeless isn’t a choice. It is about circumstances and decisions and most don’t escape. I did.
A few days later I got a call back from this agency. They told me I was “too high functioning” to qualify for their services. I asked what that meant? They explained to me that because I could shower and toilet myself, that they couldn’t be of help to me.
Now, by this point, I had been in three different places, had filed for bankruptcy, had a menial-paying job at a local grocery store, had a gun pulled on me, had been evicted from a place after three days (although it took them six months to actually get me out), and I had rang every damn agency I could to try and help me.
My response was “you mean I’m not eligible for services because I can wipe my ass?”
I hung up the phone.
I had gone through every agency I could find. One agency said, we don’t help single men. I responded “if I was a woman with three kids and running away from an abusive partner, you’d help me,” “Oh yes,” came the response. I’d get shelter, clothing, rent money, money money, food stamps, the whole nine yards. Salvation Army? Forget it. That’s a Ponzi scheme if there ever was one. All those famous Red Kettles you see when you’re out buying toys and clothes for the kids at Christmas, thinking that $20 you just stuffed into the pot is going to go to help real people who need it? You’re better off believing in Santa Claus, Jesus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I even contacted an agency I volunteered for that works with the homeless. They turned me down.
I was never in love with this woman. I was just tired of being rejected. At first, I could do no wrong, but the minute we brought the house, it was “why are you here?” Really. Just like that.
Many years later, I received an anonymous letter. I trust it was from a friend of her’s who’s guilt finally prompted her to write me. The letter confirmed what I had suspected all along — that I was set up. I was a vehicle for her to buy that $55,000 house (under valued at the time) and my income (about $650 a month) was just enough to qualify for a low-income loan through HUD.
She was never going to marry me or allow me to stay beyond the time she did. Here’s the kicker. I came back to Michigan to visit my family for my 40th. While I was here, she called me and told me she needed money because she bounced three checks. On my way back I rang her to let her know I’d be there in about 45 minutes. She said “next time you go to back to Michigan, don’t come back.” Right then, I should have said, OK, you don’t get anything from me and I’ll leave by the end of the week. But I didn’t, I wrote her a check and paid her VISA bill.
About a week later, maybe two, she asked me to leave. I left on Friday, November 13th. I never saw that house again until a few years ago on Google Maps. I stayed with a then-friend in a small town near Green Bay and then came back to the town where I was due for an interview in another place near there the following Monday. I never went to the interview. Instead I insisted on going to Minneapolis to get on a flight back to Detroit. I didn’t belong there. Had I stayed, it would have resulted in a war that I would have lost.
My mother saved me. She got me a (crappy) townhome for a little over a year. I then lived in a place for three-and-a-half years before moving to where I live now. I am thankful for that as well as my mother still being here.
I am now 60. She is 47. Her daughter is 25. (in the immediate aftermath of what happened, I nicknamed the daughter, who was five at the time, “the monster with two feet”) I haven’t been intimate with anyone in seven or eight years. I don’t seek out relationships anymore. But she didn’t break my heart, someone else did. Who came after her. But that’s another story for another time, maybe in a few years.
Life is too short to dwell on regrets. Sometimes doing things because of a misguided perception of what you think others want you to do. Other times, you get screwed because of your own good intentions. I got bit on both of those.
I am settled now. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m happy. I don’t think that’s ever been the case with me, I think I’m too self-aware to ever be ‘happy’ in that sense, but I have put Wisconsin in the rear-view mirror. I did return to the state once, in 2011, for a Paralympic Table Tennis event in Milwaukee. I thought about contacting her to invite her to visit me, but decided against it. I never will understand why I was used the way I was, but at least I still have my family and friends.