The Gun Industry Fed Me and Failed Me: Part 5
If you’re still with me, wow. Thanks for sticking it out, especially because this isn’t quite the end yet. Unfortunately.
Jealousy crept over me as I watched the last of the suds swirl and disappear down the drain. They had one way out and they were taking their escape. I was stuck here, rinsing dishes from this morning’s breakfast or yesterday’s lunch — I wasn’t sure which. I didn’t how many people had been in my house. I only knew none of the dishes were mine, but I didn’t want strangers — or worse, familiars — judging my housekeeping. Even if I had been at work all this time.
Fist-sized holes in the walls could be covered with artwork, but you can’t hide a sink full of dirty dishes.
I took out the trash, catching my finger on the newly sharp edge of the broken light switch cover. I’d stop at the hardware store for a replacement tomorrow. I’d stop at the cell phone store the day after, to see whether my lifeline to the outside could be salvaged. Today I’d pretend everything was okay. Just a normal day.
When I saw him calmly sit on the middle cushion of the couch, his 6' 7" frame commanding its throne, I ignored him. He twirled the cylinder and its spinning click-click-click drowned out the florescent buzzing over my head. One by one, he slid the bullets in. I counted as I wiped fork tines and knife blades and dropped them each in their compartments.
This wouldn’t be the first time. His buying this thing was my fault, after all. The last time I left, he called. And called and called and called until I answered, worried that he’d get me fired at this new job I’d worked so hard to land. The transfer I’d called in a dozen favors for. The one that was 350 miles away from him.
I answered and listened to him cry. I listened to him beg. I heard him, and I hung up on him. He kept calling. Exasperated with the ringing, I picked up again, this time the desperation in his voice was cutting.
“Don’t hang up. I have my shotgun to my head right now. Either you come home or I will pull the trigger and you’ll have to live with that forever. Knowing you heard me do it and knowing it’s your fault. It’s all your fault.”
I was unmoved.
“Do it. Go ahead. I’ll hold. Go ahead and put the phone down so you can use both hands. I don’t want you to miss.”
He was stunned that I could be so cold. He asked why I was being such a bitch.
“Because you don’t even have a shotgun anymore. I know you sold it six months ago to buy drugs.”
He’d been caught in this gross, manipulative lie. But he wasn’t done with me.
“I’ll get one. I’ll go out right now and get a gun. I’ll do it. Please just come home.”
And he did. He traded off the 3DO before I got through all the levels of Alone in the Dark for this gun. And I came home. And now I wondered why I was so goddamned stupid, because he was far less of a mystery to solve and I was sick of his interactive game.
I hefted the stack of plates into the cabinet. The one the carpenter attached too high on the wall. The one that was easier for him to reach. The one where he put all the things he wanted to hide from me, like my drivers license or the one spark plug he’d pull out of my car so I couldn’t leave.
I finally asked what he was doing. He flatly indicated he was going to kill me and then kill himself. I wiped my hands, flung the dishtowel over my shoulder as if I was going to burp an imaginary baby, and headed for the front door. He stuck one impossibly long leg out in front of me.
“Where are you going?”
He was truly perplexed that I would ruin his plan. I was generally so easy to control. I stepped over the stubborn, sturdy log between me and freedom. I stopped with my hand on the doorknob and faced him.
“If you’re going to do that, let’s at least go out to the front yard. Because there’s white carpet in this rental and I don’t want my family having to clean up that mess and lose my deposit. They’ll need all the money they can get to bury us. And we won’t be together because adjoining plots are too expensive. Come on. And why do you need six bullets? Are you a shitty shot or what?”
He tipped the bullets out and set the gun on the cushion next to him. He cried, and I scooped up a handful of metal and put them in my pocket. I knew he must have more somewhere, but I couldn’t fit any more worry in my basket that night. I went to bed. He slept on the couch. He was gone when I woke up. Midway through my workday, I noticed his car in the parking lot.
A coworker convinced me to tell her what was up, to lay bare the personal life I was trying so hard to keep out of my professional life. She was a sympathetic listener in the musty supply closet-turned-confessional. Her husband was a cop. I told her that I thought I was doing fine because I’d already set aside some cash at work and all those garbage bags of clothes he thought I’d donated to Goodwill were stashed at a friend’s house so I’d have clean things to wear whenever the day came that I screwed up enough courage to run.
She blinked at me in disbelief. How had I done all these things, all the things that prepared me to leave…but hadn’t actually left?
She made a couple phone calls. She found someone to cover for me for the rest of the day. Then she met me on the other side of the building and drove me to make a statement while my husband still sat eyeing my car, making sure I didn’t go anywhere without him knowing.
Writing comes easy, except when you’re given a single sheet, top half filled with designated fields such as your name and birthday and Social Security number, bottom half filled with blank lines. There were too many lines and yet not enough lines and all of the too-many-and-not-enough lines stared at me awaiting a narrative. The pen they gave me seemed so permanent. I asked whether I could attach another sheet.
Knowing I wouldn’t have to edit for space made the words come much easier.
Funny thing, those statements. The justice system is fed by facts, but sometimes facts require emotion. Which ones, though? In order to convict on certain crimes, the prosecution must prove that the victim felt a certain emotion related to the statute. All I felt now was numb.
I included as much detail of all the instances spanning his repeated pattern as I could. Then I waited.
[The real validation came for me much later, long after I’d relayed this incident to my current husband — who is wonderful, by the way — who happened across the statement of husband #1’s subsequent girlfriend as she attempted to leave him. Hers relayed that his words and actions to her were almost identical to my case. So much so that my current husband apologized to me for thinking internally I’d been overly dramatic in my tale. In his defense, he said, I seemed so normal to have had such a thing happen to me.]
The No Contact Order came in parts — while it was granted, it was only temporary until he could be served a copy. Their first stop for service was our house, where he wasn’t. I wasn’t surprised to see my friend’s husband there on my step, but I was a little taken aback that he’d brought so much backup. The other two officers stood at his sides, each with extra muscles and black gloves and SWAT placards beneath their name tags.
He wasn’t there. Nor was he at any of the other places they looked, hindered in their search by our geography spanning multi-states’ jurisdiction and other agencies not willing to put forth the effort to find him. I’d have to return to open court the following Monday to be granted an extension on the temporary order.
The first Monday came and I sat through three hours of continuances, requests for change of venue, and other various actions of inaction before hearing my name. Since they hadn’t found him, I got a new piece of paper, this one good for the next seven days, renewable only in person again in a week. My employer wasn’t happy to hear I’d need the following Monday morning off, too.
So I didn’t go.
I hadn’t heard from him anyway. Someone said they thought he’d gone to the other side of the state with his friend to visit the friend’s dad. I knew that meant he was on a drug run. I wondered if I should turn him in. In the end I didn’t, knowing that relaying such a vague and unsupported allegation would only make me look vindictive, spiteful, and opportunistic.
I knew he wasn’t nearby because he hadn’t swiped my mail. In the box, a letter from the court. Atop a photocopy of the temporary order, a post-it note from the judge.
Contempt of court. I was going to be held in contempt of court if I didn’t show. I would lose my job if I did show. I had no choice.
I was 21.
I penned a scathing letter to the judge, calling his bluff. I had one asshole trying to control me and didn’t need another. Then to settle all this dust I’d kicked up, I stayed. I had one foot out the door, but I stayed. Mainly, I stayed to avoid the judgement that comes when a marriage fails, even when one person is much more to blame than the other.
I stayed right up until the day I left.