Michael the Archangel
A chance meeting through the friend of a friend. Our eyes met across a crowded room (OK, there were about five of us and it was on the corner of Pier Avenue and 1st Street). Soon we became the perfect little hippie couple. But at the end of it all, three years later, I would feel as if I had gone completely mad. It would take a decade to fight my way back from a pit of despair so deep that I still wonder how I survived it at all. And oddly enough, it the madness would start the night of a Tupperware party. But I digress.
I thought he was gorgeous (they always seem to be gorgeous). Michael. I thought of him as Michael the Archangel. He was poetic and spiritual. He was calming. He was smart. He took over the parts of my life that I couldn’t seem to manage on my own. Everyone around us seemed to be as drawn to him as I was. My Svengali.
He talked me into moving away, making the break from Los Angeles and most of my friends and family. Technically still a teenager, moving away made me feel like a grown-up, striking out on my own. Only I wasn’t alone. I was with Michael the Archangel.
The first time it happened we were walking down the street talking. The conversation seemed to be going well enough, although I had been feeling more and more uncomfortable with the topics he brought up. Lately he had been telling me about his foray into white magic. At times he didn’t make any sense at all. At other times, I felt a definite darkness in my spirit, as if someone had turned off the lights.
“Do you believe in reincarnation?” he asked. It seemed like an innocent enough question. I didn’t sense the set-up. But I already knew I had better say, “yes,” when I knew that’s what he wanted to hear, so I did. “Well, I’m Jesus Christ reincarnated.” My breath caught in my throat, and I stopped and turned to face him.
“Yeah, right,” I said.
I didn’t even see it coming, that explosion of pain and blackness. My face went numb and I thought my eye had popped out of its socket. I screamed. Horrified, I tried to run, but he caught up to me and pulled me by my blouse. I thought someone would have had to hear my scream and the crack when his fist landed on my face. I hoped someone would come out of their house and rescue me, but the silence, other than the barking of a dog, was deafening. Suddenly, a beautiful sunny summer day turned gray.
“I ran into the kitchen cupboard,” I later lied to my friends.They just stared at my face and turned away. I wanted them to sense I was lying, confront me with it, and demand an explanation. I wanted someone to take charge and hide my son and me somewhere safe. But no one did, and I kept silent, and I was 360 miles away from home.
Once you tell your first lie, the first time you lie for him, you are in it with him, and then you are lost.
There was calm after that storm but it was just the eye of the hurricane. One night soon after, I was beaten while the soundtrack of “A Clockwork Orange” played in the background. I was left with lumps all over my head that were covered by my hair. I ran to a friend’s but she didn’t believe I had been hurt at all because my face looked fine. Resigned, I went back home.
I tried to spend most days taking my son to the park or long walks downtown, anything to keep us away from home as much as possible. Every so often we stopped and I watched while he gathered his “collections.” Later, as I sorted our laundry, I pulled these treasures out of his pockets; stones and leaves, and the olives that fell from the trees on our street. I felt so proud to be his mom, but I was filled with shame at the situation I had put us in. Somehow, I had to get us out of there; somehow I had to save us.
I was pregnant again and leaving seemed out of the question. There was no way my parents would take me in again and all my friends were Michael’s as well. I felt trapped and alone.
I was awakened one night to find the police in my living room. A friend had called them after Michael slit his wrists and smeared his blood all over the walls, throughout the house. The police coaxed him off of our property by telling him the neighbors wanted to ask him a question, and took him to the hospital. It took me until dawn to wash the walls before my son woke up and saw it.
One day some new friends in fancy cars began coming by with freebies. They made Michael feel as if they would do anything for him…best buddies. Michael began using heroin. I came home one day from a walk with my son and heard voices in the room I was fixing up for the new baby. I found them there, sitting cross-legged in a circle on the floor, handing each other a syringe. A drop of blood marred the brand new crisp white of the Winnie the Pooh rug they were sitting on. I fled to the garage, blood pounding in my ears. I stooped forward, and tried to catch my breath, hands on my swelled belly. I suddenly knew what it was like to want to kill someone with my bare hands. And I began planning our escape in earnest.
The next morning, I casually mentioned how fun it would be to move away, to begin again; to be closer to our parents and friends. Maybe after the baby is born. A “do-over” of sorts. Michael seemed taken with the idea.
But, another year of hell followed me like an angry bee, sometimes stinging me, sometimes leaving me alone, but always buzzing around, too close, keeping me on my toes. A constant stream of adrenaline released into my bloodstream, attempting to keep me safe. The trouble was, there was no where to flee…not yet.