Chapter 3:2 Michael the Archangel


My eldest son, Bruce, was now aware that I would need brain surgery in order to save my own life. There was something powerful about taking matters into my own hands after a neurosurgeon told me there was no hope, but I knew that without God’s help, I would be leaving my family behind on earth.

My middle child, my daughter, was next on my list. The mother of four of my grandsons, she is also my best girlfriend. She was thirty four years old, three years younger than her older brother. She was a young woman, but news like this tends to turn you back into a child in two shakes. I wasn’t looking forward to the phone call.  Her name is Alia.

Alia means “servant of the most powerful” in Arabic. I did not know that when she was born. In 1972 there was no Internet. I couldn’t just Google baby names and find out their meanings in seconds.  I just knew I loved the name. She was the daughter of my hippie live-in boyfriend, Michael. He was a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he had soldiered overseas in the Marine Corp. I was nineteen when I met him on the strand in Hermosa Beach, California, and I was drawn in by his spirituality and positive outlook on people and on life.

And I thought he was gorgeous (they always seem to be gorgeous, don’t they?). Michael. I thought of him as Michael the Archangel. He was poetic and reflective. He was calming. He seemed spiritual; a seeker. And 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 soon 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.

One night late, with the moon glowing full and high in the sky, I walked up behind him in the side yard of the little house we rented in Lodi, California. , I heard what sounded strangely like someone loudly praying. It took me a few seconds to realize it was Michael.  And it wasn’t God he was praying to. Apparently, whatever or whoever he was talking to were well acquainted with Michael. He knew them by name. “Balam,! Furfur! Beezelbub!

I stood there stunned, listening to the wail that was pouring from his mouth.  I saw Michael. I saw his mouth moving. But it didn’t seem to be Michael at all. It was a desperate stranger, crying out for help from something unseen. Was he asking for their help? Was he asking them to fill his body? Who was I living with? I quickly turned away and tiptoed back up the front porch and into the house. Somehow I knew confrontation was not a good idea.

In fighting those who serve devils, one always has this on one’s side; their Masters hate them as much as they hate us. C.S. Lewis in That Hidden Strength.

Sleep came hard that night. The next morning I broached the subject over a cup of Constant Comment tea.  He attempted to calm me by telling me he was a white witch, not as evil as those who worship Satan himself. But then I allowed myself to put it out of my mind. I should have stayed on my toes.

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 within myself as I listened, 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 any set-up. But I already knew I had better say, “Yes,” knowing that’s what he wanted to hear, so I did. “Well, he continued, “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. Panicked, 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 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. Deep down I hoped someone would sense I was lying, confront me 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.

{Trigger alert} The next three years were the most violent of my life. One night late, shortly after Alia was born, Michael came home after meeting with his friends across town. I sensed he was high and knew he had just been with Larry, a heroin dealer. Without so much as a greeting he began hitting me hard on the back of my head over and over while the soundtrack from A Clockwork Orange played on the stereo; the ultraviolent assaults perpetrated by the protagonist Alex in this movie an apparent inspiration for the attack.

I began to plot our escape. My children needed me to get far away from Michael the Archangel and never look back. I was down to 82 pounds and the non-stop shaking of my hands was a dead giveaway that something was seriously wrong. By this time, Michael had become addicted to heroin. I knew my four-year-old son sensed my stress and fear. Up until then Michael had not become violent in front of him, but he was getting more erratic and unpredictable.  So when an opportunity came up to move closer to my family, I argued all the reasons I could come up with for why this was a great opportunity for Michael. He could kick his habit and start again.

Eventually, Michael relented and the four of us found our way back to Los Angeles. His mother allowed us to temporarily move in with her. She already shared the three-bedroom bungalow with her elderly mother, who had lost a leg lifting a car off of a six-year-old girl. Somehow the car had rolled back over the child in the driveway and in a rush of adrenaline, Michael’s grandmother was able to lift the ton of metal off the ground. Once the girl was pulled to safety, her strength waned and the car came down on her own leg. It had to be amputated.

I made Michael believe that we would both get jobs and save our money quickly for our own place. But I had a different plan in mind. I just hadn’t figured out how I was going to pull it off.

The next time I felt Michael’s fury, the blow to my face was so loud it woke his mother out of a deep sleep. She flew into our room, screaming for her son to get out of the house.  Instead, he dashed into the bathroom and ran a razor blade over wrists already scarred from previous attempts. Somehow his mother kept him in the bathroom so he wouldn’t bleed all over the carpet, but neither one of us made an attempt to call for help. We just stared at each other, as if daring each other to make a move to the phone. In that moment I believe it crossed both our minds that our misery would be over if we just let him die.

Finally, his mother made the call and an ambulance arrived. This time Michael landed himself in a facility for a three-day evaluation, but as always he convinced the psychologists that he was ready to face the world again.

Looking pale and haunted with his wrists bandaged up, he attempted to gain my sympathy. He related how the EMT told him that if he really wanted to end it, he would need to slice vertically up his wrist, and not waste his time marking up his arm side to side. Inside iformation offered too late. For the next several weeks I hid out at Michael’s mother’s home, not wanting anyone to see my face in public.

As soon as my eye was almost back to normal, I got a job where Michael’s mother worked. Garrett AiResearch. Garrett manufactured and sold turbochargers to the military, so to even get into the plant I had to drive up to the guard shack and show my photo I.D. badge. Once in the building, I felt safe. Michael the Archangel would not be allowed in. But my children were not there with me and although he had never hurt them, I feared it was only a matter of time. So I waited for an opening and then made my move.

Michael hardly ever left me alone, but one day he decided he could trust me long enough to take my car to the repair shop. He’d hitch back, he told me,  so I figured I had about 45 minutes. I carefully pulled the curtain aside and watched as he backed out of the driveway. I waited about one minute and then ran into the kitchen and pulled a large green garbage bag out of the cabinet.  Scarcely breathing, I pulled socks, underwear, pants and shirts for my son, diapers for the baby, bottles, a couple of toys, and tossed them without looking into the bag. I threw the bag into my son’s Little Red Wagon and pulled the baby up onto my hip.  “Come on!” I told my four-year-old. “Follow Mommy!”  “Hurry!”

My son didn’t question me. He seemed to know exactly what we needed to do. The three of us raced out of the house, with Michael’s one-legged grandmother helpless in her recliner, yelling at us to stop. I walked as fast as I could while still keeping us all together. We went around the corner, up a few blocks, down a street, up another block, zigzagging away so as not to be found easily. I was terrified, sure that if Michael found us he would kill me.

I knocked on a door in the middle of a residential block. A middle-aged woman answered the door.  She took one look at us—me at eighty-two pounds, long, stringy brown hair, shaking like a leaf; my son, a look of bewilderment on his face; the baby in my arms.  “Could I use your phone to call a taxi?” I said. She hesitated, folding her arms.  Surely she’s not going to say no!  I almost began to scream, “Let me in your house!!”  “Please!”

She let us in and with fumbling, shaking fingers I looked up the number and called a taxi.  She asked us to wait on the porch, exposed. I sat down on her brick steps and turned, noticing her standing in her window, watching us. Thoughts of being killed in front of my kids raced through my mind, but I was cemented to the spot. If I left, the taxi would not pick us up.

The driver raised his brows and sighed as he lifted the red wagon and the garbage bag into the trunk of the cab. I wondered if he was going to call the police on me, as if I were some fugitive from justice. I gave him the address of a guy I had met at work, a guy who’d stopped me in the lunchroom one day and asked me what was wrong with me. “Why was I so thin?” he wondered. “Why did I shake?” I unburdened myself and he offered to help. He gave me his address and told me if I needed to I could stay at his apartment. I was sure he didn’t really expect me to take him up on his kindness and show up on his doorstep, but I gave the driver his address anyway. It was our only chance. I felt myself begin to breathe again as we drove away, and I melted into the back of the seat.

The ten-mile ride in the taxi helped me to calm myself a little bit. We arrived safety at his apartment, and thankfully he made good on his invitation to help. But I didn’t stop shaking for weeks. And I never saw Michael the Archangel again.  I never showed up for another day at Garrett AiResearch, and within a week we were living miles away in another city. I heard years later that within two decades of that escape, Michael had died of an overdose in a fleabag hotel in San Francisco. As for me, I made it for one more year before I really began to unravel; before I began to lose myself completely, when it was finally safe to let go.

This post is longer than usual as I didn’t think this story would read well broken up. Most posts will remain at approximately 1000 words.

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Question? Have you ever had a time in your life when you allowed someone else to control you and then you did something about it? Comment below and let’s have a conversation.

6 comments on “Chapter 3:2 Michael the Archangel

  1. There are details I don’t think I knew in your story, Linda. Fascinating. Amazing. Cause I know you now and what a beautiful person you are!!

  2. Laura Sanders on said:

    Your situation reminds of something I heard: that it takes at least six tries before a woman manages to leave an abuser. Thank God you and your kids made it!

    • Yes Laura. I had tried once before and the people I went to for help did not believe me. It was my children’s lives that gave me the courage. I couldn’t let them get hurt.

  3. Amazing story, Linda, to the shame of humanity, similar tales are far too common. Bravo for gathering up the courage to break free. You are a genuine hero and I pray that your telling of this odyssey will inspire and encourage other victims to muster up the incredible strength required to escape the clutches of a violent domestic abuser.

    • Thanks Philip. Believe it or not, I found myself in similar (not quite as bad) circumstances a decade later. I married another man in 1988 (this one was in 1970) who was controlling and abusive as well (not quite as violent). Again, I got out. It’s very difficult as by then your self-esteem is torn to shreds and you don’t feel you deserve better. But I knew my children deserved better. Now, as a therapist, I love to work with women who don’t understand this cycle.

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