Friday, December 03, 2010

This happened, damn it

A few weeks ago, my phone rang around 8:00 AM. On the other end was a woman I know (I'll refer to by the fake name of Susan), mostly from working together off and on over the years. I guess you could say she's a friend. We're not close. She's not someone I would call at 8:00 AM. I still don't know why she called me. But regardless, she did. Obviously extremely upset, Susan told me that she'd gotten in a fight with her husband, an incident that she described as "the worst thing that's ever happened" in their relationship, and they've been together for over 15 years. She needed to get out, didn't have a place to go and asked if I would help. I said sure. I was able to arrange lodging for her and her two kids at a nearby hotel, making the reservation under a false name so that a desk clerk couldn't accidentally reveal her location if someone scouring all the local hotels were to call and ask for her. The next thing I did was got in touch with a couple of friends who I thought might be able to offer assistance.
It's odd the way things work out in life, in regards to the environment we create and the people with whom we surround ourselves. For instance, there's absolutely nothing in my work or educational background or even family history that would link me in any way to domestic violence. Yet through seemingly random social interactions over a period of time, through no conscious intent or manipulation, it turns out that I'm connected to a network of people who are ideally suited to deal with a situation like this, people who either work, or have worked for agencies that provide assistance or are one phone call away from somebody who is. I became friends with these people the same way anybody becomes friends with whoever they're friends with. Odd. But ultimately, even though it's a complete mystery as to why she called me, it turned out to be a pretty good idea. People who didn't know her or even the full details of her situation were volunteering to help in any way needed, all from one early morning phone call. It was amazing.
At some point, we looked up the husband's arrest record (which here in Hillsborough County, is extremely easy to do) and found a lot. Nothing relating to domestic violence or even any assault and battery but still, tons of bad stuff. My friends suggested that I be careful in my dealings with Susan, in light of what we found out about the husband. I reminded them that I have never been one to engage in any kind of reckless activity for the sake of proving I have a functional penis and that any perceived lack of fear on my part for my own well-being has less to do with any kind of false machismo than it does with the confidence that comes from the knowledge that I actually am extremely cautious and will take all possible steps to avoid dangerous situations. If I do end up in some kind of physical confrontation, it's only because it absolutely couldn't be avoided otherwise. I am a huge fan of calling the cops and do so all the time. That, and if I ever do have to fight, I won't hesitate to cheat and fight dirty.
I met Susan at the hotel and it was pretty obvious to me that there had been some physical violence. However, not being an expert (for all I knew, her face could have been puffy from a long night of crying), I asked if there had been and she said yes. I outlined for her all the assistance that this network of concerned friends of mine could make available to her. She said thanks and that at the time she just wanted to get some rest and think about what to do next, which seemed reasonable. She stayed at the hotel a few days and then left to tend to some family business out of state. I didn't hear from her after that. She didn't take me up on any of the options I had offered on behalf of my friends. So I called her yesterday to see what was happening.
She told me that she had gone back home, with her husband. They had talked about it, he was going to get counselling and in retrospect, the incident "really wasn't all that bad." It all sounded like a conversation you'd find in a script for some made-for-tv movie. I'm not an expert but I know these things rarely get better and I told her that. I also asked her to keep my number handy and not to hesitate to call me again if she needed anything, anything at all. She said she would and that she'd keep in touch. 
I hung up, sad and a little angry. Sad for her, angry at the universe. After all, what was the point of putting this whole thing in motion, with one person calling another person with whom they have a slight, tenuous connection, discovering that person just happens to have access to the exact right answers, only to have the first person not take advantage of those circumstances? Stupid universe. 
Somebody will try to say it's a small part of a bigger picture but I don't see it.

Anyway, if you're reading this and your situation is even remotely similar and you need help, whether you're a man or a woman, seek it out. Ask somebody. There are people who can and will help you. I'm one of them.


Alex said...

Ur a good man, Clark. I used to have a friend in the same situation. She'd always show up at my house with her daughter, at random odd hours during the night. She always ended up going back to her husband tho. I don't get it either. Nor do I get why some men can be such cowards. Crazy messed up world.

Alex said...

Course my grandma always said "if a man ever hits you, hit him back. With a bullet." She always gave good advice, but not the kind you'd necessarily want to follow.