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My wife, again

VanessaAWilliamsI need to record this while it is still fresh in my mind. If I write it down anywhere else it will get lost or fall into the wrong hands. One of the ironies of this blog is that it hides in plain sight.

I saw Rebecca, my wife, yesterday for the first time in three months. We went to see Dr Becker (not his name but I have to call him something in this blog) to sort out who gets our two sons when.

Dr Becker is a family counsellor. The court appointed him because I said I do not want to divorce my wife – just not live with her till she gets help and gets better.

My wife has what is known as an abusive personality: she tries to control the people in her life even to the point of lies, put-downs, threats and physical violence when her charm fails to do the trick. I left her three months ago when her threats to kill me became a little too well-worded. I took our two sons with me.

No, I am not married to Vanessa A. Williams, but that is a good picture for this post because that is how pretty and charming she seems. When we talked to Dr Becker she poured it on. And he, despite all his degrees, is still a man and fell for it. She was affecting me too as angry as I was.

When I told Dr Becker that she threatened to kill me, she said, “Oh, in Jamaica we say that all the time. It doesn’t mean a thing.” Sure, “I’ll kill you” does not mean much, but what about “I am going to crack your skull”?

She lied like it was nothing, saying things she knows are not true, making it seem  like I was the one who had issues, not her. When I called her on it she would get angry and Dr Becker would move us past it. He was just there to get us to agree on how often she gets to see the boys.

She wanted the boys every other weekend when she is off. I said one weekend a month is enough. In the end we agreed she could have them for a long Fourth of July weekend, the last weekend in July when Frankie, the younger one, turns 12 (the other one is 13) and late in August to see her father in Jamaica, who probably will not last another year. If she returns them late or harms them then the remaining dates are out.

Dr Becker wants to give us marriage counselling. Rebecca said, “Oh yes, we need that.”  But before I left her it was always, “We will get marriage counselling when we can afford it.” But I am afraid she thinks that if she just smiles and says all the right words things will be magically back to the way they were.

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Vanessa-Williams7Today I go to see my wife. I left her three months ago taking our two sons with me. It was no longer safe to live with her – she had threatened my life too many times and was starting to get physically violent. I was right to leave: I was in far more danger than I knew, as it turned out.

Today I go back to come to some kind of decision about child custody with the help of a court-appointed family counselor. If this turns out to be my last blog post, then assume the worst.

That picture, by the way, is not her,  just a picture of the Hollywood actress who most reminds me of her (Vanessa A. Williams). Her son even looks like one of  my sons.

Now that I have gained a bit of distance I can see that she made her cooking bad on purpose. And it got worse  and worse as the months went by, making strange soups and spinach with rice.  It got so bad that sometimes I would just cook for myself, which means it must have been pretty bad. When I was single I lived on rice and beans. I made it for her once: she tasted it, made a face and said I could have the rest.

Yet as bad as her cooking got if you talked to her about it she would act hurt, throw a fit and threaten not to cook at all.

Right after I left I woke up every morning out of a bad dream about her. I still have those dreams from time to time and that reminds me of why I left and why I cannot go back any time soon.

But despite all that I do miss her, as mad and brainless as that sounds. It is not just the sex either, though that is part of it (as rare as that got towards the end). I miss her laugh, I miss just driving down the road with her and talking about nothing in particular. I miss holding her in my arms and whispering things in her ear. I miss looking at the corner of her mouth.

I sent her a birthday present a few weeks ago through Amazon. That struck her as kind of strange: she thought I hated her. Hatred is not why I left. I still love her, she is still the only one for me, even though that makes no kind of sense.

I hope to go back and live with her some day, maybe in two years, five years. If she can get help and change for the better. Most people like her do not change, not for good at least, but just get worse. So long as her mother was alive she never got too bad, but ever since she died she has got worse and worse till the day came I had to leave.

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Leaving the country?

Wednesday morning, for the first time in more than two weeks, I woke up without waking out of a nightmare, the one I have every night where my wife is coming after me to kill me.

On Sunday I had a long talk with my friend Hector. I told him the whole story. What he found particularly damning is that both of my sons, ages 11 and 13, were in complete agreement with me without me saying a word, that neither one has expressed any desire to go back home to their mother or even call her. It shows that I am not just imagining things.

I was talking about extradition and leaving the country. He said that most countries in Africa and Asia do not have extradition treaties with America – I would be beyond the reach of American law.

But why was I asking about extradition? I have not broken any laws. Well, no, not yet. But if my wife got custody of the boys for part of the year, I would rather leave the country with them while I still had custody than allow that. But then I would have to go somewhere beyond the reach of American law.

Apart from her getting custody, I told him I was also afraid she would come after me to kill me.

He kind of calmed me down: He said people can act wild and mad and threaten all kinds of things, but most will not break the law. So unless she tries to break the restraining order, it will probably offer me enough protection to stay in the country.

The thing that started this whole mess was a threat she made in January: If we lost the house she would kill me. Hector said she was just afraid and upset, yet I cannot shake the feeling, deep down in the pit of my stomach, that she would in fact carry through on it. My mother, my sister and my two sons agree.

She worships that house, it is like everything to her. She told my mother it is her dream house. But not only do I feel like she loves the house more than me, even the boys feel she loves it more than she loves them – as wild as that sounds.

But now with us in separate households for at least six months, probably longer, she will most likely lose it. And when she does I do not want to be anywhere where she can find me.

In that case I would leave the country with the two boys: go to Africa, where a friend of Hector’s lives. There I would sort out my affairs and then get on a bus to another country and disappear for a few years, teach English or something.

Hector calls that Plan B, but it has to be something I have ready and can act on quickly.

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I left my wife

I left my wife. I took our two sons, ages 11 and 13. She is no longer safe to live with.

She has threatened to kill me repeatedly. She said she would “crack my skull” if I did not keep the house clean enough. (I worked from home so housecleaning fell to me.) The night before I left I had pots on the stove drying. She said it made her want to drive a knife through my heart, to split my head open. Earlier that day she hit me in front of my sons and called me “useless” and then threatened to run me over with the car.

She is not well. She needs serious help. I will not return till she gets that help and gets well enough where I can feel safe living with her.

So now I am on the run. That is why I no longer blog regularly – because I cannot always get on the Internet whenever I want.

I do not know yet where I will wind up. Most likely New York where I used to live but maybe overseas. It depends on how likely I think she will come after me and how well she can find me.

We left on Sunday the first day of March. That morning the boys and I left to go to church and the library, like we always do on Sundays, but this time when we hit the main road we turned right instead of left and never looked back. All we had were the clothes on our back and our library books.

We went to a neighbour’s house to get off the street for a few hours. A good thing too because she went looking for us. She waited in front of the church for us and then went to the bus station.

We did go to the bus station – later on, after we left the neighbour’s house! There I called the police. They were no help: they told me to go back and, as an added favour, they would call my wife! But that made it impossible to return and play it off.

But we still needed to get back into the house: I had only $40 on me, not enough to get all three of us to New York. The boys also needed proper winter coats and I needed their passports and birth certificates. And the computer too so I could support them. All that stuff was back at the house.

I called the shelter and they put us up in a hotel room in town. On Tuesday in the middle of the night we went back to the house – she works as a night nurse – and took everything we could carry, leaving our footprints in the snow. I took the passports and my father’s Shakespeare, but I could not find the computer.

I filed a restraining order. On Wednesday my sister got us out of town. The hearing for the restraining order is on Monday, the ninth.

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Dearest Rebecca #4

My wife wants to kill me so I have left her – with our two sons, ages 11 and 13. On Sunday morning I left with them to go to church and the library, like we always do, but when we hit the main road we turned right instead of left and never looked back.

That was two days ago, but it seems like five. This afternoon I sent my wife the following letter.

(Note that I worked from home, so I am the one who is supposed to keep the house clean.)


Dearest Rebecca:

I still do love you and I still want our marriage. But right now I cannot live with you. I no longer feel safe. You have threatened to kill me repeatedly, you have said you will "crack my skull" if the house is not kept clean, that you feel like driving a knife through my heart when I leave pots on the stove to dry. You hit me in front of my own sons and call me "useless". What in the world do you expect me to do?

I now find out that what you have been doing to me you have doing to the boys too, though to a lesser degree. If they do not leave now for a time, then they will leave later in a few years on their own when they are older. Like Ruthie did.

When you hit me or Ruthie or the boys you are hitting each of your grandchildren. Children learn more by example than by words, like you say.

You want to control everything. Well, you cannot control everything, especially not people and especially not the future. In trying to control everything you wind up controlling nothing.

I have urged marriage counselling over the years but you always say - and even said last night - "when we have enough money." Strange how we never seem to have enough money for marriage counselling but we always have money for you to go to Cancun or Rome with your friends.

I know this hurts you, but it is necessary and unavoidable. I am not trying to get back at you for anything. I am only trying to protect myself and my children. If I truly wanted to hurt you, then I would have you evicted from the house and then, on top of that, demand child support payments. I could do that, but I will not.

Most men would have left you years ago. I have stuck with you far beyond the call of duty.

You are not well. You need serious help. Most people like you do not get help but just get worse and worse over the years. Which is what has been going on with you. If and when you get help and get better enough where I can feel safe again, then I am willing to return, but not before then. It is in your hands.

Your husband,
Abagond,
Tue Mar 3 16:57:00 UTC 2009

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My journal from when I was 13

I was looking through some old boxes and I came across a journal I wrote when I was 13. I kept a journal from age 13 to about 25. Email pretty much killed it. I used to write long letters to my sister, but email killed that too. A shame.

Reading through what I wrote when I was 13 I found out that my spelling and writing were way worse than I imagined: afreash, to your heart’s contempt, it was there book.

I sounded like a mix between Pooh Bear and some news reporter:

It’s a good thing that the sun rises, because otherwise people would begin to worry.

Details will be released later.

She told me to forget, to pretend it never happened, I said okay, but I still remember.

Almost every sentence is put together the same way and has the same beat, making it sound boring. Only the point of view makes it interesting reading. It surprises me how much better my writing got over the course of the next ten years: not a difference of degree – like fewer English mistakes – but of kind. Somehow I learned to put my words and sentences together in a completely different way.

Back then I was always missing the forest for the trees: I knew what I ate for breakfast, but missed the bigger picture. At one point I wrote about what a television is – it makes you see how much they have changed since then – but I talked about it as a machine and left out what you can watch and how all that comes about. Over and over again you see me taking everything at face value like that, looking at things on their outsides and not thinking about their insides.

There was a girl I was taken with at the time, June. She made my heart race, so I pursued her. But now when I read through my journal I can see that there was another girl, Claire, that I had a deeper love for, but I took her for granted. My heart did not race when I sat next to her, but somehow whenever I was with her everything felt right. Like she was my missing half. I was too young to know how rare that is.

If I could somehow talk to my 13-year-old self now, I would tell him to go for Claire, not June: for the girl he loves deep in his heart, not the one who turns his head.

I am thinking of maybe making parts of my old journals into a blog – at least the less cringe-worthy parts. Like how some people put the journals of Pepys or Orwell on the Internet one day at a time as blogs. Just change the names to protect the innocent. The advantage is that it would be easier to read – out on the Internet, not packed away in some box. Also I might get comments, which would be interesting.

– Abagond, 2008.

Update (2020): That journal is now lost. A huge regret of mine. But for that reason I started keeping a journal again.

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Dear Ruth #1

Dear Ruth:

I heard that you are thinking of not getting married even though you have a baby boy and a baby girl on the way. Something about getting more money for school.

You are grown now and can make your own decisions, of course. But I feel I would not be doing right by you if I stood by and said nothing, if I did not warn you in the strongest possible terms that that would be a terrible mistake. A mistake that would affect not just you, but your little children for the rest of their lives.

For the sake of your children you must marry the father and do everything in your power to make that marriage work.

That will be the best thing you can do for your children. By far. More than money, more than education.

It will be the best thing for you too. I know what Mom and Aunt Maria have gone through trying to bring up a child on their own. I do not want you to go through the same thing.

Children want and need to grow up under their mother and father. They would rather live on the street with their two parents than live in a palace with just one.

I think you know that not having a father leaves a hole and a hurt inside you that no amount of money can ever take away. Not even a stepfather like me. But by not marrying Ian that is just what you would be doing to your children.

Ian is far more likely to marry you than anyone else: you are having his children. With any other man, they will be two strikes against you. If you do not marry Ian there is a very good chance you will never get married at all.

In the old days I would get my shotgun (I would have one) and force him to marry you - and you to marry him. The law would not stand in my way. But these are different times.

Maybe you are thinking the marriage will not last. Well, no one knows that. But even if it only lasts a year, that alone would be huge. At the very least you could then get some child support out of him if he proved to be a bad father. They would be his children under the law.

But in general, the longer your marriage to him lasts the better it will be for your children. If it can last till you are an old woman, that would be beautiful.

Marriage is very hard work. If I did not pray and have faith in God there is no way I would have made it this far with your mother. Yet being married and having children is one of the great joys in life, probably the greatest. It is certainly better than money. Life is kind of flat without it.

Sincerely yours,

[signed]

Mon Mar 24 16:32:54 UTC 2008

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Before Papa died he warned me not to marry Rebecca:
she just wanted me for my money. I laughed: What money? But now his words ring in my head every day.

I have one of those adjustable rate mortgages. That means my monthly payment can suddenly jump up. It just did for the month of December. If interest rates do not come down it could go up again in June.

So now every night instead of making love, Rebecca argues about money. On and on.

But when we do not have sex in a long time the love drains out of her face. Everything I do is wrong, she finds fault with everything. I get little sleep. And down we circle into that deep, dark hole that I have talked about before.

When I have not had sex in a while I can no longer think straight. All I can think about is women. My work suffers. So I stay at work longer to make up, but that causes more trouble at home. And so on.

But the worst part this time is how she talks about her credit rating. Like it is more important to her than me. Like maybe Papa was right after all.

I can now imagine her as an old women, rich but alone. She has her beautiful credit rating and all her money in the bank, but no one likes her. Everyone talks about her behind her back and laughs. When she dies no one comes to her funeral. It is grey and raining. Like the opposite of Saint Elizabeth. Like something out of Dickens.

She was so beautiful. I did not want to marry anyone else. I did not care what Papa said.

Even though I make way more money than I ever did, she says it is not enough. What about the boys’ education? What about retirement? What if I get sick and can no longer work? She needs a year’s income in the bank or she will not feel safe.

So she wants me to work not just 40 hours a week, but to find more work and work for 60 hours a week. What is going on?

I have to say that till now I have always regarded her possible death as a terrible thing, but now, for the first time ever, I am not so sure. I hate to say it, but there it is.

Before her mother died four years ago Rebecca was reasonable. I think her mother talked sense into her from time to time and kept her from doing anything completely brainless. But now there is no one she listens to but herself. No one to tell her she is wrong.

I never once thought of leaving her when her mother was alive. I thought seriously about it three years ago. But now those thoughts are coming back.

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My thing for Brazil

brazil_parati_1.jpgIf you have read some of my postings of late you may have noticed a sudden interest in Brazil. What is going on? There are two reasons: one is simple but the other one even I do not fully understand.

The simple reason is that sometimes my interests snowball: I learn about something and that makes me want to know more. And finding out more makes me want to know still more. And so on. When I was eight it was dinosaurs; when I was nine it was ants. Now it is Brazil. I am like that. And I can read just enough Portuguese that I am dangerous.

The other reason is a cloud of mystery, but let me try to put it into words as much as I can.

Even though I have never been to Brazil I feel like it is where I should have been born and, even now, where I should live. Strange, I know. I do not understand it myself.

I live in America but I have always felt out of place. Few of my friends are native-born Americans.  New York is the only place I feel at home. Everywhere else I feel like a fish out of water,  like I am always wearing new shoes, like I am on a different wavelength. If America were all I knew of the world I would think there was something wrong with me.

Of course Brazil may be no different or even worse. I cannot even speak Portuguese, though I can mostly read it.

America is richer, safer and more comfortable than Brazil and English is my native tongue. Most of my family is here too. So I stay. But it is not a hand-in-glove fit for me. Not even close.

I am Catholic and so, in a Hilaire Belloc and Thomas Merton sort of way, I feel that Latin roots are the true roots of the West, its true heart – not the Barbie dolls, Wal-Marts and dead smiles of Anglo-America.

I think I would feel more at home in a place that was black and Catholic with Latin roots – and a language that comes from Latin. One where family and love and even faith and prayer are more important than money and having a big house and a big car. Where living is an art not a race, something to be tasted and enjoyed not rushed through like a Happy Meal at McDonald’s. Where the people are not made of cardboard and small hearts.

I doubt any place is like that – it is just a strange dream I have. And no doubt Brazil is picking up all the worst things about America daily and going to the dogs, just like Jamaica is. But from what I know Brazil is still more like this than America. At least it would be a step in the right direction.

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Away at Disney World

I will be away on holiday at Disney World. God willing, I will be back in New York on Friday the 7th.

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No letter

I went to see my mother this weekend, so I did not write her a letter.

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On the C train

She just got off the C train at 14th Street in New York. She had a butterfly tattoo on her right foot. She looked kind of like Thandie Newton or Sherri Saum. She was light-skinned, thin but with wide hips. Married, late 30s, American. She looked like someone with education, with a brain. Her hair was thick and black, like springs coming out of the top of her head. Her eyes were tired looking but there was intelligence behind them. Her eyes have seen too much of the world. Yellow top, blue jeans down to just below her knees. It was hard taking my eyes off her. She looked at me, curious, like maybe she knew me. It took everything not to look at her. Could she tell?

If this were a William Gibson story then I would meet her again in about 20 pages and find out who she is. But it is not, so I will probably never see her again, the woman on the C train.

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Going to see my mother

road.jpgI am going to see my mother, who is getting out of the hospital. So I will be away till Monday. She does have Internet service, but I doubt I will have time to write. I certainly will not be writing my weekly letter to her.

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[Yaya DaCosta]

For our slower students who did not get that last posting:

My wife is away. I thought I would get a lot of work done. I did last time. When she is away my mind is undivided and I can pour my whole heart into something. I work for hours on end with no one to stop me.

This time it is different: all I think of is sex. Well, half the time.

I count the days.

We could have done it the morning she left, but I got up a half hour late and barely made the bus. Boy, what a mistake that was. If I had gone in late it would have saved me so much time later on!

If I do not do it for a while, sex begins to cloud my mind. Sex and women take up more and more of my thoughts. Someone is talking to me and what is going through my head? I am trying to think through something difficult and I have to start all over again – several times. Because what keeps pushing its way into my thoughts?

On the A train on the way home I look at the women. Last night I saw one with beautiful dark eyes. Our eyes met. In the state I was in, it took everything I had to keep from looking at her. Even as I write this a day later her face is burned into my brain. She was about 30 with a good smile and looked like Eleanor Roosevelt’s half-black love child.

But I know that after a point these thoughts will disappear altogether, at least for a while. It is like going without food or sleep. You get a second wind, but it does not last for ever.

I once compared it in this blog to turning 14 all over again. That is what it feels like. When I wrote that, I thought I was entering a new stage in my life, just as I did when I was 14. But now I see it was much simpler than that: I felt that way because I had gone too long without sex: at the time I was fighting with my wife. And so certain thoughts and desires began to take over.

I can go six months without sex, but it requires prayer and fasting. Fasting and sex seem to be opposites almost, at least for me.

My wife would be surprised to read all this and would believe none of it. She says I have almost no sex drive. What she refuses to believe is that it is her mouth that gets in the way of her own love life (and mine). I walk home wanting it so bad, but when I get home she starts a fight – because she wants it but is not getting it! This is how she seduces men?

I look out the window. God willing, Rebecca will return.

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race and beauty

I have always thought that for a women to be beautiful and desirable she should have a good figure, one that is round in all the right places. She should have some meat on her bones. She should not look like a stick. Thin women do not even feel right: I can feel their bones!

To me this just seemed like obvious, common sense. I did not question it. It was the way God made me, and therefore all men. The stick women you see in magazines are creatures of the fashion industry. No real man would go for them.

Or so I thought.

I notice that when a beautiful black woman walks down the street, the black men will turn to look at her but the white men do not seem to notice her. Strange: they are still men, right?

Maybe they look down on blacks so much that they do not even consider looking at black women as the women they are.

But of course it is not that simple

Every now and then you hear white people say someone is “pretty for a black girl”. What can that possibly mean but that most black women are not pretty? That even the woman in question is not really all that pretty? That whites have an idea of beauty that is based on race, one clearly not shared by black men?

It seems that races have different ideas of female beauty.

That was the subject of the Tyra Banks television talk show earlier this week. On her show we find out that whites and Asians like their women thin, even unnaturally thin. They consider that beautiful. Just like in the magazines! Blacks and Latin Americans on the other hand, like their women to have a good, full figure. They consider that beautiful. Just like me!

Tyra had four American women on the stage: one white, one black, one Latin and one Asian. She showed them different sorts of women (often without giving away their race) and asked them who was beautiful and who was not and why.

It is hard for one woman to represent her whole race, of course. But still I was surprised at how they could look at the same woman and see her so differently.

Not only did the white and Asian women think the full-figured women were not beautiful, they thought they were disgusting and should lose some weight, if only for their health. Likewise the black and Latin women thought the thin women were too thin for their health. That is how far from beautiful they thought they were.

Even so it is hard for me not to think that whites and Asians have been brainwashed by Hollywood and Barbie into praising stick women.

But of course it is not that simple.

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