Monday, April 8, 2013

Murder Tank

The date…meeting an online acquaintance for a date is a little rough to say the least. It’s awkward and could potentially turn into a nightmare.  When you haven’t dated in seven years and your last foray turned into the worst case scenario almost ruining you and your life with it, it all seems daunting and maybe a little stupid.

Here’s this dude who talked nonstop about himself for a total of 3 hours over 3 nights of phone calls and finally sent his picture.  When I never called him back after the third one, he messaged to say, “Did you think I was ugly?”  I found this to be delightfully insecure and for some reason it made me like him a bit more.  I sent back no and we made the date.  I arrived early and waited.  He called and I had never seen him enter the restaurant but he was inside waiting.  I had spent quite a bit of time readying myself but not trying too hard.  Work attire, cute shoes a little extra on the hair but not much…he looked surprised when he said my name after I walked in.  I’m not sure good, not sure bad.  

We went to the table where he promptly asked for the largest steak they had… that’s how he asked for it…”What’s the biggest steak you have?” I thought this slightly obnoxious but again, chalked it up to nerves.

Then … the conversation turned to another hour about him.  I’m not sure he could tell you anything about me if you asked him now except he knew I have two children.  He did ask me a couple of questions that made me sort of want to kick him in the dick like,

“How come if you work around all those men you don’t have a date every weekend?” The implication I supposed being that they had glimpsed a vestigial arm I was hiding from him or something.  He didn’t ask like Wow you’re so beautiful I can’t believe you’re not dating.  It had a suspicious undertone. 

He asked me what the hardest thing I’d ever done was and I hesitated wondering if I should actually share a real feeling with this person or not.  I wondered which date you were supposed to spill your guts about the sociopath that almost ruined your life and then thought better of it and tried to think of something other than childbirth.  Thankfully he interrupted my hesitation with more stories about himself.  During the course of our meal he had asked if I liked the movies and would I like to go to one sometime with to which I replied in the affirmative but my internal dialogue was more like... Can you shut the fuck up long enough to sit through a movie?

He insisted on sending me home with two extra meals for my kids and then paid in cash and over tipped the waitress with whom he had flirted during the entire meal. When we got up from the booth, he turned and made me “feel this bulge in my pocket” as we were leaving then said, “Yeah, that’s my gun.” Then, lest I think it was a euphemism for anything other than a firearm, pointed to his ankle and said, “There’s another on my ankle.”

In any case when I left carrying my huge bag of steak and fish for my kids, he walked me to my truck. I hugged him, and then he said, “Well please feel free to call me if you want.” Like some sort of salesman closing the deal.

I turned to get in my truck and I thought about the fact that he’d left it up to me to contact him and I really hated that.  No matter where you fall in the battle of the sexes and independence and yadda yadda, I need a little chauvinism in my life and the boy calls the girl, period. Then I thought…maybe he’s been working so much and so long that he was socially backward and just didn’t get it.  Then I thought…maybe he’s just shy. Then I just stopped myself because if this man were into me, he’d make every effort to contact me, end of story.  I left it at that.  I didn’t hear from him for two days and after pressure from more than one person, I texted, innocuous enough and not too risky.   He texted back that I should contact him anytime and if he were busy, he’d let me know but please feel free to talk to him anytime.

I read it.

I re-read it.

I agonized over what the hell it meant. Then it came to me in a flash of clarity…it shouldn’t be this hard.  There should at least be a tiny bit of a flirty kind of something.  I mean I didn’t expect him to whip it out in the parking lot of the restaurant… (Okay, I sort of did.) but I thought there should have been something.  I left off and didn’t bother to call him again and he hasn’t bothered to call me either. I can’t say that it’s tortured me overmuch.

He was attractive but not an Adonis. He was 12 years older than me but I like older men.  He was a bit eccentric but I like that.  The sum of the parts did not however leave either of us breathing heavy for the other apparently.  I spent many days intermittently wondering about the things he’d asked me and the way things had gone.

Then, on my regular visit to the same convenience store that I always go to for gas, smokes, Gatorade….whatever, it happened.

There is a younger man in there that is built, to coin a sullied phrase, like a murder tank and so adorable it should be illegal.  He’s flirted every time I’ve gone in and I’ve always, always blown him off for several reasons.  He’s too young, he’s working in a convenience store and he sees 1,000 people a day and he’s probably flirting with everyone, he thinks a lot of himself and he’s just a straight up horn dog. You know whatever I could say to discount the fact that he’s giving me free shit every other time I’m in there and undercharging me for stuff.

After all I’d gone in there dressed for work, I’d gone in after leaving my other job filthy, I’d gone in my pajamas, he’d seen me looking every way there was and he was still flirting with me.  The Gurl Child was gone for 3 days with friends and I decided that on a Friday evening with nothing to do I was going for a mani/pedi.  I grabbed the flip flops and went to the same said convenience store to get gas. 

I went in to pay and the Murder Tank said, “What are you doing tonight? Working some more?”

“No, I’m headed for some pampering at the mall. Where’s your truck?”

He leaned towards me, “Someone wrecked into me in town. Why? You wanna come back and get me when I get off?”

There was the same little voice in the back of my head with the running litany… Um, we don’t do this.  He’s bad news for sure, he’ll break your heart or your leg or something…you’re in no shape to be naked in front of this person. He must be at least 10 years your junior and he’s beautiful and why the hell is he hitting on you.

I slapped that bitch down and said, “Sure.”

He snapped his head up and looked me in the face and said, “Yeah??”

I said, “Yeah. I’ll be back by after my pedicure to make sure you’re still in.”

“Oh I’m in, it’s you I’m worried about backing out.”

“I’ll be here.” I grinned at him like a moron and walked out thinking, What the fuck did I just do?

I called all three of my girls and got the same answer from all of them.  Go back there, pick him up and make sure he knows he’s been there when you’re done with him.

I hit the liquor store and went back by the store and got his number and we began saucily texting while I dashed back home and vacuumed, showered, shaved my legs, found a casual outfit that looked like I wasn’t trying too hard and began to drink. 

And drink.

I trekked back the four blocks and picked him up and it wasn’t awkward. I expected it to be strange but we talked and talked and drank and drank and talked and then we just, well you get the idea.

I don’t remember the last time I was kissed like that among other things and I didn’t have a clue if there’d be a repeat performance and I didn’t really care.  It was fucking wonderful and I felt like a million dollars.

Turns out, there’s apparently nothing wrong with me. I have since second guessed my need for validation from a man in order to feel like I was worth something and I’m not sure if I’ll ever totally get over that but I also figured out though that I hadn’t put my entire being into making sure that Murder Tank was going to call me again. I mean, I still giggled like a dumbass girl when he did but I wouldn’t have cried if he hadn’t. I think I might be okay. 

Just Like a Boomerang, Baby.

Shortly after my release, Tucker got the money together to go check himself in and be bonded directly back out of jail.  The thrill of the chase evidently had died down for Ranger Rick and he didn’t endeavor to keep him locked up.  I began to be sick all the time.  My stomach hurt, nothing stayed down or agreed with me and within a month I began to get sharp stabbing stomach pains that were incessant.  I dealt with them thinking that it was just stress and I’d get over it soon enough.  Tucker knew how pissed I was but he also alluded more than once that we’d only get these charges dismissed against me if we “worked together”. 

I took this to mean if I left him, he’d screw me over.  I had a court appointed lawyer and had to show up for court once a month for them to set my court date off since Tucker was apparently working on something with the DA.  My lawyer didn’t know who I was, didn’t care really and had been forced into working my case in the first place.  Month to month, I worried whether he’d even recognize me when he walked into the court room. 

I was dealing with that, still trying to pay bills, wondering how to survive on the salary I was making and how to just get up and leave. Tucker still had a hold on me.  He was still able to work me over and most of all I was worried about him taking the blame for the fiasco and getting my charges dropped.  I didn’t need a trial and a record. I formulated and discarded hundreds of plans. One night I approached Tucker and showed him a listing for a place in town that we could afford with just my paycheck.

“Why do we need that?” he looked at me warily.

“Well, I just thought that if we could cover all the household bills with just my check, then you could take care of the rest of your business with what you bring in and things might be a little easier.”

He looked perplexed somewhat and then angry and then just simply said, “There’s no place for the horses there and no place for cattle.”

I very carefully suggested then that we didn’t need the horses and cattle when we could barely feed ourselves. He got pretty pissed then.  He got up from his desk and started to pace. “Are you trying to say that I can’t support my family?! Are you saying that you just want to take everything over and run it now? Is that what you want?”

What I wanted was to be able to throw him out and still be able to live and I had a feeling that he knew it or at least suspected it. 

“Of course not, I’m trying to relieve some of the stress around here.  I’m always sick and it’s probably an ulcer or something.  My stomach hurts all the time and you have all this … this legal mess going on. I just thought if we reduced our budget some that it would make things easier.”

He flatly refused.  He said no place we could afford on my salary would be worth a shit. He wasn’t living in a shack in a bad neighborhood. He was better than that.

I felt so defeated and hopeless and just left him standing in the living room.  I distinctly recall his “making love” to me that night.  It was the way I could tell him that I’d accepted him and his decree and that we were fine.  It’s how he gauged our whole relationship. I acquiesced even though I felt sick and tired because I knew it was easier than arguing.

Soon after I decided I’d better go to the doctor. The pains in my stomach were becoming very regular and everything I ate made me sick.  The doctor said he thought it was my gall bladder but I needed some tests which he scheduled for 3 days later.  I went home and went to bed and curled into a ball but the pain would not stop.  I soon started vomiting so violently that I just cried and struggled to breathe.  Only Freddy was home with me and I told him I thought I’d better go to the hospital.  I told him to drive me; I knew I couldn’t do it. I called Tucker on the way and Freddy had to pull over several times so that I could throw up.  There was nothing left in me but it still kept coming up.  I called my doctor’s office and told him what was happening and he told me to go straight to check in instead of emergency.

Tucker showed up and seemed very agitated.  Whether it was concern for me or from something else, I couldn’t tell.  I got checked in and hooked up and was scheduled for some tests.  I made Tucker leave and tend to the kids.  Freddy refused to leave the hospital and Tucker went off to take care of Harlow.  He took my debit card and I lamented the state of my bank account on top of everything else.  Once I knew my girl was taken care of, I asked for the pain medicine they had tried to give me earlier and simply passed out.
Tucker returned a few hours later with a phone charger and some pajamas for me.  He had sent Harlow to the neighbors’ so that she could get on the bus the next morning and had pulled money out of the bank with my debit card.  Money I had earmarked for bill paying but by that time I was like what the fuck ever…I felt like I was dying and didn’t care if I did perish at that point.

I woke up to be wheeled off for testing.  Tucker was insistent on staying and so was Freddy.  He seemed so attentive that I wondered what was up.  I thought that maybe he really did love me and was worried about me.  He certainly was staying by my side.  He was hardly even going outside to smoke his beloved cigarettes.  Freddy even noticed and asked what was up with him and all his ministrations.  I told Freddy that he was wrong about Tucker and that though he was gruff most of the time, he really loved and cared for all of us. I thought in that moment that the crisis and the unknown and the worry and love for me had made him show some true colors.

Freddy wasn’t buying it and so I just shrugged and slept some more.  I was subjected to a ton of tests to find out that indeed my gall bladder was operating at about 15% and it would need to come out.  I am phobic about surgery.  In the extreme.  I don’t think anyone likes it but it terrifies me.  Usually that is.  I was hurting so much and by this time had been without food for 4 days. I didn’t care anymore I just wanted to not hurt.

I went in, they yanked it out through my navel apparently and I came out none the worse for wear.  I was out of recovery and back in my room so groggy and out of it and there were Tucker and Freddy.  I slipped in and out of consciousness and heard Tucker on the phone.

“No she’s fine.  Yeah, I guess no one knows. This really turned out pretty good considering.” He paused while whoever was on the other end said something before he continued. “I’m not sure but I’ll wait til we’re home and then I’ll just go book in and out.” 

My brain was muddled and I struggled to understand what it was he was saying. Trying to piece together whether I was hearing this or was just dreaming about him talking over going in and out of jail in the next county over where I’d been forced to spend the night.

“No, no she doesn’t know.  I’ll tell her when I get her home.  It’s the same as in the other county and I’ll be in and out in a few hours but this has been the perfect place to lay low til I got the money all together.”

I knew then.  I pieced it all up in my drug fogged brain.  He was wanted in this county as well and had been hiding out in my hospital room the entire time.  All of his attentiveness and staying by my side had only been a side effect of him hiding from a warrant for his arrest. I gave myself up to the fact that he’d been genuinely concerned enough to stay by my side nonstop.  I clung to the nice things like an alcoholic to his bottle. I wanted to not be stupid. I wanted it all to not be the colossal disaster it was. It all came back to me like a boomerang in that moment. My heart broke a little more right then and I slipped back into unconsciousness and hoped I just wouldn’t come to.