Monday, November 19, 2012

XII

Mom and Pop took me out to lunch at Boundary Bay Brewery. We drove around, following the GPS mounted on our dashboard, and I was able to point out places I’d been, including the mission, at the corner of F Street and Holly. Finally I was able to tell them the truth, including how scared I’d been when Theo would walk me through downtown Bellingham while pointing out where all the criminals and crackheads lived. I realized it was some sort of sick ploy to build himself up, because at this point I knew Theo lacked any characteristic of a real man. My father would have never dared lead my mom knowingly into danger, nor would he have kept her up all hours of the night. My parents’ relationship had been built on trust and genuine love; Theo and I had a relationship set to crumble, built on nothing even remotely like that.


         Even with the rescue over, I was still unable to eat a whole lot. Mom remarked I’d gained weight, no doubt because of the food I’d been eating (high carbs, high salt, high sugar, etc.). It was not out of negativity she said this, but with the hope that I would be eating better at home. We stayed in Oregon that night at a hotel my aunt had found, and, for the first time in months, I slept in a real bed. Over conversation, we ate breakfast at a diner on our way out. I was expecting a lecture, but instead, my parents talked to me like I was an adult, but still made it clear they were more than willing to do what it took to get me back on my feet. My own shame served as a punishment and I knew they wouldn’t punish me further. I had learned a lesson, albeit a terrible lesson, but I wouldn’t be going back to a situation like this in a million years. We drove as long as we could, with me sleeping most of the way and my parents taking shifts for driving. I woke up in Idaho, where my parents treated themselves to coffee and treated me to iced tea. We arrived home on a Sunday around 3:00 PM.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

XI

Pop gave me some refreshing news, reminding me of how much I missed him. As a beer connoisseur and home brewer, he was excited to check out what locally brewed ale Bellingham had to offer, and informed me we were going to a store to buy some for his collection, then we would go out to lunch at a brewery he’d researched. I smiled genuinely for the first time in months, grateful to be back. While on our way to the store, however, I nearly had a heart attack as Mom’s phone rang. The caller ID told us it was Theo. We had literally been gone for 15 minutes, 20 tops. He continued to call and call and text, trying to get in touch with me. I was finished with Theo. I didn’t even want to talk to him, and even texting him was not an option in my mind. I was free. Mom continued to ignore the calls and only brought her phone in the store to communicate with my Aunt Neeta, who, in addition to being the go-between when I’d first left, had also provided my parents with tons of background information on Theo, none of which I’d been eager to believe at the start, but after two months I didn’t know what kind of trouble he had caused.

          Pop migrated to the large walk-in refrigerator at the back of the store. At first, he didn’t think there was enough of a selection, but it was only because he hadn’t seen the opposite wall. Needless to say, he bought a couple cases of different beers and came out happy. Mom decided to play a joke on me while he was searching, and, noticing I was zoning out, asked me why I was staring at a man directly across from me. He was an elderly gentleman and I hadn’t realized I was staring. In a knee-jerk response, I quickly apologized before realizing Mom was joking. She was shocked and related the story to Pop to my embarrassment. I couldn’t believe how much control Theo had exerted over me and knew it would take a long time to recover.

X



The final morning I was more than excited. While Theo was in the shower, I packed my Nine Inch Nails albums, my camera, some of my jewelry, my sheet music, my Nook tablet and my iPod. I had lost the synthesizer the previous month when Theo pawned it off for food money. He said I could get it back as he’d only loaned it to the shop, but I knew deep down I’d never see it again. I got less than half of what I paid for it, a mere $125 dollars.

      When Theo got out of the shower, I told him I’d packed the sheet music so I could play the piano at the local thrift shop after work. Thankfully, he was okay with it. I’d already showered and all I had to do was get dressed. But with a couple hours before we had to go to the bus, I had time. I tried on a dress we’d found at a secondhand shop. It was plain, black, with minimal button detailing on the front. When I showed Theo, however, he was overwhelmed and immediately began groping himself in front of me, another common phenomena. I could see he was serious when he told me to get down on the floor. I was hoping that he’d only make me do something minor, but instead, he had me get on my knees and forearms. In my head, I was panicking. I knew if he tried having sex with me, it would hurt, but all I could ask him was to be gentle. He tried wedging his penis inside my vagina, but I was tense, afraid of the pain, and it became impossible for him to get inside me. Frustrated, he masturbated behind me, and pulled my dress away when he ejaculated, spreading his seed on my bare butt. He used a blanket to clean himself off first, then wiped off what he’d left on me. I thought I was off the hook and decided to try pulling up my underwear, but Theo stopped me to violate me one final time, telling me he wanted to try something.

         I protested, telling him I had to get ready for work. He simply brushed off my protest as me being selfish and went ahead to slide his fingers into my butt. As soon as I felt him trying, I tried crawling away, because I told him that was something I would never even consider doing. One day in our tent he’d made me feel him up like that, and not only was it disgusting, but it made me see him in a whole different light. I hadn’t done it for long, to his displeasure, but I knew today I wouldn’t be squirming out of this one. It not only hurt, but it was uncomfortable as well, since I could feel his long nails against my skin. He didn’t stop until he ejaculated again, this time on the blanket he’d used the previous time. Taking what was left of my dignity, I pulled up my underwear, pulled down my dress, and went to the bathroom to wash my hands and redo my makeup, which was now a running, teary mess. I found my clothes and dressed silently while he watched me, asking me once again if I still loved him. I could hardly reply. He asked me again, his voice growing angry. I turned towards him and nodded, telling him I was in a lot of pain, then turned away to finish getting dressed. He stopped me and told me I owed him an apology, for what, I can’t remember, but I do remember the threat he gave me next. He held up his phone and told me if I didn’t apologize, I’d have to call in sick to work. Reluctantly, I walked into his open arms and let him kiss me, choking out a fake apology. It was enough to diminish his anger. I finished getting ready and we walked to the bus stop less than a mile away.

After getting on the bus to Bellis Fair mall, I pulled out my copy of a book on Nine Inch Nails’ first album, Pretty Hate Machine. It was one of the rare occasions where I wasn’t wearing sunglasses. As I looked up from my book, since my neck was getting tired, Theo tapped me on the shoulder and told me to quit staring. I’d zoned out and kept staring out the window without realizing it. Mumbling a quick apology, I started reading again until we got to the mall. After a kiss goodbye, I walked into work quickly and set my things in the storage closet in the back. By the time I’d started making my rounds, I ran into my dad but knew enough not to look excited. I didn’t endure what I had the past 24 hours to blow it all in a few seconds. My dad told me to get my stuff out of the back and asked the manager for a bag to put my backpack in since he’d seen Theo sitting almost right outside my work at the food court, watching. I was shocked since normally I thought Theo would be running other errands instead of watching me like a hawk. As we were waiting inside the store for the all clear from my mom, who was waiting on the outside for Theo to leave, my dad got a call from my mom saying that Theo had finally left.
 
Even with that over, I knew I still wasn’t in the clear yet. I followed behind my dad and my mom through the food court, and when we were at the exit, my dad hugged me and made absolutely sure I was ready to leave. There was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t survive another month, much less day with Theo around. We all walked to the Pilot and while I was opening the door, my mom asked me if I’d left my phone at the store. When I told her no and showed her the phone, she took it and ran it back to Claire’s. Finally, when she got back, I felt some sense of relief. I was free. My parents didn’t lecture me, they knew I’d probably been punished enough. They were just happy to have me back, and I was happy to see them.

 





IX

I went to work on a Friday and made a life-changing decision. I excused myself to text my Pop before I clocked on, and apologized for all the hurt I’d caused, told him I’d learned my lesson and wanted to come home. I knew I needed my parents’ support to return to Utah, because there was no way I’d ever come up with the money to do it alone. Shaking, I sent the text, and then deleted the message, afraid Theo would see it when I clocked off work. Pop’s response was quick. Not even 20 minutes later, the store’s phone rang. I was surprised when the manager handed the receiver to me and told me someone wanted to speak with me. Unaware of who it was, I instantly assumed the worst and thought Theo was checking up on me. I answered, nervously. Pop said hello and asked me if I was really serious about leaving, to which I told him yes, trying not to cry as he replied he and my mom could pick me up within the next day, asking if I’d rather take a cab to the airport. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to escape from Theo, I told him I’d feel more comfortable if he came down and picked me up: that way, I knew there would be no chance of something happening with Theo.



 Pop told me to ask my manager if I could come in the next day, even though I wasn’t scheduled. He told me he and my mom were leaving immediately and would be there at noon the next day. He promised me updates on how far away they were, but said it would be in code, so that in case Theo intercepted it, he would be clueless. For example, if he was three hours from picking me up, he would text me and say he just saw three bluebirds. It was a bit obscure but it stopped me from worrying too much. The rest of the shift passed in anticipation of the next day.
When Theo came and picked me up, asking the usual questions, I acted like nothing was going on and told him I'd picked up an extra shift because someone was sick at work, praying he wouldn't press me further. My acting skills must’ve improved over the past couple months since Theo bought the ruse and didn’t question me further, but instead asked me if I’d like to see Avengers that night at the theater in the mall. The movie had only been released a few days prior, so after I agreed, we bought tickets in advance for a 7:00 showing that night. Since we still had a few hours until the movie, Theo and I killed time by shopping. He had recently received his monthly income, so we were a little better off than usual, but still had to save money for the rent which we still hadn’t paid. If we didn’t pay it by the next week, it would be late, but that was the farthest thing from my mind at that point.
Before the movie, we had dinner at the Denny’s down the street from the mall. Whether it was from my nerves or something else, I could barely eat. I ordered a side salad and ate as much as I could. I was already exhausted and wasn’t sure if the movie was the right decision, but without complaint, after paying, I followed Theo to the theater and we took our seats. The entire time I couldn’t take my mind off what was going to happen the next day. I was grateful for the darkness so Theo couldn’t see my face and try to read into what I was thinking. When I wasn’t preoccupied with thoughts on seeing my family again, guilt was eating away at me for finding the men in the movie attractive. I couldn’t relax. The movie ended and we walked out of the theater. It was a full moon, just past ten, and the buses had stopped running just a half-hour before the movie had finished. My heart sank as I realized we’d have to walk home: a good four-and-a-half miles away. Theo was a cheapskate and didn’t even want to call a cab. Just when I thought we’d at least be walking down Meridian Street, a well-lit street that would take us almost straight to our apartment, Theo informed me he wanted to go through Cornwall Park.


This is  one of the entrances to Cornwall Park. The picture's been taken on a nice day. It doesn’t look very intimidating, but take the light away and add the fact that there’s an unknown number of homeless sleeping somewhere in there. I would rather walk Samish Way a thousand times than try my chances walking through Cornwall Park at night.
Continuing on the pavement, I found it hard to keep up with Theo's quick gait. I didn't want to fall and had my head down, looking at my feet because tree roots had dug underneath the pavement, creating mounds and potholes. Theo told me more than once to stop looking at my feet because it made me look weak, and instead, to look ahead as his vision was poor (he wore glasses on occasion, but didn't like to as it lowered his manliness). Despite the full moon, it was still almost impossible to see. When Theo confessed he could barely see anything, I grabbed my phone with the intent of using it as a light. He had me put it back in my pocket, telling me it would catch someone's attention and that we would be attacked. When I pulled my hand out to steady myself (we were still in the dark on rocky terrain) he told me to hold on to the phone just in case I needed to call the cops. I did as I was told, just eager to get out of the park and get to the apartment. With only a thin jacket on, I was freezing, still not used to the chilly spring temperatures.
We made it out of the park with no incident. Theo urged me to keep up, scolding me for not being able to keep his pace. I felt like a soldier and not his supposed girlfriend. Only the thought of going home consoled me because I knew I'd made the right decision. As we walked on the streets back to the apartment, I was finally allowed to take out my phone. Theo was texting a close friend on the street, Alvin, who we'd met up with numerous times. Alvin seemed to be having trouble with his girlfriend, and Theo was tossing around the idea of leaving me alone at the apartment to go visit him. Thinking he was serious about it, I urged him to go, telling him I'd be fine. I knew that the minute he'd left, I'd have time to pack a few things to take back to Utah with me, but not much since it would raise suspicion. He decided when we were only feet from the apartment that he would stay home and visit Alvin the next day while I was at work. We crossed the street and stopped at the driveway into the complex. He gave me a fierce, piercing stare. At that moment, I thought it was all over. He knew something. I hoped it didn't show on my face as I questioned his suddenly angry expression and will never forget what he said next:
"I hope you're not planning some covert operation."
I was exhausted and my nerves were shot, but through some miracle, I held myself together and assured him that wasn't the case. But he wasn't convinced just yet. He asked if I loved him, if I was going to stay with him forever. With a smile, I repeated the word forever.
That night was unbearable. Instead of going to sleep like I'd planned, we stayed up for a few more hours at his request so I could perform sexual favors on him. I changed into a long nightgown with quarter-sleeves, oddly, the most modest piece of sleepwear I owned. Theo had already stripped down to nothing and was waiting for me. I was, unfortunately, now used to it, but that night it seemed like he couldn't get enough. After jerking him off, I thought we were done and sat down from a painful kneeling position. My back was sore, so I lay down on the carpet and reached for a blanket, covering myself up. Theo told me to take the blanket off and get undressed because he still wasn't finished. He brought out the gel we'd bought at Spencer's along with a vibrator and told me he wanted to see me pleasure myself in front of him. At this point I knew saying no would be the death of me. Causing any sort of sexual frustration in Theo, as I'd learned over the past couple months, was a recipe for disaster. Not trying to appear too reluctant, I took off the nightgown and my underwear and spread my legs at his request. He applied the gel and I tried to appear as if I was having a good time. In reality, I was sore and didn't want to orgasm: every time I had in the past with him, which was rare because pain would normally overwhelm any other sensation, it'd felt so wrong, like it was a robotic response to an action rather than something to be enjoyed. He handed me the vibrator, and soon I felt the precursor to the orgasm, and I withdrew it, turning it off.
Wanting me to continue, Theo got close to me and coached me on how deep he wanted me to put my fingers inside myself. I was already uncomfortable with the notion and told him I couldn't: an even bigger mistake, I saw him getting frustrated. Instead of pushing me, however, he took control, moved my hand, and, putting the gel on his fingers, thrust them inside me.I had a small convulsion as his fingers rammed against the tender skin, but he wouldn't stop even if I asked him to. I started sweating, horrified I just couldn't shut my body down and stop the inevitable, stop Theo from getting what he wanted. But he did get what he wanted. Feeling defeated after he'd made me orgasm, I crawled under the covers. He finally let me sleep while he worked on his computer on a song, only waking me once during the night to relieve himself sexually.








Wednesday, November 14, 2012

VIII

Our third apartment was probably the nicest. It was in a low-income complex called Regency Park, and though the application process was a little more difficult than our last apartment, we were still approved and able to move in on May 1st. Our roommate was an elderly woman named Suzy, who had a roommate a little older than me that was moving out to go to dental school. Suzy had a dog, an old basset hound named Charlie. Charlie brought me a little joy in my life plagued with stress and worry, and spending time with Suzy put me at ease, although Theo was not thrilled about meeting Suzy’s roommate(as usual, he thought she had a crush on me and that I was giving her the “fuck-me” eyes). Naturally, I was lectured on Theo’s thoughts about the girl and he told me I was to stay away from her and limit contact, because she could corrupt me. This was fine with me as we saw very little of each other.


           The day we moved in, I took advantage of the hot tub, but I couldn’t go all the way in because I didn’t have a swimsuit. While Suzy was out of the house we did what work we could on Theo’s computer, which consisted of him using a free program to make music. His music was pretty unoriginal. He rarely used vocals but ripped off sections of music and his favorite YouTube videos, laying tracks over instrumental loops. I wasn’t very impressed with it at all. The one song I did sing on, a Nine Inch Nails remix that I’m not very proud of either, I picked the wrong song and didn’t feel like I did a good job on it. When I asked him to redo it, he got angry at me and told me I sounded just fine. In our previous apartments, it would also set him off if I sang--even quietly. He told me that the walls were thin and that someone would hear me, realize there was a new woman in the apartment, and might break in and try to rape me. Of course, he said a lot of ridiculous stuff like this. On our second night in, Suzy had complications with a condition she’d been telling us about, got sick and had to go to the hospital. Thankfully the neighbors across the street knew her and could take care of her and give her a ride back from the hospital since Theo didn’t have a car. The next day, since she was still in the hospital, I was alone with Theo. We went to the mall and he took me into Spencer’s to buy sex toys and other paraphernalia, including edible strawberry peppermint lubricant. That night, and the duration of the stay at Suzy’s, he had me give him oral using the gel, and to this day peppermint still makes me ill.



A couple hours after I’d fallen asleep that night, Theo woke me again to jerk him off. After numerous attempts and with my back sore from kneeling in an awkward position (along with sleeping in the tent, etc.), he told me to stop touching him and give him oral. I was tired and sore, and made the mistake of refusing him. He guilted me into it, telling me how much he’d done for me, and then brought up how I’d cheated on him, just like Keeley, and finally when he’d broken me down enough, I gave in. I felt weak and helpless, but there was nothing I could do about it; I had no control. I’m not sure if it was sexual frustration or anger, but that night he seemed particularly rough. He grabbed my hair and thrust himself in and out of my mouth, making me swallow once he had ejaculated. He’d started this practice a month earlier because since then we hadn’t been able to have normal intercourse. I’d been so sore that even Theo fingering me (which wasn’t much gentler than real sex) brought on tears. Every time I refused, he called me a cheater. I couldn’t make him understand how much I hurt. 

Suzy came back for one night before returning to the hospital. I didn’t see her the rest of my stay. The night after she’d left again, I told Theo I missed my family and wanted to save money to go back for my youngest sister’s birthday in August. At first the discussion was civil, until he told me it would be okay if I didn’t see my “boyfriend”. He referred to a good male friend who I swam with regularly on my high school swim team. We’d never had any romantic feelings towards each other; the relationship was more like brother-sister than boyfriend-girlfriend. The minute I tried explaining this to him, he shut down and told me I wouldn’t see my sister because we weren’t going to Utah. This was my ultimate breaking point. At the beginning of the journey, when I’d first left, I never realized how much I would miss them and how much I needed them. Shutting me off from ever seeing them was the deal-breaker. The more I pleaded and begged, the angrier he became. It escalated to yelling. He became so angry that he smacked himself in the head, gashing his forehead open with his ring, and at one point, when we were inches away, he told me when Keeley had made him this mad, he’d strangled her. While I was in tears, literally fearing for my life at this point, he demanded to know if I still loved him. The words would not come out, even though I didn’t mean them and I would be lying. Nothing came out of my mouth. I sat there in tears and stared at him, in shock he could ask such a question after he’d basically threatened to strangle me. I realized there was something really wrong with him, and that I couldn’t expose myself to his presence any longer.
The next day I called my dad just to talk. I missed him, and realized that I had taken for granted the attributes of a real man. I knew he wouldn’t ever treat my mom like this. Theo had jumped in the shower, so I took my chance to spill what had happened the previous night, taking caution to speak low. Theo must have heard something, because as I was finishing talking, he came up behind me. I quickly wrapped up the conversation and hung up, but this time Theo’s suspicions were right. I’d told my dad what had happened, and naturally it made him upset because my dad would think he was a lesser man. I’d also confessed to my dad that I was thinking about moving back home. Even with the brave confession, I was still nervous about leaving. I was scared to think Theo heard me, but I didn’t know how much longer I could last in the situation.




VII

Despite getting a job, I still spent most my time with Theo. The job provided me with 3 or 4 hours per week, mainly on the weekends, but it was bliss to be away from him. The minute we reunited, he asked me how work went, and if I’d flirted with anyone. I was always appalled by the second question: I couldn’t believe that after all we’d gone through, he’d still accuse me of cheating. However, if I even brought it up that I disagreed with his interrogations, he would get angry and compare me to his last ex, Keeley: something I would get accustomed to hearing in the following weeks. He’d told me about his ex several times in the past: how she was just like me and he’d fathered a child with her, but he had to split up because she was cheating on him and irresponsible, and she hated him, all of which (excluding the last statement) I was unwilling to believe unless I saw it for myself. all he did for his son was send a box of toys up every month to where he lived, and despite his interests in his son to have me as a mom, his interests to visit him, we never got past the planning stage.


Theo decided to set me up a bank account for work at the People’s Bank, not far from the mall. While we were discussing account options, he thought I was staring at one of the employees, or as he put it more bluntly, “giving him the ‘fuck-me’ eyes”. He made sure to let me know how upset he was with me once we left the bank, telling me that he could never trust me again, and that as soon as possible, he would make me withdraw the money I’d put in the account and open another account elsewhere. He didn’t let me forget how embarrassed I’d made him feel, how inferior he must’ve looked while I was supposedly staring at the man. It was another argument where he pushed his logic for me wearing sunglasses. We looked around at places for gym memberships and Theo tossed around the idea of getting a job, telling me he could work part-time without giving up his Social Security income. But this was all dependent on my behavior, because now he supposedly couldn’t trust me. In the same breath, however, he would talk about how much he loved me and how he wanted a family with me. The stress it caused was becoming unbearable.
         I started living for weekends for those few precious hours I’d spend away from him, and the thought of leaving was becoming more enticing every day. I hadn’t slept in a bed since I’d been with him. One night, on one of our many all-nighter walks around the city, we stopped at a Denny’s on the other side of town. Since he didn’t want me to have another seizure episode, he called a cab and had it drive us to the Jack-in-the-Box. Again, it was past midnight and the damp, cold air of Bellingham was doing a number on my morale. I asked Theo if he wanted to find a hotel, and since he was still mad at me for the scene I’d caused at the bank, I promised him the one thing I knew he wouldn’t turn down. If he got us a room, I’d have sex with him. I knew I’d really be in for a long, hard night if we did find a room, but I was tired and desperate enough to lower myself to that level. Theo asked if there were any hotels open, and the cab driver told us that the few hotels in the area were out of rooms due to an incident at the construction site. Workers and their families were all holed up in hotels. I was on the verge of tears as we checked the closest hotel to find that there were no vacancies because I knew Theo would take me up on my reckless offer anyway, which he did the minute we entered the grove of trees beside the restaurant. He had me strip outside the tent despite the freezing temperature, my only padding coming from his jacket that he’d laid out on the ground. I knew protesting at this point was probably not a smart idea, so I got down on my forearms and knees and tried to distract myself through the rough and painful ordeal he called sex.


I also hadn’t had a chance to let loose and have fun because being around him meant I had to step on eggshells 24/7. Looking at anyone or talking, even a minor “hello” would make him suspicious of my infidelity. Ironically, the harder I tried to show him I wasn’t cheating, the more he would confront me. Even at work, when my managers tried to get me to open up and engage with customers, I found it extremely difficult, especially after Theo dropped by once or twice to surprise me. I knew he could be watching at any time to see if I slipped up and smiled for too long at anyone, boy or girl. By the time we moved into our third and what would be my last apartment, he’d practically broken me of my independence.


VI

Samish Way, as he put it, was “infested” with crackheads and prostitutes and drug dealers. So of course it made perfect sense to go there in the middle of the night. Not fully knowing what I was getting myself into, I followed him on the long walk up to Samish Way. He barely could stop telling me how horrible it was the entire way to the McDonalds, and of course, when we got to the restaurant, the lobby was closed for another hour. We waited outside on the benches until it opened, where we bought food. There was no place to plug in a laptop charger, so we just sat there for a while. One of the “perks” of looking homeless is that everyone treats you like a criminal. The manager on duty at the time came up to us after a couple hours and asked us to leave unless we were going to buy more food. Theo got angry and didn’t want to put up with the manager, so after a heated argument, we left.

On the way down I couldn’t get him to shut up about how cruel and heartless the manager was. And as if that wasn’t enough, he started to get angry at me for not wearing my sunglasses! The sun was barely up and I couldn’t see, so I told him I wouldn’t wear them. That was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’d ever made, because he switched his rage from ranting at the manager to tearing me apart for my infidelity. My tears that stemmed from his outburst only made it worse. He claimed I was trying to get someone’s attention and that I was trying to get him arrested. When we finally made it back to our tent, all I wanted to do was sleep. With that intent, I crawled into my sleeping bag and closed my eyes, but Theo had other plans.

He still wasn’t done with me yet, and as payback for my insubordination, he demanded that I jerk him off or give him oral. I started crying again because I was so tired (I’d been up for 24 hours straight). Theo’s anger spiked. I started feeling bizarre, and before I knew it, I felt the frightening sensation of losing control of my body. My leg felt like it was contorting and folding. My whole body was tense and in pain; I was tingling all over and couldn’t feel my leg from the knee down--all I felt was the contortion and pain. It passed after what seemed like eternity, but it wasn’t finished. Theo was telling me to calm down; I was making too much noise. I only had time to take a deep breath before another wave hit me. I was terrified I was having a seizure because I hadn’t had one for years. It was only after the third wave that he finally relented and hugged me. I was allowed to sleep.

         When I woke up, I had another episode, leaving my leg numb and tingly. Theo helped me out of the tent, finally convinced I wasn’t faking, and we walked over to Jack-in-the-Box where I called my mom to tell her good morning. I also told her the story of  what had transpired (leaving out Samish Way so she wouldn’t worry), but Theo overheard our conversation and was worried I was making him out to be less of a man than he was, namely by making it sound like he wasn’t protecting me. He did a good enough job by himself. My mom let me know, as she always did, that their doors remained open to me. The possibility of going home wasn’t looking so bad, and I began to think seriously about it.

V

We’d moved back into our tent in the same wooded area where we’d left not even two weeks ago. Things started to get weirder at this point. I remember praying daily that somehow this would all work out, that Theo would finally trust me. He’d brainwashed me into thinking that going home was giving up on us, that running to my parents was not an option. But every day it became clearer that this was not the situation I’d expected or wanted. One day, when we’d set up his computer at Barnes & Noble, taking advantage of the free wi-fi, he told me that unless he knew I was pregnant, he had no desire to search for an apartment and that he’d rather spend his $800 a month on something else.

The days seemed to drag by. A routine was established: wake up, around 9 or 10 AM, where we would either go to the Jack-in-the-Box next to our tent or wait around to catch the bus to the mission for lunch. I never could wake up earlier than 9 as Theo would wake multiple times during the night, rousing me to give him oral and getting angry if I said a word in complaint. I started lying to him somewhere around this period, while still lying to my mom and dad that everything was going okay. I didn’t have any other choice because Theo hovered over me almost 24/7, questioning everything I did. After having lunch at the mission, we would either wander the streets, or go to the mall and window-shop (we rarely had any money), or set up his laptop at Barnes & Noble to look for an apartment. We found one after Tina had kicked us out of her apartment, but the bad news was that it wasn’t available until May 1st. We were now in the month of April. I wanted to look for other apartments with sooner availabilities, but ended up getting stuck with what Theo wanted. Like usual, he was so afraid I’d be “corrupted” by the potential roommates I saw on Craigslist that he would rather wait an entire month to move in. It was getting very hard to conceal my frustration with him at this point.

Through some bizarre miracle, I ended up getting a job at Claire’s at the Bellis Fair mall. It was closer to Tina’s, which would have been convenient, but at this point I was happy to be working instead of walking the streets like usual. My happiness was short-lived. Later that week, Theo got mad at me, for some reason or another. It was well past midnight, so we were in our tent, and because of his anger, he decided the only way he could calm himself was by getting a cigarette. Well, we only found his lighter. With that angering him even more, he told me to get dressed because we were going out to buy him cigarettes. In a tired daze, not realizing my stupidity, I protested. That only escalated the situation, and in a desperate move to calm him, I got dressed and followed him to a gas station a few blocks from our tent. As we approached the gas station, he told me he wasn’t allowed inside because of a confrontation a few years back with the owner. Supposedly he was in the bathroom, the owner asked him to leave because he’d been in there too long. Theo called him a string of racial slurs, which was when the police were called. He handed me his card and told me to buy any pack that was $5 or less. Unfortunately, everything was $7 or more, not including tax. I walked back out empty-handed, which was when he told me to buy an energy drink for him.

At this point I knew I’d probably be kept up all night, so I walked back in and bought 2, since the station was having a 2 for $5 deal. We drank them as we headed back to the tent. The caffeine buzz hit somewhere between the gas station and the tent, which is where he realized he wouldn’t be getting any sleep. I knew I was in for a long night. He packed up his computer and told me there was a 24-hour McDonalds on Samish Way where we could get free wi-fi. This meant walking to the other side of town and into what Theo told me was probably the worst place we could ever go.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

IV

         A couple weeks after we were evicted from Mark's apartment, things started looking up (a matter of perspective in this situation): I had applied for food stamps and had received quite a bit, thanks to my unemployed/homeless status. Although I was happy I'd actually get to eat meals away from the mission or any other charitable function, I was embarrassed to be actually receiving federal aid for the first time in my life. For Theo, this was a normal part of life, and in his opinion, we were entitled to every penny of it.
      
         While waiting to apply for my food stamps, we tried calling my bank one more time. This time, we were successful in getting my money--and $400 of my parents money. I was desperate, even though I did feel a hint of remorse for what I'd done. I hid the remorse from Theo, who was gleeful that we were finally getting back what he thought my parents had stolen from us. The money we practically stole from my parents went to a new apartment and a few other things that Theo wanted. I began to notice throughout the relationship that he was a compulsive spender: if he liked it and had the money, it was his. I learned quickly not to press the matter, however, as he would justify his spending with trying to make me happy or start an argument which undoubtedly would leave me in tears.
       
         The next apartment we found was in a low-income complex on the other side of town. The application process was fairly easy and for once during the relationship, Theo finally seemed at ease and happy. This was not to say I wasn't still held to his expectations of a loyal companion: I still could not look or speak to anyone without his permission, and even holding eye-to-eye contact with anyone for too long, even with permission, was pushing my luck. Our roommate, Tina, was a small exception to his rule. She met us in a Jack-in-the-Box parking lot on the left side of a wooded area where we had pitched our tent. I'm surprised now that even with this information, she didn't immediately turn us down and look for another roommate. Tina and Theo talked for a moment, and to my surprise, he actually left me alone in the car with her while he packed up the tent. In the back of my mind as I sat in the car, I knew I was in for an interrogation later. He would want to know if I had any "lesbian" contact with her, and though I'd tell him the truth and say "no", he'd persist in his accusations of my infidelity.
    
       Tina was studying in the U.S. from out of the country and didn't know a lot of people. She kept to herself and was studious, but friendly. She drove us to the apartment and showed us our room, and welcomed us to use her dishes until we could build a collection of our own. I was relieved we wouldn't have to sleep on the streets any more. While we unpacked, Tina offered to let us use her air mattress as we were pretty much broke and couldn't afford a bed at the time being. Theo took it, promising to replace it if anything happened. The first week went without incident, but then she left for a week and a half, telling us she'd only be gone the weekend. After four days we began to be concerned for her and, with no way to contact her, could only wait.

      Although I was happy not to be living in a tent any longer, having a room (and a mattress) meant one more thing for me. I would have to suffer through Theo's violent sexual acts. There was never a day where I was not sore or aching from having to endure intercourse with him. Because he didn't want his back getting sore, he made me get on my hands and forearms to penetrate me. It wasn't the most comfortable position by itself, but with the addition of Theo's hips ramming into me for minutes on end, it was close to unbearable. Trying to shift would only frustrate or anger him. Despite my soreness, I would be forced to stay on my arms and knees until he relieved his sex drive for the time being. Not only would I have to be available to him at any time during the day, he would often wake multiple times during the night. I would pretend sleep, closing my eyes and listening to him shift around on the mattress until he was on top of me, pulling down my pants. I "woke" when I felt his penis slide over my butt as he tried to have anal sex with me, a rabid fantasy of his, one he'd only mentioned after we'd arrived in Washington. Even though I'd refused him when conscious, he knew I was vulnerable, and therefore unable to refuse while unconscious. While Tina was in the house, not a common occurrence, he acted more reserved, but with Tina gone, he took every chance he had to violate me.

      When Tina came back, she immediately raised concerns that we were not clean enough for her, and before leaving for work the next morning, she covered the bathroom in Comet bleach and left a note saying that if we didn't clean it, she would clean it, "like always". Though it annoyed me, I didn't take it as seriously as Theo, who decided to confront her about it almost as soon as she walked in the door. His combative nature, combined a threatening appearance and his lecturing, must have shaken Tina badly, because she refused to renew our month-to-month lease (pro-rated that month as we'd moved in in the middle of the month) and wanted us out immediately. The next day she informed us that she wanted us gone by the time she got back from work. Again, packing up my things, I was upset as I knew we'd be living in a tent until Theo decided he wanted to move into another apartment, but again, he offered little consolation. I simply had to toughen up and dry my tears; he didn't want to look like the bad guy. After that, the relationship began to deteriorate even further.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

III

         This is a very brief chapter in the two-month ordeal. After arriving in Bellingham, I went to the ATM in the bus depot and swiped my card to withdraw the $700 needed for that month's rent. I was responsible for March's rent as Theo had burned through his Social Security income when he'd met me in Salt Lake City. The ATM declined my card and after numerous calls to the out-of-state credit union from which my card originated, we decided to try later. With no money even for the bus, Theo convinced me to walk the five miles across town to the apartment. This was all while I was carrying my backpack full of clothes and a heavy synthesizer. On the way there I listened to his long-winded lecture on how the women of Bellingham were all shameless lesbians that would turn me into a feminist man-hater should they ever speak to me. As if not to scare me away, the lecture was more subdued, changing tone later in the month from a warning to a strict rule. Theo made it very clear in the passing weeks that if I even looked at anyone without his permission, I would be branded in his eyes as a cheating slut unworthy of his trust and affection.

        Upon arriving at the house in which we planned to rent a room, Theo introduced me to Mark--the extremely corpulent landlord. Although we didn't have the money for rent at the moment, Mark let the issue slide for that day but warned us not to tell the other tenants that he'd done so. Because it was over the weekend, he told us that if we didn't have the money by Monday, we would have to vacate the house. Thanking Mark, Theo took me upstairs and had me change into the outfit he'd bought for me at a Hot Topic in Salt Lake: a red and black striped corset with a matching thong and fishnet thigh-highs. There was only a couch in the room, so he had me lay down on the couch and spread my legs while he undressed in anticipation to consummate what he called our marriage.

          Losing my virginity was painful. I was on the verge of tears as he thrust inside of me, only pretending gentleness at first as his rabid sex drive took control of his mind. Before this point I had only imagined sex--both from fantasy and what I'd read and heard about it. It was supposed to be this long, romantic, passionate act, carried out with such love. Instead, my first time was more like being raped in a back alley. I was shaking and hurt after he pulled out, but because I didn't want to upset or disappoint him, I hid it. He had me stay dressed like a whore the entire night.

         I found out on Monday that because I shared a joint account with my parents, they had locked me out of the account so I wouldn't spend their money as well as mine. At the time, this made me upset as I'd planned in advance, even setting up a different account with my money. The credit union representative I talked to on the phone explained that the account I'd set up was only a sub-account, one over which my parents still retained control.While I refused to completely condemn my parents and their motives, Theo was eager to call my mother all sorts of obscenities. We contacted my Aunt Neeta as a go-between, and it was during the conversation that Theo called my mother a bitch and other choice insults. This made me uncomfortable but not enough to protest because Theo could be quite frightening when he was mad. After finishing the call with Aunt Neeta, Theo decided we should go downstairs and try reasoning with Mark. Mark, understandably, refused to let us stay, sparking another fit of rage in Theo. With a curt goodbye to Mark, Theo took me out of Mark's office and began ranting. He claimed from the moment Mark saw me, all Mark wanted to do was have sex with me. He branded Mark a creep, no longer his friend. While we packed our things, I didn't try hiding the fact that I was scared. Although I was in tears, Theo offered very little comfort, something I would become acquainted with quickly. His reasoning? If I cried or looked unhappy, it made him look like the bad guy. We left without another word to Mark.

          I admit I don't remember much of the two weeks that followed. I remember Theo finding some way to get just enough money to buy a cheap tent and sleeping bags, which we utilized as our home. We ate at the Lighthouse Mission, even staying there a few nights when the damp and rainy weather of Bellingham became too much for me. This was far from what I had in mind when Theo promised he would take care of me. Our days were spent roaming: since he had a laptop, we would scout out wi-fi hotspots to find cheap apartments. And after a long two-week period, we seemed to finally find our new home.