Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
By midnight, a neighbor who put his name on the line with a bail bondsmen he knew drove me away from my short stint in jail.
When we got home, while thanking each of my neighbors for coming to my rescue — for bonding me out and watching my babies — Nate emerged from the trees behind our trailer.
“I can’t believe you let your wife go to jail for you.” The friend who signed my bond crossed his arms, no attempt at hiding his disgust.
Nate shrugged. “I knew she’d get out.”
He walked into the house, leaving the neighbors without a thank you. They looked at me, pity all over their faces, and I was embarrassed. “Call us if you need anything,” they said, leaving me alone with him. I hoped I wouldn’t need anything else.
“What’d you tell them?” Nate said as soon as I got inside.
“Nothing, of course.” I didn’t know if he meant the cops or the neighbors, but the answer was the same either way.
“I gotta get out of here. But I don’t have a way or any money. So I was thinking while you were gone. There’s enough space under the trailer where I could hide for a few days. I already checked it out. Just get me some blankets, a pillow, and some clothes. I can come inside in the middle of the night to get anything I need. And you can bring me food through the opening in the back, and we can talk through the heater vents.”
All I could think of was years past when my brothers and I used to talk to my mom through the vents, room to room when my stepdad would lock us in our rooms, echoed cries from other parts of the trailer to see if we were ok. I was once again trapped, only not in a bedroom but in my own home.
“I’ll need the baby monitor, too. So I can hear what’s going on inside the house,” he said, giving me a hard look. “I don’t advise you turn it off.”
He’d thought of everything, and I wanted to scream at him, tear at his face, something. Why couldn’t he just go away once and for all?
I looked at him for a second, allowing no expressions to betray the defiance I felt. Who was this person really and what made me ever love him? At the moment, I couldn’t come up with any reasons and instead thought I must have been living in a stupor for the last seven years.
“Come on, I don’t have much time,” he said.
I gathered what he said he needed, shoved it into his arms, and hoped with all my might that the police would cruise through just as he was leaving again.
For the next two weeks, he lived under the trailer, making demands for food and that I not tell a soul he was under there. The police came back three or four more times, stomping through the trailer loud enough to be heard outside, where they always made me wait. I often thought of tipping them off, trying to tell them somehow to look under instead of inside, but aside from the fear that Nate could see and hear me, I was also afraid they’d arrest me again.
Finally, tired of hiding among spider webs and dirt, Nate decided to hitchhike back to Florida. I let him go without the usual begging for him to stay. I wanted him gone. I didn’t know how at this point I’d avoid getting evicted from our trailer, but I’d much rather face that possibility than going back to jail.
A few weeks after he left, without a word since, final notices started pouring in. I wasn’t shocked when I woke up one morning to find the electric had been shut off. Yet another helpful neighbor ran an extension cord from her trailer to mine to keep the food in the fridge from going bad and to have at least one light at night. Otherwise, we were without. I couldn’t help but think back to how life was when I was thirteen, scared my children might wind up living the same way. Deadbeat dad? Check. Trailer? Check. No electricity or water? Check.
Time passed and Nate didn’t write or send money, like that was surprising. Each day was a waiting game, hoping one of the local charity services would approve to pay the bills, hoping I could find affordable childcare so I could work, hoping just one good thing could happen. I got what I wanted — Nate gone — but it was so much harder than I realized. We had peace, though, and that was priceless, which was good since I didn’t have a penny to my name.
I didn’t have anywhere to go, no one to turn to. Friends helped, but they couldn’t save us. And the eviction came, just as I knew it would. Less than a year after moving in, the landlord asked us to leave. They were kind about it, feeling sorry for me, but no matter how you paint it, an eviction means you have to go, and we just didn’t have anywhere to go.
Of course, Nate came riding back into town just in the nick of time, just in time to save us once again, a wallet full of money.
With cash and a handful of lies, I found a new place to live. We still owed for two months on the last place, and I thought we should try to pay that and stay, but Nate insisted that if we stayed there, he couldn’t stay with us. I was torn. I needed him for the money, nothing else.
And so we moved way out in the country into another trailer. A better trailer, at least. More room, nicer, but away from neighbors. Neighbors who might help me if I needed them — when I needed them.
Nate spent most of his nights away. I no longer cared. The less he was around, the more happy memories the kids and I could make together. He had begun throwing tantrums over the smallest of things, like dinner not being ready right when he wanted it, even if it wasn’t dinnertime, or a particular shirt not being clean when he was ready to wear it.
One morning, upset that he had to retrieve his own glass of sweet tea because I was feeding the baby, he suddenly threw the glass pitcher at me because the tea wasn’t fresh. As it flew past my head and crashed through the living room window, I only let myself think for a moment how it would have felt if it had actually hit me. Did he have bad aim when he threw things at me or did he merely mean to scare me?
Time still dragged slowly, each day full of highs and lows. I was happiest when Nate was gone, when it was just me and the kids. But the times he was there, it was too scary. I wanted out more than anything. I just wanted to grab my babies and run.
Since Nate was a wanted man, he couldn’t work, so I suggested I go back to work and he agreed to let me. I went back to waiting tables, the only thing I really knew how to do. The old plan was back in play. I’d skim my tips every night and hide as much money as I could. I’d ask around to find out where I could go, how I could get there. I’d have to be very sneaky. I didn’t trust anyone. Most people who knew Nate thought so highly of him, there was no way they’d believe anything I said.
I immediately opened a paperless bank account, requesting that nothing was ever sent by mail. I explained as much as I could to let the woman at the bank know how important it was that nothing ever tipped off my husband. Every night, once I made the required amount of money in order to be allowed to keep working (I had to hand it all over to Nate each night), I stopped at the bank before coming home and made a deposit. Sometimes it was a mere $5, and other times $20. My account grew very slowly. I would have to stick it out as long as I could.
Nate started staying away for days at a time, and sometimes when he came home, he smelled of sex and perfume. None of it bothered me. If some other girl could keep him away from me, I was fine with it. I was disgusted any time he even looked at me like he wanted to have sex.
I went to work and came home, took care of my kids, slept, and went to work again. The cycle was never-ending, but the end result would be worth it. Running away, getting my kids and myself away from him, that was worth biding my time. Once I was away, I’d call the police anonymously, and so not only would he not know where I’d gone, but we’d have time to figure everything out without worrying about him trying to find us. At least for a few years.
But something unexpected happened. I started falling for someone at work. Against everything I knew and wanted, I felt something different and interesting stir inside of me. I fought it, didn’t want it at all. Didn’t need it. And besides all that, despite everything Nate had done to me, I felt guilty. How could I even think about someone who wasn’t my husband?
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!