Heading out into the world
“Never feeling totally comfortable with who I am, during my school years I found outlets in music, academic excellence and extracurricular activities to validate myself through the admiration and approval of others. It’s not that I didn’t love doing those things. I was enthusiastic about being in the School Choir, National Honor Society and involved in functions outside normal school hours.
My mindset and motivators were to be the perfect son, the perfect student, and admired by my peers. In my Senior year, I worked on the Yearbook Staff writing copy, was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” and it seemed like I had it all wrapped up. Being one of the youngest students in my graduating class, and still immature in many ways, when I left school I floundered. I faced uncertainty, loneliness, rejection and fear.
My near future plans were laid out before me by a full scholarship that would lead to a “good career”. Naive and gullible, I began my post-secondary education hundreds of miles from home. My attempts to join Freshmen and Upperclassmen in activities outside school, and present myself in a way I thought I would be liked or included, left me vulnerable to being used and manipulated.
At first, I was invited to parties off-campus where there was pot, booze and quaaludes. Having fun, smoking pot, doing ludes, hanging out, meeting people and making friends was cool. I was in a new place with new people and I was already “cool” with those I sought approval from. There came a time later in life when I would look back with sadness and regret. In my amateur self-analysis, I came to the realization I was set on a path of secretive, self-destructive behaviors. They would lead to a lifetime of emotional turmoil, much success and dramatic failures.”
When life knocks you on your ass
“Ten years after graduating from high school, I found myself standing in an apartment I once shared with Jose, my partner of nine years. He’d packed his things and moved out while I was gone. I was away because of what happened between us a few weeks before. I walked over to the Christmas tree on the far side of the living room. Before I even touched it it was obvious it hadn’t been watered in who knows how long. That Christmas there wasn’t alot to be cheerful about anyway. I ended up taking it out through the sliding glass doors and throwing it off the balcony. Needles flew everywhere when it hit the ground four stories below. Christmas tree gone and my relationship gone.
Weeks before, I took a part-time job for the holidays to get ahead on some bills and debts. I worked my full-time job then part-time evenings at an electronics/camera store. By the time Friday nights came I was exhausted and ready to eat and sleep. That particular Friday night I called home to ask Jose how his day went and to see if I needed to pick up something to eat on the way home. There was no answer so I figured he was out doing holiday stuff or whatever. I tried again an hour or so later and still no answer – just the stupid answering machine. Tired and hungry and cranky I asked to leave work for the night. Store traffic had fallen off so it was no problem.
When I got home, Jose still wasn’t there and the light on the answering machine was blinking from the messages I left. No note from him either saying he ran out or something. I poured a glass of wine, turned on some music and started to relax. We’d decorated the Christmas tree the week before, so I sat and drank wine; watching the lights twinkle. The first glass of wine disappeared in no time so I poured another. As time passed and my stress level grew I poured another. Where was he? Why didn’t he call if he was running late? (It was 1989 no cell phones only pay-phones) Was he ok? Where the hell was he?! As I worried and drank wine, I waited and waited for word from him. I was getting more and more pissed instead of concerned and I’d finally had enough.
I headed downtown to the Topaz Lounge – a local gay bar known to draw a decent crowd on a Friday night. I was looking for a change of scenery, some drinks and holiday spirit. I parked, walked up to the Lounge and as I opened the door I heard laughter and conversation. It was a welcome distraction. I sat down at the bar ordered a scotch and water and nodded hello to some acquaintances. After some drinking and conversation I needed to head for the Men’s Room. As I walked toward the back, past the pool tables and through a table-seating area, for some reason I turned my head to the right. And there HE was! At a table in the darkest part of the seating area he was sitting very close and cozy with a man I didn’t know. I looked directly at Jose and he did the same to me but I didn’t stop. I turned my head back in the direction I was going and kept walking.
Heading back to the bar from the Men’s Room, I looked over to my left and he was still there sitting close to the other man. Jose looked me in the eyes with an expression that said “so what”. I kept walking, sat at the bar and ordered another scotch and water. I was fuming inside. Overcome with frustration, hurt and anger. I promised myself I wouldn’t lose it. The scotch and water was a blessing, a tranquilizer to numb my frazzled nerves.
It wasn’t long before others at the bar left and I was one of a few remaining. Jose came from the back table, sat on the barstool next to me and said something. I didn’t really hear it and didn’t want to. I wouldn’t look at him. He then raised his voice and said again “What are you doing here?” I didn’t look at him and I said “Having a drink.” At that point I turned my head and looked directly at him with a face that said “fuck you”.
Before I could react, I noticed something from my left side coming at my face. It turned out to be his hand/fist. He hit me so hard with direct force on the side of my head and face the sound made everyone in the bar turn and look. I took it, I took it and saw stars and felt such pain that my eyes teared up – but I didn’t say a word. He wanted me to react and I wouldn’t. He stared at me, ignoring the reaction of the other people in the bar. Finally he took his anger back to the table where he had been with his “trick”. One of many I later found out.
I quickly finished my drink and headed home, the side of my head throbbing. I dreaded the fact that he would be coming home too.
When your boyfriend knocks you on your ass
When I got home, I was tired and emotionally exhausted by the constant stress, worry and fear in our relationship. It had been getting worse and worse and he wasn’t even trying to hide what he was doing anymore. He’d been at the bar cozying up with another man and drinking. All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind about what they were doing before or after they went there.
The alcohol made me feel more tired than I already was so I headed for the bedroom. It was late, my head and face hurt and I was ready to crash. My thoughts raced when I was in bed replaying the scene in the bar over and over. It dawned on me that no one spoke up or did anything when Jose slammed the side of my head. I wondered why, what was it about me that they didn’t seem to care? I tossed and turned for a while not certain if or when Jose would come home. I hoped in some ways he wouldn’t. Not tonight please God let me have some peace. I drifted off to sleep my mind filled with fear and worry.
I woke up when I heard him stumbling around the bedroom in the dark. He sounded irritated and was swearing in Spanish – words I’d heard many times. I stayed still and quiet as if I was asleep. But I knew something was coming. There almost always was but I hoped to God he would just lay down and go to sleep. After he changed into sweats, he mumbled something about being hungry and headed for the kitchen. My heart sank. It wasn’t long before I heard cabinets slamming and dishes clanking and him complaining loudly about having nothing to eat. I could feel the tension skyrocket, my fight or flight adrenaline kicking in, knowing he was going to blame me. He would use that blame as he had many times before, as an excuse to “start something”.
Since I didn’t react as he expected at the bar, I knew he was furious. He wouldn’t let it rest until he was validated in some way that provided satisfaction for him and his ego. I was dreading that he was going to twist things and make his being with another man all my fault. And he wouldn’t stop there, oh no. I could tell what was coming. He would go off about me being at the bar, questioning why I was there, then calling me a liar even before I would finish what I was saying. He was going to get a reaction from me one way or another. He would get it by “starting something” but this time I was going to finish it.
The Knock-down Drag-out Fight (sponsored by fear, hurt and anger)