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The Taco Bell

Yesterday Dorothy and I went on a memory lane drive, rather spontaneously. We drove to Cayucos, Morro Bay, and Los Osos and stopped to point out where we each had lived in these places (Dorothy lived in several homes in all three communities; I lived in three in Morro Bay and Los Osos). We talked about where we were in our lives then. I realized that I tend to leave things badly and my memories are not good. Most of them.

When we drove by the Taco Bell in Morro Bay I was reminded, as I always am, of when I was living with my daughters' father Roy in Morro Bay and he came home one time with a job for me. We had set up a drafting table and bookshelf in the decrepit garage for me, with the hope that I could work from home, drawing on my experience in an architectural office.

What Roy brought home was a job estimating materials for a new building. I had never done this sort of things before. It wasn't necessary and I suspect most architects and draftspeople don't get into this detail. It is left to the contractors. I should have said no, I have never done it and I don't know how. But I couldn't. This is what seems to strange to me now, yet I remember it and I know why I was that way then.

Roy was emotionally abusive. He would find the place in me where I was vulnerable and wiggle a knife in there continuously until I was shot, completely unable to defend myself. He always made fun of my advanced education, my book reading, my intelligence. He would joke about how I had the intelligence but he had the experience. So he came at me from that point of view. He continually berated me for not knowing how to do different things that he thought I should have learned in all those years in architecture. What was the good of all that time? What good was I?

So when he brought home this job that seemed simple to him I thought maybe I can do it. Maybe I can find some resources, some books or pamphlets that lay out how to do this type estimate. I was sure it wasn't difficult if I just knew the key. I did hunt for some help at the library and in book stores but didn't find anything relevant. I delayed action and became a bit desperate because the person who wanted the estimate needed it quickly. I decided to take the plans apart and try for some method. I averaged the size of the lumber, knew the distances apart for posts, did square footage calculations for other materials, and came up with a chart with my numbers. I gave it to the guy, knowing it was shit. I did not tell him it was shit. Today I would have. Then I just couldn't get it out.

I never heard anything more about it. The job was done, I never got another offer from the building supply store (where Roy had put up a notice that I could do this type work). The building I estimated materials for is now a Taco Bell.

I recounted this story to Dorothy. We have each heard what is probably the worst of each other's lives, internal and external. When we drove to the duplex in Los Osos where the girls and I lived for four years, I also told Dorothy the circumstances. We moved out when the abuse threatened my daughters. I told Dorothy this was of course the turning point for many abused women. She said I got out earlier than most, that many women in my situation might not have moved so quickly, but I took control. It was nice that she framed it that way, as I don't think I have ever thought of it in those terms.

I got out, yes, but mostly what I remember is how long I stuck it out. I stuck it out in Los Angeles when Roy was pushing me on the floor and raping me. I stuck it out in an apartment in South San Gabriel when he would come in the door, late, falling-down drunk, and throw a bunch of flowers at me as some sort of apology. I stuck it out when he ranted about how I didn't cook eggs long enough, in front of his children (from his former marriage) and our children. I stuck it out when he made fun of me when I did not manage money well. I stuck it out - but barely - when he tickled Elaine to the point where it hurt and I was frightened for her. It was, of course, this fear for my daughters that finally turned the trick.

I made several attempts to raise the question of separating but Roy did not hear them or made fun of them. I finally decided that the only way to make myself clear was to get out. I found a place to rent and borrowed a truck from a friend. We packed up our stuff and got out one day when Roy was away. I did not cut off contact with him. I felt that he deserved to know where his daughters were and to visit them from time to time. Our relationship actually improved from then on. I never made it hard but at times I would make excuses for the girls if they did not want to do something with him. I did not speak badly of him to my daughters as my mother had done of my father.

Roy is not in good shape now. He is eleven years older than I am and has not kept up with normal maintenance of his body. So he doesn't have much to show of his teeth, he doesn't hear well and he doesn't see well. He is also taking care of his mother, who apparently has Alzheimer's, in his home, with minor assistance from a live-in caretaker (really just a renter who sometimes cares for Ivah). He is a dry drunk, having quit drinking long ago but not having taken care of any core issues that caused the drinking. So he goes into black holes as he did when we were together, times when he will not speak to anyone, just sits or walks around deep in depression. I do feel sorry for him and for his situation. I worry that both he and his mother will suffer from this arrangement, as it is just too much for a not-well man to carry and his mother is far gone. But I never visit him. I know all this because his daughters, out of a sense of duty, do visit when they are in the area. They are far better people than I am in many respects, and this is one.

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