Monday, July 26, 2004

PART 22 - If You Don't Know Me By Now

This pretty much says it all.

Simply Red
If You Don't Know Me By Now

If you don't know me by now
You will never never never know me

All the things that we've been through
You should understand me like I understand you
I know the difference between right and wrong
I ain't gonna do nothing to break up our happy home
Oh don't get so excited when I come home a little late at night
Causse we only act like children when we argue fuss and fight

We've all got our own funny moods
I've got mine, Lord knows you've got yours too
Just trust in me like I trust in you
As long as we've been together it should be so easy to do
Just get yourself together or we might as well say goodbye
What good is a love affair when you can't see eye to eye . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Monday after the wedding, while he was still at the fire department, I drove over to my parent's house to pack my clothes. Stepping into my bedroom closet, I began pulling the clothing from the hangers. I reached back into the corner of the closet floor and memories flooded back: this was the corner where I had hidden so many times, terrified, during my dad's rages. It seemed so small, but I remember fitting into it perfectly. With a mixture of sadness and resolve, I stripped my bed, vacuumed my floor, left my housekey on the kitchen table and shut the door quietly on my way out. It was an easy move; I had no furniture, no linens, nothing. I loaded a couple of black plastic bags of clothing into the little car I had gotten just before the wedding, and just like that, I moved out of my parent's house. No one was even home, which seemed fitting. Driving away, I glanced into the rearview mirror and watched their house disappear from my view.

For me, married life seemed to fall into a routine pretty quickly. I did laundry, grocery shopped, cleaned, cooked dinner, and kept the little house in order. He was working his way through his required fire and hazard training courses, often being gone from home for days at a stretch. When he was home, he seemed relieved to have me there; his house had been just a place to flop before, and he seemed to enjoy coming home to a cooked meal and a waiting wife. Slowly, his house turned into our house, and I delighted in finding new ways to decorate the little place. We were settling in nicely.

With tuition money revoked, I dropped out of college and started interviewing for a full time, real job. I found one pretty quickly with the Boy Scouts of America, which needs a little bit of explaining.

The world of Scouts was a mystery to me - the only thing I knew about it was that my brothers had been Cub Scouts back when the family went to church. That was it - end of my Scout knowledge and experience. After a couple months there, I got a whole new perspective.

There are two sides to the Scouts organization, the side that deals with the kids and volunteers, and the administrative, very corporate side full of professional Scouters, or Scout Executives, hustling for money. Huge, obscene amounts of money. There is a hierarchy for these professional Scouts. The young guys start out at the local level, work up to the larger city councils, then up to the regional council level, and finally to the national council level. The Southeast Region office where I worked was situated close to a small airport, and there was a private jet that would take SEs back and forth from our office to the national headquarters in Dallas, TX. These guys were pulling down some serious cash - the financial reports that I saw listed salaries anywhere from $85K all the way up to $200K just in our office. And these bastards did NOTHING, I swear to God. Any administrative work was done by the secretaries.

This place was incredibly chauvanistic. Every Scout Executive (SE) was a white male. Each SE had an executive office and private (female) secretary. The SEs referred to each other by their first names, but the women were required to refer to them as Mr. So and So; women that worked there were all addressed by their first names by everyone; that, or they were called Darlin' or Honey or Sweetheart.

The scam I ran, er . . . I mean . . . the department I worked for was volunteer training. My chief responsibility was to create certificates for volunteers that had paid their $250 for various "certifications". These certifications were required for anyone that wanted to be a Scout Leader of a troop. These poor troop leaders were bled dry between the uniforms, required books and training.

My other responsibilities included checking all new volunteers against the "blacklist". The blacklist contained names of known pedophiles. Many was the time that I saw a new volunteer application come in from, say, Alabama, after the guy had been kicked out of, say, Tennessee. Creepy.

Creepier than that was the quarterly Death and Injury report that I gathered for our region. It listed in great detail every kid that had been killed or injured while on a supervised Scout activity. Drownings, amputations, falls from trees, arrows shot through little bodies, burns from campfires - it was horrific. It happened more than you can imagine, and the BSA had a slush fund to pay out any lawsuits that came up, and it never made a dent in the coffers, or a splash in the newspapers. The real estate holdings were incredible. Shiny new corporate buildings were donated to the BSA, and at that time, the BSA owned more wooded land nationwide than any other single landowner in the United States.

We are talking big money. No wonder they never had to sell cookies.

Anway, when we had been married about 6 months, my calm little world came crashing down. One of the SEs lived in Florida, and would call me pretty often to check on certificates, or training, or reports, or sometimes just to shoot the shit. I always knew it was him, because he always, always responded to my greeting with "Hey darlin . . ." He was jovial, and I liked him fine, even if he did call too damn much.

One afternoon, I was busy getting together stacks of mail to go out, when my phone rang, and I heard the familiar "Hey darlin . . ." I launched into a quick explanation, "Hey Bob . . . listen, I am up to my elbows in mail, can I ring you back at your office in a few minutes?" My heart nearly stopped when my husband answered, "Who the FUCK is Bob?" Holy shit. I nearly threw up right then and there. He had sounded JUST LIKE Bob, and there was no way to convince him otherwise. The jealousy that had sprouted during the courtship and that he had suppressed up to now came out with a vengeance. This Bob fiasco launched him into orbit, and by the time he came back to earth, he had once again accused me of fucking all my friends in Florida, and now he was convinced that I was fucking this old Boy Scout too.

Those evenings that he was away from home had at one time been serene. I had initially used them to go to the grocery store, to take long hot baths, to call friends and catch up, and to just relax. They now became torturous - my after work freedom was essentially revoked. He called several times an evening to "check on me". I would incur his rage if he reached a busy signal or the answering machine, so I was always careful not to tie up the line too long (no call waiting) and to be within reach of the phone, which ruled out trips to the store, or a movie, or even an extended bath. I was determined to prove to him that I was trustworthy, and this seemed like the price I had to pay.

Paired with this lockdown, I was coping with being alone in a trailer park full of very questionable folks. One trailer a few spaces over housed a traveling motorcycle gang. They came and went for days at a time, always leaving behind one woman who always seemed to have a cast on either her arm or leg. Another guy on the same stretch had lined the edge of his paved drive with garden gnomes, statuettes of the Smurfs, rabbits, and other eye-catching things. He seemed sort of harmless until he was busted for child molestation and distributing child porn. He had been taking pictures of kids in the neighborhood in his back bedroom in exchange for candy and toys.

So, just like when I was a child, I was living under strict orders not to leave the house, I was alone and scared, fearing monsters just outside the door, and praying for the benevolence of the one that lived within my own four walls.

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