Everyone has dreams and aspirations. Everyone also has their own set of problems, too. For some, the balance works for them, sometimes against them. All I can say is I must have been a major screw-up in my former life, or whatever, because there is NO balance in my life. The problems always seem to outweigh the dreams and achievements. Every time I was able to take a step forward, I was pushed back at least five steps. My childhood was challenging, to put it mildly. But I survived... somehow.
My older brother, Matt, hated my existence, and he made damn sure I knew how he felt. In the average family of multiple kids, there is a typical "sibling rivalry" between the children. With Matt and I, there was nothing but pure hatred and disdain. There were times where I wished Matt would have the audacity to "finish me off". He even came close a few times. At any cost, it seemed like he did everything in his power to keep me in a state of constant fear. So, I did my best to keep to myself as much as possible.
Eventually, I decided I had no choice but to fight back. I started exercising and lifting weights and I gave myself a fighting chance of getting away from him with my life. Since we never had a stable father figure around and it was always just the two of us, Matt, and me. With our mother always working, he was usually "in charge" and that never turned out well for me. When she was home, she was not interested in our petty squabbles. She was fully accustomed to physical abuse herself, so she didn’t seem to flinch at the same behavior happening to me.
The way I see it, Matt should have been grateful to me. I helped him get through high school even though I am much younger than him. I was supposed to advance a couple of grades, but that would have put us in the same graduating class. That would not have been beneficial for anyone. Matt was a "star athlete" in every sport he played, which ranked him as mommy’s "golden boy". Our mother believed his talent was going to pay off. She thought he was going to be a professional football player and take her to the top with him. That "talent" gave him an ego the size of Texas. My brother thought he could do no wrong. Meanwhile, I was in the background keeping his lies straight for him. I was just the one who made sure his grades met the requirements so he could continue in sports. I always hoped he would have taken me under his wing and got me to tutor his friends. I could have charged them all to do their homework and never had to stress about money. That didn’t happen, so I babysat so I could get out of the house every chance possible.
I remember living much of my childhood despising the hand I was dealt. Feeling sorry for myself. Feeling as if I deserved better, but never believing it to be possible. I am aware there are plenty of others far worse off than myself and I am grief-stricken for those people. No matter how bad I feel for others, I still have disdain for my own pathetic existence. I have seen some crazy stuff that, luckily for me, happened to other people. The simplest way I can break it down is, life sucks, no matter who you are. It all boils down to how you deal with your problems. I don’t deal with mine well. I know better than to ever think the "grass is greener" because it got better fertilizer.
Once I was legally able to "leave the nest", I blazed out of that place, leaving only dust trails behind me. Understandably, I could not leave fast enough. So, I filled my car with what little I was allowed to take and started my journey with no more than $200 and a prayer. When I reached my destination and was settled into my new life, I discarded my dream of Mr. Right and settled for the first guy that was nice to me, Jasper. The first year, we both tried to make the other happy. Everything seemed to be sunshine and roses. He even bought me roses a few times. However, all things must come to an end. After a few years, the "honeymoon phase" was completely over, and I found myself on the worst emotional rollercoaster of my life. How he managed to top my childhood I will never understand. Our relationship hit a turning point with a shotgun wedding, and nine months later we were given the best gift I could ever imagine. We tried for the baby’s sake to make it work. That did not last long...
Jasper became overbearing and extremely pretentious. I think he genuinely believes he's smarter than everyone around him. He likes to look down at me from the top of his self-proclaimed pedestal. He has always been willing to do anything it takes to get under my skin. We used to have some amazing times together, but we were young and willing to overlook things we should not have. For example, our clashing personalities. Jasper was a combination of Milhouse, Bart, and Nelson from ‘The Simpsons’ combined into one person. At times, he could be sweet or nerdy and other times he was funny. On the other hand, he was such an ass it would make anyone want to reach out and smack him. I have always pictured myself kind of like Lisa Simpson, smart, talented, and misunderstood.
Regardless of how Jasper and I felt about one another, the fact remained we made a child together. No matter if you see an unexpected pregnancy as a miracle or an accident, he was a miracle to me. From the first time I could feel him moving inside of me, I was enchanted. Jason’s beautiful little life changed my entire world. Jasper and I both had a crappy childhood, so we managed to agree to take care of him 50/50. If Jason is not with me, he’s with Jasper, and it works for us. To my surprise, Jasper was willing to do what it takes to keep Jason in his life.
My current boyfriend, Steve, is a different kind of ass altogether. When we met, though, he was a breath of fresh air. They always start great... He was who I needed him to be at the time. He was stable. He had a job. He had a car, not in the greatest of shape, but it got him from A to B for a while. He was kind and romantic. He quoted Shakespeare and Frost, my favorites. He made me feel special. Steve made me feel safe again. We met through mutual friends at a backyard barbeque. I was there with one of my girlfriends and he was friends with the person throwing the BBQ. He was very charming and seemed like the kind of guy I could trust. We went on several dates before I let him meet Jason. I had to be sure. When they did meet, they got along great. At first, we were a nice little family. And slowly but surely, we were swallowed up by a Texas tornado that was connected directly to Hell. And Steve’s ego was the only other occupant wreaking havoc wherever he goes. Some call it a chip on the shoulder, some put some Freudian phrase on it; all I know is I’m done with it.
Now, four years later, he makes me feel both homicidal and suicidal. His excuse is that he is bipolar, but really, he's just excessively obnoxious. There is a difference. I just don't think he knows that. I know many bipolar people. Diagnosis or not, they are not the same. Everyone has bipolar thoughts, multiple personalities, and issues of some kind. However, Steve is the type of person others call bipolar, so they have some form of excuse for their behavior. Like a fool, I continued this cycle, hoping his attitude would change. Wishing, waiting...praying... for the man I fell in love with to somehow reappear. Anymore we fight constantly. No matter what, I am always wrong. Especially if I am right!! I often wonder why I stay. He swears he loves me. I am so used to being treated this way by people claiming to love me that nothing seems to phase me anymore.
Of course, every relationship has problems, but I bet most of them do NOT have the kind of problems we do. Just like every relationship has its ups and downs, not every relationship is like the scariest rollercoaster ever built. Like the ones with the corkscrew loop de loops and the drops that make your stomach squish into your brain. I know everyone has been through turmoil or had some kind of tragedy in their life. I also know most do not deal with this much turbulence outside of an airplane on an everyday basis. Granted, some days are better than others, but those days are so few and far between they are harder to notice.
If it weren’t for Jason, I would have done something drastic and irreversible long ago. He gives me hope. He makes everything seem not so bad simply with his little smile. My heart melts every time those little brown eyes glance my way. He may have his father’s eyes, but he has my smile. I could handle the worst of Hell’s fire with him in my life. He makes me feel like I can do anything, handle anything. He is my rock. My reason for getting out of bed every day. Without him, my life has absolutely no meaning. For Jason, I walked through that fire with my head held high to make sure he did not get scorched.
Life has a funny way of letting you know who is really in charge. I am not a religious woman, but if I were, I would say that God has a cruel sense of humor. Now I would say when he made us, he was proud. Now he’s just shaking his head mostly or pointing and laughing. Probably both. I still have hope. My faith is slowly fading, but I keep praying. Just in case. I have seen miracles before. I believe there is a force out there greater than us. The only problem is that God helps those who help themselves. You must be willing to step out of your comfort zone and build the life you want. That is how it works out. I was not willing to step out of my bubble to go to college, because of one trip in Houston traffic. I thought I was strong then. I found out I was still very, very scared. I’m not sure I have ever been strong... I know I’m no where near as strong as I thought I was.
Chapter 1 Date Night
Finally!!! It is date night! The only night a month I can get out of my house, besides to go to the store or to work. The one night my boyfriend's parents are willing to watch his nephew that we are raising, so we can get some much-needed adult time. We would hire a babysitter, but grandparents are free, so to speak. We always end up paying for it somehow. I work boring but busy retail almost 40 hours a week, sometimes more. In my spare time, I clean other people's houses, when I am not cleaning my tiny over-filled apartment. The rest of my time is spent being a mom, a life partner, a dog walker, and a chauffeur. I live in an exceedingly small two-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, his nephew, my son, and our German Shepard Zoe.
Steve has raised his nephew since his brother and sister-in-law died in a car crash a few years back when Seth was a toddler. Steve’s parents were done raising kids, so they didn’t want to take him. His sister Tina had enough kids already. Steve was the only option for Seth. When Jason and I moved in with them, things were good at first. But after a couple of years, we were not the best environment for him or anyone. Steve’s parents got to the point they did not like dealing with him anymore. Mostly because if they say something he doesn’t want to hear, he unnecessarily goes off on them. Their compromise was to give us one night a month that they would come to our neighborhood to get him and take him and keep him overnight. If it was a special occasion, they kept him all weekend. It's not like Seth is that much of a handful. They were just past having little kids in the house. They liked their quiet space, which is why they lived out in the middle of nowhere. Tonight’s pick up went without a hitch, probably because Steve was in the shower. Hopefully, tomorrow morning they will text and tell us they’ll keep him another night. I’m hopeful! I take it as a gift and a sign. This has the potential to be a great night.
I want this night to be amazing! I need this night to be amazing! We've had too many bad nights lately. Bad nights, bad days, it's all running into one giant nightmare anymore. We desperately need at least one good night. I need one good night with a happy ending. I have not been able to have an orgasm in months. I have been trying to be as sexy as I can, but I seem to have lost my touch. Not that I had much of one, to begin with, considering my record. But I’ve tried everything I can think of to get him interested in me. Nothing seems to work. I feel another pattern forming. I know I have been overthinking everything; trying to come up with ideas that can make us both happy. Nothing works, we never go where I suggest. We always wind up at his friend Jamie’s place. I guarantee that is where he takes me tonight. The night will go just like it always does. He will not want to leave. He will ignore me. He will get drunk, and I'll have to drive home. Then, we will argue because he doesn't like the way I drive. Just like every other date night this year. I am so tired of the same old shit. I wish I could break this unrelenting loop. This time I’m going to try and keep his attention, but if he takes me to Jamie’s, all bets are off. I want a real date night!
Today I’m feeling rather lucky... Something does feel different. I can’t place my finger on it. I just hope tonight will be better. It is possible, tonight could be different. Maybe, just maybe, he will not make an ass out of himself and make it a point to humiliate me to make himself sound tough. Even though everyone knows he could not fight his way out of a paper sack. They all make fun of him and his scrawny physique every chance they get. I am constantly trying my best to defend him, but he doesn't make it easy.
Somehow, I keep filling myself with the hope that he will be the Prince Charming he once was for me. I need him to be that again, so I soldier on. I know I can not do this on my own. I watched my mom struggle my whole childhood, putting up with all kinds of bullshit from men to keep the bills paid and put food in our bellies. I watched her get struck down repeatedly, taking absolutely everything, they could throw at her. I always said I was never going to be like her, but here I am, taking everything, he feels necessary to throw at me, figuratively and literally. I know I have been through much worse. I just wish I could do better for my child. Unfortunately, I turned into what I hoped I would never do. Jake deserves better than my childhood. I wish I knew how to give it to him. Now with Seth in the picture, I must keep trying to make a better life for these boys.
He emerges from the bathroom like a beast coming out of its lair and sees that the boy’s bedroom light is off. I hear him mumble, "bout time..." as he walks past our room to the living room. Then, after hearing the TV click on, I heard him holler, "Are you going to be much longer?"
I reckon it’s a rhetorical question, so I remain silent and pull on my favorite pair of jeans. I try not to say anything unless it is vitally important. I have learned that fewer fights ensue that way. I simply remind myself of the potential for fun this evening. Slipping on my sexiest "non-mom" top, I examine my "best date-night outfit" in my full-length mirror on the back of my door. Every angle makes me feel ridiculous, but I have nothing else.
Moving forward is my only option. I embrace the age-old tradition of swallowing my pride and I let my man walk all over me again and again. At this point, I’m not sure I will ever be able to do any better. Besides, I have a child to think about, and our basic needs are met. I have dealt with this crap my whole life anyway, so I keep ongoing.
I slip into the bathroom to do my makeup quickly. I loaded my eyelashes with mascara, hoping that it would hide the redness and puffiness from me crying earlier. I am tired of wasting good makeup. It usually ends up streaking down my cheeks, so I rarely wear any form of it. In the middle of my beautifying process, he comes in slamming doors and drawers in a manic-y Tasmanian rage. "Why aren’t you ready yet? Why in the Hell does it always take you so long to get ready to go anywhere? You always make me wait. You better not make me wait too long tonight. By the way, have you seen my lucky shirt? " He screeched as he pulled all the clothes out of the hamper, flinging them everywhere. Before I could answer any of his questions, he growled, "never mind, here it is," and he walked away, leaving the mess he just made. He put the dirty shirt on over the top of his slightly stained, but clean, tank top. The dirty black bowling-style shirt with the red and gold dragons on it completely clashes with the green camo cargo shorts that I am hoping he is going to change. I'm sure he thinks he looks like a blonde Charlie Sheen when really, he looks like a homeless crackhead that just scored at a thrift store. I have no desire to go out in public with him dressed like that. I may not be a 10 or even a 7, but you can tell I try to look nice. We may be what some call poor white trash, but I prefer not to advertise it as I walk down the street. He used to take pride in his appearance, and everything else; I don’t understand what happened.
I peek around the corner to check if he's going to the bedroom to change into different pants. "Oh, don't worry, I'll clean up your mess. I am almost ready. Is that what you are going to wear? " It just slipped out of my mouth before I realized it and I couldn't backtrack. I wish I had more of a filter at times like this. It’s becoming more and more difficult to hold my tongue back.
In the middle of the hallway, he stopped in his tracks and whipped around like a starving cat that just heard a mouse. Which could not have been good for his, so-called, bad back. He looked at me like I had just kicked his dog. With a bit of a hiss, he said, "Do you have a problem with what I am wearing?" Luckily, he completely ignored my sarcastic comment about his mess. “I can’t help it that you didn’t do my laundry and I don’t have any clean jeans. At least these shorts are clean. I know you aren’t talking about my lucky shirt. Don’t you talk shit about my lucky shirt!” He stuck his nose in the air and whipped back around and walked to the couch like he just won the Presidential debate. It amazes me sometimes how that giant head balances on that tiny body frame.
Tonight, I don't want to fight. I pull my head back into the bathroom like a turtle retreating into its shell. "Nope. I don't care what you wear. " I sigh and roll my eyes before putting everything away and walking into the living room where he is sprawled out on our couch. If it would have taken me five more minutes, I would have been out of luck on going anywhere. "Are you ready to go?" I'm done arguing.
He glares up at me, lets out an annoying teenage-size sigh and shuts off the tv practically throwing the remote to show his displeasure. "I know you are not bitching already! Damn woman, we haven't even left yet. Why do you always have to ruin things? You have a real attitude problem. You know that? You always find some way to ruin my mood. Now go before you put your foot in your mouth again and really piss me off. " He sighed as he brushed his hands down his dirty shirt, trying to express his attitude like he’s Cool Hand Luke. Looking more like bitter beer face meets anorexic anonymous wrapped up in a backwoods hillbilly skin. I think I used to wear rose colored glasses or beer goggles, either way I didn’t see this coming.
I just grab my purse and keys then head out of the door. He slams the door behind us and rips the keys out of my hand. "If you thought you were driving, you were wrong." I quickly turn and walk away, rolling my eyes once my back is turned. I am starting to regret waking up this morning. It is one thing to be talked to like I’m just the hired help, I can take that. But it is really getting aggravating when he thinks that he can just take the keys to MY car.
The next thing I know, he pushes by me as I'm already halfway down the stairs of our apartment building. We get in my ugly little brown Nissan and kick off our night. He stops to get gas, so I figure we are going into the city. We live about an hour and a half from Houston. We don't go much because of traffic and the cost of everything. But tonight, is special, so maybe...... I close my eyes so I can be surprised, filling myself with more hope. He drives for a noticeably short time, then parks and turns off the engine. Without opening my eyes, I know exactly where we are. I know every turn and street he took. Plus, the vibration from the music that hit me at least a block away confirms the driveway that I am now sitting in. I knew it. He brought me the one place I didn’t want to go.
I opened my eyes and let out a sigh. "Is this the only place we are going tonight? It is date night after all. Can we at least go somewhere after this, maybe? It has been a while since we went out to eat, just the two of us. I’ll pay even. " I ask as nicely as I can. hoping he would have taken me somewhere other than his friend’s house on my only kid-free night of the month. We seldom ever go anywhere else, and I do not enjoy coming here. All Steve wants to do is play on Jamie’s Xbox. And it is not like he doesn’t have one at home. He's usually on it when the boys aren't watching their cartoons, or Tuesday and Thursday nights when his shows are on. Nights when no one can talk to him or make any noise that might distract him from the television.
"Would you quit your belly aching’ already? We just left the house. I mean damn it, woman! You don’t have to ruin my entire night. You might be surprised if you stopped being a snob for five minutes." He said this in his usual annoying whiny tone. Which made me realize, I should have never even left the house.
Hmph, ruin HIS night.... I just might! Maybe I should. He never cared when he ruined my night... I don’t know why I let myself think that tonight might be different! I knew it would end up like this. I wish I knew why I let him talk to me like this... I’m so tired of being silenced and pushed around!! It makes me wonder if things will ever get better for me... I think I’ll get drunk tonight!! I’m not driving, and he’ll be too busy playing to get even a little tipsy.
"I’m not trying to ruin anything," I huffed. "I just wanted to have a nice dinner with you, since this is the only night of the month we get. I’m not asking that much, am I? " It was rhetorical really, because I didn’t want to hear any answer he might come up with. No matter what I said, he was going to take it wrong anyway. I decide to continue, "all I'm asking is for one night that feels like a date. One night, I get to feel like a woman, not just a mom. " My mouth is moving, and words are coming out. But it doesn’t matter. My words are going in one ear and out the other.
His tone changed slightly, not that it matters at this point. "Well, I tell you what, Jamie is making his famous brisket. If you don’t like it, then I will take you to get food when I’m ready to leave. How does that sound? Besides, the kids are happy for the night, so there is your peace." He said this using his holier-than-thou voice. "I guarantee that you’ll love it! You always do, and then bitch that you ate too much. You know you do. So, get off your high horse, would ya? " He got out of the car and slammed his door.
I take a deep breath and follow his lead and slam my door too. "High horse?" I tell you what; I’ll eat what I want, where I want when I want. It’s no longer your concern. " I didn’t think. It just flew right out of my mouth. I know I’m in for an awful night now. Why don’t I have a filter?
"What are you going to do; walk? Yeah right...” he hollered to compete with the music. "Look, I said I’ll promise to take you somewhere else after I get some time for me." He said as he tugged my arm to guide me through the driveway full of cars.
I walked away from him fast enough that he couldn’t see my eyes roll. Besides, this conversation is over, beyond over for me. I look around and wonder how many people are here? I recognize a few vehicles. My ears are ringing from the bass. I can feel the pressure growing in my chest, the closer I get to the small yellow house with the throbbing walls and rippling windows. Thankfully, everyone is in the house, so no one can hear our little spat. Not that they would be able to hear us over the music unless they were right next to us. The closer I get to the faded yellow two-story fixer-upper with the big garage, the less I can hear him bitch at me. I never thought I could be so thankful for such loud music. I wish I could unwind for a change! I wish I could be the one that gets to have fun...Just once. It’s always about him and what he wants.
I quickly make my way up the small set of concrete steps to the door. I put my hand up to knock, but before I get to it, Jamie opens the door. Did he know someone was about to knock on his door? There's no way he heard us, with the music so loud you can feel it. Standing there in his Pink Floyd Dark side of the Moon tee shirt and tattered faded Levi’s, he gives me a very curious smirk. Almost like he did expect me to be the one on his doorstep. His lightning blue eyes sent an exploding shockwave through my entire body. Instantly, my knees began to buckle, unlike anything I have ever felt before. His eyes work their way up and down my body before they look deep into the deepest depths of my soul. We became Jacob’s ladder as his eyes worked their way up and down my body, for the second time. No one has ever looked at me like that. Not to where I could feel it. I do everything I can to catch my breath in a moment that seems to be going on forever. No words are spoken till a booming voice behind me breaks the silence.
Talk about ruining a moment. I had forgotten about him, for just a tiny moment. And that moment was beautiful. It probably only lasted three or four seconds, maybe five at the most, but it felt like a lifetime in one moment.
"Banging party, brother," said Steve as he came up around me, almost pushing me off the step, "your system was rattling my windows from a block away." He said it like an excited little kid going to their cooler big brother’s house. He practically drools over this guy when they get together. I don’t get it. At all! All, all the guys seem to have a man-crush on him, and all the females want to be with him. But he’s a bit of a man-whore so I think a lot of it is jealousy from the guys. He’s handsome, mind you, but not Brad Pitt level to get all these females. Every time he has one of these parties, he’s with a different bimbo or ends up with one before the night is over. Not to mention he likes them young, dumb, and hot, at least the last few were. I always just thought of him as a modern version of the Bandit. He’s always flashing his car, or a massive sound system, or whatever gets him the most attention. He is this group's show-off, that's for sure.
"You know me, man, go big or, go back crying back to your mama..." He paused, "What's up, you two? Out on your annual date? " He paused and chuckled, looking back at me. "I’m just messin’ with you guys. What’s up? What’s goin ’on? What are y’all doin ’?" He jokes while his eyes never leave mine, making me feel awkward. Like I have a giant zit on my face or something. Why is he still staring at me like that? Is there something in my teeth? Do I smell funny? What the heck is this guy’s deal? I don’t think he has ever looked at me like that before either. I damn sure plan on figuring out what is going on. "What? This behind me? No, it’s not a party. It’s a private get-together. Do you have an invitation? "
Even without looking away from each other, we could both tell that Steve was confused as Hell. He proved us correct by saying, "Wha? You do this by invite now? Bro, how long have we been friends? I brought my bitch out and everything. Man, come on, let us in. " His whine got higher pitched at the end of his pleading.
"Man, you know I’m just playin’ with you. Since when do I send invitations to a party? Gather party goods and they will come, as they say in the party world. Now get in here you two and have some fun. I’m gonna go outside for a few and have a smoke. Go. Mingle. Have fun. " he said walking past us as we went in.
Once we walk in, the room is divided. It looks like walking into a junior high dance. Down to the cheesy blue Christmas lights hung around the room. The girls are gathered by Jamie’s impressive collection of records. I have not seen that much vinyl since the early 90s. The girls are talking about the good old days as they go through every single record, reminiscing about what the songs mean to them. I learned more about them than I ever wanted to know about anyone. It is funny how music touches everyone so differently.
The guys are all huddled around the TV watching a game like it's the Super Bowl. Except, it’s a freaking video game. So, of course, Steve is instantly lost to me. I could do a striptease right here in front of God and everybody, and he would not have a clue. I could be murdered no more than five feet away from him and his eyes would not turn away from that 50-inch screen. They are hooting and hollering like they are at the biggest sporting event of the year. Steve hollers that he has dibs to play the next round and becomes lost in the crowd of overgrown "boys".
You can tell Jamie is a bachelor by his house. Car and movie posters are plastered on every wall. With pictures of his kids in nice frames on shelves in the bare spots along with model cars and different trophies. Every room is simple with a simple layout and basic appliances but comfortable furniture. Though he’s one of the cleanest single guys I’ve ever met. Everything has its place. Overall, it is a nice little trailer house. He’s done a lot of work on it so far. Hard to believe this is the same house as when he first moved in. The walls were busted up, the kitchen needed a new floor and cabinets, and the bathroom needed a major overhaul. Now, it is amazing, especially since it is only him working on it after work.