I Ran into Mrs Vafish today on my way to the supermarket. I noticed through the corner of my eye that a blue not so late model “Ford Stellar” had just pulled into the parking space to my right. With a slight glance in that direction I confirmed my suspicion,yes it was Mrs Vafish, and of course like she had done before she was trying to pretend that she was not aware of my presence. She was trying hard to concentrate on making a “perfect park.” The car moved uselessly back and forth,there was no reason for this time wasting exercise, her face looking straight ahead, wore an exaggerated look of deep, and I mean far too deep concentration, such concentration for a simple mundane task. Her eyes bulged in her face, her neck strained forward, almost over the steering wheel, and the veins on her neck were just slightly raised under her skin. I waited in my car pretending not to see her, and just as she decided the coast was clear and stepped out from her side of her car, I rolled my window down, tossed a lock of hair over my shoulder and in the sweetest of tones I almost sang, “Good morning Sally, how are you.? “
She swallowed, quickly licked her lips, and with eyes focused somewhere between the building next door and the hood of my car she returned my greeting. “Going inside?” she asked of me. For a moment I searched for my answer, I was a little surprised, Sally seemed her usual sort of withdrawn self with her lukewarm friendly but closed attitude, however today she seemed also tired and a little irritated. She reminded me of Rufus, Mr Vizee’s dog just before he bit Mr Vizee’s outstretched hand with the fifteen inch fire wood descending on his head. “Yep I am going inside,” I replied, “how is Ledra?” I asked, a simple enough question one would think, deserving a simple answer, but goodness me an answer the likes of this one I do not recall in recent times .
Sally took a step backwards, folded her hands across her bosom, took a deep breath, turned her head slightly to the right side, and through almost locked teeth she hissed. “I called you yesterday, I called you four times today, tell me now you’re not avoiding me.” “What?” I managed to whisper while clutching my handbag for some kind of reassurance . She then slowly turned to look at me squarely in the face,and as I stared at her in bewilderment not fully comprehending, she squinted at me and whispered, “you heard, Elvic didn’t mention, ? Oh gosh girl, Ledra gone mad, she marrying Romel next month.” “But Sally” I managed, all the while wondering what brand of mind altering drug had this woman taken. “Sally,what, what is so wrong with that? I don’t understand, your daughter has been dating Romel for sometime now, wit,with your approval,” I stammered. Those words seemed to push the lid off her cooker, the Sally familiar to me morphed into a combination of normal Sally and a resigned broken middle aged woman. Her shoulders drooped and her head hung like a weary bruised and hungry traveler. She looked at me like a naughty puppy seeking pardon for its mischief. “I am confused, I am confused” she muttered, “I called to talk with you.” “Sally, listen girl” I interrupted,as I quickly made a few steps to remove the small space between us, I gently held her elbow and lightly steered her in the direction of the Supermarket entrance,”let’s go inside for coffee at the coffee shop.” She did not answer, but we proceeded to the coffee shop.
“I thought I was correct, I truly felt that I was doing what was normal, wait and things would change. After all I was twenty, married with one child and expecting another .” Ventured Sally as I sat opposite her sipping my coffee and listening to her as she continued to swivel her cup in the saucer. Sally had not touched her coffee, not a sip of it. Ever since we sat down she remained in her seat, head down most of the time, shoulders hunched over, looking up long enough to glance at me and back again to the game of spin the cup she seemed to be playing. Her words poured, she seemed bent on purging herself of the poison of concealment, it was clear that she could no longer be the safe harbor for what seemed to be a very, very large vessel of pain, anger, and other such emotional distress. She once again looked at me briefly as she artfully ran her tongue over her teeth. “I was by this time aware of some things,I was not consulted, I was never even asked for an opinion on anything. My days seemed to be: take care of domestic duties, and be there when I get home. I realized that things in this camp, this camp,” she repeated as she smiled a lopsided smile and shook her head, “I say this camp because now, looking back it seems as if I was in a strange place, some other person’s home, not mine. Since things were done differently, the rules were not the ones I knew, I did not have a job, I had no income of my own, so,Elvic controlled my finances totally, and I mean totally. I asked for what I wanted and for what I needed. I asked for myself, the children, the home everything.”
Sally paused, shifted in her seat and leaned forward, straight at me. I felt my heart skip a small beat as I became charged with suspense, and a little embarrassment, since the situations revealed I found surprising and disgusting. She continued “Girl Elvic is your cousin, but I am not sure how well you understand, or know him. His ways are different to say the least. I know, to depend on a spouse the way I do is not that unusual, but listen,it can be a mind bomb, it can hurt. What I am trying to say is this, when you are a child at home asking of your parents is something you find natural, it is expected, and even then it is in some instances done by allowances, keeping the asking to a minimum. But for an adult, this can be a very belittling exercise. At times I felt, not like a child, that would not be so bad, I felt like an inferior asking my superior. It felt so uncomfortable, that sometimes I would go without to avoid asking. However,over time it did have an effect, I felt “small,” I felt like a woman at a ballot box being told that she cannot vote because she is a woman.
I did not have a voice, since I was a supported adult. I learned to say yes, but feel or think no. Elvic either took advantage of this, or he was just doing what he knew. He made his strength known by causing me to adopt the ‘whatever he said was correct’ system. This he achieved not only by control of the purse strings, but equally by demonstration of his physical strength . “On no I gasped, he did not,” “Strike me?” Quickly volunteered Sally. “Oh, yes he did, a very easy feat for Mr foul temper. And don’t ask about leaving girl, not as easy as you may think, these things are complicated,you know you do not awake one day and find life this way, you weave this web over time, your daily circumstances, your life style these things create changes,they change you the person, you become someone else.” I glanced at the door way, then on to the sidewalk,just to put the feeling of guilt, and the unexplained thought that Elvic may be walking towards us to rest. Sally then looked at me and asked, “may I have a ginger ale.?” Puzzled, I paused,then quickly replied, ” yes, sure.” I still years later,try to figure out why Sally asked me for the ginger ale, she had access to the waiter and all else that I had access to, my answer, “you never know.”
Shutting her eyes tight to avoid the happy bubbles from the ginger ale, Sally took a huge sip and resumed her word spilling. “I had sunk my boat before I started to sail by not securing my own means of finance. I had not only myself to take into consideration, but two others, who did not have a choice In this matter. I grew for years in this situation, I became very subdued, but miserable,and unhappy. Occasionally I experienced bursts of hope and energy, at these times I would embark on some project or the other, I would enroll in a new class, or some other enterprise . These would be short lived, due to one difficulty or another since no real support or understanding of what I was trying to achieve was there. I lived in a way one day at a time, I say this because after a while I did not contemplate my situation too much, I did not plan ahead, I just seemed to drift along daily with whatever came my way. Of course my occasional enterprises at times sparked some very tense situations, from heated words to physical displays. At first I dismissed these and continued to try, but after some years my attempts grew weaker and weaker.”
“My children grew, I struggled along, I became very distracted, each day I gave far less of myself or my best to the raisin of my children, and the same to household matters. I was now a sad, bitter unfocused person. I did everything as if under the control of a remote mechanical device . I watched Elvic parade his ignorance proudly, I watched mistake after mistake, mistakes in finance, in morals, in whatever sometimes trying to prevent them, but ending in fight and futility. I then became even further distracted by worrying about matters of the future, financial security matters , etc., I continued in this manner for years, of course all the while I kept everything to myself, never confiding in anyone, this I think was another hole in my boat that hastened its sinking. Coupled with everything else there was also the rough financial patches, some were somewhat exhausting since they were avoidable . ” Suddenly Sally leaned hard against the back of her chair, she wanted to know if she was keeping me from my shopping, to this I replied “no, but why the objection to Romel ?” this was not very clear to me, though I had some idea . “Ah yes, Romel,” Sally sighed, she pointed as she said Romel’s name, this gesture of emphasis made her appear a little intoxicated. “So sorry I got carried away.You see I recognize negative signs in Romel because of the experiences from my life with Elvic. Look , for example, yesterday my niece Lourdes asked Romel about his expectations for the new year, they were chatting about business and the economy. Romel promptly stated that he was hoping to make a huge profit from his wholesale business in the next few months and that should enable him to update his vehicle, remodel his home and some other things. You see, he plans his life in big chunks, not small consistent steps, he just listed these things and then paused, as if unsure of what next. I tell you I was frozen for a little while, everything sounded like answers I heard before, the lone difference was the voice, but everything else was Elvic responding .
“But Sally that is not enough, that does not mean that he will be the same,” I attempted “No,wait,wait,” Sally responded, I could hear the impatience in her voice, so I quickly withdrew. She continued, “Mila I know the type, I know the signs, I have lived these things, I have experienced them,tasted them, believe me. I know the arrogance, the strange value system, everything, I know also the goodness, the generosity yes that is there also, of course this can make you easily loose sight of the other side of things,but I see many of Elvic’s defects in him all the time,oh yes.” She swiftly raised her head and looked passed me, she wore the expression and spoke a little like someone in a trance. “For so many years I allowed my mind to be battered, I tried to remake myself to suit the environment, it was not always easy, since my spirit did put up a fight at times. But in the end I adapted for peace and order. I cannot tell you what took place daily, some of the situations that occurred, I cannot explain my daily mental state, the confusion, frustration, the heart-break, anger, every emotion that you can think of, it would take much too much time to recount, but I lived it all everyday for years.” Suddenly she snapped back to the present, she smiled and looked at me as if seeing me for the first time, she continued. “Now I am older I am so, so much wiser, I understand so much now, things that once puzzled me no longer do, things I thought I could change, I know now I cannot, and I understand why. I believe firmly that persons with childhood issues should have as priority one, specialist treatment, therapy, as soon as they can afford it, I wish I had used some of the energy I expended on Elvic over the years, to instead persuade him to explore therapy.” She smiled her sheepish smile once again, and continued. “Mila I have paid a lot for the knowledge I now have, too much, much too much. You see everything I know now is of no use, for one, I do not have the money needed to do some of the things necessary, and on the other hand I do not have the interest nor the energy. I am just a burnt out shell now, I have been beaten out of myself, what I am trying to say is I am no longer able to focus, just trying to concentrate is an impossible task, I cannot hold interest in most things for any meaningful duration of time. I have no real friendship, I recently started to have difficulties doing my daily tasks. I am now a memory of what I used to be, at times a bright memory, at times not so bright. I can recall the things I liked, my interests, my plans, but I lack the energy and interest to try to achieve any of these. I cannot process thoughts quickly and clearly like before. I seem to automatically reason in the same manner as Elvic, I have to make a conscious effort not to.
I have lost many opportunities to spend happy valuable memorable occasions with friends and family, I have missed many chances to enjoy many life experiences, enrichment experiences . I can go on and on, but the short of the long is, I spent most of my former years in a sort of theatrical mode, it was one act after another,this was my daily state. Unfortunately somewhere along the way the acting became reality,and I lost myself, the true me retreated and a new person was born. I don’t know, was my acting too good, did I over act or was the real me too weak for the mental blows.?” She chuckled and almost cried as she asked the question. However, I said nothing, and she resumed, this time she was even more intense, her voice was deep and raspy, as if her words were coming from a hot pot deep in her belly, a burning place. “I am, as I think I said before a memory of what I used to be, I am still at times confused about some things, I still have flashes of hope, I at times wish and plan, I have moments of some aspects of my old self, I even see real possibilities at times, but I, ‘the real me is so lost in the great maze of the years of ‘mental make over’ that I need to at least find one correct path back to my true self in order to make something of these sparks of opportunities .” She paused to reach in her bag for a tissue to wipe what seemed like a lone tear below her eye. I took the opportunity to ask in a whisper, “and Elvic now?” She inhaled slowly, then with a hurried gush she exhaled and answered “You see him these days, somewhat physically different, a white mop turned upside down, less firm wherever some muscle has remained, a phantom of former years . He is an apologizing phantom, he says he is sorry all the time, but the interesting thing is I don’t know if he knows what he is sorry for, in other words, I really don’t think he knows what he has done . The type and extent of the damage. I do not think that he would comprehend the situation even if it was explained to him in great detail.
You cannot help to bring about such a wreck then just keep apologizing and seriously think that is enough, and basically, that is all that he is able to do at this time.” She stood up,with her bag in one hand, she quickly raised and lowered her other hand in an expression of frustration “Mila, this conversation only gives an outline of my problems, I am not sure that even I would be able to recount everything accurately,you see I have put some of those experiences in a place that I do not visit, but, the scars are here with me, they continue to make me anxious, sad, fearful,depressed,tired etc, and all these states help to determine the quality of my life. So, you can imagine what most of my days are like, all mainly because I did not, or could not recognize certain personality traits,or maybe because no one said anything, probably because no one thought it warranted a warning. Well Mila I know different, I know how serious such a mistake can be,I am fully aware of the consequences, and I am determined not to give this cycle a chance, I will break it here and now, I will not allow this violence to continue, not with my daughter,” She leaned over my still sitting form and whispered “I intend to fight for Ledra.” I stood up slowly,and once again the picture of Rufus, Mr Vizee’s hurt dog flashed into my mind, but this time I was the one bringing him to mind, I felt every bit like the hurt Rufus as I tried to quell the surge of emotions rushing through my body, I barely managed to compose myself enough to look Sally in the eyes as the words rolled from my lips, I begged, “Please Sally, you’ll be fighting for me too.” I felt a little stir of embarrassment, but I had already passed the stage of caring. I watched Sally’s jaw drop so low I could now see the top of her throat. She grabbed my hand, and with a surprised but fond look on her face she warmly responded “Yes, sure Mila for you too,let us go.”