It was windy today.
I leave the front door ajar for Butters so that she can exit and enter when she needs to. It opened and closed with each gust and outdoor furniture slapped and thudded against the porch.
Butters is not brave, but what she lacks in courage she makes up for with volume. Startled barks peppered the morning and when startled turned to alarmed, I would go to the door and check that it was in fact just the wind.
I don’t always assume she’s barking at nothing – and try not to get frustrated at the nine out of ten times that she is.
After all, she’s guarding her territory. And, in turn, us.
No one needs to know she’s all bark and no bite. It’s comforting that she is on duty, albeit, over zealously most of the time.
One such zealous bark had me looking out the front door and that’s when I noticed the man in the road.
He sat past the nearest cross street – his legs out in front of him, in the dirt.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this at first glance. A jogger resting? No.
He looked like he was injured – perhaps wincing. His hand on one leg, his head moving back and forth.
Then I noticed a pattern to his movements and the repetitive motions made it clear he was having some sort of a seizure.
I called out to Nic – to come with me to see what was the matter. Then decided the man needed help quickly – threw my flip-flops on and headed out the door.
I went through my gate, shut it and started toward the man.
As I passed by my neighbor’s house, I noticed that two men were outside working on their cars.
How are they not seeing this?
I continued past them and called out “Are you okay?”
As I got closer – a voice from behind me “Be careful.”
I turned to see one of the men looking toward me.
“He needs help …” I kept moving forward.
“That’s his brother.” The speaker thumbed in the direction of the other man.
Why are they not helping him??
I came closer to the man in the road. Noticed the spittle and drool on his chin, his denim shorts caked in dust, a sheen of sweat on his contorted face.
“Are you alright?”
I saw his eyes – wild and unfocused.
“He’s got mental issues.” A different voice.
“Well, he seems to be having medical ones right now – is he having a seizure? What can I do??”
The first speaker suggested ice water, and both men now had phones in their hands.
I assumed one of the men was my neighbor, but didn’t know which. I really only hear him, when he’s yelling at the children.
I don’t see much of the people living next to me.
Regardless of who was who, it appeared they were calling for help, so I turned to head back to my house for ice water.
I found a cup I didn’t mind not getting back, filled Nic in on what was happening and headed back out the door.
I saw now that the man was no longer in the road and felt a little better.
Until I reached my neighbor’s house and saw what must have been the brother (my neighbor – the puzzle pieces were fitting now) yelling at him.
The man who was no longer in the road, still looked awful. Shaky on his feet and eyes still wild.
I didn’t understand why this was a good time to yell at him.
I held out the water and it was taken. I can’t recall who reached for it, but it ended up in the right hands.
“He needs help, not reprimanding!”
“He has mental problems.”
Again with this!
“Regardless of any mental problems, he clearly needs help!”
“Go back inside your house lady.”
It wasn’t said with any room for debate. My racing heart and hot body suddenly felt chilled. I had been dismissed and I was not to continue questioning or inserting my opinion.
Having had a past with these particular neighbors, and knowing what they’re capable of, I once more headed back to my house.
As I walked away, the man who was in the road said to me “I’m sorry … I’m sorry.”
The walk back was uncomfortable, surreal and daunting.
I felt like a child who had awoken to fighting in the house – seen someone they cared for being hurt, only to be commanded back to bed by the aggressor.
Some time later, Butters started barking again. This time at my back door.
I peered out to see only a hand and the cup I had taken over earlier.
I told Nic to hold Butters and slipped outside.
It was the woman who lives in the house.
The one who yells at her children almost every night:
“GO TO FUCKING SLEEP!!”
The lullaby of dysfunction.
The one who told her children that daddy was trying to kill mommy – and then brought them back in the house.
The one who said she was leaving when she could, and never did.
As time has passed, I notice that she is an instigator in the chaos.
I am not saying she’s ‘asking’ for any of it – I just notice (from my couch, yes, she’s that loud) that she does the majority of the screaming and yelling.
So she’s standing on my back porch with the cup and for some insane reason, explains to me what had happened.
The man in the road had been staying with them for four months while he sobered up.
She explained with feigned ignorance of the topic “He does those rocks, you know, the ones you crush and smoke?”
Just say CRACK woman! I see your teeth, I know you know what it is!
He relapsed apparently and what I thought was a seizure was – but of a drug induced kind.
“We were trying to get him sober.”
“You know you can’t get someone sober? He’s going to have to want that for himself.”
I suggested a local mental health location in our town as a possible resource for her.
The whole time I stood there – holding my cup that now had crack saliva on it – and hating her. Hating her for having that man in an already horrible environment around her children.
“You should be careful – having him around your children.”
Oh God. I said that out loud.
She nodded at me – much like she did when I offered my home as refuge in the past. But I knew she wasn’t really listening to me.
I said I hoped things would be okay – and I meant it. She went down the steps and disappeared.
I tell you this knowing my house is made of glass. I share my anger because I can, I have already been in their shoes.
My past is not perfect.
The difference is, I made a choice to change.
Even after I learned that the man in the road was there due to drugs, I hoped he would find help.
Even after I hear the woman screaming at her children, I tell myself “She’s lashing out at them because she is unhappy and feels powerless.”
Even when I hear her partner being violent in the house, I think “What horror must he have come from to end up so angry?”
Nic and I had to leave the house to visit my parents shortly after the woman left.
I was uncomfortable leaving as there were repercussions the last time I spoke to her.
I decided they wouldn’t try anything in daylight and Butters could be trusted to deter anyone from entering the yard.
(I’ll admit, I fear for her too though. Who knows what they are capable of.)
In the car, we spoke of what happened.
“People like that should be wiped off the planet.”
“Nic, people can change … there’s a reason for their behavior. They were once children perhaps in that same environment. Besides, I’ve done drugs. I drank. And I changed. I chose good. “
I love that he knows this. I love that we can talk about anything. No skeletons in our closets.
“But you always had that in you.”
“Are you saying you think they’re inherently bad? Do you believe there are some people just born evil?”
I hope not.
But I just don’t know.
My favorite quote by W.H. Auden comes to mind once again:
The neighbors are fighting again. They’ve been fighting with some consistency since my first blog post about them:
If a visit from the Sheriff and a trip to jail isn’t a deterent, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear angry screaming yesterday evening and the unmistakable sound of a slap.
The problem I have is this, I don’t know when to get involved anymore!
I only called last time when it was very apparent that the children had been in the house during the violence.
I’m not going to lie – there’s a big part of me now that cares a hell of a lot less about that woman. Especially after saying to her little girls “Because daddy tried to kill mommy” then putting them back in that house with daddy.
I’ve received letters from the District Attorney. Apparently, I was the victim of ‘Disorderly Conduct by Domestic Violence’.
There were originally 4 counts to my neighbors charges. They diminished over the course of a couple more letters. I don’t know too much about the court system but I assume the following:
1) I am the victim because perhaps the woman who received the blows decided against pressing charges?
2) The charges were plead down
One letter mentioned a fine and court ordered anger management/counseling. The last letter I received only mentioned the fine.
I called the District Attorney after the first plea deal after much deliberation. I decided that someone needed to advocate for the children. Evidently it wasn’t going to be their mother and it wasn’t going to be their father.
I never heard back.
After last nights charming background noise to my relaxing porch reading – I’ve been thinking more and more about those little girls.
I know what just hearing it from afar does to me. My stomach clenches, the blood rushes from my gut to the soles of my feet in a cold whoosh. I’m transformed from a 43 year old woman to a scared child.
I could go inside. I could drown out the sounds – self soothe. But those little girls are still in there. They can’t get away from it.
I have a fantasy – it goes like this:
I stomp over to the house mid-fight. Knock on the door. They open the door.
“Hi. Obviously you two have plans tonight – so while you’re busy beating your wife and she’s busy taking it, how about I take the children over to my house until you’ve gotten your rocks off? Then you don’t have to worry about them getting in your fucking way?”
What I would give to do that. To say that. Then to march those children out of there and to safety.
Here’s just part of what’s going through my head while I’m deliberating what I can possibly do:
Okay, say I call the sherriff again – what if the children get taken away? Good you say? The reality of ‘the system’ is not that of rainbows and candy and warm blankets and laughter. What is the lesser of two evils? Can they just take the ‘dad’ away? But what if he’s the primary provider in the house? Perhaps the ‘mom’ has issues – if she had help, perhaps she would find the strength to do the right thing for her children and herself? I don’t think the children are being hit, but growing up in that environment is still abuse.
And I’ll say again, because it seriously bears repeating – those little girls are learning how to become women by the examples in their life. They’re learning that apparently, men hit women, women go back, a childs safety is not a priority. Their formative years are being spent soaking up the dysfunction that is their parents. So when they get older and have issues – I hope they don’t end up in court being held responsible. After all DA, you decided $300 was punishment enough and let their teachers go back to teaching. Bravo!
I’ve spoken to a friend of mine who happens to be a childrens advocate about what direction she thinks I should take – what avenues I have available to me. I’m not going to sit on my porch and pretend that I don’t hear the fighting. I’m not going to sit and ignore the fact that those children are in that environment. I’ll find out when to get involved, and how. And I’ll do the right thing.