Desperate for Redemption
[This story is based on true life events experienced by the author. The only deviation from absolute authenticity is the use of aliases for real people.]
It was 3:30am. My girlfriend and daughter were still asleep. After savoring a nice cup of coffee in peace, I picked up the little plastic trash bags in the kitchen and headed to the trash bins near my front gate. It was still pitch black outside.
As I opened the front door, I noticed a dark, shadowy figure sitting on the empty plant ledge in the far corner of my front porch. I wasn’t alarmed because the people in my compound often used my porch to make private calls, send texts, or chat on the web; mainly because their own crowded homes were full of nosy relatives. Without looking directly at the sitting figure, I simply said, “It’s okay,” and walked quietly to my trash bins.
Depositing my trash and securing the receptacle lids, I turned back towards my house. The faint lights from my living room provided just enough backlighting for me to see the person on my porch more clearly. Oh my God! It was an ex-ex-ex-girlfriend whom I hadn’t seen or heard from in many years. Quickly, I shuffled to my front door, opened it, reached in, and switched on my porch light.
And what I saw made my jaw drop.
This once beautiful Asian sweetheart now looked like a forlorn homeless person. Gone was the luxurious brown, butt-length hair, manicured nails, and subdued make-up that used to frame her angelic face. Her face, arms, and hands were sun burnt, almost black; not the luscious mocha color I remembered. Her hair was crew-cut length — much later I learned that she had sold her hair to local wig makers. She had sunken eyes and was rail thin. Her once stunning figure now resembled a boy more than a woman.
Dirty and disheveled, she was wearing an old, filthy T-shirt that was torn in many places. Her jeans looked four sizes too large and were rolled up to calf length. Flip-flops that were held together with masking tape looked painfully small for her scarred, muddy feet. I slowly walked toward her and put out my hand.
She sprinted the last four steps between us, grabbed my hand, pulled me closer, and tightly wrapped her arms around me as if she thought I would soon vaporize and disappear — like the rest of her hallucinations.
Sometime during this bear-hug she realized that, yes, I was real. She nuzzled her face into my shoulder and began to softly cry and shake uncontrollably. She struggled with the violent convulsions and the “stutter/gulp” breathing cycle that usually accompanies tears of deep sadness. The muffled crying was heartbreaking; sounding like an exhausted, abandoned, and starving baby that was too weak to protest with anything louder than a whimper.
I tolerated the stench of her clothes and hair, and the gritty oil of her skin. I kissed her forehead and gently rubbed her back. She always liked that. It had an instant calming effect. Eventually, she stopped shaking and sobbing just long enough to look me straight in the eyes for a second or two. I don’t know what she saw in my eyes, but all I saw in her eyes was a combination of utter confusion and a desperate kind of pleading that instantly tore my heart apart. I was on the verge of tears.
When I first met her while partying at one of my favorite night spots years ago, it was her mesmerizing eyes that intrigued me the most. They were so beautiful; so full of life, joy, and playfulness. When you added the “angel wings” smile, the knock-out body, a sharp intellect, and a sense of humor befitting a salty sailor, it’s no surprise that — like me — many were hooked from the start.
When I saw her that first time, I made it a point to consciously prevent stumbling over myself and looking like the next fool in line.
She was surrounded by a group of admirers; mostly fat, rich old foreigners and young, poor-but-handsome backpackers. I maneuvered close enough to listen to her voice, but far enough to appear nonchalant about all the fuss. Assessing the current situation, I knew it would be insane to appear like just another “buzzing gnat vying for attention.” By now, I’d formulated a strategy to get her away from the others and alone with me.
What did I do?
The only thing that I believed would instantly separate me from the herd: I waved at her, made eye contact, winked, blew her a kiss, and walked away with as much swag I could comfortably display.
And just as I predicted, less than a minute later she detached herself from the group and walked to where I had stationed myself in a foyer leading to the restrooms.
She smiled and pointed to the female restroom, pointed at me, pointed to my feet, and while flashing the cutest, sexiest pouty-face, gave me the “please” gesture (hands together as if praying). The meaning was simple, “Please stay here until I get back from the restroom, ok?”
Go figure? Of course, I waited! Back then, just as now, when she returned I offered my hand; and without hesitation, she took it. That started a romance that lasted for almost two and a half years.
But from the start, I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right, just slightly askew. Soon after we began living together, she would always find an excuse that could neither be proved, nor disproved, to be away from home for a few days to a week every month.
Then our expensive gadgets started to slowly disappear.
At first, I believed our streak of bad luck was just the result of partying too hard or simple drunken stupidity (e.g., forgetting our phones at a bar, getting my freshly-ATM-fed wallet stolen, getting her handbag, containing her tablet, my iPad, and brand new jewelry stolen, etc.). But finally I realized the truth. She was stealing from me. Why? In my mind, the most common, obvious reasons were that she had another lover, or could be a drug addict, or both?
In time, I found out it was both.
She and her boyfriend were orchestrating the theft of our belongings. She would then sell or pawn the items to pay for their expensive, daily crystal meth habit. She had duped the other guy in believing that she had a job abroad and could only fly back once a month.
In a way, I envied the other guy. I thought that his drug habit probably took some of the pain away; or merely kept him from experiencing it. In other words, if he was perpetually “tripping”, he probably didn’t feel the hurt and betrayal like I did.
When she pulled another “Houdini Escape Artist Act” on me, I decided that I’d had enough of the games, lies, cheating, and theft. I ended the relationship by packing up all her things into two heavy-duty, XXL black garbage bags and posted them on the porch. Upon her return, I didn’t let her in the house and said, “Darling, you must leave now. Do not come back. Don’t contact me. Hope you have a better life and find whatever you are looking for.”
She showed no outward reaction. I guess she knew that I knew everything now. Without making a scene, she stoically hoisted the black trash bags into a waiting motorcycle taxi (trike). She never waved goodbye, or even bothered to look back.
And as I watched the trike disappear into the night, I heaved a deep, melancholy sigh.
Even though my mind knew I had done the right thing, my heart was screaming at me to go chase after her. “Marine! Maintain!” I told myself. And for once, reason trumped emotion. I simply kept reminding myself that the whole situation with her was a lost cause. She wouldn’t, or maybe couldn’t, change.
From a very early age, she had learned how to easily use men to get whatever she wanted. She was an expert at manipulating others with her charms. Feeling no remorse, she never batted an eye when she purposefully, and literally, screwed people over and over again. I wasn’t going to tolerate another “lie, cheat, and steal cycle” again — ever. Nope. No freakin’ way, buddy!
That was over four and a half years ago.
But now, out of the blue and in the worst condition I could ever imagine, she appears on my door step. Why? What did she want? It was obvious she was tired, hungry, dirty, and desperately needed someone to talk to. Aw shit! In spite of all the complications that could possibly arise, I knew that I had to do the right thing.
While in her embrace, I slipped my right hand under her left arm and placed my hand on her heart. Tapping her heart and keeping in contact with her arms, I gently eased out of her hug until we were holding hands, face to face, and staring at each other again.
“What happened to you, Darling?” I asked — already knowing by her appearance and vacuous stare. I’d seen this catatonic state too many times before when I used to work on the Psychiatric wards of civilian and military hospitals. The patients were zombie-like, suffered from uncontrollable, jerky eye and neck movements, and interacted with chronic audio-visual hallucinations. Unresponsive to most verbal and physical stimuli, the patients required strong medication 24/7.
In her case, the condition was the result of a longtime crystal methamphetamine addiction. And sadly, when the money dried up — and it always does with drug abusers and alcoholics — her physical/mental health was further degraded by the sexual abuse from all the drug dealers, pimps, and johns who traded their drugs, alcohol, or money for whatever they wanted to do to her body. She was now over-jacked and tripping out of her skull.
“What a shame. What a shame, indeed. Her mind is fried!” I said to myself.
Leading her by the hand like a little lost child, we tip-toed past the bedrooms where my daughter and girlfriend were still sleeping. Entering the second bathroom, I positioned her under the shower. In my somewhat paternal, “Big-Boy Marine” voice, I commanded her to “Stay put. Don’t move!” Then I snuck into my bedroom, grabbed some clean clothes, a pair of new flip-flops, and a fresh towel.
Ironically, or maybe due to some unconscious Freudian behavior, I still kept the clothes she forgot in her “quick-getaway-bag” from years ago. They were clean, pressed and in a plastic shopping bag, hidden under some blankets in my closet. It was a miracle that the “crinkle, crinkle, crinkle” sounds of me grabbing the bag didn’t wake up my girlfriend.
Semi-lucid, she immediately stripped down and turned on the hot water heater. I could barely look at her now. She looked like a tortured, malnourished war prisoner. There was purple bruising on each upper biceps, a tell-tale sign of someone forcibly squeezing, shaking, or pinning her down by her arms. There were multiple cigarette burns on her torso. Either she had practiced self-mutilation, or was deliberately burned by another person. I felt sad…so, so sad.
And for the second time this early morning, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.
Before closing the bathroom door, I saw her frantically putting shampoo and conditioner in her hair, repeatedly. Then she began slow dancing under the shower. She still knew how to move her hips, undulating to some imaginary, sexy music. “Uh-oh,” I thought. I hope she doesn’t start singing like she used to! I inched the door open and waived my hands to get her attention. Snapping her out of her aqua-erotic reverie, I motioned her to keep quiet by making the “shooshing” gesture (vertical index finger touching the lips).
Luckily, she understood, remained non-vocal, and continued to happily enjoy all the fragrant bath soaps in the plastic holder hanging from the shower head. I have to admit; it was nice seeing her smile again.
While she was finishing her 35 min. shower and getting dressed, I cooked a small pot of rice and fished out a half-dozen Tupperware containers from the fridge. They were filled with the day’s leftovers and restaurant take-out. It was a nice variety of Asian dishes. Warming up the meals, my mind was flooded with memories of all the happy times in the past when we would eat together. More often than not, we would cook at home, get “shit-slinging drunk,” and laugh our way through the meals. Then I reminded myself that sooner or later, I had to face reality; the sooner, the better.
Trying to bolster my resolve, I thought, “Yeah, those really were fun times. But remember how it ended up? Keep things in perspective. Best thing to do right now is to be kind. Just be a good Marine and maintain.”
I was almost done setting the table when I felt her body against my back and her arms around my waist. She smelled absolutely delicious! Closing my eyes, I could distinctly pick out the sensual smell of floral shampoo, conditioner, papaya soap, and scented body lotion. Imagine that? These were the same products that my girlfriend would use, but somehow it all smelled exquisitely better on her!
Stifling a laugh, I remembered how I would always tell my friends that, “She emits pheromones that attract any male within 100 kilometers.” Damn, it was hard to remember what the Hell I was doing just seconds before! Oh yeah, the food thing…
We sat down close to each other. I knew she was starving, but as always, she started all of our meals with her little personal ritual: Before eating, she would touch my leg and feed me a sample of her food first. It was a cute, affectionate habit that immediately made me smile. I told her I wasn’t hungry and that she really should eat now.
Then she began eating….and eating….and eating! My God! There was enough food on the table to satisfy at least three people comfortably, but she finished it all; including two mountains of rice. After a couple of tall glasses of Coca-Cola, she sat back with a look of pure contentment.
She was rubbing my legs and playing “footsie” under the table when I saw that her eyelids were getting heavy. When she began yawning, I knew that this unexpected, exciting, nostalgic, romantic, and totally stupid reunion must come to an end — pronto. I was already pushing my luck thus far with all the stealthy activity.
There was no way she was staying overnight.
Again, we tip-toed past the bedrooms and carefully opened the front door. We were walking to the front gate when, for the first time all night, she finally said something. It was a gravel-voiced “I love you. I wasn’t ready to love you back, way back then ’cause I hated myself so much.” She continued on, “It took me a long time to realize that you were the only person in my whole life who really cared. But I know you have a new life now and I wanted you to know that…”
She stopped talking when the tears began to trickle from her eyes, down her face, pool at her nostrils, and carve their way to each corner of her mouth.
Those eyes. Those pleading, beautiful eyes! Like an idiot, I began to cry too. Shit! Shit, shit, shit! This wasn’t the way I wanted to say goodbye for the last time. I thought I could keep it together long enough to do the macho thing; that is, tell her it’s too late to make amends. “You took me for granted and played me for a fool, Bitch! Too bad, so sad. Now, be on your way, girl!”
But the truth is that I kissed and hugged her for a very, very long time; until we both stopped crying and just stood there, clinging to each other like lone survivors of a shipwreck — not wanting to, but understanding that we had to let each other go forever this time.
Looking into her eyes, I knew that she knew now.
I helped her into a Trike, and against her feeble protests, I stuffed some money into her trembling hands. The trike grumbled to life and began to slowly move away and down my street. She mustered up enough courage to fake a brave smile and wave goodbye; keeping eye contact for as long as possible.
And as the trike disappeared into the pre-dawn morning, I experienced that familiar melancholy, heavy sigh again…
About the Author:
He is a retired U.S. Military veteran. Believing that school was too boring, he dropped out of High School early; only to earn an A.A., B.S., and MBA in less than 4 years much later in life — while working full-time as a Navy/Marine Corps Medic. In spite of a fear of heights and deep water, he free-fall parachuted out of airplanes and performed diving ops in very deep, open ocean water. He spends his days on an island paradise with his teenage daughter, longtime girlfriend and three dogs.
Originally published at https://steemit.com on September 10, 2017.