I was leaving California, and NOT looking back. Yet, every mile, my eyes returned to the rearview mirror. This was not out of some feeling of nostalgia — it was out of fear.
Was he out there? Had he found me? Was he following me? Was his “friend” out there, following me, perhaps? And who was this mysterious “friend,” with whom he had been talking on the phone lately? He had never given me a name or reason for the calls, but every time he received a call from this “friend,” he quickly took the phone out onto the back porch so I couldn’t hear his conversations.
I looked at my speedometer. Slow down, Christi. The last thing you need right now is a ticket.
My mind wandered back to the events that precipitated this mad dash for the California border, on a trip to North Carolina — as far away as I could get. How had it all begun?
Perhaps, little changes in timeworn habits were the first red flags. The morning shower that doubled into an evening shower upon returning — late, then later — from work; the “old friend” (a male) that started calling, followed by quick retreats to the back porch. Knowing his background, any “old friend” was bad news. Then there were the lies. “I’ve joined the softball team at work — they’ve been after me forever to do it.” This was coming from the biggest couch potato I had ever met.
Oh, yes! Then there was that first night, after practice, when he made an almost-formal announcement that he was too tired to have sex. Every other time he’d been too tired for his roll in the sack (we’d been together for ten years), he’d simply hit the sheets and gone to sleep. And what of the practices, lasting later and later, each followed by a night when he was too tired?
As the red flags multiplied, I became more suspicious. Finally, only half in a desire to support him, and more, perhaps, out of curiosity as to whether he was indeed playing softball, rather than something else, I told him I wanted to attend one of his games. He responded that he didn’t want me to come because of all the drinking and stuff that went on. He was afraid he’d worry about me and lose his concentration.
More curious than ever, I checked online and found where the team was playing, and saw the notice, bold and clear: “No Alcoholic Beverages Allowed.” Yes, the many lies mounted. I was beginning to see it grow. In my suspicion, I did more checking on him.
He had begun to stay out late an additional night of the week, to “give guitar lessons” to another “friend” with whom he was working. So, one morning, I flattened one of the strings on his guitar while he was showering. When he returned that evening, I checked the guitar while he showered (again), and it was still flat. The case had not been opened.
There was also his special “voice.” Once in a while, somebody would call, and the “voice” would come out of him. He had used it in conversations with me, when we were courting. It was smooth, sexy and alluring. Now he was using it with somebody else.
Another voice was changing at an alarming rate — the one inside me. It started out softly and then screamed in my head, Get out! Don’t wait! Get out, NOW!
One morning, when we were in the car, he asked if I’d ever been to Death Valley. Replying that I’d never been there, I asked why he wanted to know. He said that there was a hiking trail that went from the desert up into the mountains, where there was actually snow. He thought I might be “just crazy enough to like to do something like that.” A chill went through me. I was still recovering from a motorcycle accident, and though I had loved hiking in the past, I was barely able to complete a mile at this point in my recovery. Another red flag! Up until my accident, he had been a complete couch potato. He never wanting to go hiking, much less to the desert — he hated the heat, couldn’t stand it.
My own inner voice was now cautioning me incessantly. Was I being too suspicious? I did some research and found no such hiking path.
Finally, one triple-digit hot day, he suggested that we go out to Borrego Springs. (“Much closer,” he had mentioned.) I exclaimed that I really didn’t think the desert was a good idea. This was a man who hated the heat. And he was suggesting we go to the hottest part of the county. After some discussion, we settled on Laguna Mountain — higher and cooler.
On the drive up the mountain, he took out a map of Borrego, saying, “This is where we’re going to go tomorrow.”
I reminded him of the heat, to which he said, “Yeah, but we’re tough — we can take it!” Nothing like this statement had never come out of his mouth before. I suggested that if he really wanted to go to Borrego, he could leave me at the mountain and drive down himself. He must have felt my edginess or heard it in my voice. He backpedaled, said that no one was going to force me to go anywhere I didn’t want to go.
As he drove, one hand developed an extremely noticeable nervous twitch. Earlier, prior to our leaving the house, he’d overheard me talking with my girlfriend, telling her about our trip, and he’d become visibly upset. “What? Are you telling her where we’re going?” I tried to be as nonchalant as possible in my reply that, yes, I was telling her where we were going.
And now I was twitching. I started to make plans to get out of there.
On the day I finally left, I called to have a sheriff come out to “keep peace,” as they say. I also had my girlfriend Bonnie and her significant other, Jesse, there to help me. The first thing I had the police remove from the house was a gun, kept by his side of the bed. Inside the pouch, along with the gun, was a typed 23rd Psalm. One of the policemen said, “That’s a suicide note.”