The bizarre synchronicity of Eva’s appearance, for the second time, on the scene of my imminent demise is, of course, a curious matter. I am reminded of Lama Sing’s description of her as “your ally in this life”.
When Eva saw the hose in the tailpipe of the car, she told me there must be a God. She believed that God had clearly put the idea into her mind to come to see me right at that particular moment. In fact, she had been over twenty miles away having her car serviced. The urge to talk to me became so overwhelming that she did something that was quite out of character: she drove to the general area of the Farm, trusting that she could get specific directions from the locals once she had arrived in the vicinity.
This idea, that prayer is answered by the “events” of our lives, struck me rather forcefully. All this time I had been expecting to hear a voice!
Eva proposed that since she was lately divorced, I should come back to Tampa and stay with her until a door opened. I didn’t like being obligated to anyone for so much, but Eva was absolutely sure that I could help her adjust to her new life as much as she could help me.
Eva was quite a bit older than I was, and her eldest son Alex was only four years younger than me. He had suffered many difficulties Eva attributed to his poor relationship with his father. Alex’s father had high expectations for his eldest son. But Alex was as much his mother’s child, and his artistic sensitivities clashed with his father’s harsh mold of “keep a stiff upper lip and be a man”. Alex’s father treated him like a shabby failure who “didn’t have what it takes”.
Because he loved his father, Alex internalized this hateful attitude. He resisted his father’s pressure to conform to directives that would have obliterated him as a person. After his parents’ divorce, Alex felt devastated. He began to demonstrate violent, self-destructive behavior which Eva desperately wanted to resolve.
Admittedly, I was so raw and wounded inside when I arrived at Eva’s that I really didn’t know how to react. My entire life, up to that point, had been spent observing those around me and trying to find out what they wanted or needed in advance so that I could provide it and thereby be accepted. I found myself slipping into this mode rather quickly.
As part of her divorce settlement, Eva’s husband paid her tuition toward her degree in nuclear medicine. She had a heavy class load, so I filled in as “older sister” for her three boys. It was a little odd being in the “middle” in age, being a sister-friend to the boys, and sister-friend to Eva, but somehow it worked. It was really like being a glorified au pair. I cooked and helped keep up with laundry and housework. We went to their family lake house for weekend swimming and boating. All of them were wonderful athletes, in excellent physical condition, and they tried to teach me to ski and play games and throw a Frisbee, but I was horribly gauche and inept in any physical pursuit whatsoever. It was better if I just drove the boat while they skied, or sat on the dock and watched, or cooked burgers when they were hungry.
On one weekend retreat, Eva’s boys had a group of friends who joined the lake house parties. Three were sons of a local high profile judge. One day, when supplies had run low, the eldest of the three boys volunteered to “make a run” to the nearest supermarket for more snacks and drinks. He didn’t want to go alone and, since I was the only one at the moment who was not in a bathing suit, he asked if I would come along. I said “sure!” and climbed into his big, fancy four-wheel drive vehicle and off we went.
It was about five miles to the nearest store along a winding country road flanked by occasional farms and seemingly endless cow pastures. “Bobby” was driving a bit too fast to suit me.
I tried to make a joke about it. At least if we got stopped by the police, neither of us was drinking. I had to shout over the wind in the open vehicle.
He shouted back that we’d better not get stopped because he was “higher than a kite” on some prescription drug he swiped from his mother and if his father found out, he was “dead”. I shouted back that, in that case, he’d better slow down. He looked at me and grinned fiendishly. I didn’t need to worry about a thing because he had “everything under control, baby!”
At that instant we went around a curve and the knobby back wheel of the vehicle slipped off the pavement onto the soft shoulder of the road, grabbing the mucky soil and jerking us sideways. We spun into the barbed wire fence along the cow pasture, mowing down fence posts like dominoes.
Bobby jerked the wheel to get us back to the road, but the barbed wire wrapped around the axle. Our forward momentum was transferred to the rear of the vehicle, swinging it out sideways like an object on a tether, to smash resoundingly and finally against a telephone pole on the driver’s side, just behind the seats.
Both of us were ejected sideways, Bobby cleared the pole and landed in the soft grass, and I felt something like a flamethrower on my chest and abdomen as the trajectory of my body was slowed and shifted by dragging across the elongated gear shift lever. This spun me around so that, as I was flung out, my back slammed solidly against the telephone pole. I slid to the ground in a daze.
Well, my adrenaline was pumping like crazy. If Bobby’s father discovered he was stealing his mother’s prescription drugs, he was in big trouble. Above all, I wanted to protect Eva’s boys – and their friends – from any backlash.
I saw a man on a tractor way across the cow pasture, heading in our direction. I rolled over onto my knees and crawled to the vehicle, pulling myself up by holding onto it, and managed to get into the seat. The engine had died under the strain of the barbed wire wrapped around the wheels, and I turned the key off and back on to see if it would start. It did. “Get in!” I shouted to Bobby, and dropped the lever into 4 wheel action, slammed it in reverse, and felt it jumping and bouncing as the wheels dug into the dirt, pulling against the obstacle of the fence wire wrapped and tangled around the wheels and axle.
Just as Bobby made it into his seat, we broke free with a sudden lunge backward and shot back onto the pavement. I slammed the lever into first gear and off we went, dragging a fencepost behind us that soon fell away in the distance as we roared down the road.
Bobby told his father about the accident, leaving out the part relating to his state of chemical intoxication, and his father gave a generous check to the farmer to pay for the replacement of the section of fence that had been uprooted. The incident was closed.
Except for one thing: I was seriously injured in a way that was to affect me for the rest of my life.
Because I couldn’t feel anything broken and didn’t have any open wounds, I thought I’d just get over it.
A horrendous black and blue and purple and green streak, about 5 inches wide, extended from my breastbone to my lower abdomen from the raking action of the gear shift lever as my body dragged across it when I was flung out on impact. My back was stiff and sore. I couldn’t move at all without pain, my left leg was numb and the skin felt like somebody was constantly pouring scalding water on it. But I thought I’d just take it easy, have a few soaks in Epsom salts, and just basically let the body heal itself.
Eva urged me to contact Bobby’s father and inform him that I needed medical attention. If he had paid for the farmer’s fence, he most definitely ought to pay for my injuries. Finally, I agreed to see a spine specialist.
After an exam and x-rays, the doctor told me that disks in my lumbar vertebrae were severely compressed. Without surgery, which might include removing the disks and fusing the bones, I would be in constant pain for the rest of my life. But surgery might also result in significant impairment of my ability to walk.
Well, swell! Either way, it was lousy news. I’m gonna suffer if I don’t have surgery, and I’ll probably suffer if I do. From my perspective, at least I was still able to walk and appear normal, even if I was in pain, so the choice was easy. No surgery.
Eva’s second son had back strain from playing the tuba in his school band, and chiropractic treatment had helped him. She thought chiropractic adjustments might help me, also.
After chiropractic work, I was able to function again, though for some reason they never would “hold” for very long. Any stressful activity, lifting heavy objects, or sudden moves in the wrong way sent severe pain signals again. I started down a path of learning to tolerate pain at levels most people never dream of.
In our spare time, Eva and I continued our experiments with hypnosis. We had more readings from Lama Sing. And with Eva’s Ouija board, we soon had lengthy and fairly complex conversations with purported discarnate entities. I decided to test them in the same way I’d tested the local psychics. I was really getting into this project when Eva became bored with it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work nearly as well with anyone else, so I gave it up too.
I occasionally heard news about Grant. He was running with what sounded like a rather wild crowd of bikers, and I was desperate to know that he was all right. I decided to call him and a female voice answered the phone. I asked to speak to Grant, and gave my name hesitantly, sure that it would mean nothing to her.
“You have a lot of nerve calling after what you’ve done to him! How dare you!”
In a flash, it was clear. I was the new excuse for Grant’s troubles. Whatever I was supposed to have “done” to him was his new sympathy hook! Now he was vilifying me!
“I don’t know who you are, or what you think,” I said between clenched teeth, “but I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“For your information, I’m Grant’s wife. We were married two weeks ago, and you are some bitch with nerve to call him after what you did.”
Controlling my voice in an effort to sound as pleasant as possible, I asked: “Do you mind telling me what it is I’m supposed to have done?”
“You know what you did. And you know how damaged he is. It will probably take the rest of my life to undo what you’ve done.”
Suddenly, I felt cold. I knew that Grant was lost to me completely. “I hope you have a good time for as long as you can, because I guarantee you it won’t last!” I hung up.
Eva’s oldest son, Alex, was sitting in the next room watching me through the doorway.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes,” I lied.
And I went into another room to pull myself together. Tears streamed down my face and I tried to stop them because I didn’t have a tissue to blow my nose when Alex came in quietly and sat down beside me. He offered me a tissue and I blew my nose. The next thing I knew, he was holding me and saying: “You don’t deserve to be treated that way. I wish I could help you.” A very strong bond formed between us. I was just a wounded person being comforted by another, similarly wounded human being.
As time went by, I noticed Alex watching me constantly. Every time I looked up he was looking at me. I was more than ordinarily vulnerable, so I made every effort to not be alone in a room with him. The more I did, the more I realized he wanted to make sure I was alone with him! I was in a condition of siege, though it was gentle and subliminal. This went on for months. I tried going out on several “blind dates” Eva suggested, hoping that Alex would lose interest in me, but it only seemed to upset him. This inevitably resulted in more self-destructive behavior on Alex’s part.
I was in a very painful position. Eva was the best friend I’d ever had. Forming an attachment to her son that was more than sisterly would amount to a betrayal. At the same time, I was painfully lonely and Alex was always there.
Eva’s concerns for Alex’s lack of career oriented enthusiasm prompted her to have a long talk with his father. They decided to enroll him in a wilderness trek organization designed for exposure to the perils of basic survival in the wilds. I don’t remember how long he was gone on this mountain climbing expedition, but when he returned, the result was shocking.
Alex had contracted a parasitical infection, probably from drinking the water in one of those pure mountain streams. He had lost about 20 pounds from his already lean frame, and he was to lose even more before the parasite ran its course. He needed full-time nursing.
Eva was still working on her degree, so I cared for Alex. It was difficult for me to observe the cruel results of this “experiment” in molding another human being. He needed to get away from the influence of his parents, but he could not break free.
I spent the second Christmas after Grandpa’s death with Eva and her boys. Mother and Buck had taken Grandma back to the East Coast with them. I moved to Grandma’s house and took a secretarial job with a company that installed and managed security systems.
And I bought a piano; a gorgeous baby grand with glorious sound!
I spent hours playing and dreaming, transported back to the days I had dreamed of the One who walked all over the city frantically looking for his own Love and finding me at my piano. I realized gradually that Grant appeared less frequently in these fantasies. I was growing past the pain.
George, the business owner where I worked, wanted to move back North and arranged to sell out to the store manager. David was young, good looking and personable. He played piano and sang in a gospel quartet at church. He confided in me that his parents had mortgaged their house to lend him the money to buy George’s business. I wasn’t sure that was a good idea, but I was agreeable to stay on and run the office.
I went through the contracts to get things organized for the coming push to increase sales so David’s loan could be repaid as soon as possible. My work included delivery of contracts to several banks and loan companies. The procedure was to finance a deal if the buyer didn’t pay cash, and then to “sell the paper”.
When I took them to the bank, I was informed that new State regulations on this kind of sale made all the contracts in my hands virtually worthless. It seemed pretty apparent that George had known that his contracts, written under what was now considered to be “duress” or high pressure scare tactics, would no longer be accepted by the various lending institutions. George had gotten out of the business before anyone else knew this. Naturally, the very large sum he made in selling the business to David was based on exactly these kinds of sales, which were now illegal! The inventory for which David’s parents had mortgaged their home was worthless paper.
I tried to soften the blow, to comfort David in his despair at putting his parents in this position. I assured him we could reorganize and make things legal. He pulled himself together and agreed that everything would be all right. When I left work Friday night, I was confident David could formulate a new plan.
On Sunday morning, the phone rang. Our office receptionist told me that David had apparently driven his new Lincoln out to the airport, and parked on the shoulder of the road at the end of a runway where high school kids liked to go to watch jets take off over their heads.
David put a gun in his mouth and blew his brains out.
Somehow, I think his parents would rather have lost their house. After all these years I still think about David occasionally. He had so much to live for, so many talents, so much personal charm and appeal, all gone in an instant. He had been bitten by a shark and had not survived the encounter.
I felt something evil had passed very close, blowing on the back of my neck with icy breath.
I spent several hours going over that last conversation with David, but not a single thing had been evident to make anyone think he would take his own life. Maybe he had not made the decision yet. Maybe he decided only after telling his parents the bad news. For all I knew, he had parents like my mother who would have most certainly made him wish to kill himself rather than to admit failure.
The bottom line was, now I needed a job. I learned fast and was a good worker, but I had no technical skills, degrees or certification. I’d been attending college classes for over two years, but I couldn’t even type. But among columns of job ads in the Sunday paper, my eye stopped on one. “Assistant to physician. No experience necessary. Will train. Please write in longhand describing your background, interests and experience…”
Well, that was about the strangest advertisement I had ever read! Let me get this straight: a doctor wants an assistant with no experience? Well, heck! That’s me! Besides, I had great handwriting when I tried! What did I have to lose?
I composed a letter and admitted all my lack of skills and experience. I certainly didn’t want to be put on the spot having to type for anybody! I added that I really did well in my science courses and I most definitely could learn anything fast.
I copied my letter in my best formal script (I’d earned the calligraphy prize at boarding school), walked to the post office and dropped it in the letter box before I had a chance to chicken out and change my mind.
I was surprised to get a phone call a few days later for a personal interview.
The physician turned out to be a well-known Italian-American surgeon with family connections rumored to have mafia connections. In Tampa, that didn’t mean the wrong side of the tracks. It meant the movers and shakers of city government and society. Doc was a prominent diplomat of the Good Ole Boy network.
We had a nice conversation, if a bit surreal, that didn’t have anything to do with the job at all. He was more interested in my family background and personality. His main concern seemed to be whether or not I had good “nerves” and could be counted on in any kind of stressful situation. His last question was:
Are you religious?
Well, actually, no.
“Good!” he said. “I think we will work very well together!” And I understood I was hired.
Well, I thought I was just the cat’s meow! I could dig out my old waitress uniforms and wear white stockings and shoes and pretend I was a nurse! I envisioned scenes as Florence Nightingale, giving merciful benedictions to the suffering masses who would gaze at me with eyes of wonder and gratitude as I soothed their fevered brows and brought succor to the wounded.
The reality was different, needless to say.
Doc, who is no longer living, was a good teacher. He introduced me to procedures gradually. As soon as I had mastered one, he moved on to the next. We started with the patients he saw in his office in a steady stream. He had four examining rooms and a room reserved for office surgery procedures. All the rooms were kept occupied at all times. I began by coordinating this flow of bodies, making sure their charts were filled out with blood pressure, temperature, symptoms, and so forth. I learned to write medical shorthand and to ask the right questions so that Doc could have an immediate handle on everything in a quick glance.
The whole operation ran like a clock. It only got a little hairy when he began to include me in the minor surgeries he performed in the office. Fortunately, I was able to be objective about the blood and messes, though I most definitely didn’t like it when anyone was in pain.
After a certain period of training, I discovered that I was expected to assist Doc in major surgery at the hospital. I soon enough learned that “real” nurses didn’t like Doc because he would have little to do with them and only put up with the operating room staff at the hospital because he had to. I was his right hand, and my presence was resented. I must have been good, though, because he rarely had to say anything to me at all. I knew what was needed, and we worked like a well-oiled machine.
I loved my job.
In the early months working for Doc, I noticed that he had an unusual relationship with the other girl in the office. It didn’t take me long to figure out that Aline was his mistress. Fine with me, it wasn’t my business so I didn’t worry about it. Later, Aline confided in me that her child was Doc’s. Well, that was a sticky situation, but it still wasn’t my business.
Doc’s office was closed Wednesdays, but Aline and I took turns working, to answer the phone and sterilize all the instrument packets. I was trying to stay busy by dusting a bit and arranging the magazines in the reception area when I heard someone unlocking the back door and just figured it was Aline coming in to see how I was doing. It was Doc. After greeting me he kept standing there watching me work. The air was heavy and I became increasingly nervous. I just knew he had something on his mind, and I was afraid to know what it was.
“What do you do on the weekends? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you go out?” he asked.
“No. I just work at home. I like to garden. Or I read or play the piano. Sometimes I have friends over, but nothing special.” I didn’t want it to sound like I had no life, even if that was pretty much the case.
“Do you ever get lonely?” he asked.
Well, what kind of question was that for an employer to ask an employee?
“Not really,” I lied. “I manage to stay busy.”
The situation was becoming more awkward by the moment. When there was absolutely no other magazine to line up and not another speck to dust on any of the tables, I knew I had to walk back into the office and he seemed to have no intention to move out of the doorway. I decided to brazen it out and took a few steps toward the door. I almost made it.
Doc was a big, powerful man who played tennis and sailed his own yacht. I’m not a small woman, even when thin, but I was no match for his strength.
And he most definitely had something on his mind: me.
Thanks to romance novelist Rebecca Brandewyn, I am spared the task of describing my interaction with this man. The difference is that in her novel Ms. Brandewyn’s heroine is most gratified to be the object of such long-suppressed lust. I was not.
“Without warning, Wulfgar reached out, taking Rhowenna unaware as he grabbed her and possessively jerked her to him. A slow, deliberately wolfish smile curved Wulfgar’s lips as he stared down at her, his eyes dark, unfathomable. Before she realized what he intended, he roughly yanked her head back, and abruptly crushed his mouth down on hers – hard, hungrily.”
I was horrified, mortified, and extremely anxious to extricate myself from this situation, which I did by wrestling myself away and sputtering something about him being a dirty old man old enough to be my father.
Doc didn’t take rejection lightly. It was a personal insult.
I was out of a job.