I used to enjoy July 4th for a multitude of reasons. I love the summer, I love fireworks and how they light up the night sky in a beautiful display of color. As I got older, I loved that I had the day off of work to do nothing – which is exactly what I’m doing today.
But last night, as I sat in the sunroom with the windows open, and listened to the crickets and cicada’s singing their nightly song, I realized just how cursed July 4th has become for me. Not all memories are bad, but the residual leftovers are sad.
July 4th, 2004
My daughter was a month old. My husband at the time (her father) and I were on a trial separation. Probably from the lack of sleep in a colic baby, probably because I was nineteen and had no business being married in the first place. Probably because neither of us had yet to grasp the idea that parenting meant we had to grow up. The night before, my ex-husband had gone out with his friends while I sat at home with our daughter. This night would be my night to go out and do what I wanted. I was staying with my mother for this period of time, while my ex-husband and I tried to figure out what our next steps would be.
Naturally, I ended up at my current husbands house. My need to see Blue Eyes (Now, my brother-in-law) fueled my desire to reclaim some of my freedom. It was at a time that I still drank when I had a free weekend (and before the legal age to do so). Blue Eyes had just moved back to this state from his home state, and I hadn’t seen much of them for six years. I was convinced that he was the love of my life and that I would find a way to make him see me. I wasn’t a scared thirteen year old anymore.
The party became a neighborhood party. Somewhere inside my mom was getting drunk off her ass, which would later having her clinging to the toilet, wishing for death. I stayed outside in eye-proximity to Blue Eyes, watching him with a fondness that I had always had for him, but staying aloof because I knew that being clingy would just push him away. Playing hard to get really was the answer to this puzzling game of men and women. The more he drank, the more his eyes found mine in a sea of people. I tried to act like I didn’t see him or notice him in the least, but my heart pounded in my chest every time I could feel him looking at me.
Eventually he pulled out a huge tarp that covered most of the backyard. He poured Dawn Dish Detergent all over it, sprayed it down with the water hose, and made a neighborhood slip-n-slide. Clothes were shed, there were naked drunk people running all over the yard. Blue Eyes launched himself down the slide, a free bird of balls and biceps. He threw himself on the tarp with so much speed that he kept going once the tarp ended, which resulted in a white ass in the air, face-first in the bushes that lined the woods.
Meanwhile, my current husband had shut himself in his room to game on the computer with his friends. That is how he spent his time. Eventually it got late. The cops were called for disturbing the peace, and Blue Eyes walked around with a towel wrapped around his waste. The neighborhood dispersed and went to their respective houses. Blue Eyes and myself sat on the front porch, while he massaged my feet, and I half-slid out of the chair. We were both past the point of drunk, but I had his attention. At some point my current husband came outside and looked at me and told me that I needed to go home. Blue Eyes told him to take his ass back inside to his room and to mind his own business. This was back in the days of my not being able to really tolerate my husband very much. I never understood his hostility towards me. It kind of hurt my feelings that he wouldn’t want me around.
Eventually, Blue Eyes and I crawled our way into the living room and made it to the couch where we collapsed and tried to keep the room from spinning. Some time passed, but I remember becoming coherent because his proximity had lessened. Then he was over me, and his mouth was on mine. His lean body was pressed into me. I told him that I wanted him and heard him groan under his breath. He told me he would take my ass into his bedroom if I didn’t watch what I said. I told him I dared him to.
I don’t remember getting to his room, but I remember clothes being shed, and his ceiling fan being on high, because as he approached me, the air was blowing my hair in my face. He brushed his hand across face to move the hair, and his mouth claimed mine again.
I remember parts and bits of having sex. I remember falling asleep afterward to “Killing Me Softly” by The Fugees playing on his computer. I remember waking up at some ungodly hour of the morning and stumbling around to drive home. I remembering thinking that this was the start of something I’d always wanted.
I wouldn’t see him again for another six years.
July 4th, 2005
It took me an entire year to get over the fact that Blue Eyes and his family moved away again, without saying goodbye. This was the second time they had done this to me, and I was just as devastated at nineteen as I had been at thirteen. At the end of that July their house had caught fire, and they decided to return to their home state, ten hours away from me.
My ex-husband and I had split up for good after we realized that we couldn’t make our marriage work, no matter how hard we tried. I was finally owning up to the fact that being a mother meant my kid came first. He hadn’t quite gotten there yet. I moved out and into my own place with our daughter. He got her every other weekend if he could manage, or if he didn’t have plans to go riding with friends on his motorcycle. (Now, he’s a fantastic father. It didn’t take him very long to get his shit together and figure it out.)
I signed up for match.com and put my profile picture out there. The night of July 3rd I received an e-mail that piqued my interest. This man was recently separated. His wife packed all of her things and moved out while he was at work, leaving him devastated. He liked my picture. I replied back explaining things about myself, and also told him that I was a bigger girl – to not be fooled by how photogenic I was in my picture. He said he didn’t care about that. We agreed to meet in the Circuit City parking lot the next day since we were both spending the 4th of July alone. I was still heart-broken over Blue Eyes leaving again, but I had a determination to move on from him hurting me again.
I arrived first, and waited a short time for him. He looked angry and awkward. I could tell that when he pulled up, he wasn’t very impressed with what he saw. My heart deflated. I was going to have a difficult time finding someone to love me. Still, he got out of the car and we talked for a bit, then I got into his car and we went to Subway and had lunch. We went back to his house and sat there in awkward silence for a bit, and then he drove me to my car and that was it. I knew I would never see him again. That night while I was at the store, my phone rang, and it was him. He asked me if I wanted to come back over. He was lonely and he enjoyed talking to me. I agreed and thanked my lucky stars that someone was interested in me. This is the man that I refer to affectionately as The Abuser
Today would have been our 12 year anniversary. I spent last night digging through old pictures on photobucket. His login crept into my mind – and I’m sure he hasn’t even used photobucket in ten years. But I tried logging in, and I was able to. Immediately I was overwhelmed with pictures of us.
There are days (like today) that it still hurts. I don’t miss his abuse, and I don’t miss him. I don’t regret my marriage to my husband in the least. But I will always feel like a failure with this one. I don’t know if it’s residual emotional abuse from him. I don’t know if it’s my overachieving ways that my ego is still bruised from not being enough for someone. I don’t know if maybe it’s because he was the first person I loved in my adult life that had such a pull over me, that I will always think about him.
He beat the shit out of me for three years, and then he cheated on me and threw me out on the streets. He never loved me. He moved on to marry someone else and have a child with her. Someone that treats him exactly how he treated me. He had it good with me and didn’t realize it until he had thrown me away.
I find myself wondering if he even remembers what day this is. If I was enough to cause him to remember this day for the rest of his life, like I do.
July 4th, 2015
On June 25th, 2015 I was sitting in my living room, scrolling through Facebook when a picture of my uncle popped up on my wall, from my Aunt’s boyfriend. All it said was “Please pray for Dennis, he has been in a serious accident.” My face paled and I immediately sent a text to my Aunt. I was confused as to why nobody had reached out to me. My aunt was in a daze when she answered the phone. They were up at the hospital. She apologized for not calling me, but said she couldn’t even think straight. I rushed up to the hospital that night to sit with the family.
I returned nearly every day for the next week. He was in critical condition. His brain was swelling, but he was responsive to commands. He could move his hands when asked, and make a peace sign when prompted. His eyes were still swollen shut, but he knew we were there. His fifteen year old daughter, my cousin, stayed glued to his side. She was about to be sixteen. She said she didn’t care if she had her sixteenth birthday party in the hospital as long as she could celebrate it with him. They were inseparable.
My Uncle had a craniotomy done to allow his brain to swell comfortably. Shortly after that he was brain dead. I went in to see him one last time before they pulled the plug on his life support. His hands and legs were still doing involuntary twitching, giving us false hope that he would recover. The nurse explained that it was just his body’s response, but that there was nothing going on in his brain. When we pulled the plug, he would be dead.
His organs went on to save six people. Everything had changed the moment that seventeen year old didn’t check his blind-spot and sent my Uncle careening into a telephone pole. Our lives were affected. He left behind two kids, and a grandson that was a month away from birth. He was 45 years old. A survivor of cancer, a business owner, an incredible human being.
That night, my husband and I took his kids downtown to see the fireworks. I stood there in awe and shock, wondering if any of this was actually real. I prayed that my Uncle had a better view of the fireworks from Heaven. I prayed that he would always be around us. I prayed that his children would recover from losing a man that was so incredible.
Today, I’m staying home. I’m not going anywhere, I’m not doing anything. The memories of years past are enough to make me want to shut myself away from everything. My husband is working until five. I have no desire to celebrate this stupid day.