Winter 1994 had arrived, and it was COLD. I know and remember this because I spent more than one night sleeping in my car. Some nights I’d been locked out; others I chose to sleep in my car to avoid his wrath. In truth, there were only so many times I felt comfortable playing the “too drunk/tired to drive” card with various friends in order to crash on their couch. It was difficult to get a good night’s sleep in the student activity area or the TV station, because if I was found I’d be asked to leave. After the episode on my birthday, the Frat Boy and I circled each other like wary animals when we were home together. I began apartment hunting in earnest, and setting aside more money. I didn’t think I’d be able to stay until I graduated in May, and I felt like I needed to be ready to leave on short notice. I still couldn’t bring myself to share with anyone the full extent of my situation; although I confided in my sister that the Frat Boy’s temper was “a little scary” at times. She didn’t have much advice, but she listened. She was there.
I kept researching dating violence and domestic abuse when I could. The newly-born internet and World Wide Web were unbelievably helpful in this regard. I learned that the most dangerous time for many women is when they try to leave. I’d never even broached the topic of breaking up, much less moving out with the Frat Boy. I didn’t even want to try to bring it up until I was more ready to leave. And by “ready” I meant mentally and emotionally as well as physically and financially. The bruises I sometimes wore were not my only wounds…the Frat Boy’s words tore down my self-esteem and confidence. I no longer trusted myself or my decisions. And I had never felt so alone in my life.
I continued to work and go to school, putting on the brave smiling face that people who knew me expected to see. Ironically, it was the people I trusted and cared about the most that I pushed away. I still don’t know why. Shame, maybe…or that fear of being vulnerable. Some of those people understood later, when I was able to explain. Sadly in other situations, the friendships were irreversibly damaged. I kept up with most of my extra-curricular activities; especially the TV station that I so loved. I gave up my position in student government because the Frat Boy had brothers in that organization, and it was too difficult to face them at weekly meetings; especially when some of them knew and condoned what was going on at home.
When I left, it happened fast. I don’t remember the nature of the argument that night. I remember having the feeling time had slowed down, and I was standing outside my own body, watching what was happening. I watched him scream at me and call me names. I watched myself try to scream worse names. I watched my shoulders slump in defeat as he clenched his fists and his face turned a dark red. Then he took one of those fists and punched me hard in the stomach. I sank to my knees, doubled over and gasping for air. He raised a foot to kick me, but I was able to roll away. I grabbed the phone and called 911. The police came, and really didn’t take the situation seriously. We were two kids in their eyes. They told me to come down and complete a report in the morning. He left. I called my sister and told her what happened. I then took a deep breath and called my mother. She didn’t have much to say. Shortly thereafter, my father called me and told me to get out of that house, and call him when I was somewhere safe. I grabbed the bag I already had packed from being thrown out so often, and headed to the campus at spend the night at a friend’s apartment. I never stayed in the apartment I shared with him again.
I did go to the police station to make a report. I waited, again, for several hours until they “had time” to take my information. They tried to pooh-pooh me, but I insisted this time, and I’m glad I did. That report allowed me to get a restraining order later. I took three people to the apartment at a mutually agreeable time and removed most of my belongings. Some things I lost and have never been able to retrieve. He stalked me for a while. I suspected he cut the brake lines on my car once, but couldn’t prove it.
I managed to find an apartment quickly, and was able to take my cat with me. Everything more or less fell into place. It was a little surreal. As much as I loved my college, I began spending as little time on campus as I could. The Frat Boy’s brothers would still report back to him about what I was doing, where I was going, and who I was spending my time with. I was counting down the days until graduation, certain I would be free after that. I had no concrete plans, but I was happy to be alive. I still hadn’t told many people the reason why we broke up so (in their eyes) “suddenly.” In fact, I’d hidden the problem so well, few people believed me. Or, it’s possible I read their shock and disbelief as them not believing me. It was awkward when I began dating again; even though I was single, the specter of that relationship still haunted me in the form of the cadre of fraternity brothers on my tail almost constantly.
Enter The Lawyer. He was someone I knew peripherally, in passing on campus. I knew his name and his face; especially because his campus job was in the mail center. He saw me without my engagement ring, and asked me on a date. He didn’t seem to care about the fraternity guys that sometimes tailed me, or the recently broken engagement. He seemed to really like me as a person, and the way he treated me, at least in the beginning, was a breath of fresh air. We were both in our final semesters at college after five years; him with a dual degree, and me attending an extra year to finish my one degree.
He told me he wanted to go to law school, and eventually maybe become a Supreme Court Justice. We talked about our plans after college, and he didn’t even laugh when I confided that my dream was to live in a loft in Manhattan and work for MTV; taking over Downtown Julie Brown’s job.
Things seemed fairly normal, at least to me. There was no pressure for exclusivity, no cruel words, nothing that raised a red flag…at first. I decided to date The Lawyer exclusively in the spring of 1995; just a few short months before graduation.