Monday, 7 August 2017

The script.

"You must meet so many weird people."
"Not so much anymore. Either I've lucked out, or I've seen the same shit so many times I don't notice it anymore."

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At the bottom of this entry, there are two links to two episodes from the podcast Risk! Even if you don't feel like reading this all the way through, I urge you to listen to them both. They are, if anything, extremely relevant to this entry and, really, to the world at large. So even if you skim this entry, be sure to check them out.

I've written before on the subject of abusive relationships. There was Amanda, and there was the the couple from Isthmus. There was the tacky piece of shit with the printed chains, and let's not forget the girl who flipped the script on abusiveness and and dragged an unwilling guy to Trollhat after breaking him down. There's probably a whole bunch of others in the blog I haven't mentioned.

The point I'm trying to make is that this is a very common thing. I don't think I got a single work-period (that being the time I put aside the books and get behind the wheel and slave away) without encountering at least one or two examples of someone abusing somebody they're romantically involved with somehow. Whether they're married, living together, or just a random hookup, it is always the same story. Always the same script.

This summer has been particularly egregious. I figured that Mr Douche-chain would have filled up my abuse quota for this summer. With him, at least, something could be done. Dear God, I was wrong.

"Yep. Can't have you getting
too comfortable down there."

This summer I've witnessed at least six different examples of people trapped in some kind of toxic relationship, or otherwise being abused by someone who they chose to trust. And while their particular circumstances may have differed, I realized there was a chilling similarity between them. Indeed, a chilling similarity between all such cases I've witnessed, read about, or otherwise looked into.

It's as if some horrible, bland play is being interpreted by different troops of actors. The same script, the same roles and the same beats. The same structure, repeated again and again. A two-character show, following the same lines and the same dynamic.

I'm going to give you a few examples. A rundown of the various toxic relationships I encountered during this summer. I'll exclude the ones that have already been given their own entries. 

First up is a young man and the gutless fuck that he had decided to date. It was a fare from Hill Bay down to the Grove (not Rose Grove). A long, deliciously lucrative trip. Three gorgeous young fops hop into the car and they immediately begin chattering away. I liked their energy; they were young, flamingly homosexual and very very happy. They blathered on about all kinds of stuff that was completely meaningless to me, but their happiness was infectious. I couldn't help but smile. 

The third one was a little busy, as seen below.

Except one of them wasn't quite as happy to join in their reindeer games. This guy (let's call him Rudolph) was the smallest of the three. Very slight, almost pixie-like with white-blonde hair and bronzed skin. He was texting on his phone, and then made a call. What followed was a conversation that was both annoyed and attempted to be cheerful. Apparently there had been some massive drama, which resulted in his boyfriend storming out of the party. And now he was sulking at the nearby bus stop. Young Rudolph debated with him, telling him that they were in a taxi and he could join them, that he didn't need to wait for a bus. The boyfriend was angrily refusing, until we approached the bus stop, at which point a guy dressed all in black with eyes that blazed with drunken fury stepped out on the road and flagged me down.
"There he is," sighed Rudolph. "My boyfriend."

So in hops Mr Blaze, looking like Satan's pissed off little brother. He sits down next to Rudolph and the others welcome him with forced smiles. Not the kind of smile you force when you have to endure someone you really don't like, but the kind you put on when a friend is acting out and you need to keep a lid on things. I began to drive, when I saw in the rear-view how this asshole slapped Rudolph several times around the back of the head. "Call your mama," he snarled. "I bet she's reeaal fucking proud of you."

I was about to tell him off, when he immediately stopped, turned his eyes to the window and sat silently. Young Rudolph ignored him and the rest of the trio started chattering away. One of them spent a sizable amount of time trying to entertain both Rudolph and his boyfriend, to lift the mood as it were. 

After a long trip, we arrived. Rudolph and his boyfriend got off first. Or rather, the boyfriend leaped out of the cab, slammed the door and stalked down the street. Rudolph paid his part of the fare and disappeared. 

The other two were going home a few blocks away. I asked them if this was common, this behaviour between Rudolph and his boyfriend. 

"Yeah," said one. "He always flips out when he's drunk. But he always apologizes in the morning. He needs to get his shit together. And he's always bitching with Rudolph."
"You realize that he was this close to getting thrown out, right?"
"Yeah, and you'd be right too! I always tell him he's being an asshole."
"Ever told him that while sober? Because if I were in your shoes, I'd tell him to shape up or fuck off. That shit is toxic."
"Oh I totally do that all the time!"

Later on I drove a fellow who had been having trouble with his significantly younger lover (I drove him several times. He ended up becoming one of my favourite customers), and he knew Rudolph and his boyfriend. He confirmed to me that Rudolph had a tendency to get into relationships with guys who treated him like shit. That he was a very young, very insecure guy who leaped at the chance of affirmation, even the negative kind.

A few weeks later I drove a girl and her friend. They were talking in the back seat. Some kind of drama, some guy was an asshole and some people didn't like that and it was a problem and omigod like so totally stupid you guyz... I admit I wasn't listening very closely. But we dropped off the friend first and she told the girl: "Go sit next to the cabbie. Maybe he has something sensible to say."

I have to admit, I was deeply tickled by her vote of confidence. So the girl, Elinor, switched seats and rode shotgun to Isthmus, where she lived. She told me the whole story. In short:

She had dated a guy for four years. He was an insecure, ADHD riddled mess (her words), but she had loved him so.

He was insanely controlling. At one point he had called her at work, screaming "You have some explaining to do! I found a pair of boxer shorts here and they're not fucking mine, so whose is it??"
She had told him not to call her work, because her boss needed the phone. She got back to work, trying not to think about it. Her cellphone buzzed constantly throughout the day. When she got home, he apologized because those boxer shorts belonged to one of his friends, who had crashed at their place a couple of nights the week before. She made it clear to me that this story kinda summed up their entire relationship.

Finally, she had broken up with him. But she had continued to live with him. Mainly because Isthmus is close to Seed Grove, where she worked. She had made it abundantly clear that they'd never ever be back together again, but they could still be friends.
Kinda like this, but slightly less sensible.

But the dynamic didn't stop there. He stilled called her constantly. And he didn't know she was taking a cab. If he did, he'd flip his lid. And now her friends were pissy with her because, even though they didn't like him, they felt she was leading him on.

"So I guess I'm the bad guy, and that sucks," she said.
"Well..." I said, choosing my words. "It's a bad fucking idea, but I wouldn't say you're a bad guy."

So we started talking about toxicity in relationships. About how he didn't have a right to neither her time or her obedience. There was no obligation, because they weren't in any kind of relationship. And so on. I'm not going to paint myself as a hero; I merely said what I believed. But I will say she was stunned. Apparently I was the first person who actually believed that this asshole of hers had a responsibility to not be an asshole.

In the middle of the conversation, he called her. She picked up the phone, told me not to make a sound, because... you know, apparently she had a habit of seducing cab drivers or something. She assured him she'd be home soon. Then she hung up and sighed heavily. I asked her where she lived otherwise; she was merely sleeping at the guy's place. Legally, she still lived with her parents. So I offered to turn off the meter and take her there.

But no, she couldn't. She didn't want to. Her relationship to her parents was miserable.

"I don't know what the fuck I'm doing," she said. "I always dreamed of being married with kids at 25. Finding Mr Right. But I'm 24 now, so that's not going to happen. I just..."

"... are terrified of being alone?"

"Yes.. that's exactly it." she said and there were tears in her eyes, which she blinked away. I made the offer again, and she declined again. So we arrived at Isthmus and she didn't leave the car.

"You have been so kind to me," she said. "I'd give you a hug, but.. he might see."

"No need for that," I said. "Just... do what you can to get yourself your own place. He doesn't own you and you don't owe him anything."

"I don't get it," she said. "Most cabbies just ... sit quietly and drive. But you actually seem to care about people. You seemed to understand me, took my point of view. Why?"

"Because we all go through shit," I said. "And I see shit like this all the time. I've seen it up close and in some ways, I've grown up with it. So I care."

"I'd like to ride with you again."

I gave her my number. Since then she hasn't called. I hope its because she didn't need a cab for the rest of the summer, rather than not being allowed one.

Finally, and perhaps the most revolting one is the woman I drove from the central station out to Thor's Landing. She had a goodie bag with her, full of flowers and a newly purchased iPad. She was talking quickly, hurriedly, and had a tense smile and a slightly hysterical laugh.

"I'm sorry, I'll try not to cry!"

I was taking her to her boyfriend in Thor's landing. She had done something bad, she said. So she had bought flowers and an iPad as a reconciliation gift. "He must forgive me!" she said over and over again. "So many times that I forgave him, he owes me that much!"

Which would then be followed by a slightly despairing: "I did something bad, he'll never forgive me."

It went in a cycle, but with every cycle I gleaned new information. She loved him. She couldn't stand the idea of not being with him. But he beat her, he humiliated her, manipulated her, was constantly unfaithful (though he called it an Open Relationship. Open to him, that is). One day, she had gotten fed up, written a long, extremely detailed facebook post about their relationship and just what kind of a pig he was, and posted it on his wall. He had flipped out, they had broken up. Somewhere between then and now, she had (possibly, I can't say I was sure that this is what she meant) slept with someone else. And now, full of remorse, she had gone off, bought him flowers and an iPad and called a cab so she could apologize.

"Apologize for what?" I said. "He sounds like a fucking pig."
"But I'm a nice girl," she said. "I don't do things like this. I don't write things like that."
"So what? He's treated you like shit for years. You stood up to him, and good for you."

She laughed then. Hard and proud and terrified. "Yes, he's an asshole!"
Then immediately switched: "No, no I did a bad thing. I don't do things like that. He won't forgive me. He has to forgive me."

The conversation went this way, again and again, around and around. I listened, I told her that she was under no obligation. She agreed and then immediately disagreed. She loved him, she loved him, she'd die without him, but he wasn't nice he didn't love her but she loved him and she wanted his forgiveness but he wouldn't forgive her but he had to forgive her because she had forgiven so much because she loved him and she loved him and she'd die without him etc etc etc etc.

I turned off the meter and told her I could take her home, no charge. She squeezed my hand, laughed that harsh, proud, terrified laugh. "You're a sweetie. I wish you were my boyfriend. But no. Take me to him. I need to apologize."

Aside from the fact that she was Asian, she could have been Amanda's twin. Again, here I was, driving a woman to someone who would hurt her. I felt sick to my stomach, though not quite as sick as back when I met Amanda. I guess somewhere along the line, I've gotten a bit numb.

I dropped her off and told her I could wait, that she could come out at any time and I could take her home. "No, but I'll take your number," she said. "If I need a cab, I'll call."

"Do so... If anything happens, call, all right? If he gets violent, get out of there and call."

"I will. But don't worry!" again, that laugh. "I'm fine. Everything is fine!"

She never called.


All right. This is the part where I get all introspective about this shit. I won't. Whatever words I have about this stuff has already been said in other entries. I will say this though: the pattern is always the same. The Abuser makes the Victim emotionally dependent. The Abuser binds the Victim with bonds of love and fear. The Victim is terrified of the Abuser, but is more terrified of being alone. Their self-worth is measured in their Abusers approval. And they forgive and forgive and every time they forgive, they sacrifice another piece of their integrity. Every time, the same fucking story. Different actors, different setting, but the same toxic script, the same horrifying characters, the same vile beats.

It's as if there were some kind of international convention of abusers, where a certain kind of behaviour, certain norms and certain attitudes where decided upon to then be enacted world-wide. I suppose the good thing about this regularity is that there are signs that those who are in or outside abusive relationships can pick up on.

In fact, there are two stories that explain this far better than I ever could. I listen to a podcast called Risk. Its a show where people "tell true stories they'd thought they'd dare to share".  These two stories are stories of abuse. One is told by one who was the victim in an abusive relationship. The other is told by one who was the abuser in one. These stories are important, and they really say everything I wanted to say, in a far better way than I ever could.


The Monster and the Man

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