(15 minute read)
Read Part 1 – The Restraining Order
Right Turn – Alice in Chains
“Inside…always trying to get back inside.
But it’s so hard to penetrate pig-thick skin.
I’m ‘bout as low as I can get, I’d leave but I can’t forget.
Still wonder why it ain’t right. It ain’t right.
Now we’re as low as we can get. Can’t leave and can’t forget.
We ain’t right. Not right.
Well, it’s hard to believe that somebody tricked you.
When you can see you were only high.
It’s all up to you, so you gamble.
Flat on your face and into the fire.”
Written July-September 2016
The moonlight shimmered off the ocean as the waves broke and lapped at the sand. Walking along the beach, puddles of sea water felt warm and cold at the same time. Bob pranced alongside us, a glowing ball in his mouth. Scooter said this was the only time Bob could play in the water since The Powers That Be decided dogs weren’t allowed on the beach. Makes sense. Dogs digging holes or pooping is far more devastating to the beautiful beaches than the endless broken beer bottles, cigarette butts, cans and plastic wrappers we humans leave.
Scooter and I were in a parallel situation with our significant others, but mine came with a deputy eviction and lawyers. He was mostly angry; I was mostly beaten down.
We commiserated. Words of frustration and hurt tumbled from our mouths, often crossing over each other at the same time. Taken advantage of, damaged, misunderstood, unappreciated. Incensed.
“Oh, your neighbors are definitely talking about you,” he said.
“I know.” The endless parade of police cars and drama in our driveway was mortifying.
“The minute you guys leave, they are SO turning that place into an age 65+ community.”
“Probably,” I said.
“What I want to know is how this happens,” he said, gesturing around with his hand. “This. How two people, who mean the world to one another, get to the point not being able to stand each other?”
“How it goes from that person consuming your every waking thought to just get the fuck away from me?”
“Yeah. Exactly.” He threw the ball out to the waves and Bob scampered off into the darkness to find it.
“If we could figure that out, we could write a book called “Break the Pattern”. Which would obviously hit the bestseller list and we’d rich,” I said.
I felt fortunate to have landed softly at the beach after falling hard. There was something about the water and waves that calmed, and I spent my days holed up in that secluded location walking along the sand until I couldn’t remember which inlet led me back.
The fact that Scooter allowed me to stay at his rental getaway by myself was the proverbial last straw between him and his girlfriend, who, despite being incredibly friendly towards me, hadn’t been happy. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of male friends due to their significant others not being comfortable around me. I never understood this. I’d known them for years before these women came into their lives. If anything were to have happened, it already would have.
To be fair, unlike most of my male friends, I briefly met Scooter on an online dating site, before my profile was yanked down for being “fake”. He looked (stalked) me up on Facebook and said he was surprised I wasn’t some bored guy with stolen photos. We chatted for a while and then got caught up in traveling for work. However, we made a date for the following month. Meanwhile, things with C got more serious. Upon finding that C left his dating profile up, I decided to keep my plans with Scooter. I was up-front and told him that I was seeing someone and thought it was going somewhere, so he probably wouldn’t want to keep the meeting. He said he’d take his chances, thankyouverymuch. I reluctantly met the man and his dog that would go on to be part of my life in the future.
After a glass of wine and witty conversation, I liked him. It was nearing my birthday and he arrived with gourmet dog cookies for Bella and a bullet for me (we share a similar fucked up sense of humor), which I still have. His dog, Bob, sat at my feet, tail gently wagging every time I looked at him.
“Your partner in crime?” I asked.
“Well, we get along well. We’re very similar.”
“We both love food. For another, we both get super excited when we poop.”
He was tall and lanky with sandy-colored facial stubble. He could have used a few pounds and didn’t always seem comfortable in his own skin, but he had a bold, blue-eyed gaze that dared you to look away first. As my friend Heather would say, “Guuuuurl, he is hot!” Though he’d been in Tampa for a while, he hadn’t quite lost that California surfer laissez faire personality. He was confident, humble, independent, and I would eventually learn, self-aware. This is a rare superpower most people don’t possess. Too many choose to place emphasis on their looks or acquiring material possessions rather than take the time to learn about themselves. While it’s great to keep yourself up, looks eventually fade. Who you are will not, and an education of any kind is always a solid investment.
The evening ended with a bro-hug in the parking lot and him saying that if anything changed to let him know. Had Christopher not solidly been in the picture, I’d have seen him again. He had a vintage German car habit, was more broken down from various sports than I am (which is no easy feat) and his dog was quite literally his best friend, but that’s who he was.
We routinely text sarcastic jabs back and forth.
Him: “Many unanswered questions in life. What if Rosa Parks had a car?”
Me: “Well, December first and February fourth would be way different for many of us, that’s for sure. I think cars ruined the Civil Rights movement. Had more people sat their asses in the front of the bus, shit would be further along now. I blame cars for these bullshit shootings and retaliation riots. One hundred percent. Are you putting baby in a corner tonight or do you want to grab something for dinner?”
Him: “So, what do you think the handicapped parking situation is at the Special Olympics?”
Me: “I just want you to know you ruined my night. I’ll be thinking about this for the next several hours. Thanks, Fucker. ”
“Anytime. Do you know what fastest car in the world is?
Me: “Uh…something Italian?”
“A rental car.” He usually wins.
A couple weeks ago he asked, “Level up. Are you ok?”
A pause. “Why are you asking?”
“Because you seem off.” I stared at his text and exhaled as tears welled up. It had been a long time since anyone had noticed how I was doing or cared. Fuck. I thought I was hiding the cycling mania/depression hitting from all angles. I cover it well and don’t talk about it. A key thing with bipolar disorder is awareness. I was aware that I was currently fucked in the head from all the crap going on around me in the aftermath of C. Most people close to me can’t tell. This person, whom I see once I week, could tell how I was doing through text?
“Nope. Not really ok.” And I told him the brutal truth, like I always do, figuring it’ll freak him out and scare him off – for his own good.
“So, where do you want to go for your birthday?” Guess it’s gonna take a little more time.
Photo: Getty Images/Doug Benc
We had a lot in common, so it hadn’t been tough to move into a friendship after we first met. He traveled a lot and once lived in that elusive limelight, signing autographs and trying to catch sleep on planes while winning trophies in professional sports car racing. (We probably share more than a few of the same fans.) I didn’t have to explain my life to him. After that first meeting, every once in a while he’d email to say hello and ask if C had suddenly died in a fiery automobile crash. He found a girlfriend not long after our date, one whose muscular thighs and gym dedication put mine to shame. I followed their escapades on Facebook, often wishing C was the adventurous just-get-in-the-car-and-go type. Or even a workout-without-complaining type. The couple of times we vacationed, it because I arranged and paid for everything. Scooter had once told me, “I have no doubt that we would be an amazing duo. Partners in crime and traveling companions.” I occasionally wondered if I had chosen wrong.
Photo: Dustin McClease
Bob bounded back with the ball, wiggling his entire behind.
“Here’s something entertaining,” I said. “One of the deputies who evicted me asked me to hang out.”
“Guess he didn’t think you were guilty.”
“Yeah, well, dates aren’t going to be a problem for you.”
“Ha. Dating. I can’t even fathom that right now. I think I just need to do my own thing for a while. School, work, get back to making candles. Be alone for a while. This one is probably going to mess me up pretty good. My douche bag radar is clearly wrecked. I don’t know if I can trust myself to make a good decision anytime soon.”
Looking back now, my stomach was in knots from the first day C and I stepped into the house as owners. Once we got inside, we saw it needed far more work than we’d first realized. Our previous walk-through had been while the former owners were living there, clutter piled high against walls and windows; walls that had water damage and windows that didn’t open. He flipped out. I love a challenge and told him not to worry, I’d done this before and it would be fine. He stalked off to the garage and I continued to take inventory of the house. When I found him, he said he went out to the garage to find rope and was seriously contemplating killing himself. That day. The first day.
Oh… my… fuck.
What had I just gotten myself in to? We signed a thirty-year mortgage together. I never saw any of this until that day. He’d always come off as calm, stable and logical. I spent the next year that we lived together trying not to let boiling water spill over. My own life, career and hobbies suffered. I gave up candle making, barely had time to read a book, blew off bookings and didn’t have energy for anything other than putting out fires.
To recap: Between the house renovations and the first contractor ripping us off, then the neighbor’s incessant complaining about everything we did (along with surprise inspections by city and county) which brought the HOA coming down on us about the shed and chickens. (It’s a big yard surrounded by woods, no rooster. No one else had an issue except the guy who shared a property line.) Meanwhile, two of our three chickens mysteriously died, and then I was diagnosed with Lupus. All the while, the aforementioned neighbor went house-to-house around our (elderly) neighborhood with topless photos of me, telling people I was a “porn star, who will bring the property values down”. We had to go to court to get a harassment & stalking restraining order against him to make him stop. Court again to get the HOA to leave us alone. Once we were on their radar, the letters and threats kept coming. We won that mediation as well, but it was stressful as fuck. As soon as it calmed down, C got injured. I’d just started Full Sail University and had been unsuccessfully trying to balance work, travel, school and learning to be a full-time student in an accelerated degree program. His niece moved in. While it was a great help at first, it became a game of pitting us against each other while trying to take care of him. I often felt unwelcome in my own house.
(Note: Despite my big ass titties, I’m not a porn star. I am a centerfold/fetish/pin-up model, pro wrestler, comic book model and professional cosplayer. I’m also an entrepreneur, freelance ad writer & blogger, student, own a small soy candle business called AprilsScentSations and run two websites. Sometimes things are busy, sometimes they’re not. It depends on the market, exposure, and time of year. As far as I can tell, my big ass titties haven’t ruined the property values. However, it’s always entertaining to come home from a convention dressed as Poison Ivy or Jessica Rabbit to get the mail and wave hello to someone walking by. Never gets old.)
Photo: Steven Griffey
In the end, shortly before he evicted me, I’d started to emotionally pull away. At one point, after he broke or punched something in rage, I told him a friend said I should file a restraining order – but I was doing my best to handle everything. I told him I needed more from him. Shortly after that, he filed for a restraining order, claiming he “feared for his life”.
While I was out on my thirty-day eviction, C reported me several times for violating the protection order. First, over some magnetic letters on the fridge I’d had up since the day he left, which he perceived to be a threatening message. (The letters: break-up song titles. Pantera’s This Love and I Will Survive aren’t usually frightening to read.) Another was when I sent him a brief email* after not being able to get in touch with my lawyer all day, asking him to please contact USAA because our mortgage company was about to put us into collections because he hadn’t paid the due payment and they didn’t have his new phone number. Instead of handling the situation, he opted to call the police and file a violation against me. He never did pay it until after our final day in court, where I was forced to split it with him because he had to pay attorney fees. I hadn’t even lived there in June. He also filed a complaint against one of the deputies he knew I used to be neighbors with for “being partial and unprofessional.”
(*Note: I paid the entire down payment for the house and the renovations. C was to handle the mortgage/electric/water/insurance so I could cut back on work and go back to school for my degree. That’s why it was his responsibility to take care of it.)
We went to court after fourteen days, and he and his lawyer pushed for a one-year permanent injunction. Had it been granted, I wouldn’t have been allowed back into my home. C played his head injury to the hilt, claiming total disablement and that he needed “exclusive use of the home.” (Incidentally, Bipolar Disorder has been listed on the Americans with Disabilities Act since 2008.) The judge waived their motion but allowed the original order to stay in place for two more weeks until we could figure out a living arrangement regarding the house. After court, he got into his car and drove away, but not before posting on Facebook, “Time to celebrate! Who’s up for drinks?”
I’d been granted a one-time visit to the house to collect more things. C changed the door locks, which under a temporary restraining order, he wasn’t supposed to do. I couldn’t get in. He let my houseplants and garden die, too. He made me wait four hours, presumably to enjoy his celebratory drinks first.
It’s never just one cop car, there are always two. A deputy escorted me into my own house, checking my ID and paperwork with his left hand, right hand resting lightly near his gun. There’s just something about that that made me feel guilty, no matter what. For this latest episode of That Nice Looking Man vs. The Weird Chicken Lady Who Looks like a Porn Star, the neighbors hid behind their shades.
When I finally got in, I went straight into the bedroom and started packing underwear and dresses.
“Can I talk to her?” C asked the deputy.
“No,” I said.
“Sure, as long as you two don’t fight.”
He followed me around like a puppy, talking about normal household stuff as if he hadn’t just tried to take everything away from me that morning.
I then asked what the hell he was thinking. He told me he filed the order because he ‘just needed a break.’ The deputy looked at him incredulously.
“Sir, that is not why you file an injunction. They’re used because you need someone to stay away long enough so you can move out. Not for a relationship break.”
“Pull the order, C. You said you would.”
“I can do that?”
“Yes,” the deputy said. “You can.”
“Ok, I’ll see about it.”
“Ma’am,” the deputy said to me, while looking directly at C. “No matter what he says right now, there is a chance he is not telling you the truth.”
Driving back from a frenetic weekend of taping customs for SlamminLadies after that, the thought of facing the secluded bungalow became overwhelming. I just felt as if there was no point. If the one person whom I would put first and trust would turn on me for no reason; if everything I’d worked for could be taken away by the county without a single shred of proof – even my ability to earn a living and my pets, it all seemed futile. I started to calculate exactly how much sleep medication I had, and if it was enough to do the trick.
Then…FUCK. His asshat lawyer (“Your Honor, I have the privilege of representing Mr. C…and we request a one-year restraining order, as my client is disabled and needs sole occupancy of the home”) stated we were “tenants in common”. Should one of us kick the bucket, the house would automatically go to the other. Suicide would be a fucking Christmas gift to this guy. Hell, he was probably hoping to drive me to that point in order make things easier for him. No. I’ll die one day, but it wasn’t going to be that day. Plus, it would’ve been extremely impolite to leave a body in a place that someone had so kindly lent me, especially in brutal Florida summer heat. Can you imagine the smell? Scooter would have to burn my soy candles twenty-four-seven. There’s also the fact that my fat cat would’ve eaten my face off within a scant few hours if his kibble wasn’t replenished.
Two days later, C’s sister in law was dead. She’d killed herself, leaving behind two great sons whom she loved very much. There had been a huge betrayal by C’s brother, and C moved him into our home the day I was taken out. She had a very public meltdown in our driveway, where she hysterically dumped his brother’s stuff all over the yard while screaming and crying, and then overdosed the day after.
While we were married, Jordan had given me crap for wearing old tee shirts around the house. “Your fans see you looking hot, so I should, too.” Not an unreasonable request. I bought a bunch of cute little chemise slips that were comfy and perfect for the hot Florida climate.
Pre restraining order: Chris said I was showing too much and he was getting impervious to my “constant nudity”. He stood in the living room, vein bulging in his neck and yelled at me. “Did you know my niece [whom we took in because her father/his brother wouldn’t take care of her, which turned into an excellent six months full of C pitting one against another] saw your VAGINA??”
“Uh, she’s 19, female, it’s just us and she’s living in our house. Vag happens. It was an accident. It’s not like I’m running around naked or anything. I’m not sure the issue here?” He was so irritated, like he was looking for anything to berate me about.
“You need to cover up more. I’m becoming immune to everything.”
“Oh, Jesus. It’s always something with you and your reason to not have sex. Now it’s too much sudden vagina. Fantastic.” I finally caved and went back to shorts and tee shirts to keep the peace.
With a lot of time alone to think while couch-surfing, I eventually realized that a large part of C’s appeal was his complete “normalcy” compared to my life. In society, he was average, safe. Normal. That dreaded N-word. I wanted to avoid the crazy, a circus, and the insane. When my Gram and Mom died back-to-back in 2012 from battling dementia and cancer respectively, then I got divorced, it was gutting. I was neck deep in the entertainment and fitness businesses and walked away from nearly everything for almost two years while coping with depression and nonstop respiratory issues. As awful as that time was, it wasn’t half as traumatic as this past year has been with C.
I think that I believed if I was with normal, then I would be normal. Clearly, it didn’t exactly work out that way.
“Sometimes, when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place.” – Unknown
What I didn’t know then is that ultimately, I’d be grateful to C for filing that order, even though he put me through hell and so much embarrassment I still avoid walking my dog during daylight hours so I don’t run into neighbors. As brutal as it was to go through at the time, it worked out for the best. He severed everything clean. Had he not, we’d still be limping along. I would never have left him, not with his head injury. I still don’t know what happened. One moment, we were cuddling in bed in the morning. In the next, he drove himself to the courthouse and filed a domestic violence report. Those around me said he probably set it up ages ago. I’ll never understand it. The only thing I’m certain of, if I go by actions and not words, is that C only cared about his own interests.
You shouldn’t always put someone first, because that teaches them you come second. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this story, he said, “All my exes are crazy.” I have no doubt I’ll be labeled as yet another crazy ex, despite the common thread in the constant insane equation being him. If someone calls you a horse, tell them to go fuck themselves. When four or five people call you a horse, you might want to think about buying a saddle.
I think Scooter and I needed each other during this bleak time. No one understood the frustration, grieving and dashed dreams better than we did. And besides, our friends were sick of listening to our shit. We also talked about some fairly deep life-politics-religion-thoughts stuff. It had felt like forever since I’d really talked with anyone. My dad used to quote: “Great minds talk ideas. Good minds talk events. Small minds talk people.” After nothing but tears and frustration I’d been starving for real conversation and laughter.
“So, wait. He filed a bullshit restraining order and had you taken out of your house,” mused Scooter. “Then you had to pay him to get him to leave, and he’s tried to contact your exes. You do realize you were the man in that relationship, right?”
“Seems to be a role I play too often.”
“That’s not a role anyone should play.” He shook his head. “OK, let’s get this out of the way right now. Exactly how big is your dick?”
“Not big enough.”
I talk to him about some no-holds-barred shit. Through all of this, he’s pretty much seen worst of me and is still there. He’s going through his own realizations/mid life crisis/epiphanies as well. Our conversations run the gamut from the works of Hunter S. Thompson to Hunger Games, obscure documentaries to obscure dog breeds, Trump to tranny porn.
Him: “You really need a fuck buddy.” I *may* have mentioned missing human contact.
Me: “Think so? I imagine being solo for a while might be smarter. I’m a mess. Plus I don’t wanna confuse sex for something it’s not.”
Him: “That’s why it’s necessary to have more than one fuck buddy. Keeps it from getting serious.”
Me: “Player teaching me how to be a playa? Hmmmm, no. I don’t think that’s a great idea. Don’t need any more complications. You bitches be crazy. Or haven’t you noticed?”
He’s right, of course. Both therapists have encouraged me to ‘get back on the horse again’ to some degree. I refuse to let Chris break me, even if I feel broken.
Not sure what you’d call what we have. Companionship. Going places and doing things. It’s more than friendship, but less than dating. Why isn’t there a word for this? Frating? Diendship? It’s kind of dating without actually dating. I’ve had this before, mostly while traveling. I tend to connect with people more easily on the road than home. With frating, there aren’t any expectations, no physical entanglements, nothing owed or promised, but we’re there for each other. Middle finger to the world, he is opinionated, quickly helps those in need, honest, unapologetic, open minded, introverted, moody, loyal, kind, and considers himself a bit of an asshole.
He’s a whole lot like me and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing yet. However, the sheer irony of turning away this guy for C only to have C inadvertently reintroduce us was not lost. While I felt exceptionally connected to him mentally, we stayed far away from each other physically. There was a constant polite awkwardness present, likely from the overall situation and how we originally met.
Learning to be alone – and not angry. “You always keep what you give away.” For many men, anger is the first response that comes hard and fast. Being “kind of a dude” (as Scooter had called me in Part 1), it always had been for me, too. It gnawed at me. I carried it over into everything else in life. With years of reprogramming, I try not to let it rule me any longer, and I forgive easier. I’ve been allowing myself to mourn. Feel it. Be alone. Not bury my sadness under another person or in a shot glass. American culture tells us that “grief is bad”. We try to distract ourselves from sad feelings rather than embrace them. “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone new.” Maybe, if we are the type who doesn’t mind repeating mistakes over and over again and hoping for a different result. But then, that’s the textbook definition of insanity, isn’t it?
There was no unfaithfulness from me during our relationship, or even after the incident. It never even crossed my mind. I didn’t feel that need to go looking for what was missing elsewhere, even though a lot was missing from our relationship. I think I just wanted it to be fixed. Or, the meds worked in keeping me sane enough to realize that infidelity wasn’t an answer to that problem.
But I’ll tell you this; being angry is a great deal easier than being sad and gutted.
However, at that moment in Scooter’s tiny luggage-laden bungalow, all I needed was a place to stay and an ear to bend. And, that was all he offered. After dinner, the beach walk, a Wi-Fi password and an awkward hug goodbye, he and Bob Barker stepped toward the car.
He opened the door to let the gentle blond dog climb in, then he turned and said, “Don’t waste your days. You don’t get them back.”
When the vintage Porsche drove away, I washed Bob’s slimy, rubber ball and placed it on the windowsill to recharge for his next illicit beach adventure.
Coming soon, Part 3: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn – An Ex-Wives Club of Sorts & Predatory Habits of a Narcissistic Sociopath
As I’ve written before, I’ve almost no family left, and none of whom are here in Florida, so my friends are my support network. They mean a lot to me. My sanity is a direct result of being able to lean on them some days. Scooter has been a good friend (not a boyfriend…he seems perfectly satisfied with his free-range single status, and I am happy with remaining that way myself for now) who stepped in to help with wise insight and ridiculous humor during a critical time. History has proven I’m lousy at picking people to date, but frating… got that down to a fucking art.
Read Part 1-The Restraining Order: https://aprilhunterblog.com/2016/09/21/expensive-lessons-part-1/
Thank you to Danielle Dadamo, Hubert O’Hearn, Jeff Ritter, Brian Hairbottle, Nick Wilkinson, Carroll Grant, Matt McDermott and Mick Foley for their valuable time editing.
I am deeply grateful to my psychotherapist, Amy. She goes above and beyond, keeping me grounded in times of upheaval despite having her own battles to fight.
Thank you to those who have reached out to help. So many of you were good to me during this time and I feel incredibly fortunate. You know who you are, and so do I.
Note: I wrote about this because I withdrew from nearly everything from this time until the present with little explanation other than “lots going on right now.” Work, customers, friends. I blew a lot off and let people down. It was too much to talk about and explain. I’ve always been better at writing than speaking.
Disclaimer: This is my recollection of events and I’ve related them to the best of my knowledge. Some names have been changed or omitted.
No part of this blog may be copied or used without permission.