Trigger warning: This post is about an abusive relationship I was in and an abusive incident I witnessed. It does NOT contain graphic violence, but may be upsetting to some readers.
I was still in the parking lot of the Denny’s in Escondido. I’d already seen a presumably homeless man treated unkindly in the restaurant,and now I was hearing a man yelling at a woman in the parking lot. Suffering seems so much harder to escape in the Babylon. I think it’s because when there are so many people living packed together, there’s a better chance of seeing some of them having a difficult time in public.
I heard the yelling when I rushed out of the van on my way into Denny’s to deal with a restroom emergency.
The car was parked several spaces closer to the building than I was, but still on the outskirts of the lot. A man and a woman were standing outside the car. The guy was yelling words like fucking bitch and fucking liar, while the woman stood silently.
I tried to pass them without gawking. For one thing, I needed to make it to the restroom immediately. Also, I try not to be a Nosey Nelly even in low-drama situations; people don’t need me staring at them while they try to live their lives. During verbal altercations, there’s probably little I can do to make things better, so I just kept walking.
From my own experience, I think it’s better not to get involved in the abusive relationships of strangers. Very seldom did a stranger try to intervene when my abusive boyfriend was clearly treating me badly. The times someone did try to get involved, watch out! My ex wanted to fight the person who wanted to help, sometimes leading to that person calling the cops. A stranger trying to help might break the immediate cycle of violence, but I’d pay for the intervention later.
I’m not saying don’t intervene if you witness abuse happening. Each of us has to decide on an individual basis what to do in such a situation, but be advised, your intervention could be dangerous for you and/or the person being abused. Also, the abused person is probably not going to allow her/himself to be rescued. S/he’s probably not going to allow you to whisk her (him) away. The person being abused may not be ready to leave the abuser for a whole list of reasons.
When I came out of Denny’s the guy was still yelling at the woman. He was also pulling things (her things, I assumed) out of the car and dumping them on the asphalt. The theme of his tirade seemed to be lying bitch.
The Man was using the internet on his phone when I got back in the van. I don’t think he’d even noticed the screaming. He knows how to focus on the task at hand.
It’s weird how this isn’t even triggering me, I’d thought as I walked across the parking lot. I hadn’t realized that being triggered doesn’t necessarily lead to being huddled in a ball, sobbing, unable to function.
I certainly felt upset. Granted, I hadn’t gotten much sleep, it was early in the morning, and I was jacked up on coffee. But what was going on outside my van hit a little too close to what my life had once been. I had been the woman listening to someone who claimed to love me call me a liar and a bad person while he threw my belongings out of the window of our moving vehicle or destroyed my things in front of me.
While I sat in the van feeling upset, the yelling guy got in the car and sped out of the parking lot. I saw the woman climb over the low spot in the fence separating the parking area from the scrubby vacant lot next to it.
I felt like I had to do something, say something to help the woman. I didn’t really have a plan, but I grabbed a few bucks and walked over to the woman. I figured if she’d been dumped with no money, she might need bus fare or a cup of coffee or a hamburger. Giving her a few bucks seemed like the least I could do.
Her back was to me when I walked up. Are you ok? I asked from a distance. I didn’t want to startle her.
She turned around. She was young, probably no more than 25. Her hair was bleached platinum and her heavy eyeliner had run with her tears.
I”m ok, she said, then stooped to retrieve something from the ground. He threw my things over the fence, she said apologetically.
That wasn’t kind, I said. Then, I used to have a boyfriend who threw my stuff out of the windows of the van.
I couldn’t tell if she heard me or was too distracted to register what I said. I didn’t really want to talk about me, but I wanted her to know she wasn’t the only person this sort of thing had happened to.
About that time, a guy on a bicycle rode through the parking lot, and the woman was concerned about her backpack sitting next to the parking space her dude had vacated. I don’t want that guy to steal my stuff, she said, then hopped over the fence and strode purposefully over to her backpack. The fellow on the bike didn’t seem to be paying attention to her or her things.
I want you to have this, I said, handing her the cash. I thought maybe you could use it.
Really? she said. Thank you so much! She said it like I’d just handed her one of those giant checks Publishers Clearinghouse gives to their sweepstakes winners.
You really deserve someone who is kind to you, I said awkwardly while she stuffed things she’d retrieved from the vacant lot into her bag. I feared I wasn’t doing a very good job counseling her. I hoped my pep talk sounded better to her than it did to me.
I wish I could do something to really help you, I told her. I don’t live in this town…I’m only here because I drove my guy out here to buy a car… I knew I was talking too much, but that’s what I do when I can’t do anything actually helpful.
She started talking about where she was born. I guess we’d both realized talking about what was actually happening was too awkward.
About that time her guy roared his car back into the parking lot,and the woman gathered her things quickly. I said bye or good luck or something equally useless and high-tailed it out of there. The last thing I wanted was to interact with her recently screaming guy.
By the time I got in the van, the woman had gotten into the car, and it was squealing out of the parking lot. I guess this wasn’t going to be the day she left the guy.
The Man was still on his phone. He’d missed the whole thing.
I need to talk about what just happened, I said to The Man, and bless him, he listened. He listened to me talk about how hearing that guy yelling at that woman not only brought up memories of my ex doing the same to me but also triggered the feelings I had when he did it.
The Man didn’t try to tell me what I should do or how I should feel. He simply listened to what I had to say and witnessed me, just like I’d witnessed the woman left in the parking lot. The Man couldn’t change my past, and I couldn’t change the woman’s present, but he could be my witness like I had been hers. Sometimes showing someone they’re not invisible is the best we can do.
Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-standing-on-parking-lot-163772/.