What I am about to say is going to offend some of you, “trigger you” if you will. But just keep reading, I think you will come around to seeing my way or at least my point.
I never needed Dawn. Need did not even enter the equation. Dawn damn sure never needed me. She could have had most any man she wanted, no need for me.
When we first me, I thought she was HOTT and sexy. Then within a few minutes, I knew she was smart and vivacious. I also knew she was very practiced at hiding it, but she held some deep hurts. All of these things intrigued me and I wanted to learn more, to spend more time in her presence. I did. We began dating and did the things adults do when they date.
For the first two years we knew each other, we dated sporadically. She dated other people, I dated other people. She and I would get temptingly close and she would break up with me. That was fine, I didn’t need her. I was sporadic with someone else who would also break up with me from time to time, too. With Dawn, when it worked; it worked well. But it never worked for long. She didn’t need me. She needed the other guy way more than me. I was her distraction when he broke up with her.
As time went on, the dynamic evolved into a more complex thing. Some deep feelings started to get involved. My other primary relationship died off, but I had others. Her other relationship became increasingly bi-polar and abusive. We fit easily together, but I didn’t need her and she plainly stated she didn’t need me. We could not manage to stay tightly together for any reasonable period of time. So we did what reasonable adults do. We kept it light, we dated others when we had issues with each other and declared everything to be fantastic.
One day, after spending a weekend completely entwined; Dawn asked me if I would ever consider marriage… marriage with her. I could see on her face that her mouth had outrun her brain. I could see the fear / panic in her eyes. I rolled over to face her directly and smiled at her. She quickly pronounced, “I did not just ask you to marry me.” She further explained that she had been thinking on it for a while and she realized she liked being married and did not want … to… waste time pursuing a dead end. She figured out she liked me a lot and wanted to pursue the possibility of making a go at having a much deeper relationship with me. But as I had never been married or a fan of marriage, she did not want to waste time if I was completely opposed. She did not need me.
I smiled at her again and held her hand. I told her, I knew answering a question with a question, was bad form. But, the only way she would understand my answer was if I framed it. She looked at me with confusion.
So I asked, “do you know how long is the longest we have ever spent, together? Contiguous before you disappeared?” (her word from breaking up with me)
Her eyes got real big and her personality withdrew. A much weaker voice, “no, but I am sure you do.”
“33 days”, I replied. “In two years of dating, we have never been able to string together more than 33 days. Would you marry someone based on that?” There was a long pause and right before she said something, I said, “now, we can string together 6 or 9 months of YOU not disappearing… We manage that, you ask me again and I think you will be happily surprised with my answer.”
Her face got very red, all the way down to the middle of her chest. She turned away quickly. I put my arm around her to pull her towards me. She resisted a little. (she didn’t need me). I pulled stronger and kissed her deeply. She relented.
A few hours later, she went home and didn’t return my calls in the morning. (she didn’t need me). I did not know until several months later, but the (abusive) guy invited her back, the next day. Then, two days later he proposed to her. She was ripe with marriage on her mind. I had been a bit of a wet blanket (realistic) on the idea. She kept going back to him despite the abuse, so after a bit of thought, she just decided she was going to end up there anyway so why fight. (she did not need me).
For brevity and for my blood pressure, I will skip over the 8 months of the marriage. But it ended with her penniless, homeless, without healthcare, with a diagnosis of cancer and no treatment plan. She had $17, a small pick-up truck, some clothes, a laptop and a 17 year old son.
Two weeks went by. The local woman’s shelter arranged a hotel room. Some strangers helped her with some Walmart gift cards, a local pastor quietly asked for help for her and her son. A woman (Missy) she barely knew took her on as a pet project and made the little necessities of life appear. Then on Halloween night her son had a complete meltdown in their one bedroom hotel room. She knew she needed something and the only place she could think of to get him help, HORRIFIED her.
The next morning she got him dropped off at school and swallowed her fear. She swallowed that fear several times before she could act. Then she reached out to the one person who would help her son. She reached out to me. It took me a day or two to figure out it was actually her as she was reaching out in very circumspect ways. This made her fear grow each time she had to be more direct. (but her son needed me). Eventually, I figured it out and gave her my phone number so she could call me.
I answered the phone with a bit of sternness in my tone. I heard a very meek voice on the other end, “hello, this is Dawn. Please don’t hang up on me…” then a long breath and a pause.
I replied, “ok,…why are we on the phone?” I certainly didn’t need her.
She started out strong but quickly petered into meek, “I need your help with Tucker. I know you hate me…. He is having a terrible time dealing with this … and if he… if you don’t…Please take him shooting or to the movies or …please help him.” As her voice failed entirely.
“Dawn, why are you even talking to me. Why doesn’t your husband do this?” I spit. (I didn’t need her or this.)
I heard the slightest of whispers, “I don’t have a husband.”
I softened a little (but I still didn’t need this or her), “You are not making any sense. Please take a moment to get yourself together and tell me the highlights of the story.”
She recounted the basics of them getting married even though part of her mind screamed at her to run away. She told me about quitting her job to work for his company, him refusing to allow her to get insurance. Then she burst into tears and told me about her cancer diagnosis and no treatment without insurance. Then she told me about Tucker coming apart at the seams and them living in a one bedroom hotel room paid by the Woman’s Shelter. Then she begged me to help him. She told me not to take out my justified hatred of her, on him. She begged, that she knew I loved him and he loved me.
The sentence I will never forget. “You pick a time and a place. I will drive him there and leave 10 minutes before you get there. You don’t ever have to see me or talk to me again. Just please help my son. You can set it all up with him. Just help him get out of Cancerville. Help him see some love, anything besides cancer. I don’t really have any money or I would pay for the activity. But,” and then the wracking sobs came in full force. (she didn’t need me, but she needed my help)
I let her calm down a bit. Then I answered, “Dawn, I can’t do what you want. I really can’t help Tucker…”
She butted in with the most force of the entire conversation, “Please, he needs you. I don’t think I can handle another person kicking me when I am down.”
“Dawn, let me finish!” I cut her off, “I can’t help Tucker, because taking him to the movies is not gonna help. Taking him shooting is not gonna help. The only way I can help Tucker is if I help you. I have medical connections. I know some people. If you let me help you, then I can help Tucker.” The line went dead.
About 20 minutes later, my phone rang again. The weakest, meekest voice I had yet heard, “I don’t have a choice, do I?
“No, not really.”
Some strength returned, “I won’t, (much quieter) can’t be romantic with you. I have drains in from my surgery. My brain is too…”
I cut her off. “Did I ask you to be romantic with me? Did I tell you my help depended on anything? Are you suggesting I am blackmailing you?”
A very long pause, “I don’t understand. Will you help Tucker? Why are you predicating it on interacting with me, if you don’t want to be … John, don’t play games with me. I can’t keep this up. I can’t be beaten down again. I might not get up… Just tell me what you want.”
As calmly as I could, “ok, you are dead set on me having conditions. My condition is you come to my house and we discuss the rest of it in person. But I want you to understand part of the why, so you can process it on the way over. I spent the last 8 months of my life KNOWING you were dead. I now have the chance to literally and figuratively change that outcome. I can’t do anything but act, help… In case that is too abstract for you. I spent the last 8 months knowing that I missed my one chance at LOVE and I will be damned if I will again.”
She burst into sobs and hung up on me, again. About 45 minutes later, there was a very tentative knock at my door. And the next almost 7 years proved how deeply we needed each other.