I Love You But
When you realize that it’s not you, it’s them… sometimes, like in my case, you are lying on a concrete bed in a jail cell listening to a Jason Isbell song some guard was playing. Even more illustrative is that the Isbell song was “Something More Than Free.” You’re cold and hungry and thirsty and dirty and humiliated. You’ve just been told to bend over and cough.
And, I thought I was pregnant from a forced sexual encounter with my so-called husband of fifteen years. He’s the one who had me put in jail.
As it turns out the last few years weren’t at all what I expected. After surviving the tornado, and near fatal car wreck, and finding my passion for all things creative, I thought I had it all figured out. Man, was I wrong.
Living my life was never easy. Understanding my life was always hard.
Then, I realized that I had been surrounded by people who didn’t know how to love. They didn’t even know what love was. At all.
The trials I had faced all my life of not feeling like I fit in, of not understanding my place were because of them. They didn’t love me. They didn’t welcome me. They tolerated me. And were full of “I love you, buts.”
Just fyi, if anyone ever tells you “I love you, but” get away from them. Close the door and never open it. I wish someone had told me that. I wish someone was around that didn’t ‘love me but’ to tell me that.
So, when the deputy came to handcuff me, I sobbed. I was there seeking their help and protection and instead, got thrown in the slammer. They took my legally stowed pistol, the very one that saved me a week earlier. They confiscated a handful of the knives I had been working on, 1,200 dollars, and a hatchet. I was fingerprinted just like I had been when I took my drug addicted cousin’s baby in foster care to give him a loving home.
The men in the cells peered out like animals at me and made noises. One was threatening to kill himself and the several were speaking directly to me. I didn’t flinch.
I laid on that concrete bed for hours. I had used my one phone call to call my dad whom I had been staying with along with my three boys for a couple of days, since the day after Father’s Day.
Those events ran through my mind. The arms wrapped around me that felt like lies my whole life, how everything was off, just a little, just enough to never feel safe, to never feel loved.
All my life I had been told: “I love you but…”
What came after the but was never a surprise. Either, “I’m busy,” “I’m tired,” “I’m drunk,” or “you’re not good enough,” ‘you’re not strong enough,” “you’re not smart enough,” “you’re not here enough,” “you’re not something enough.”
After I survived the forced sexual encounter, on Father’s Day of all days, from the unprotected man whom I’d shared so much of my life with, Adam, I gathered my children and got the hell out of the house. I suspect that wouldn’t be the last time he’d bruise me or that wouldn’t be where he’d stop.
Our marriage, based on lies, and only held together by our shared children, just met its fate. I wasn’t raised to take that shit. Over the years, like a frog in water, he’d turned up the heat slowly. He chipped away at my soul. So, I ended it.
I went to work the next morning, after fleeing the scene of the abuse seeking refuge at my father’s house. I had stayed up all night holding my pistol waiting for him to come to the door and try to finish me off. He had a tarp laid out in the yard that morning, and straps in the back floor-board of my truck, along with wheels in the back of the truck that didn’t belong there. I’d just lived through a rape, with my children only feet away, and I didn’t want my final fate to be drowning in the Tennessee.
He didn’t come to my dad’s house. I call it a house, it’s a concrete fortress and
I bet that was why he never showed. My dad lives in an apartment he’d built onto the shop that was blown away by a tornado when I was a little girl.
I tucked the boys into bed, and stayed up all night. My daddy Jimmy Wayne may be a few things, but pussy, he ain’t. I knew he’d protect his little girl if it came down to it. He stayed up to.
The next day, Adam did show up at my little hometown store when I was by myself. He was concealing his weapon in the back of his jeans. He sped into the front parking lot, slammed on the breaks, and stormed in the front door.
I pointed the pistol at him. I clearly stated, “This is my land. I never want to see your face again.”
Adam puts his hands up and backs out. I follow him to my mama’s car he’d been driving for weeks. Then, he left.
I wasn’t harmed that day but I came within a quarter of an inch of killing a man. I would have done it too. I know I have that within me now. You ever wondered if when it came down to it, would you kill a man? If you had to protect yourself, could you? Well, I know I can and will. I couldn’t in good conscience shoot him when he put his hands up and left but if he would have come after me, I know I would have emptied that chamber.
I took my boys down to the courthouse to file a Family Protection Order. I had been advised that was the thing to do to keep us all safe. My hands talk through the form and spill their proverbial guts. Writing it out, so clear, so obvious, I’d been married to the devil for fifteen years.
That’s a tough pill to swallow. After running him off with my pistol, and filing the Family Protection Order. All I could do was wait. “Go back home” the clerk’s office told me. WTF?
It takes weeks to get a Family Protection Order approved. I couldn’t file a restraining order because we were married. None of this makes any sense. I went back home. I waited like a duck on water.
At the time, I was having trouble sleeping. Adam had cleaned out the bank accounts but I still had my store account, and my store money, and I was very close to broke. Staying alive was the top priority, feeding my kids was the top priority.
Try feeding three boys on nothing. Try having to return to the place where you’d just lived through the most traumatic events of your life and try to live.
Add on top of it that my ex had been carrying a clip board around visiting all my family. One by one, pleading with them all to have me involuntarily committed for my own safety. And one by one they all turned their back on me, the single mother of three boys, the hometown hero, the creative loving humanitarian. All because they “love me, but…”
At this point, days had passed. I slept off and on. My boys and I were staying at my father’s house. Paw paw Wayne made sure we ate. He made me milkshakes because we both thought I was eating for two. I was trying to heal. Adam called me constantly, so I had to put my phone away. There was barely any service in Wayne’s fortress anyway.
I was trying to live. I was trying to continue in my daily tasks and routines and it was hard. I had an interview with John Prine’s guitarist and a ticket to see Amanda Shires and Prine play at the Travoli theatre in Chattanooga. I had been involved in the music business some for the past few years. I had a popular radio show, held concerts at my store, and did some music journalism. Prine is a legend, and my friend Michael Burns in New Orleans suggested months earlier that I attend the concert and write about it.
Wayne agreed that I needed to clear my head and get some air, so I did go to Chattanooga for the day. I drove around, through Chattanooga and its sites. I went to the Travoli theatre but it was too early. Beginning to feel tired and wondering if I should have left my boys I walked past the ticket counter and through the doors. John Prine, his guitarist, and Amanda Shires were on stage warming up. I’m sure I looked ragged and horrible. I didn’t care at that point. Amanda Shires Isbell was very nice to me. She knew I’d just let myself in. I told her who I was and John Prine’s guitarist denied having an appointment with me. Thanks, a lot. I thought and just stayed. I didn’t get the interview but I got a front row private show from John Prine himself and Amanda Shires Isbell.
Shires was playing songs off her latest album, “My Piece of Land.” I smiled and listened. I had just told my abusive and neglecting husband at gun point that he was standing on “my land” and it was beautiful.
I stayed the whole time they were warming up. When it was time for the concert though, I went home to my babies. I couldn’t get a better show that what I’d just received.
My boys were fine. They had been playing all day with their paw-paw, great-grandmother, and great-aunt. I had to go feed my chocolate lab Cocoa at my tiny house behind the store so I left Wayne’s fortress to tend to her. She is a good old dog. I felt as if everything was going to be okay for the first time in weeks.
But when I drove up to my store and tiny house, there were trucks all over and the lights were on. Someone was inside. I was being ambushed. I didn’t know who all it was or what they wanted. It was a surprise attack from my ex. I had just made him leave and demanded to never see his face again a few days earlier. If I was ever going to be able to return to my normal life I couldn’t live in fear that he would show up anytime he wanted and take anything he wanted.
“It’s okay.” My old self-proclaimed witch neighbor Lighter told me. “Me and your uncle Wendell are here to make sure he only gets his stuff.”
Oh, Lighter Mae, it is not okay. Neither she nor my uncle had my permission to effectively take ownership of all my property to be able to supervise over Adam taking any of the things from the house or store.
My great-uncle, really? Blood betrayal is what I saw.
I ran them all off.
I was aware that Adam had been sending my address to people I didn’t know and I had no way of knowing who was in the accompanying trucks or what they were loading up or what they were doing to my house. I was tired of being made to be afraid in my own house. I was tired of being ganged up on. I stood my ground, again.
All this time, I had been waiting on the system to work. I went to the bank to make sure Adam couldn’t clean out my little hometown store account, I went to the Fyffe Police Department to ask for help. I explained to an older lady at the front desk a little about what had happened. She told me to make sure I had my pistol on me, at all times, just in case, and to go to the County Sherriff’s office to find out if I could have the Family Protection Order hurried along.
It seemed like honest advice from the older women, so I took it and went to the DeKalb County Sherriff’s office to ask for help. To seek protection from my abuser. Adam Brooks, the man I had been married to for a span of fifteen years had slowly gained control over almost everything, often putting me down, making me feel worthless, told me I couldn’t sing, told me if I ever left him, I’d die in a cave alone, and had crossed the line from mental and emotional abuse into physical abuse. And I don’t say that lightly. My whole world shifted when that happened.
At the Sherriff’s office, they informed me that Adam Brooks was there and he has issued a warrant out for my arrest. So, yes, I was afraid, I cried. Weighing in at only 110 pounds, likely pregnant, I was booked. But it was because he “loves me.”
I just did what I had to do.