I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t scared. I am scared most of the time. In the camper, I was scared of cops, of doors being knocked on by people telling us to move on if we were boondocking, or else random people who would seek to disturb my peace, of my husband finding where we were, of not having somewhere to camp, of one of the kids needing medical treatment. I was scared of ICE, I was scared of the political situation as it unfolded over the years. The baying mob calling for my destruction – and the others like me, made me retreat behind a shell of terror. This was my sanctuary, I thought I would find help and understanding, instead I found rabid hatred and no help at all. None. But at least I was away. At least Pig hadn’t killed me in front of my children. Sometimes our tags were out of date – not my job, not much I could do about it most of the time, sometimes we had a misbehaving blinker, or a broken tail light, and for 6 terrible months, no back plates at all, just a paper slip from the DMV, as the plates at the back were missing at point of sale. I would wake up and wonder if today was going to be the day that I never saw people I loved again. Was this going to be the last time I saw my children? Billy? What would become of us?
The dreaded wup of the single bloop of the traffic cop always sent me into paroxysms of terror. The last time was too much. Billy’s ex wife, despite agreements in the divorce where he took none of the house, just the camper, being as kind and indulgent of her as always, she had deregistered the RV with the DMV. She didn’t tell us this. She put my child in so much danger, she put me in danger, all out of spite. By the time we had fixed things with the cop – papers produced, sure Billy hadn’t stolen the thing, peering in at me and the kiddo, my dark skinned son frozen in terror, I was sure of one thing: I was gone. I was out. That was quite enough.
I had a sharp pain in my chest, I felt faint, I couldn’t catch my breath. As soon as the cop had gone, my son was in tears sobbing silently shaking in his seat. He came and grabbed hold of me, crying and hugging me. We are scared all the time.
Of course like the newly right wing supporters of the insurrectionist everywhere, he started making excuses: his ex was dumb, not malicious, how could I say she was malicious, the Cop was very reasonable and nice really (since when did that old drug addicted fucker support the police!), and I was being most unreasonable being upset. Since I had got no help at that point in getting my VAWA visa, despite begging for help, despite interacting with lawyers, I was vulnerable. That stop could have ended with my dragged away never to see my son again, leaving him alone, or worse, sent to his father.
The terror never goes away. I was sure I was going to die in Japan. He told me I was going to. He was right, of course, domestic murders in Japan are treated like unfortunate consequences of living, and the perpetrators rarely get much time. He told me time and time again that he would say he was driven crazy through overwork, that he was regretful, and the children needed him, and since I was a gaijin bitch, the courts would see how impossible I was for him to tolerate. Terror, to terror, to terror again.
Then the worst happened. I still can’t talk about it. The worst happened and the terror changed to reality. I got to live in the nightmare. I went temporarily insane. I ran off, fighting through trees and bushes, and streams, off into the wilderness, off wearing only jeans, a tee and boots. I think I had my boots on. I ran and I found a whirlpool and I sat by it screaming, crying, begging, pleading. My vision went tunnel, teardrop magnified. I tried to wade into the water to run from the pain. In the end I found a tree and sat under it silent. A crow came and stared at me. I stared back. He kept on staring. So I got up. It is not much fun to be accused by a crow of deserting your duties. I was lost, hopelessly lost, but walked and walked until I found a trail, and eventually my way back to the camper and my son, and my best friend. I stood a ways off, not wanting to go back inside. They were standing outside by the table, quietly talking. Discussing how to find me. “Told ya she would be back, Boy,” Billy preened. “I’ll tell ya now, I won’t tolerate ya grieving forever.” I stopped like I had been knocked out cold. “I mean it. You get a few days. Then you stop. I ain’t living with it.”
Once the worst had happened that was that. I became something else, resolved that I was doomed to survive whatever else came my way. Losing my son? Might happen, might as well accept it might. Billy dying? Yeah, gonna happen one day, and he ain’t looking too great. My health failing? Could be worse things to happen, as long as I don’t linger in agony. I started to fantasize about one last shot. About not hurting. About abdicating. I looked at the boy, and could see how much he needed me, and dismissed that as indulgent bullshit too. I stopped drinking entirely. I felt inhuman. Detached. I still do. I feel like I am on the outside looking in, forever shut out from the world everyone else inhabits, not in any superior way, just in so far as what happened removed me from the world and I became outcast to the point of no return.
Billy started to push me around, the tumor making him strange, started slapping me, throwing things at me, for no reason. I decided that he resented me, blamed me unfairly for the poor relationship he has with his adult children, and would get out of the way. I had had enough.
So when it became clear I had to leave the camper, leave the road, leave Billy, I simply spoke to my sister and came up with a simple plan: can’t get on buses and trains because of ICE raids, but I need to get to a big city, to a shelter and to legal help, so that writes off my beloved New York. L.A. is too big and scary. That left one option that wasn’t too far – San Francisco. We would get in a taxi cab, my sister was kind and desperate enough to try and save us, that she paid the fare, and we would go and try and survive somewhere kinder, somewhere safer, somewhere I could be less scared, that the kid could be less scared.
Obviously we made it. Ten days in a airBnb, then I found a shelter place for us, with the most wonderful community of people running it. Not to say it is easy, but they made me feel safer, made us feel safer.
I still feel scared, the world will always be a terrifying place, but San Francisco is liberal to the point that we don’t have to live in fear of the authorities, there has been legal help, which is slow as molasses, but there, and in the meantime, nothing terrible is happening to us here. We live in a very tough part of the city. It is so tough here, that we sometimes day dream of momma becoming a famous rich writer and dragging ourselves out to Sunset, or some other part of the city that is not quite so terrifying. There are still the usual problems, still the usual things which serve to instill terror. The last year or so has been an exercise in the uncanny, and how to live in a bad movie, where the entire world is in quarantine. I am always on the look out for things which could hurt us, I figure hyper-vigilance is my way of keeping us safe. We still go out, we still have fun, terror will not ruin our lives, nor curtail them. I have learnt to live next to Terror, and wrangle him like the beast he is. I look at my police scanner app, and see where there are fires and shooting, clowns with swords and sideshow cars spinning donuts, and do my best to acknowledge and dismiss those fears. Like the boy says, we “power through it.” Nothing else to be done: the world will always be hostile, scary and ready to take me down, I just have to try and live within it as best I can.
All you can do is look fear in the face and tell him not today. You have no choice but to go through it, there is no easy way round the mountains, you are going to have to go forwards anyway, so why not fight your way through as fiercely as you can? I don’t believe there is a goal the other side of the mountain where there is no fear, no terror, no danger. I know I’ll always walk that tightrope. I hope I can push Boy off this path of fear and into your worlds of safer days that he won’t have to think constantly about his safety or losing people he loves. I don’t think we are going to get me there, but hey, I am always very unhappy to be suprised.
There is no point being scared: