Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of leaving the road: leaving the beastie, leaving the campgrounds and the parking lots, the mountain passes and the lakeside watery casket of life on the northern west coast; leaving Billy, leaving behind all the hopes and dreams and stupid ideals of love and comradeship. Leaving certainty, even if it was certain death, and jumping into the wild blue yonder away. Away from it all. Away. One year since I last saw him. One year since I kissed him on the cheek, those ugly grey and tan and white whiskers of his beard scratching my lips. Once year since he promised me he would get his shit together, and show me who he really could be. One year since I left him talking about fixing up the Beastie. One year since I waved goodbye to the last place I lived with both my children. One year since I left the snow capped winters, the watery falls, the gentle springs, the brutal summer heat with nowhere to camp because the tourists rocked up yearning for a taste of what I used to call life.
One year since I left. I’m sitting here with a photograph we all took together, me and Billy and the Boy. Billy has his hand protectively over my shoulder, tenderly. Gently. He made me leave. He made me leave because he knew I needed to go. That isn’t to say it was always hard for him. He knew it was time for him to pick up the needle, pick up the bottle, pick up where he left off, and log out of life. He knew there was nothing more he could do for me. He knew I was going to die out there. He knew the Boy had no hope of surviving or thriving out there. He loved us enough to let us both go.
The day before a cop had stopped us on the 101. Pulled us over because his ex wife, the placid cow faced bitch, had called up and deregistered the Beastie from her address, and lied to the cops that Billy had no insurance. We had insurance, we had tags. We were kosher. We got stopped. She risked my child. She risked me. She did it after she got what she wanted from the divorce – namely everything. he just gave her everything. She did it after he disappeared just as she wanted him to. She did it maliciously. She risked my son, a child, whilst professing to be a Christian. The fucking loser obese bitch risked my Boy because she could. She risked a child of color, an undocumented child, because her overfed plenty of a safe life wanted revenge as well as justice.
I sat in the passenger seat after the cop had made us wait while he checked out the paperwork, while he quizzed Billy, while my son sat trying not to shake. I sat making myself not cry. He let us go. As soon as we drove off my son started to cry noiselessly: scared, terrified, relieved. I started to scream. I screamed and cried so hard that I thought I was going to have a heart attack or a stroke. The cow faced placid circus act had won. The boy sat by my side holding onto me. Billy was unmoved. He sat there and declared the phrase which became the hill he would die on:
“She was not malicious, she was just dumb.”
He defended her. He defended her actions. He dismissed our fears. He labelled it not an attack. He told the boy that his ex wife didn’t mean any harm. Not malicious. Word to live by.
We got back to the place we were camped, and he told me and the Boy to get out. He packed our bags, he threw up the ladder, he told us to get out of his home. I was ‘standing on his floor’. I was ‘eating his potatoes’. We were to get out then and there. Pick a parking lot. Choose a hotel. Pick a spot to throw us out onto the road. Get out of his home. His Beastie. Out. Right then and there. Me and the boy grabbed our few bags and sat on a park bench. I cried so much my eyes went puffy.
Picking up the phone to Ruth, we tried to work out a plan. I couldn’t stay where I was. I couldn’t risk ICE and get on a bus. Billy had thrown me around, pushed me to the floor, slapped me, hit my head on the wall. He got like that with the brain tumor, I guess. It was nothing compared to pig. Almost expected. Not malicious. I gave him the opportunity to take it all back. I tried to lead him to understanding. I tried. Ruth booked a taxi to San Francisco. We got into it. Billy seemed at peace, accepting of the way things were. It was what he wanted, until he got it, and then all he wanted was for us to return. By that point, I was so hurt, so upset, so angry it was all over.
It was all over on two words
I don’t know what I was thinking when I left. I had got steely and quietly furious. I had given up on Billy. I had given up on his attempt to save me and my Boy. I had given up. Not malicious.
I walked out of there with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Left him to his collections and his drinking. Left him to his life the way he wanted it with me not on his floor and my child not in his house.
I wish I knew. I wish I knew if he had forced me to leave because he cared about me and the Boy, or if he really was a cold hearted asshole who would make excuses for his ex bitch risking me and my child and expect me to take it and bow down. I wish I knew if he had intended to kill himself with the booze and the drugs and the debauchery. I wish I knew.
Tomorrow I will go out and walk around my city. I will take the Boy, whose hand has now healed up, to baseball. I will walk with my head up. I will paint my eyes in that way he hated. I will not cry. I will not mourn my oldest friend. I will not miss someone putting their hand on my shoulder in a way that suggests solidarity and care. I will not mind that I am not to be loved. I will not pay it a passing thought. He can take his non malicious defense of the indefensible action all the way to hell with him.
In the end he lost the one person who might have thought kind things about him, would have mourned him. He lost my respect and my care. In the end, I suppose, I really have ceased to care.