I like living in the barrio, it’s real. But I also know why people don’t like living here, it’s too hard. People here have problems that my family surmounted years ago, my parents made sacrifices so that I wouldn’t see what I have in the almost-three years I’ve been here. And I know there must be something wrong with me – because I want to see it. I want to help, but I'm not able to help. Like for example,
Rachel. I haven’t been able to write because of her, my next-door neighbor. Right after New Year’s, she knocked on my back door late at night and told me she was scared because her husband, Jim, had just taken their three kids to his parents and wanted a divorce. That she was to leave immediately, and she has no job because she's a stay-at-home mother, a good one from what I've seen. I tend to stay away from her because she’s bipolar – that’s another long story – but this time I really looked at her delicate cuerpecito and noticed again the lump in her jaw, only she also had a purple skid-mark bruise on her forehead and she did that funny shuffle she always does, as I walked with her back to her house.
Why did it take me so long to realize she's a battered woman? And that Jim, her husband at 250 pounds-plus, has been beating her every week since I’ve lived here? Didn't I hear her screaming? Was that what it was? It seems that he’s lost his job at USAA and wants her out of the dilapidated pink house next door. He’s taken their three young sons, and though they’ve been married ten years, he wants her out of the house as soon as possible. He wants her to go live with her mother, and he's told her he won't ask for child support until she gets a job.
Of course I called the police, and the domestic violence specialist came right over and I heard all the gory details of how Jim has sat on her, beat her head with the phone when she's tried to call for help, kicked her, and how he broke her jaw years ago, that’s why she has that funny lump she’s always massaging. Jim wouldn’t let her go to the doctor, and so she let it heal itself. The police officer sent for the Evidence Team, and they came over and took photos of Rachel’s injuries, which included bruised ribs, a bloody tear in her scalp, and more in her pelvic area.
Then Rachel began telling me about her past. She’s from the Westside, and the story begins with her father who brutalized her, and her brothers who followed his lead. She’s been telling me the story in bits and pieces as I’ve driven her to a lawyer, to a counselor, who have advised her to go to the Battered Women’s Shelter.
“I’m scared.” She cries, trembling from the beatings that Jim gives her when he comes around, threatening her, watching her, telling her she has to have sex with him if he wants to see the kids.
“I’m scared, I’m so scared.” That’s all she says when she hears that under
She’s got Marilyn Monroe-blond hair, but the bleach-job compliments her, she's very guerita, and wears tight jeans well because she weighs maybe 100 pounds. Her husband is a beast compared to her. Her children are gentle with my cats, and I remember how Jim yelled at them all the time. When I tell her this, she gets quiet. "Why does he want to divorce me?" Then she says, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to bother you, thank you for everything.”
The counselor from the Domestic Violence Unit warned Rachel that Jim might try to kill her or the kids. I've offered several times to take her anywhere, encouraged her to get help from the Battered Women's Shelter.
“I’m so scared of being alone.”
To Be Continued
To Be Continued
artistic credit: "Carmen," Ana Montoya, www.anartegallery.com