By Ryn Gargulinski: Freedom Newspapers
Editor’s note: Ryn Gargulinski is managing editor of the Quay County Sun. This column, published in connection with domestic violence awareness month, was previously published in Brooklyn Woman newspaper and online at: 12.gauge.com
It started with a teddy bear and ended in a pair of handcuffs.
The teddy bear was plush and fuzzy with a heart-shaped orange nose.
The handcuffs were probably silver.
Maybe I should start at the start.
I met a guy who, at first glance, did not seem my type. But there was something about him that captured my interest. Perhaps it was the fuzzy wuzzy bear (although I generally prefer gargoyles).
Maybe it was the electric hug we shared on the corner of Madison Avenue, the one that pricked me with a surge of energy I’d never felt before. It might have even been his sense of serenity, his aura of peace, or his wonderfully pressed wardrobe of sheep’s clothing.
Little did I know there was a wolf underneath.
After a five-month whirlwind of togetherness, it finally felt like a noose was tightening around my neck, maybe in the shape of a wedding band. I had to get out.
He was waiting for me before work one morn. After he demanded an ultimatum (instead of a sane discussion I had hoped for after work), I said, yes, in fact, it was over.
Big bad wolves don’t like that. They don’t take no for an answer. The minute I said it’s over, he grabbed my arm and began to shake me. I struggled to extricate myself from his iron grip in front of my workplace and bolt inside while he screamed some very bad names at me throughout the lobby.
I made it to my desk only to hear a sound I will never again forgive — the ringing telephone.
He began calling me at all hours of the day and night — on my cell phone, my home phone, at work … at work, on my cell, on my cell … at home, on my cell, at work, at home, at work, at home, on my cell, on my cell. The phone would not stop ringing. It was Chinese water torture — but a hell of a lot louder.
He left 837 messages. They ranged from angry to apologetic to downright begging. I thought the begging was pretty bad until it turned to rage. Rage was bad until it turned to Norman Bates.
He screamed. He whispered. He ranted. The poor guy went psycho. He then began to threaten. In a nutshell, he went nuts.
Here’s where you have two choices — live with the terror in the pit of your stomach, the one that feels like a blender full of beets on purée — or go to the cops.
Two excellent Brooklyn detectives became my new best friends. They listened. They believed me. They got almost as nauseous as I did from the evidence (the 837 messages I tape recorded). They gave me helpful hints, all of which I followed. They escorted me home to get clean underwear.
Oh, and the big one: They threw him in a jail. Aggravated harassment is a crime.
I wanted to forgive and forget, to move on. But it was hard when he had a ton of my possessions.
I felt like my insides had been gutted. I was also angry at myself for ignoring some warning signs when the wolf’s garb was ripping a bit at the seams — like the fact he wanted to spend every sleeping and waking moment together into the next life.
He’d get upset if I made phone calls from my cell phone instead of his home phone. He was befuddled when I didn’t want to watch him wash his car one Saturday morning. He was miffed when I wanted to spend time walking, biking or with friends. He was downright livid if I did not wear the gifts he bought for me.
The final straw should have been the dog-sitting incident, when I found the dog in the closet with his muzzle duct-taped shut in a pile of his own feces.
Yes, the noose had been tightening, my eyes had been bulging and that thing called love turned into something more caustic and detrimental.
That’s the story. An English professor once said there are only eight plots in the universe and every tale is merely an adaptation of one of them. This one, as a friend says, resembles “Beauty and the Beast.”
And boy, is it ugly. And boy, does it hurt. As much as love zooms you to the stratosphere as a soaring bird, the twisting thereof can pummel you into the horrid depths of hell, especially when a person you trusted with your life seems to want to get rid of it.
But you can emerge victorious … scalded with hell-burnt bald spots, but victorious nonetheless.
You will never again shut the door on your instincts. You will never again jump too fast into a relationship. You won’t shun your own needs and your friends. And you will never again trust a well-dressed sheep without poking around for a smarmy wolf inside — especially one bearing a teddy bear.