Maria was only 26 when the stuff started. The “sh__” hit the fan, for no good reason
at all. She was a mother with a 2 year old and had started to date the man in the
next apt. She lived in Apt. #7 (at the time she signed the rental contract she had
thought, “Lucky Seven!”) and met the dark, older man in Apt. #9. He was a nice,
hard working cable man.
When she started to like his sarcastic wit and his friendly little pretend boxing
moves with her son, she had known him about six months. He had been in her
home more than once, to borrow some eggs, to have a newly baked cookie and
to check her outlets. He also had decided she needed to have a dual use of his
cable. (Don’t worry, he does not work for the cable company anymore!)
She asked him to go to the summer car show where Delaware closes almost
four blocks off for the old cars and neat vehicles like the old time fire engine.
She said her son would really like him to come. That was the first time that
they had talked about going out in public. For some reason, her intuitions
kicked in and she recognized from the hemming and hawing, the plan would
not see fruition.
She and her son went to the automobile and motorcycle show but on her way
back to the building, her son asked her to see “Mike.” She was not sure that
was a good idea. After all, she was kind of shy and a little unsure since she
had become single again. She didn’t often ask anyone out or make those kind
As soon as her door closed, she got her son stripped down and put him in the
bathtub with some boats, squirt guns and empty detergent bottle. They would
not be using the bath soap/chalk today, she was a little worn out. She stood
at the sink, thinking about her neighbor who she felt comfortable with at times,
other times a little leery.
When she and her son had eaten some cereal for a late supper they laid down on
her queen sized bed. She recited the prayers, a few songs and told the Three Bears
story. It seemed moments later, she was asleep with him tucked under her arm.
Another hour had passed when the loud knock’s resounding pound came through
into the bedroom.
She tiptoed into the living room, stood on her toes to look out the peephole to see
Mike’s face inches away from her. For some strange reason, she put the chain on
the door, opened it a crack and said, “Mike, we just went to bed.”
Mike leaned casually towards the crack and whispered, “Come on over and visit me,
Maria.” She only shook her head and said, “Goodnight, Mike.”
The next day as she got her son ready for the babysitter’s house, she heard another
knock on the door. There was Mike and he had a bouquet of colorful daisies and
carnations (the kind you can buy at the supermarket) and she smiled, “Why, thank
you, Mike! We are in a hurry, off to work!”
Time went by quickly, Maria reveals to me through our neighborly close proximity.
She says soon he was offering her money to clean his apartment, giving her a key,
asking her to make her mother’s meatloaf recipe, and she would hand him a list
to get at the grocery store. Things progressed and soon she was staying overnight
when her son would go off to her ex’s house. She started to talk about living together
with him. She had started to call her “gringo” by the name “Miguel.”
They could put their bills together. They could start to have more space. Within a year
of meeting her neighbor, she was moving into another place. She came to tell me what
her new address would be and I was happy for her, it was a nice townhouse with a deck
on the second level and patio below. I would miss her living down the hallway from me
and yet, wished her all the happiness in the world.
I went into the place that Maria worked to check in on her and ask about her son, too,
about a month or so later.
I had gotten attached to the boy, had kept an eye on him from time to time when one of
my own grandkids visited, saw him in the laundry room or while sorting through my
junk and “good” mail. He was such a cute three year old when they had moved out!
Maria asked me again for my phone number and I wrote it down. She did not say how
she was doing but I saw a little pain in her eyes. She said, “I can’t talk now while I
am working. I will call you and come over soon to tell you something.”
This is what she said happened one night while her son was sleeping upstairs. She
was downstairs doing laundry. She was leaning down to move the laundry from the
washer into the dryer when she felt the hands pressing on her neck.
She felt her body lifted and thrown backward onto the floor.
When Maria “came to” she looked up to see an angry Mike leaning close to her face,
his breath hot and voice coarse, “You are pathetic!”
She felt the lump on the back of her head, she was surprised to pull her hand back to
her face that it was not bloody. But when she did try to stand up, she was dizzy and
lightheaded. She got ice from the refrigerator and did not say a word to Mike. She
waited until he went out on the deck to light up a cigarette an hour later.
Then she flew like lightning to the bedroom, wrapped her son in a blanket and ran
down the stairs to the landing, grabbed her purse. She made it to the car, she drove
it down the roads to a friend’s house not too far away.
“Never again!” her friend’s voice was loud in her already painful head. She nodded and
got the borrowed pajamas on and wondered how things could have gotten to there. What
had she done?
The arrival back to the home they shared was cautious, her brother went with her. They
neither felt it right or a good idea to contact the police. Part of their Mexican background
was to be slightly fearful of the police and the consequences of breaking the law. They
were second generation immigrants. Their parents were migrant workers that had made
it in most senses of the word.
Mike got on his knees, crying real tears and apologies flowed. Maria asked, “What did
I do?” He said he had had a flashback to when his mother threw a big chili can at his
head when he was a young boy. He saw her as a mother and had stopped feeling like
she was his lover and friend. He said he would go to counseling or to church to talk
to the Father.
Forgiveness is common in the first incidents of violence. This contrite Mike was forgiven.
The second time was again a choking incident, the third time was another act of
violence. By this time she had had a son with Mike. She was “tied to Mike,” she felt.
They were a “family” now. Her own parents and brother were slowly shut from her life
by Mike’s comments. Maria was trying her hardest to please Mike, “walking on eggshells.”
The choice of moving back to my “gated” (front and back doors are locked) apartment
building by her parents and when she came to visit me, I was not sure this was the best
I asked Maria, “Is there a place that Mike would not know where you lived?”
Maria replied, “But he knows where I work and where the boys go to the babysitter’s.”
I am beside myself with my fears and serious attitude. The third time means “no more
visits, if you were living at a battered women’s shelter.”
So far, with the help of her parents and her community of church goers and friends,
Maria has stayed out of Mike’s way. She has filed for child support, pleading with the
help of her lawyer (paid for by her parents) for the address not to be published on the
paperwork when it is served on her ex-boyfriend.
I am holding Maria in my prayers.
As this is on some Spanish flyers circulated for a battered women’s shelter, I wish
to say, “Si esta siendo abusada en su hogar… No esta sola.”
If you are being abuse in your life… you are not alone.
“NO HAY EXCUSA!”
There is no excuse!