Thursday, April 15, 2010


The phone rang after breakfast. "Let me just start by saying this is an emergency," my friend spoke in a hushed, urgent tone. Her accent is heavy when she is shaken. "I found out that there's a chance that…" He what? "So I took her for a special interview and they think it's true…" She's six. "We didn't sleep at the house last night. He's coming back home tomorrow morning. The police told me to take out all my important documents and anything with sentimental value…"

I brought boxes. I rode her new bicycle to my garage and went back. Thinking about my daughter's playmate since birth – her world severely upended – my stomach churned ill and my body trembled with adrenaline. Three days prior we'd made plans to play at her house next week. It's on the calendar.

He is ominous, the man who did this. Five and a half years now I've been listening to the retelling of horrors going on behind closed doors. Verbal abuse, threat letters, bold lies, power games, extreme intimidation. Shoving and slapping. Why didn't she leave? Of course she never imagined that their precious only child wasn't safe. The girl adored her daddy on the occasions he was home. And then there was the money. She had no income apart from his. But the main thing was the fear of starting over in middle age without direction in a foreign land.

More friends came. I photographed an inventory of every room. She sorted, we packed, that's mine, that's his, and in a matter of hours we ransacked the house – certain prints missing from the walls, old clothes and unessential toys littering the floor, kitchen chairs without a table, clouds of dusty dog hair in corners where furniture had stood, no more kindergarten artwork displayed from every angle. Somewhere a 10x10 storage unit contains all that is left of her life: hope for a new one.

I don't want to be involved in this. I don't want her bank statements, baby photos, and Picasso from Germany stashed in my basement. Even so, it's an honor to be entrusted with the things most dear.

With shrieking pledges of divorce ringing in her ears, she's been getting dental work done on his insurance, getting aptitude testing and career counseling, and making sure her foreign visa was renewed even though it wasn't due for another two years. Last year she went through the "what if" scenarios with a lawyer. Yet as bad as things were, she was tolerating it and hoping that those papers wouldn't come too soon, not until she'd started some classes, not until she had a plan for the afterlife, maybe not at all. Certainly she didn't want to make the first move.

She cashed out the checking account and we locked up and left. She got a new cell phone that he couldn't trace. The police wanted her at the station to record a call accusing him of the crime. I returned home feeling I'd lived a twisted day in a tv melodrama. Unreal - if only it were.

2 comments: said...


I had a ray of sunshine to share for reality writes at my blog today...

But damn.

Kristin said...

If only it were unreal.

As hard as that situation is/was, I hope you know how important your roll was and what a truly special friend you are.