I met Bo in a sleazy bar four weeks after separating from Bill. Bo was charming and funny and had beautiful blue eyes and boyish good looks. He would become both my inspiration and my abuser.
Bo entered my life filled with hopeful possibilities for me. He suggested that I obtain a real estate license, which would place me in a job situation with flexible hours. I pointed out that I couldn’t do that since I didn’t even know my times tables. He offered to teach me. True to his word, we practiced reciting the times tables every night while I attended real estate school by day. Unfortunately, this knowledge did little to help me with the closing statement part of the real estate exam, but I was good at the law portion, so I concentrated my efforts there.
Though hired by a prestigious real estate office, I had no time to feel proud of myself: it was 1972, and the bottom had dropped out of real estate in southern Florida. So while I was learning the field, running down leads and pounding signs in overgrown front lawns, I simultaneously studied for my life and health insurance license.
I was driven by every form of imaginable fear. What if I ran out of money and I was unable to support myself or my children? What if I had no credit? What if I lost my children due to lack of money or some emotional or physical illness? The day would come when all of those fears would come to pass.
I spent half of the proceeds from my divorce buying a small two- bedroom house. I had also used part of the money to support the children and myself while I was getting started in real estate. I was mindful every waking moment that if I did not bring in money soon, I would run out of the divorce proceeds. Then, out of stupidity, I lent Bo four thousand dollars to open a gas station/convenience store. Not once did it occur to me that he would refuse to pay me back.
The fear and degradation of having to regress back to receiving welfare seemed more than I could endure. Moreover, I feared that if I did accept welfare, I would lose my house. Somehow, I had it in my mind that my children and I could withstand anything so long as we had a house, a safe haven to which we could return. I was desperate to save the small amount of possessions I had acquired. In my thinking, this thin veil of protection buffered my children and me against a perilous world. I believed that only I could protect them. And nobody, but nobody, understood Ty as I did.
When I was first divorced, according to the credit card companies, I was not permitted to obtain a credit card without my ex-husband’s co-signature. Over my dead body, I thought. I marched over to Sears and applied for a three month revolving charge account. I have had perfect credit ever since. Single-minded of purpose, I was desperate and determined to never again rely on a man for my financial well-being. I would do whatever it took to make myself over and to make myself marketable in a financial capacity. I had to earn money, I had to be self-supporting.
Bo, who began our relationship with supportive ideas and encouragement, was fast becoming another tormentor. First, he became angry that my ex-husband had been living the high life in California instead of helping support our children. Bill had not worked in a year and had no involvement with his children, except for mailing his three-hundred-dollar child support check each month. Bo began pressuring me to let my children live with their father, who was now back in southern Florida. Bo knew that Bill’s family had the money to help with the children’s special needs. We fought extensively over this difficult situation, but I could not imagine life without my children. I also began to notice his possessiveness and the beginning of totally unfounded, jealous accusations.
One year into the relationship, signs of physical abuse began to emerge, though I did not recognize the warning signs. For example, he started badgering me about the number of men that I had ever slept with. With teeth clenched, and in that slow, deliberate, menacing voice some people get just before exploding, he would forcefully poke me in the arm or leg or back, while saying “And—poke—just— poke—how— poke—many—poke—men—poke—have—poke—there—poke— been? Huh—huh? How—poke—many?” I would refuse to answer.