A Bit Of Background
During the process of divorcing six wives (not all at once), I learned a little about how to leave your lover. Pam is my seventh wife. We are solid, in our thirteenth year together, and this relationship is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. Still, it took a while to find my feisty little redhead.
In the cases of wives #1, #2, #4, and #5, matters were intelligently if often emotionally discussed and the partings were relatively amicable. #3 and #6 were different matters. Heaven forbid there would ever be a #9, since I seem to catch living Hell from every third wife.
Remember Paul Simon’s hit song titled 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover…? In the end, those lyrics became my Bible For Divorce, especially the lines about “…slip out the back, Jack”, “just drop off the key, Lee”, followed by, “…and set yourself free”.
In early February of 1984, I was not a free man. Gem (not her real name but an acronym for Green Eyed Monster) had many admirable qualties which were completely overshadowed by the rage that coursed through her system, often without the slightest provocation. If I was even five minutes late getting home from my job as a Social Worker, she assumed I’d been romancing someone, perhaps a client or coworker or a homeless person I’d met on the street.
With my background in the field of psychology, it wasn’t that hard for me to conclude from sizeable samples of her behavior that she’d been severely abused as a child. Knowing that helped me be a touch more tolerant, but if you’ve never been on the sharp end of that spear, you can’t possibly know what it’s like to be accused of straying on a daily basis. Especially when the accusations were entirely without cause. I’d truly wanted to make the marriage work, but three years of being emotionally assaulted was quite enough, thank you. A friend who can see auras once told me that Gem had the most violent aura of anyone she’d ever seen, period, and I could believe it.
It was time to get out. The question was, how could I do it without risking an explosion that might even have lethal consequences? Leaving your lover is one thing. Leaving a rage-aholic can be quite another.
I Need Wheels
Being as suspicious as she was, her eyes would narrow and her attitude come out in full force every time I’d talk about getting a second car. She obviously had it figured out, correctly I might add, that I’d use that car to run. How she missed a key point is beyond me: Since our primary vehicle, a 1980 Honda Civic wagon, was titled in my name, why wouldn’t I just grab that and split? On the other side of the coin, if I was going to be thoughtful enough to leave her the better car in any case, wouldn’t it be at least potentially worthwhile to conclude I might be on her side?
Sadly, it didn’t work that way. Sure, I could have just walked away, stuck my thumb out, hit the road, Toad. Fifty-one ways to leave your lover. Nonetheless, I did–to Gem’s great unhappiness–acquire a beatup 1967 Plymouth Fury to drive to work. Knowing it was destined to become my escape pod, I rebuilt the failing carburetor and gradually stocked the trunk with some of my key belongings.
Pulling the ripcord on February 17, 1984, I first went to work. A note was left in my top center desk drawer which would bring the rest of the department up to date, but they were to know nothing until Gem’s target (that would be me) had cleared the area. As far as they knew at first, their ace child protective Social Worker was headed to Fort Belknap on routine rounds.
Not so. Gem had her own job and would not catch me…hopefully. Returning to our Chinook, Montana mobile home around 8:30 a.m, I hastily grabbed the last few armloads of stuff that just couldn’t be left behind, dropped a Dear Gem letter on the kitchen table, and slipped eastward out of town, the opposite direction from Fort Belknap.
The Coyote Of The County
The first night’s planned stop was situated some two hundred miles to the south and east. My youngest sister, Harriet, ran a ranch with her husband some thirty or so miles down a gravel road outside of Choteau, Montana. A Registered Nurse and never one to slack off, she also commuted to a daily shift at a nursing home in Choteau. They didn’t know they were about to have company, but that didn’t matter in the least.
What did matter was the fear sweat running down from my armpits. Until many miles and several changes of highway were consigned to the rear view mirror, visions of Gem pounding down the road behind me in the Honda continued to loom over my consciousness like a hunting hawk over a doomed mouse in an open field. No one can fathom the depth of that terror without having personally gone through something similar. No one who has gone through it can fail to understand.
The sense of hovering horror thankfully faded as the ranch drew closer. A much needed overnight visit with my Sis and her man did much to restore my inner balance. Come morning, I headed out on the second leg of my How To Leave Your Lover race. Suddenly, a huge dog coyote trotted calmly across the road just a few dozen yards ahead of my car. By the time I reached my second stop at my other sister’s place in Philipsburg, I’d written a poetic humor song about The Coyote Of The County.
On To Portland
Three days passed with Donna and Bill, following which it was time to head for Portland, Oregon. Why Portland? Simple. Montana cowboy or not, unafraid to tie myself to the back of a two thousand pound Brahma cross bucking bull with an attitude or not…Gem still scared the living wussie out of me. I needed a city in which to hide, get lost, disappear, vanish. Portland got the nod.
Added to which, it seemed highly likely Gem had more than a clue as to my whereabouts. The second night in Philipsburg, I’d received a call from my Dad (he eventually passed on in 1997). Gem and her teenaged son had stopped by Roundup, where my folks lived, on her way back to her old stomping grounds at Harlem, Montana. What she had to say to my parents can only be imagined, but my old man knew where to find me. Once his soon to be former daughter in law had gone on her way, he’d picked up the phone.
Not fully trusting even my own parents to keep their mouths shut–they had seemed closer to Gem during our marriage than they had to me, in truth–I was glad to see Montana and then Washington drop behind me. Now south of the Columbia River, heading west along the Columbia River Gorge, I thoroughly enjoyed the rain, streaky windshield wipers and all. Ahead lay the city of Portland and, once again, a new life.
In figuring out how to leave my lover, I hadn’t managed to slip out the back, Jack–sorry, but I’d used the front door like any other day. Even so, I had definitely dropped off the key, Lee. And set myself free.