Friday night, out of the kindness of our hearts, we agreed to pick up a drunk person with no where to stay and take him home. I know what you’re thinking- why would you do that? Well, mostly because we make a habit of being compassionate for other human beings. We care about their well-being in general and know we have a lot to give. We try to mentor kids, from our own to our extended families to young people at work. This is a twenty six year old man, not a kid, but he still needs guidance.
We thought we would pick him up, go home and he would go to bed.
That is not what happened. I asked him a question and something about it struck a chord with him. He became angry and agitated, jumping from one topic to the next, getting angrier as he went. He called us names, mostly “motherfuckers” but he threw a few other hurtful ones out there, especially at J. He yelled, he told us to “fuck off” he ran an entire gauntlet of insults, looking for the ones that would hurt the most.
When we asked him to stop he kept on, and threatened, “I’m recording you guys!” like we were committing a crime by insisting that his behavior was unacceptable.
“Go ahead,” we said, “then you can listen to how wasted you are right now tomorrow when you’re sober.”
“I only had three beers,” he slurred, “how can I be drunk?”
“You tell us,” we said.
Eventually, because of his threatening demeanor, his constant and loud insults, his inability to calm down and stop trying to bully and threaten us, J pulled over and told him to get out of the truck. We were on a county road in the middle of nowhere.
Again, because I am compassionate and feel badly leaving someone on the side of the road, I said, “Let’s just go, we can have this conversation in the driveway.”
Things did not get better after he almost got left on the side of the road. You would think they would, wouldn’t you? But drunk people aren’t rational, of course. It took one more stop on the side of the road, one more choice to stop the behavior or get out, before we made it to the driveway.
By the time we made it to the driveway neither of us felt safe about the idea of sleeping with him in our house. We backed back out of the driveway, drove to the nearest local hotel. J went in and paid for the room, told the clerk the situation, and left our phone number in case there was trouble.
As the man exited the truck he yelled to us one more time to, “Fuck off!”
So it was a surprise, then, when he called each of us at check out time the next day to see if we could pick him up.
We had plans for Saturday, Bunny was moving, J was getting tires on his truck. I was waiting for J to get home before we left to move furniture.
J got the call first and he told me about it. I got in the shower. I was waiting to get a text that said how sorry the man was about last night, at the very least. We’ve been doing a lot of reading about how to deal with alcoholics, and holding them accountable is required.
Out of the shower I text the man back, apologized for missing his calls and said, “Last I knew I was supposed to fuck off.”
That was an open invitation for him to apologize and take accountability for his actions. Instead he said, “You two were saying some ridiculous shit last night. We can talk in person when you come get me.”
“I’m not coming to get you,” I said, “and you’re not seeing me in person unless it’s a public place, because I don’t feel safe around you.”
I said a lot more stuff about being accountable, about the kind of life he wants, about what is acceptable and what his options are.
“I’m leaving,” I finished, “so I can’t keep texting. Your move.”
“I can’t believe you don’t feel safe,” he said, “It’s not like I’m dropping acid.”
The man has a history of assault charges, he once broke bones in someone’s face. You guessed it, he was drinking. That alone is enough to scare me, and his behavior the night before had only validated those original fears.
I stayed at home a little longer, getting ready to go and gathering up stuff I wanted to bring to Bunny.
I was on the phone with J when I heard someone try the front door knob.
“OH MY GOD,” I whispered, “he’s trying to get in.”
J was at the shop, his truck jacked up with no tires yet. There was nothing he could do.
The man didn’t knock or ring a doorbell, he thought we were gone. He checked all the entrances. Luckily, because it was hot, we had closed all the curtains, so he couldn’t see in. I hid in the bathroom, where there are no windows.
I’m not sure I have ever been so scared. Not necessarily because I thought he would hurt me, but I did know he was angrier than I had ever seen him. I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen if he got in. Should I hide? Should I confront him? Do I need a weapon? Should I call 911? J was on the phone, but he wasn’t going to be able to help me if the man got in. My heart was racing a million beats a minute and I couldn’t catch my breath.
When I heard the sound of metal against the front door, I knew I had to do something. My heart was in my throat.
“Hang on!” I hissed into the phone, and I switched my phone to text.
At that moment, the man decided to call J again. When J asked where he was, he told him he was at the house.
For all the help we’ve offered, we’ve never let him be in our house when we aren’t there. We don’t have that kind of trust when we know he’s still using. We had both said we would not be there.
The neighbor would later tell us that the man was pacing up and down the driveway on his phone, gesturing wildly.
J told the man that he needed to leave, and that he could come back when J was there. The man reacted by offering more threats.
J found himself having to tell the man that if he didn’t leave, we’d have to call the police.
That’s when the man sealed his fate, right there. When, instead of agreeing to the very simple terms that he come back later, he made another threat.
During that conversation that I didn’t know was happening, I had fired off a text that said, “The neighbors are watching and will call the police.”
I didn’t actually know that they were watching, then, I would find that out hours later. But it was the only thing I could think of to get him to stop trying to get into the house. Plus, it’s a pretty good bet they are always watching.
After sending the text, I put the phone back up to my ear and whispered, “Hello?”
Silence. I was alone.
The scraping noise at the front door had stopped, but when I peeked through a crack in the curtains I could see the back tire of a vehicle still in the driveway. I didn’t know where he was, or if he was getting ready to break a window to get in.
I willed myself to breath. I stayed in the bathroom mostly, creeping back out to peek through the curtains and check the driveway. I didn’t hear anything. I felt like the dumb girl cowering in a horror movie, but I didn’t know what else to do, short of calling the police.
My phone vibrated and J was back from his call, thankfully. He told me about his conversation. I checked the driveway just in time to see a black car backing out, but I didn’t know if the man was in it.
J’s tires were done and he was coming home. I peeked out the back doors, checked the garage, but still did not unlock anything. Not until J came home, checked everything, and we left as quickly as we could to go move Bunny.
I couldn’t breathe for hours. My heart would not stop racing. J was feeling guilty that he hadn’t been there to help me. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I think I had my very first official panic attack and it lasted for hours, even after I knew I was safe.
Eventually, I’ll get up the nerve to write about how we got to this point, but two days later I still can’t breathe when I think about cowering in the bathroom, scared.
Maybe it’s because the man was our son, and I never thought I’d be afraid of him.