Part 5


Declaring My Independence

Well, the gods were with me for the rest of the trip. Jiggs didn't wake up until about a half hour south of San Francisco. I told him we would go straight to Smitty’s because there were people there who were anxious to see him. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge about 5:00 p.m. and dropped down the hill into Sausalito. God, I was so happy to be home, even though we had no prearranged place to stay. We knew that Rich and Uta would be at Smitty's to meet us, but that was about all we knew. We parked the remnants of the limo around the corner from Smitty's front door and walked in the back. I recognized three dogs that were hanging out by the front entrance when we drove by, so I knew three of the people that were in residence for the evening. When we walked in, Rich was on the front table shooting pool. He quickly came over, with a hug for me and a wrapped hand shake for Jiggs. It felt for a very brief moment like we’d never been gone. Rich went over to the bar and asked Danny, the owner/bartender, for a round of drinks and we sat down at a table by the front window. Uta wasn’t there because it was the middle of the growing season and she was up in Humboldt tending their new crop. There were several people in the bar who knew Jiggs and the whole story of his Mississippi trip, so they had plenty of questions. Shortly after he was arrested, Jiggs sent a “poem” to Smitty’s. I don’t remember the whole poem, but I remember the last line. “You bastards missed out on three tons.” So he established his celebrity status in Smitty’s while he was doing his time at Parchman. There were also several people in the bar who knew me but had only heard of Jiggs. I introduced some of them, but it turned out to be a mistake that would come back to bite me later. I was beginning to feel a little edgy, because I could see it was going to be a long evening of drinking, and I was yet to learn where we would be staying. I'd had a year of being in charge of my life, such as it was, and now I was back to doing whatever Jiggs told me to do. control of my life. I was filled with anger at my inability to take

Jiggs immediately got back into his wheeling and dealing. That first night we crashed at a house belonging to a friend of Rich. The next day we ended up in a temporary rental, an illegal apartment in the basement of a house on Oak Street in San Francisco. The doorbell for entrance was hidden in the door jamb for the garage which was below the house. We were near the panhandle of the park where all the Haight-Ashbury hippies made love, not war back in the 60s and 70s. Now, in 1982, Oak Street was one of the roughest areas in San Francisco. I can remember hearing shots ring out in the middle of the afternoon from my cave below ground. I was longing for the old hotel in Cleveland, Mississippi Two doors away was a grocery store on the corner, and I didn't even like to go there in the light of day. Jiggs got a job selling used cars across the Bay Bridge in Oakland, where his buddy Milt eventually joined him after his release from the Vicksburg Jail. I didn’t do anything. I told Jiggs I wanted to look for work, but he didn’t want me to. If I wanted to go out, I would go to the used car lot with Jiggs. During the time we lived at that apartment, Jiggs’ violence escalated. I was the easy target for his rage. He would throw something at me, in one instance a full can of beer, hitting me in the eye. Then he would make me go to Smitty’s with him sporting a black eye. There’s some kind of machismo thing among violent men which requires that they show their buddies they are in charge of their women. For whatever he thought I did while he was locked up, or for whatever his friends told him I did when he was locked up, he showed them that he made me pay for it. Thinking about this all these years later, I find it difficult to control my anger just thinking about the way things were during the months we were together after we came back to California. As I think about it, I feel more and more rage welling up in me. This is the part I've been avoiding ever since I started writing. I have often thought that people who knew me would and should write me off as a lost cause hellbent on self-destruction? Why would I give up everything that was good in my life to be with someone like Jiggs? The only way it becomes clear is to understand the following:

I was the middle of three sisters in a family with seven children. .My two sisters and I were sexually abused by our father. This happened back at a time when it was neither revealed nor discussed with anyone, let alone reported to any authority. His sexual abuse with my sisters and me was a secret we even kept from each other until I was a student in college and spoke with my older sister only to learn that she had suffered even greater abuse than I had. The abuse started when I was only nine years old, and it continued until I was entering high school. To this day I have an aversion to old, dark basements, because in my case that was where much of my memories of my father’s abuse are most vivid. My father had his office in the fruit cellar, and our only tub and shower were in a corner of the furnace room. The bathroom upstairs was where the washer and dryer were located, along with a homemade plywood hamper, 6’ long by 3’ high x 2’ wide. That left room for only a sink and toilet. As a result, we were relegated to the basement for showers or baths; a perfect opportunity for my father and his penchant. My father's oldest son was the only one of us who knew him as a normal father. Tuff was never aware of what my father had done. I was just as happy to know that at least one of us seemed to grow up without the scars. It screwed up my relationships with men almost all of my life. I never dated in high school, unless it was a prom or something of that kind. I never had a boyfriend. I was attracted to older men, teachers, student teachers, married or single, it didn't matter. I had an affair with one of my teachers, although it did not include sex. I've never, to this day, expressed true anger at my father. It's so difficult to do. He was, after all, my father. I wanted to be able to love him as a father, and I wanted him to love me as his child. That could never be. I wanted him to be proud of my accomplishments. In my junior year of high school, I auditioned as a percussionist at Eastman School of Music. I was accepted in an accelerated program where I would attend school between my junior and senior year of high school and the summer after

my senior year. I would have my first year completed and would start the following year as a sophomore. But I could not afford to go without financial assistance, and he would not fill out the necessary financial papers for me to qualify. It wasn’t until I was in college and engaged to be married that I confronted him about all of it. I even convinced my sisters to unite with me. We told him he had to tell our mother what he had done. I remember a family meeting at which my mother was not present, but everyone else was, including spouses of my siblings. I vaguely remember him speaking, and crying. But I don't remember what he said, except that he was going off with my mother to tell her what had happened. But I have no way of verifying what he told my mother. I do know that forever after he stayed as far away from me as he possibly could. The closest I recall him every coming to terms with what he had done was a letter he wrote to my younger sister and me, with a copy to the brother who would say nothing to anyone. My oldest sister had already died of cancer, so I could have received it anytime up to his death of testicular cancer, ironically. In the letter he said, “For whatever you think I've done to you, real or imagined, I apologize.” That's the best I was ever going to get. But that, in brief, is how I came to be with Jiggs. I think I craved love, but I didn't have any idea what love really was. Something made it become the same as what I was trying to run away from. There comes a time when you accept that you will never have what you're looking for, and you don't deserve it anyway. There must be something about you that makes these aberrant relationships happen. It becomes your norm. It's why my marriage failed. It's why I ran away from home at thirty. It's why I ended up with Jiggs, not just someone like Jiggs, but Jiggs. He was the epitome of my self-loathing. I had known him all my life. I was related to him. He was my cousin. I say now that being in a relationship with him was meant to hurt my father, but that's just a throw away line. Being with Jiggs was an extension of what my life already was. I never experienced pleasure in any sexual relationships I had with men. It was something I did, but it

was never fulfilling. When Jiggs was in prison, I had occasional brief encounters, but usually with men I didn’t particularly like, because I didn’t care if I ever saw them again. If there was someone I really liked, sex was off limits, because I didn’t want to have to give them up as friends when Jiggs came back. The irony was that those men were the only ones Jiggs was jealous of. I suppose it’s not really so ironic, since they were the ones for whom I felt a true attraction. This very fact was the crux of my problem. How simplistic of me to think I could build on friendships that had developed in the one year I only answered to myself. Had I actually become that person, none of these tales would be here to tell, because I never would have gone to Mississippi. Perhaps I would have run away again. There was far more reason to do so, but when I lived in the middle of it, I didn't see beyond what was. I spent eight years with Jiggs, and in that eight years, I sunk about as low as one can. I find it interesting that I talk about living inside the drug culture, but I'm an observer rather than a participant. But what's obvious is obvious. I'm far enough away from it now that, suffice it to say, drugs were an every day part of living and had a positively numbing effect at a time it was needed. Despite it all, I always managed to have some kind of job. After we'd been back about four months, we rented a houseboat at Gate 5 in Sausalito. We only got it because I had a job managing a law firm. Had I been on my own, I would have loved living there for as long as I could. But Jiggs was far too destructive by this point, and I was worried that he might pass out and burn the place down from a lit cigarette. I used to stand out on the dock so he wouldn't know I was around, and watch to see that nothing happened to the boat. Now, when the tide was out, the houseboat sat on the sand bottom of Richardson Bay. If he had gotten up, walked out the front sliding door, and stumbled into the mud flats face down, I would never have told a soul. During this time, I reached my boiling point. It wasn't so much that I thought I didn't deserve this, but more that I realized nobody deserved this. I couldn't possibly be a bad enough person to rate this as my existence. So I struck back. One day he was raging at me and, typically, he reached

out and ripped the front of my dress. That was it. I reached out and ripped the front of his shirt. My god, I've never seen anyone back track so fast. The look on his face was pure shock. I think he knew that this sleeping dog had suddenly become unpredictable and potentially harmful to him. It was like an epiphany for me. There was suddenly nothing I had to be afraid of. He was pure and simply a drunken bully. The change in me must have been detected by those whom I considered my friends, because it was shortly thereafter that Jiggs came home looking pretty scared and pretty beaten up. And to crawl all the way up out of the hole I had been in was empowering to know that there were people who would be protective of me. Within two days, he and Milt left for Orange County to sell aluminum siding. Honest to god. Just like the Tin Men. Hey, at least I didn't have to kill him and spend the rest of my life behind bars, which would have been a better alternative. So I said I'm not moving to Orange County until you are all settled somewhere. I have a good job managing a law office in San Francisco, and I'm not leaving it for the unknown. . . so he left. And when he left, I spent all of my free time trying to find a way to make sure his absence was permanent and that I would not revert to weakness and follow him there. Part 6: Captain Bob.

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