14 October 2012

Troubled waters

Well before we were married, Susan had begun to discern what would become serious problems in our relationship.  Indeed, from the beginning, my own behaviour was erratic.  This, perhaps, she and I were willing to impute to my drug-taking, my lack of moral formation, the breakup of my first marriage.  At the end of December, 1969, I had turned to Christ; by the end of March, 1970, I had stopped taking drugs.

Yet in 1971 we still had a pattern of serious fights - principally of the sort in which I would become angry about something; Susan would apologise; I would believe I detected in her apology insincerity - with resultant very troubling hours-long fights - with her final submission.  Susan attempted to break our engagement about this time.  It is, I think, an indicator of the very personality issues I had that her decision, after all, to marry me was as much an outcome of the same over-bearing approach to problems which characterised our disputes.

By the time we had been married for four and a half years, and had lived in Yap for a year and a half, a very distressing habit had been formed: reasonably normal life punctuated by frequent such events.  One night - the 23rd of November, 1977 - one such resulted in what could have issued in disaster.

Susan will tell the story:

I remember this clearly as it was unforgettable.  It was one of those events that one hopes never happens twice.

It was the night before Thanksgiving, 1977 and there would be four days of vacation from work for John.

Johnny was just two years old and Helen was a baby at the time.

Our house was in town, on a cliff overlooking the bay and then out to the ocean.  There were a lot of trees around the house and a set of stairs leading to the house from the main road.  Depending on the time of year, the house was not very visible from the main road because of the trees.

The house was large and rectangular. The room we slept in was in the middle of the house and it had no windows.  There was one door into it.  As I recall, we later had this room air conditioned.

John and I had a disagreement about something and I decided to go to bed as it was about 9:00pm.  He stayed up and worked on his ham radios that were in the front room of the house.  I remember hearing glass breaking at one point - it was one of the radio valves that he had dropped on the floor.  I remember thinking that I would let him clean it up - I was half asleep.  He could do it himself.

The next thing I heard was something, again, that sounded like breaking glass.  I was irritated by this thinking of the mess that was to be cleaned up but again decided to do nothing about it.  Later, I found out that it wasn't glass but someone trying to enter the back kitchen door of the house.

I then realised that someone was opening the bedroom door and I assumed it was John.  I opened my eyes, and although it was very dark, I could see someone with shorts on.  I assumed again that it was John.  The person left the room and the next thing I knew was that someone was on top of me.  This was really bad because the futon map we slept on was placed directly on the floor.  It was cooler that way.  I had little hope of throwing this person off and I was in real terror because of that.  I also couldn't understand where John was - why this was happening.....where was he?

It turned out later that John had left the house without telling me.  His office was about a ten minute walk up the road and he had decided to walk up there and get some papers that he would need over the holiday period.

Just a bit of backstory for the moment.  My father, as my sister also knows, spent a lot of time with us trying to prepare us for the unknown - he was constantly asking us what we would do in certain situations - It used to be rather boring - what was going to happen to us?  He had a business that took him away from the family a lot and he was very careful - when this person was on top of me and placing his hands around my throat and beginning to squeeze it, all I could think of was where was John and I heard my father's voice - "Get Out - you can't do anything without help."  So I somehow pushed myself up and the person stopped - I screamed and I screamed - another thing my Dad had told us - if you can, draw attention to yourself - go nuts....depending on the situation.  I knew that I might have very little time to do anything.  I turned on the lights in the house, and ran out the back door.  the person had left the house - but out the front door and left it wide open.

I ran next door - through a lot of bush - and banged on the neighbour's door - that turned out to be of little help.  The woman there threw me a towel - I had practically nothing on - and told me she thought everything was going to be fine - what? - right, they were all drinking and smoking pot as it was a holiday - who knows what fine meant to them?  I left them without saying anymore - I had already screamed that I had been attacked, John was missing and there were two kids in the house.

I then ran up to the hotel that was on a little rise above the house - again, screaming and yelling for help.  I ran into the bar - I figured there were people there who might help me.  Fortunately, there were a couple of policemen at the bar and they came back to the house with me.  This all happened very quickly.  I was extremely worried and didn't want to be away from the house for long.

The policemen came into the house and found the kids - they were fine - and John returned.
We, now, can laugh about what happened.  Susan was not seriously harmed - although she had bruises on her neck and was hoarse for several days after.  Neither Johnny nor Helen appear even to have awakened.  Yet not so long after this, the wife of another expatriate couple - whose husband was away on the field trip ship - was attacked in her kitchen by a man with a knife.  She escaped because she seized the knife blade, cutting her fingers seriously.  The man slipped in her blood on the floor and she ran from the house to a neighbour.

It is possible that Susan's assailant was less a violent than a mentally disturbed one.  I have spoken before of Russ and Verna Curtis, the elderly American Quaker couple who ran YCA - the Yap Cooperative Association.  Some weeks, or perhaps months, before this, a man had crept into their bedroom, where they were both sleeping in their double bed, and began fondling Verna.  Apparently Russ awoke and shouted or something and the man fled.

Some weeks later a man - the same man? - entered their bedroom again, and began the same behaviour, to the person on the same side of the bed.  Russ and Verna had, in the interim, changed which side of the bed they slept on.  The Yap expatriate community had some innocent pleasure in imagining gentle Quaker Russ's reaction to this affection :-)

That man may have been Susan's visitor.  He was, in fact, a relation of Kloulubak, the Palauan neighbour of ours to whom Susan had gone in the first place.  Kloulubak's family saw to it that he returned to Palau, so we will never know for sure - but it seems likely.

It is not pleasant to talk about some of these things that are, in fact, a result of my own bad behaviour.  There is one more occurrence that must have its place in this narrative.  It will be, you may be relieved to know, the last.  Next week's post will have Susan talking again about something whose long-term implications were wonderful, indeed, but this was not apparent at the time.  She seriously considered divorcing me.

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