August 18, 2001
Rental Car Miracle
MacArthur Airport

I’ve left the house a few weekends to get a break, but I am now too worried to leave Anjelica home with Lou. He came into the guest bedroom to harass me as usual but was somber and kind of looked zoned out. He stood at the foot of my bed and said I had to stay because he could not live without me. I was empathetic to his despair and was gentle, but still firm in my reply that he had to accept it and did not have a choice. His eyes became more hollow and more distant as he spoke in a low quiet voice, “I do have a choice,” then turned and left the room.

I was immediately terrified he was about to do something rash and deadly but was frozen in place like a deer in the headlights. Should I follow Lou, or should I run to Anjelica’s room? Could I protect her or get her out of the house fast enough? Was there a window I could jump from and then catch her without killing ourselves? No. Going to her room would put her in more danger. My heart pounded as my mind raced through the options and I decided to stay put to face his next move and change his state of mind.

Our bedroom’s walk-in closet was on the other side of the guest room wall behind me; I could hear Lou rustling through the stacks of boxes I had not yet unpacked, and realized he was hunting for the guns. I knew they were unloaded and was pretty sure the bullets were not in that room. Pretty sure that Lou did not have a clue where to look. Pretty sure I could deal with him if he did not have a loaded firearm. “Please let me be right,” was my silent prayer to the guardian angel I hope still watches over me.

Lou reappeared in my doorway empty-handed and stood there looking flustered. Expressionless, I looked up from the book I’d laid on my lap when he first interrupted, and lowered it once again, and in an attempt to calm and soothe him, I assured, “We’re both tired, and I’m not going anywhere right now. Let’s get some rest and we can talk more another time.” We said goodnight. I turned off the light, but left the door open, pretty sure I had dodged a bullet.

In the morning, after Lou left the house, I went to the closet and confirmed he had rummaged through the box with the firearms, and immediately hid the weapons deep in the basement where he would never think to look. Later that day, Lou called me at work demanding the guns back. Lou called Nico to report what I had done and contended that the wrong person had the weapons, and that I am insane.

I’m still frozen like that deer, eyes wide open to the oncoming danger, but unable to act. I am too petrified to leave yet horrified the boogeyman in the next room could attack at any moment. Am I right to be afraid, or is Lou right that I am delusional, as he has argued for years whenever I’ve thought something was happening? I did learn about gaslighting, and now understand that all the times he told me I didn’t see or hear what I knew I had, he did so on purpose. It works. Until it doesn’t. I know I have to break free in a way that he will accept; I just don’t know how.

In the meantime, I try to keep the peace, and maybe show that we can get along even if we are not married. He wanted us to fly to Long Island and spend Saturday at the beach, which I would normally love. When I said I wasn’t really up for it, he clarified that he was going with Anjelica anyway. He called ahead to reserve a rental car, I prepared food and packed a cooler and beach bags for the day, and we flew into MacArthur airport. My heart sank when Lou got pissed because of an issue with the car rental. The “put on a happy face” day at the beach was about to be ruined. But I watched as he collected himself, and we worked out a solution. As we loaded the back of the white SUV, he cheerfully prided himself for staying calm, and the rental agreement proved he could change. He handed someone our camera to snap a happy family photo with the evidence.

Our old photo albums have been pulled out for display, and Lou often convinces me to sit with him to leaf through the pictures and reminisce. Sometimes it is just under the premise of “for old times’ sake”, and other times it is to produce evidence that we have a good marriage. One evening, he emerged from his office with paper in hand, and read aloud, “The Really Good Things” list. He had typed a full page of characteristics and events in our lives that show we are a perfect couple. I appreciated the thought that went into it, and acknowledged that those were all true, but it was not the complete story. I smiled that it was a like a nice eulogy to our marriage. We both stayed kind and calm that time. Other times the photo walks down memory lane end up in a fight when he gets frustrated and demands we stay together, and I repeat that I’ve already done my twenty, and that’s it for me.

The rear-wheel-drive Mercedes 190E is 15 years old, which made for a white-knuckle commute in New Hampshire’s snowy winter. I need a safer vehicle and know that as soon as I start the divorce process, Lou will find a way to cut me off from our financial assets. Yesterday, I casually made a request, “You asked what you could do that would make me happy. We discussed getting a safer car for me, and I really want a Jeep like the one we rented.” He was thrilled to have a mission that seemed to offer some hope, and we bought a Grand Cherokee today. I felt bad for misleading him, but then remembered all his lies and gaslighting, and snapped the rubber band on my wrist, which has become a sadistically satisfying, yet empowering form of pain.