Caged Bird Chapter 10

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

One night we had my cousin Annamae came over for dinner.  He invited his cousin Larry. I guess we were doing a little matchmaking. There was some drinking after dinner. Jack put romantic music on our record player. Larry began to kiss Annamae. At some point the inference was made that we should switch. My cousin walked out of our apartment in a huff. I too was very upset so I don't blame her. I told Larry to go home and had a terrible blow up with Jack. I didn't understand how after three months of marriage he thought we should get into swinging or kinky stuff like that. I wanted to believe he was my soulmate in all areas. However, there was a pattern emerging. One which would take me decades to realize. In looking for freedom, I had walked into a physical, sexual, and emotional prison. I had married Jack in 1968. The character defects I had avoided looking at before started to emerge. He would get drunk every weekend. He could not seem to find a job. He was very controlling and possessive. Very early into the marriage, I suspected he was fooling around. He would talk me into taking the day off from work to be with him. I was young and naïve. I did not realize that after a certain amount of “sick days”, I could be fired. I got called into the office one day and told I had taken more than four sick days in the last two months. I was fired. I was so upset. I loved that job. Jack was trying to get help from the V.A. to pursue a career in drafting. Meanwhile, he was not bringing any money into the household. He just sat around and drank. I had to go back to work at the dreaded Gold Star factory. This was the first apartment for both of us and the first time we lived apart from any authority but ourselves. We had a skylight in the living room ceiling and I would love it when it rained. I would lie on the floor looking up at the rain filled sky. Imagining I was a bird flying above the clouds, free. It was a small apartment, but charming. Our landlord, however, was crazy. I was running a bath one day and he came up the stairs, went into the bathroom and shut off the water. He told me I was using too much water. Jack almost threw him down the stairs. Not long after that, Jack was drunk and arguing with the landlord about something. This time he put his fist through the front door glass. That was the first time we had to move. I thought “OK” we will just treat this as a fresh start. We moved into a first-floor apartment over a bar. The bar Morgan’s was in the basement. I wasn’t allowed to go into a bar without Jack. One day I decided to go down to pay the rent. I came out of the basement bar and started to go into our apartment. Jack was pulling up at the same moment. He started screaming and pulling my hair. I was determined not to have him get me inside the house. I held onto the railing for dear life. Finally, the police came and told him to cool off, take it easy. We had to move again. My mother had a friend who had a second-floor apartment. She lived downstairs and we lived upstairs. She heard all the noise and fights and everything that went on. Of course, she reported it all to my mom. My brother Joe was getting married. The family was having a bridal shower for his fiancé Barb. She was picking me up in her car. Jack did not want me to go. He never wanted me to be around family or friends. I knew it wasn’t normal but I didn’t realize how abusive it was. I was young and unsophisticated. That day I realized how abusive he could be. When Barbara beeped the horn, I was unable to come out of the apartment. He literally had tied me to the kitchen chair. He told her I was tied up and couldn’t attend the shower. If that was his attempt at humor, it was very sick humor. He then untied me and was lovey dovey the rest of the day. After that it got even worse. He never hit me, hair pulling and pinching were his forte. A month of abuse went by before I fled to my parents’ home. After I left, he sold all of our furniture and all our belongings. In those days’ girls started a Hope Chest before they got married. I had saved green stamps for years to collect a full set of beautiful silver and white china. Some of you might not know what green stamps are. Green Stamps were one of the first retail loyalty programs, by which retailers purchased the stamps from the Sperry & Hutchinson company and then gave them away at a rate determined by the merchant. Some shoppers would choose one merchant over another because they gave out more stamps per dollar spent Certain grocery stores, gas stations and department stores gave you stamps when you bought things and you saved them in a book. When you had enough books, you could redeem them for merchandise. I had acquired enough books for a beautiful silver and white china set. He sold the dishes that I had saved up for so long. Jack knew how special that set of china was. He knew how upset I was that it was gone. Yet he kept pursuing me and asking me for forgiveness. His charming ways, his handsome face, the chemistry, everything finally wore me down. I forgave him and believed his promise to never mistreat me again. We now had literally nothing and so moved into a furnished apartment. He started taking drafting courses under the VA program. He was still drinking and verbally abusing me. Then he'd want to kiss and make love. Sexually he was more than competent. If I had a top ten, he would be number 2 on the list. Sex was so good that all would be forgiven. I was still working in the sweatshop. I was getting more and more depressed. I guess it was obvious to everyone around me at the factory. A co-worker told me that I probably could get workmen’s compensation. She had done it a year ago, citing a mental breakdown. Because I was truly very depressed, I filed for it. I got the approval, but it took weeks before I would get the first check. That first check would be the big one. So, I was holding on to my sanity and dignity by my fingertips. One night I was in such a sorry state that I took a handful of tranquilizers. I called my friend Annmarie, who was studying to be a nurse. She told me to immediately put my finger down my throat and throw up. After I did that, I realized how mentally unwell I was. As soon as that check came in, I left. I remember taking my wedding band off and leaving it on the kitchen table for him. No note just the ring. I rented a room in the Carter Apartments for Women. Men were not allowed in the building. One day Jack came into the building and up the stairs to the apartment I was staying in. He knocked on the door and again begged for forgiveness. I stood fast. I had never lived alone. I was very lonely. I sent him away, determined to face my fears. At night I would experience intense anxiety. I was incapable of being alone. I would just have such apprehension. I started going to a bar called O’Tooles to get through the night. It was near the University of Scranton campus. I would go there and have a drink. Inevitably a guy would buy me a drink or two. By the time I went home, I was sufficiently buzzed to go to sleep. That was my solution at the moment. One night I met a guy that used to be a neighbor when I was growing up in South Side. James B. was a little older than me. He sat down in the booth and we had a drink. Suddenly I looked up and there was Jack and his mother, Dorothy. She was an aggressive, intimidating woman. She could scare the shit out of anybody. They came over to the booth where I sat with James. Dorothy started to berate me and call me a whore and a slut. Shouting that I was a married woman and here I am in a bar with another man. James knew me since we were kids. He knew I was none of those things. He just sat there calmly and smiled. Unable to rattle us they finally gave up and left.  That night was the first time I had sex outside of my marriage to Jack. Afterwards, I said to James, "Am I going to hell? " He laughed and said not for having sex. He really made me feel better that night. Ironically, I ended up getting a job at O’Tooles as a cocktail waitress. That summer I never felt lonely again. It was 1970, The Summer of Love. Everyone just wanted to get high. Make love not war. The marriage to Jack had been a futile attempt to break the cycle of feeling powerless. I filed for divorce.

Demolishing Gold Star Factory from Hell

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