I moved jobs. This was due to a number of things, my boss was horribly sexist, I could see that I wasn’t being taken seriously, I wasn’t going to progress where I was, and the strain of my site work on my relationship with Mike was terrible. Mike* was still out of work and not looking for another job. I was still paying all of the bills on my own, including for his brand new car.
There were a few times that I refused to give him money for alcohol or cigarettes, but he always found a way. Sometimes he’d spew some bullshit story to one of his friends, or the neighbour that he drank with, or someone in his family. Something about how he really needed to borrow just a little bit to pay for a bill so we wouldn’t be evicted, or have the electricity cut off. As soon as they gave him some money, he was straight off to the store to get his fix. When that didn’t work, he pawned his tools, and then I was left to pay to get them back. He pawned my laptop at one point, I didn’t even have a chance to copy my files off of it. I never got that back.
It became safer financially to give him the money he wanted, because pawn shops rip you off, they don’t give you anywhere near what an item is worth, and so if we lost it, we were losing money, and to pay it off and get it back, the interest was astronomical. He was so manipulative, and it worked.
He would drink and drink and drink. He could polish of a litre of Jack Daniels in one night on his own, and then continue to drink whatever else was in the house. He would play Metallica, or Pink Floyd, or Dire Straits at top volume on the stereo. Even when I made the effort to sit with him, he would spend the evening telling me I was boring, and that I didn’t know real music.
The nights that I tried to go to bed were bad. He would come in the bedroom and turn the light on to wake me up. He would yell at me and call me a whore for no reason. He would grab me hard by the arm and leave finger mark bruises. He would throw things at me. Once he threw a telescope at me and bruised me. Once he threw a cat. This behaviour would go on until he either drank everything in the house and went to bed, or drank so much that he passed out wherever he fell. I would find him hours later, music still blasting, laying in his own vomit. I would drag him into the shower and clean him up, and clean up his mess, and put him to bed. The next morning I would have to clean the entire house. There was always broken glass. When he woke up, he wouldn’t remember anything. This happened often. Every couple of weeks often.
I became good friends with Mike’s niece, Tina*, who was 17 at the time. We started working out together and going to movies. She came with Mike and I to the yearly fireworks in the city, but we spent the whole night in a bar, because God forbid Mike should go an evening without a drink. We could still see the sky, but it would have been much nicer to watch from next to the river. Mike got wasted. I told him it was time to go at about 10pm but he wouldn’t leave. Tina started to get phone calls from her Dad, Mike’s brother, wondering where she was and telling her to come home. Mike still wouldn’t go. We finally got him to leave the bar at 11, and on the way to the car he nearly got into a fight on the street. This attracted the attention of police who came over and started asking questions. Tina was so uncomfortable. As we were walking through an underground parking lot to the car, Mike was yelling because I wouldn’t let him buy more alcohol at a bottle shop. He called me a stupid bitch and pushed me from behind so I stumbled forward. Tina started crying, I could see that she was terrified.
We got in the car and drove out. When I stopped at the parking lot boom gates, Mike got out of the car. I yelled for him to get back in, but he ran into the bottle shop. I phoned him and told him to come back. He told me to “fuck off”. So I did. I drove away without him. Five minutes down the road and he calls, he wanted me to go back and get him, so I did. The entire 40 minutes back to Jimboomba he threatened me. He told me that I’d better go sleep at Tina’s house or he was going to kill me. He called me every name under the sun. As we got closer to Jimboomba he told me to drop him off at home and then for me to “fuck off to Tina’s house”.
I was used to this. This was his normal drunk behaviour. Tina was not used to it and she was terrified. I told her I would be fine at home, and she looked at me and said no. You know that look you give to someone when you so desperately need them to do what you’re asking, when you’re so terrified and everything is counting on the other person’s actions? That was the look she gave me. So I agreed. I dropped Mike off and I slept at Tina’s that night.
I’d already bought tickets to a Halloween event at our local theme park for Tina and I, but considering the recent events, her parents wanted to talk to me before allowing her to go. Mike knew that I was on the phone to her Mom and asked me what it was about when I hung up. I told him that she’d just asked if Mike would be attending the event with us and I’d said no. Well, that set him off. He tried to phone Tina’s Dad, who didn’t answer, so he sent him a text message that downplayed his behaviour at the fireworks, saying it was made up, and said Tina wasn’t welcome to go with me. I was furious, he had no place to do that. Needless to say, Tina wasn’t allowed to go after that. Her parents disowned both Mike and I, and she wasn’t allowed to talk to me anymore, so that was the end of that.
When Mike was still working at his previous job I’d put down a deposit on a parrot that was being hand raised. I started to go visit the breeder and the baby parrot after work once a week. The breeder was absolutely amazing, but she talked, a lot. I was there for hours every time, even when I tried to get out of there early. Mike was angry every time I came home, convinced I was cheating on him. I had to take photos of me with the baby parrot every time so I could prove that I wasn’t cheating.
It was nearly time for Zazu, the parrot, to come home. I managed to find him a cheap cage on Ebay, and I’d saved $100 to buy him some toys. I knew that I had to hide this money from Mike, if he knew I had it, it would be gone instantly. We agreed to put the cage in the lounge room and it was all set up and ready.
Mike and I were going to meet his friend Paul at a bar. On the way there, Mike was being his usual horrible self. He was angry that he had to clean the house while I’d been at work that week. He was angry that I didn’t do the dishes the night before after I’d cooked and served him dinner. He told me I was stupid, lazy, selfish. He pushed me until I was crying, and then he kept going. He laid into me the whole way to the bar (40 minutes) and when he parked the car he ordered me to get out. I asked him to give me a second, I was still crying and I needed to clean my face before we went in. He continued to yell and order me out of the car. He threatened to pull me out by my hair if I didn’t get out. I couldn’t stand to be around him another second. I got out of the car and started walking in the opposite direction of the bar. He didn’t come after me, he went into the bar.
I walked back towards the mall where I knew I could catch a bus. 20 minutes into the bus ride he called and asked where I was. I told him I was on my way home. He told me I was stupid, he didn’t apologize. I had to get off the bus 25km before home because that was the end of the line on the weekends. Luckily I’d saved that $100 for Zazu’s things, I was able to take a taxi the rest of the way. While I was in the taxi he called and told me to make the taxi driver pull over and drop me off. He was on his way to pick me up. I did, and then I waited for him. We rode home in silence apart from him telling me that Paul told him to come get me.
It was finally time to pick up Zazu. I was so excited, and Mike was going to come with me to pick him up. Just before we were due to leave, he said he didn’t want to go. He didn’t want me to go either, he decided he didn’t want to get the bird after all. I explained to him that wasn’t an option, he was paid for, we were committed to get him. As I walked out the door to the car, Mike yelled after me that I’d “better not bring that bird home”. Fuck him. I was bringing him home.
By the time we got home, Mike had settled down a little, but he was still angry. He’d decided that he didn’t want the cage in the lounge room, and had moved it to the bathroom, where he made me keep Zazu for a week, with the door closed, not coming out of his cage. Every morning when I was getting ready for work and Mike was still asleep I would sneak him out for a cuddle, I felt so terrible for him.
Zazu was, and still is, a loud bird. Very loud. Normally he just wants attention. If you take him out of his cage, he’ll shut up. If you put a blanket over his cage, he’ll shut up (most of the time). Since Mike was home all day every day, he had to listen to Zazu. Some days Zazu was completely quiet. Other days he knew Mike was home and wanted to hang out with him and would squawk to get his attention. Mike would phone me at work, yelling at me that Zazu was screaming, and threaten to call the RSPCA to take him. At first I was terrified, but I couldn’t not go to work, Mike wasn’t working, my income was the only one. This soon became a weekly occurrence, and although it still scared me, I learned to tell myself that he was over reacting and would calm down. I still hung up the phone with my heart racing and my head spinning every time.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to go engagement ring shopping with Mike. A friend later put it into words for me. He used to be sweet, he used to be a good guy, and there were still sometimes glimpses of that guy in between all the shit, and I was hoping that I could make him be that good guy all of the time. Every time there was a glimpse of good there was new hope. I also didn’t want to be the bitch who abandoned her boyfriend when he was at his lowest with depression, so I stayed, hoping things would get better.
We went shopping, and I chose and bought my own engagement ring. He held on to it for a couple months before proposing. How did he do it? We were in a pub on a mountain, I have to admit, the view was beautiful. I was halfway through a glass of bubbly and he asked me to go buy him another drink. When I came back, the ring was in my glass. That’s it. We were engaged.