I had to leave the church, but I didn’t want to leave God. So I went on another missions trip, this time to the Philippines. It was one of the BEST summers of my life!! I was definitely on a spiritual high. I loved everyone I was on the team with, I loved the Philippines, I loved God, I loved serving people and I loved being back in His will. God had forgiven me for what I had done and it felt amazing to be safely back in the palm of His hand.
After I came home from the Philippines, I realized it was high time for me to move out of my mom’s house and into my own place. I had separated myself from my beloved church and subsequently, from the invisible support system that I had there in the body of fellow believers. I didn’t quite realize that yet though. I felt confident of life in general, as I was newly home from spending several months abroad doing missions. I was on a ‘spiritual high’. I moved into a well-known touristy kind of location in Miami named Coconut Grove. Not only was it trendy, beautiful and set on the ocean, but it had quite the active night life.
There was this odd, young culture of people who lived in the Grove…they were called Grove Rats. I found them to be an eclectic and overly welcoming group who shared an interest of mine- music and playing guitar. These ‘kids’ hung out on the streets until the wee hours of the morning, sat in a circle, smoked cigarettes incessantly, played music and sang popular rock songs. I found their company so enjoyable! Not only was I learning to become a better guitar player, but I was enjoying a loud group that I could sing to my heart’s content in. You see, I’m a TERRIBLE singer. Like, REALLY terrible. I’ve always joked that it’s illegal in 7 states for me to sing out loud. And yet, I adore singing! So, I found that I could hide in this crowd singing as loud as I could because I’d be masked by the 8-12 other singers. Plus, these were the most nonjudgmental people I had ever encountered in my life. They really wouldn’t care if I couldn’t keep the tune. As I got to know the Grove Rats more personally, I found some of them to be runaways literally living on the streets and some were simply bumming around. I encountered one guy who was a runaway who I thought was kind of a genius. He ‘lived’ on one of the close uninhabited islands. He’d swim to and from there on a daily basis and when he was in the Grove, he’d hide his stuff by climbing a tree and concealing his backpack up in the tree. He stayed around for a few months and then moved on. There were a group of these kids who got together and pooled their tiny incomes from minimum wage jobs. They got a studio apartment together. I was asked over once and was shocked to see not a stick of furniture, but instead a bunch of sleeping bags overlapping each other on the floor.
Anyway, I found a roommate in another passer-by…this one a chef from Sweden. He and I rented a 2 bedroom apartment in the Grove and split the rent. At this time, I was still in college working on my Master’s degree. I was a substitute teacher by day and a waitress at a diner in the Grove by night and on the weekends. I also had a ‘third part-time job’ and that was playing guitar on the streets. Whether these Grove Rats were around or not, I saw that if you played guitar and kept your guitar case opened, people walking by would occasionally drop dollar bills in. I was living on my own and was too proud to ask my mom for financial help. From my 2 jobs, I could pay all my bills…my rent, car, gas, insurance…but I consistently had nothing left over when it came time to eat! So, I’d sit on the street, strum a few tunes and when I had received about $10, I’d stop and go use that money to eat with.
I fell in love with another guy who hung out with the Grove Rats. He wasn’t one of them. But, wow…could he play guitar and sing!! It was almost like a serenade whenever he came out for the evening and joined the group to play. Actually, when he was there, he was automatically the leader…everyone saw his talent and respected it. We became very close friends and during that time, I fell in love with him. Unfortunately, it was unrequited love. 😦
About a year after I moved into the Grove and began hanging out with the Grove Rats, a very attractive Lieutenant from the Coast Guard moved into my apartment complex. From day one, he made it very clear that he was attracted to me. But, as I was enveloped in my feelings for my guitar playing singer, I really found that I had no feelings at all for my new neighbor. His name was Joe. Joe’s hitting on me was relentless, yet fruitless for him. When he was sober, you’d never know that it bothered him as he constantly played it cool. But, when he drank, he became a mean spirited and critically outspoken person. I learned quickly to stay away from him when he drank.
The guy I was in love with left for the summer. He left the country to go visit family. Another neighbor in my apartment complex was moving away, so we had a going away party for him. As we lived within walking distance of bars, it seemed harmless. We’d go have some drinks with no worry of having to drive home. At this point, Joe hadn’t talked to me in months because he was mad that I wouldn’t respond to his advances. I didn’t really care and thought that even though Joe was going to the bar, I would just hang out with my friends and could pretty much avoid him. We had several drinks and were enjoying ourselves greatly. I started to feel tired and told my roommate’s girlfriend that I was going to walk home. I declined her offer to walk me home as it was only a few blocks away. I said my good-byes and left.
Before I even reached the road outside the bar, Joe was by my side…….
………….he completely ignored me for days. He lied to mutual friends, telling them he walked me home that night and that was it. He said he had left me alone in my apartment.
Over the next few days, he refused to even acknowledge that he knew me around the apartment complex. And shortly thereafter, my worst fears were confirmed. I was pregnant.
I confronted Joe. He began yelling at me that I was psycho and crazy and he never did anything and nothing ever happened that night. He lied, saying he had no idea what I was talking about and he walked away.
Here, I was…pregnant. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was to piss God off again and kill an innocent life by getting another abortion. I just couldn’t do it. But this was Joe’s baby. And Joe was Asian. The baby would certainly come out looking at least a bit Asian. I could carry the baby for the duration of the pregnancy and give it up for adoption. But, I knew myself. I’m such a sap that if I carried a baby for nine months, there’s no way I could give it up. I’d keep it. And if I kept the baby, would I lie or tell the truth? Do I eventually tell my child that your father raped your mother? How would that devastate an individual, knowing that they are a product of rape? Or do I lie to my child and come up with another story? Either way, I would have to look my rapist in the face on a daily basis. If I have an Asian looking baby, how could I not see my rapist’s face every time I glance at my child? What’s worse…is that even though he was denying everything at the time, I had this horrible fear that he’d want visitation rights. What the ?!?! I’m not sure where that came from, but that was something I was really worried about. I thought I’d have to coordinate with my rapist for the rest of my life over him visiting our child.
It seemed like no matter which way I went, it was a lose-lose situation. So, I took the coward’s way out and decided on an abortion. I again confronted Joe, demanding that he help me pay for it (as I didn’t have the funds to pay for it myself). He accused me of lying about being pregnant and demanded proof. Big. mistake. I took yet another pregnancy test. This time, I opened the box and laid it flat. I opened the pamphlet of directions inside and laid it flat. I took those two items, the test itself and a staple gun and waited until I saw Joe leave his apartment. Then I darted up to his apartment door, opened up the box the pregnancy test came in and staple gunned it to his front door. I remember my hands were shaking as I stapled the opened instructional pamphlet. I was glancing over my shoulders left and right as I was terrified he would be back any second. Finally, I stapled gunned the pregnancy test to his door, which declared I was pregnant. I ran downstairs and darted into hiding in my apartment as quickly as I could. I was shaking from head to toe. But, I was so pissed off at him for what he did…and on top of that, for him accusing me of lying. In the midst of a tragedy, for a fleeting moment, I felt proud for momentarily standing up for myself.
I had the abortion soon after. I didn’t have the money to pay for full anesthesia. So, I got what they referred to as ‘twilight’ anesthesia. They described it as lightly sleeping. I have a memory of waking up in the middle of the procedure, feeling my insides getting sucked out. I jumped up and screamed and startled the attendants. They jumped on me and held me down and I don’t remember anything after that, except waking up after the procedure was over.
I felt terrible. I couldn’t believe I had just taken another life. I couldn’t believe I had just been raped AGAIN.
The guy I was in love with came home from being out of the country only days after the procedure. He was the second person I told what happened. His reaction wasn’t at all what I expected. He literally seemed disgusted with me. Shortly afterwards, he told me he wasn’t really interested in being friends with me. I was devastated.
The guilt from what I did was consuming me and killing me from the inside out. When Joe delivered a personal check to me for half the cost of the procedure, I looked at it as genuine proof – this was his admission of guilt. I only saw him once after that. We passed in the parking lot…I was walking into my apartment after driving home and he was walking across the lot to the garbage dumpster, carrying a vacuum cleaner that he was throwing away. It was the only time he ever spoke to me afterwards. He made a crude joke that he should have used that vacuum cleaner…it would have been cheaper for him.
My anger boiled and brimmed consistently. Once, in a lame attempt at lashing out, I threw a blueberry muffin at his sliding glass door on his balcony. Sure enough, the next morning, that very same blueberry muffin had been smeared all over my car.
About a year later, I found myself trying to get over things still. I thought I needed closure and needed to stand up for myself and confront him by saying the words “I know you raped me” to his face. Because he was a lieutenant in the Coast Guard at the office in downtown Miami, getting a hold of his work number wasn’t difficult. I called his work and asked for him. I asked to briefly meet up with him. He said he would…and I think he did so, just because at the time, he was alarmed that I contacted him at work. He told me to meet him at his favorite restaurant in the Grove.
I did. He didn’t.
It’s the only time I’ve ever been stood up. As I was sitting there waiting for him, I was trying to maintain my nerve to say what I wanted to say. The more that time passed, the more I began to realize he wasn’t coming, and the more anger set in. Since I knew this was his favorite restaurant…a favorite place of his to take girls, I decided to write a warning to his female companions. I went into the women’s restroom and carved into all 3 stalls on the back of the doors “Joe K— is a rapist”. I went back several days later to make sure my work of art was still there and to make it stand out a bit more. I took a black permanent marker with me and colored inside the carvings. They’d have to sand that off to conceal it.
That was my last jab at him. I’ve periodically kept tabs on his location. He moved back to Minnesota and went to Law School. I wondered what that was all about and thought that perhaps he was paranoid about his law breaking and needed to know how to best defend himself. According to Linked In, he’s supposedly in Afghanistan now. Good. The farther away, the better.