As I was working on revisions for my WIP, I was stunned by another media story - the untimely and unfortunate suicide of Robin Williams - and it got me to thinking.
As people, filled with varying emotions, we all have individual struggles to face, some stronger, seemingly more insurmountable than others. The key is to never give up. Ever. You won't ever have a chance to win the battle if you throw in the towel. You can't have a chance at life if you give in to death.
As I thought about this, I thought of how I had come to such a strong belief, how it was ingrained in my very being and how it had such significance in my own life.
Sadly, in amongst the beautiful events that occur in our lives, there are those whose lives have been affected by violence, self-inflicted, or otherwise. There are those who perpetrate the violence, having a resounding affect on their victims, then move on, sometimes to reign terror on another, sometimes stopped by law enforcement. Or those who aim the violence towards themselves, leaving loved ones behind filled with un-ending grief, guilt and unanswered questions.
Whatever the how or why and no matter the conclusion, in the end it's all the same - lives are irreparably altered.
I was one of these people. And this is my story.
Forewarning: The following story is based on true events, some of which may be disturbing. Nonetheless, I will relay my story with as much detail as possible, in the order in which it occurred, allowing you, the reader, an opportunity to live through the experience as I did. Thus, be forewarned, my story is not a quick one, but the message is in the details and thus, I relay them.
Other than family, close friends and police/prosecutors, who supported me during this event, this is the first time I have ever spoke of that day publicly. The reason I have decided to speak now, year's past, is for this simple fact: While the violent act has an affect on our life (and that of those we love), bringing with it lasting effects, it does not define who we are. Nor does it steal our dreams - unless we allow it.
To start my story, we must return to a different period in my life...
I was a highly successful runway/high fashion model, aged nineteen, who had recently been signed to represent many products that you see/use in your everyday life (Revlon, Black Velvet, etc.). My introduction into the modeling world was rapid - and highly successful. I had no idea what to prepare for. In reality, there was no way I could have prepared for the unexpected.
With my vast print exposure came a lot of attention, mainly from men. They would send pictures and, researching what I liked, gifts. They would write; marriage proposals and dates were the norm request. Many, I would recognize as they followed me to various shows. All of this was cute, and sometimes a little irritating, but you quickly learned it came with the job. However, what I had no way of knowing was that, behind the scenes, one of my "fans" had developed a sickening obsession with me.
I soon found out. The revelation almost killed me.
The day that my life altered started simply enough. Strangely enough, I remember the weather. It had been a beautiful day in Seattle; the temperature was warm, if a bit humid and white fluffy clouds filled the skies, as if drawn by God's very hand.
At the time, I lived in a spacious apartment that was all mine. I had spent my first paycheck decorating; fluffy furniture, an exquisite bed and of course, a prime stereo system. Had to have my music. I loved my home. It was the one place I went to for comfort, for solace, to hide from the racket of the world.
I had just returned home after a prolonged absence (at shows) and was exhausted. Slipping the key into the lock, I pushed it, with the intention of sinking it into the lock. Instead of hitting the back of the lock's chamber, as I pushed, my door swung open.
Right then and there, I should have stopped and listened to my instinct, which was screaming at me to turn and run. But I didn't. As the door slowly opened and revealed my apartment, I was instantly ensnared. I couldn't have walked away had someone been dragging me. Why you may ask? It's a good question, isn't it? And it's one that I thought of many times over the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years that followed.
If only I had walked away.
You knew better. You fucking knew better. You fucking knew better, yet still you went in! What the fuck were you thinking? I can't count the number of times I yelled this, berating myself, using the words to propel my urge to fight harder as I struggled to heal massive injuries. You dumb-ass idiot! You. Fucking. Knew. Better. This is what you get. This is what you deserve for being so god-damned dumb.
By that one action, the course of my life had been altered. I couldn't have changed a damn thing; the damage to my belongings had already been done. Your "stuff" isn't worth jack-shit if you're dead. If only.
Still, all I could fixate on was the damage I could see, as I looked towards the front room. The glimpse of it stirred something in me that seemed to overwhelm all common sense. All I could think about was how hard I had worked to earn the money and the care that had gone into selecting each item. And that, for some unknown reason, someone had destroyed it all. Someone had entered my space and touched my things. Stupid. Meaningless in the grand scope of things.
As if in a daze, mouth hanging open, I stepped into the entryway, dropping my suitcases at the door. You know the saying "It's the little things that matter?" In this case, I couldn't use a better reference to describe that one action. Had I not dropped those suitcases where I did, I would likely be dead.
Walking forward, I first passed my bathroom, then bedroom door, which lined the entry hallway, but continued forward. My focus was set, drawing me forward. Rounding the small bend in the hallway, the front room finally came into full view.
Shocked, my feet stumbled in the carpet as I moved forward, witnessing the full extend of the damage. Everything was ruined. Electronics had (obvious) liquid poured over them, my couch and chairs had been shredded and the windows splattered with...something. Stunned and in a daze, I walked forward, entering my kitchen.
The damage was oppressive.
Canned food had been removed from the cabinets, opened and strewn all over the kitchen. The refrigerator door was standing open and all the food had been emptied, joining the mess on the walls, floor, windows and counters. It looked as if a food bomb had exploded; every surface imaginable covered with varying items, empty cans and packaging littering the counters and floor.
The cabinets doors had been ripped off of their hinges, several still hanging, as if remnants of someones rage. The stove's burners had been turned on high; paper towels and dish towels piled upon the red-hot burners, some already igniting and beginning to burn. It was obvious that someone had recently attempted to start a fire. It was also obvious that that same someone had a hell of a lot of rage.
Quickly turning off the burners, I looked around for something to remove the burning towels from the stove. Using a pair of tongues, I secured the towels, placing them in the sink and briefly turning on the water. Once satisfied a fire wasn't imminent, I turned, leaving the kitchen and headed towards the bathroom.
The bathroom was a repeat of the kitchen; products had been sprayed/splashed over the walls and floor and the shower curtain and bath mats had been shredded to minuscule pieces. Fortunately, my bathroom was small, so the amount of damage was minimal. The same could not be said for my bedroom.
As I entered my bedroom, the first thing I noticed was that there were slashing red marks covering everything - walls, bedding, closet doors, mirrors, windows - making the room appear as if it had been spayed with blood. In matching red (which was later found to be lipstick), written across the surface of my mirrors, were the words WHORE, SLUT and CUNT.
As with the remainder of my home, my precious bedding had been shredded and red marks marred the pillows, looking as if someone had laid a bloody head upon them. It was a grisly sight and one that chilled me to the bone.
How long had this person been here? Why hadn't anyone heard them? Is it someone I know? Why would anyone do this? These were a few of the thoughts I remember having as I saw the utter destruction that surrounded me. I couldn't comprehend what I was seeing. I couldn't understand why someone would do this. But I remember one thing that stood out clear as day - RAGE.
Even stronger in my room, the feeling of rage lingered, poisoning the very air and raising chills along the surface of my skin. Something was wrong...still. I knew it. My instincts were screaming at me RUN! Get the fuck out! It was as if I was nearing the epicenter of all of that rage, evil.
Still, I ignored it...
Traversing the bloody-appearing scene in my bedroom, I headed towards my armoire, whose mirrors held the crude words in full, red, block writing for all to see. I was in a daze. I could see what had happened - that much was obvious - but I couldn't understand, no I couldn't process it.
Sliding the first drawer open, my mind instantly revolted and my stomach sickened at the sight. It was bad enough that my home and belongings had been destroyed, but what I saw in the drawer... Strangely enough, I remember that shaking me. To my very core.
The drawers in my armoire were where I held my varying collection of undergarments; panties, bras, hose, garters and silk teddys. And, by the looks of it, they had suffered the worst of someones wrath. Nothing was discernible - I couldn't have identified a thing - only memory could have provided for what once existed.
As I sifted my hands through the pieces, one certainty became immediately evident - every single piece had been first drawn on with red (lipstick), then shredded with a very sharp object. No matter the color or style, they all shared in this similarity.
By this point, I was likely in shock, but the feelings I remember as if they happened yesterday. I remember feeling physically nauseous for the first time. I remember the bitterness of the bile, as its filled my mouth, with saliva pooling soon after. I remember the feeling of my stomach churning, as I leaned to the side, heaving. I remember fighting not to be sick - with everything in me. This person had brought hell to my home. I was determined to not add to it.
Finally able to corral the feelings, my sight went to the closet doors, where I instantly noticed one was slightly ajar. God no! Not my clothes! Please, not my fucking clothes too! Funny thing to think, hu? No matter, I clearly remember that was my first thought.
In a rush to open the closet doors and see if there was damage, I stumbled over the mess of shredded material I had thrown to the floor. That one moment, it seemed, was enough to let my brain process and come back online, my rational pushing impulses to the side. I personally like to believe, like several other things that happened that day, it was my Guardian Angel interfering. Again, had that delay not happened, things would have turned out far more dire...
Now slowly approaching the closet doors, I reached to slide open the closed door, rather than the one left askew. It was in this moment where everything seemed to slow, almost to a standstill. I remember the room being abnormally quiet. So quiet, I could hear the sound of the metal tires as they ran across the rail. I could hear my clock ticking in the background. Everything went utterly still.
The door now partially open, allowing me to briefly scan the contents, it was instantly obvious that my clothes had fared no better, as my eyes filled with a sea red-colored slashes of material. It looked as though someone had let loose a Great White in the middle of my closet.
Fully opening the door, I lifted my hands to the hangers and slid piece by piece to the side, briefly examining the damage to each. Every article of clothing was shredded. Torn asunder. Red streaks covered every surface, appearing as though my clothes had been bloodied by Jason's shredded knives. Stunned, I started rifling through, moving the hangers aside as I exposed more of the horrid scene. Little did I know what else I would find, hiding in the clothes.
I remember feeling rage - mine or the other person's I still have no idea. I remember feeling so violated. And it was stupid in the grand scheme of things, but I remember thinking about how much this was all going to cost to replace and wondering if my insurance would cover it. I remember the stress brought on just thinking of how I would manage the time to do it all; knowing the only way was to ask my Mom for help. I remember hearing the sound of the hangers as they slid across the wooden bar. It was the last sound I remember hearing before hell visited earth.
Having finally succeeded in pulling the clothes apart, I noticed that they were still clinging together in the middle. My attention was directed upward, as I struggled to separate the clothes, so I didn't see what was coming...until it was too late.
The bunch had finally separated and, faster than I could track, I was brought to my knees in agonizing pain. Pain the likes of which I'd never felt in my life...to that point.
Standing, hidden amongst the clothes was (what do I call him? Person? Man? Those terms all seem to kind, since they establish humanity. Invader? Yes. Henceforth, he shall be referred to as Invader.) Invader.
In synchronicity, the clothes separated as he lifted his leg and, full-force, struck me between the legs with his heavy, black biker boots. I went down like a rock, pain stealing the breath from my lungs. It felt as if my pelvis had been shattered by the sheer force of his kick, having lifted my feet off of the ground before I crashed to it, in a heap.
Through the haze of pain, I looked up and saw something that, still to this very day, sends chills skating across the surface of my skin. Invader was standing amidst the clothes, separating them further as he looked down at me, a greedy smile on his face and his eyes filled with rage...with murder. I knew I had but seconds to get out of there. I also knew that if I didn't, my parents would be getting a call that all parents dreaded.
Survival instinct kicking in, I struggled to rise to my feet, but was unable to. I tried to scream, but couldn't, as the pain robbed me of every sound but for a faint whimper. Instead, not looking back, I reached my arms out and, pulling myself along the carpet, used my feet to propel my body forward. With each movement of my feet, the pain was insufferable. There were several points where black dots overcame my vision as I struggled to remain conscious. I knew, I knew, if I didn't, I would be dead.
I had one goal in mind - I had to get to the front door.
Having freed himself of my closet, he stood behind me, watching my struggle. I only looked back once and never again, for when I saw him, I saw death. He was playing with me, like a cat paws a mouse and I knew it.
Thankfully, the door to freedom wasn't far outside my bedroom door. I just had to get there, had to reach it and I knew I could get help. Roger was right across the hallway, Stephanie down a door. But it took forever to reach it, as I had to stop with each forward movement, letting the pain and black dots recede before I tried again. All the while, he stood behind me...waiting...
As I finally neared the door, I thanked God that I had dropped those damn suitcases right there, as they had served to prop the door open. If I had been faced with having to open the door... Yeah.
Already in unimaginable pain, as I reached the door and realized safety was near, I heard a loud explosion and felt a searing burn race across my flank. It was a burn like nothing I had ever experience - until or since then - deep and all-encompassing. Still, seeing the open door before me, I tried to struggle forward. Unfortunately, whatever he had done (and I didn't yet know) had now rendered me completely immobile.
Laying at the doorway, feeling as if my life was going to end on the cusp of freedom, my body was pushed into the plush carpet with force - as he walked over my body. First my legs, then my rear, back and finally my head. He didn't step around me - he stepped on me - as he walked out the door and disappeared from my sight.
Lying there, I had no idea what the explosion had been, only knowing it had done something to me, I was consumed in agony as everything in me gave out. I had nothing left to fight. I was consumed in pain so wretched, so awful, that to this day I still occasionally dream of it. Any pain I have experienced since then, including delivering two children, paled in comparison.
I would later learn that the explosion I had heard had been a gun shot and, while it caused unbelievable grief in my life (to this day), ironically, it also saved my life. For it was his desperation to end my life that caused him to shoot me, bringing the attention of my neighbors and chasing him away. That is why he left. He didn't leave because he was done with me; he left because the door across the hall was opening.
At the time, all I knew was the face of an angel before me, as my neighbor leaned down and stroked my hair, begging me to hold on, that help was coming. I remember hearing the stress in his voice and, strangely, wondering what had him so upset. I remember the expression on his face and I remember wondering what had him so upset that he looked like that. It's strange what your mind conjures, to help you, in a life and death situation.
But one thing I will always remember is the comfort he offered me. Against his obvious fear for me and, (he later told me) against concerns that Invader would return, he stayed there with me, soothing me, until help arrived. It felt like forever. It was only minutes. At times I felt no pain. At times it was so uncontrollable I wretched. I remember thinking of my Mom and wanting her so badly, like a little girl needs her mommy to tend to a scratch. All the while, he was there. I will remember his kindness until the day I leave this plain.
In the end, I went through months of surgeries, physical therapy, nightmares and panic attacks...and always the pain. Pain and I got to be on really good terms. The damage Invader had done was extensive. The initial kick had instantly shattered my pelvis. The explosion I had heard, followed by the searing burn had been from a gunshot. Invader had shot me with a 357 Eagle Talon bullet, shattering my hip and causing extensive vascular and nerve damage, etc.
|Taken months after hospital release|
I was told I would be lucky to walk again. I walked. I was told I would likely never have children. I have two beautiful children. To this very day I have permanent nerve damage and, at times, have pain flare out-of-control, but I'm alive. I am alive. I won you fucking bastard.
You may ask, who was Invader and what happened to him? Turns out he was a man (I didn't know) who had seen me, become obsessed with me and he had been stalking me for months, taking note of my schedule, planning his attack. He just hadn't planned on my fighting. Fucker.
What's worse? This was during, what I call, pre-Nicole Brown-Simpson days, when DV calls didn't warrant the attention they do now. After his attempted murder, he fled to England, where he had family who hid him. Several years after this, I suffered YEARS of the son-of-a-bitch showing up, stalking me from location to location. I never knew how he found me, but he always did - and he was always long gone by the time police arrived.
I met my future husband during this rough period of my life - he was God-sent as far as I am concerned. This September, we will celebrate twenty years of our marriage. He was there for me during the roughest time-period in my entire life. He chased Invader off, more times than I can count. He would stay with me, holding me, comforting me, when fear would overwhelm even my strong constitution.
Out of the fires of hell, an angel was sent to me.
Out of the fires of hell, two angels grew wings.
Out of the fires of hell, my family was born.
And for what I have today, I would live it all again.
In ending, if my story has reached one person who is struggling, encouraging them to fight, then it was worth re-living it all again. Never give up. Never give in. Don't let anyone tell you CAN'T - and if they do - say I WILL.