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July 25, 2016

Staying, Leaving

One day I was sitting in a small sandwich shop having lunch. At the next table was a young man, probably in his late twenties, sitting with a woman who, based on her age and the way they spoke to each other, was his mother.

I wasn't making an effort to eavesdrop, but they weren't whispering, so most of the conversation was clear. The young man was explaining why he had stayed in a terrible relationship, and how he had finally gotten out.

He had been living with a woman who was emotionally and verbally abusive. (It wasn't clear to me whether there had also been physical abuse.) They lived in an isolated area, and he didn't have a car. Somehow he had lost his job and hadn't been able to find another, so he had become financially dependent on his girlfriend.

He was afraid. His girlfriend was scary and unpredictable.

He felt trapped. Without money or transportation, in weather that made walking many miles a risky proposition, he couldn't think of a way to leave.

He had lost his self-confidence. He didn't feel that he could handle life on his own, and he didn't think anyone else cared about him.

He still had some hope. He thought that maybe if he got another job, things would get better. Maybe he and the girlfriend could talk things out, and she would change, and life would be good again, the way it was in the beginning.

He was ashamed. He didn't want to tell anyone what was going on, didn't want to admit what had happened to his life, so he didn't talk about it, didn't ask for help.

One day his father called, and in their conversation the truth came pouring out. The father said, "I'll come get you." He took the young man home.

Since then, he'd had time to think about it, go back to school, recover, and get some perspective. He was ready to explain it to his mother, and to himself -- and, indirectly, to me.

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