Good Friends at Rock Bottom

In a single day, I went from dancing in my underwear with my husband to cowering in the dark on our balcony, between a waist-high wall and a mini-fridge, seven stories above the Mediterranean Sea.

The mask my husband had been wearing, during our whirlwind courtship and brief marriage, didn’t just slip off, as it had countless times in the past, it flew across the room. He pulled a butcher’s knife out of the block and said, “If you want to get out of this apartment in one piece, you’re gonna have to kill me first.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a moment, so terrifying, that you can’t remember what happened next, but somehow I found myself hiding – knotted into the smallest version of myself – in that dark space. It doesn’t make any logical sense, even now, how I could have gotten away from him. He was nearly twice my size and intently focused on hurting me, because I found out he wasn’t the person I thought I knew. Let’s just say he was into bad sh*t, not the least of which porn (of girls younger than my 20 year old daughter), drugs, and gambling.

So, I find out I’m living with a stranger, who wants to kill me and all I can do is wait. Wait and trust that my gut will tell me when the coast was clear. I don’t know how long it took, but the sky had turned from crimson to black. Suddenly I knew I was alone in the apartment. I ran around the apartment gathering essentials: passport, phone, purse, and some clothes and then ran down the stairs, onto the street, and through a maze of alleyways in a little town in Spain. I’d been living there for a couple of months, but we lived an isolated life. I knew an older woman, but she was away in Nicaragua. I sent her a text saying I was desperate and needed a place to stay. She said people were staying in her apartment, but I was also welcome to stay there.

She contacted the Russian waitress (I only mention her nationality because she spoke only Russian and Spanish – neither of which I understood) who worked at a restaurant at the base of the apartment and told her to let me in. The young woman buzzed someone in the apartment and the door clicked, indicating that I could enter. I took the elevator to the top floor and a young boy – who spoke no English – let me in. You’d think he saw terrified, sweaty, shaking “gringos” everyday, based on the fact that he never took his eyes off PlayStation. I knew in that moment it was no place for a complete meltdown, but I didn’t know where to go.

I went to the kitchen for a glass of water and I saw a calendar affixed to the fridge. Something kept telling me to look closer; the answer was right in front of me. I looked at the photo, the date, and then it hit me… it was June.

I’d met an English woman, who was in her forties at the time, named June about two weeks prior. It was just a short, chance meeting, but she was unforgettable. Not just because of her height (she was 6′2″), but she had an essence about her that spoke volumes. Her eyes – several shades of denim – told me she was uncommonly kind; evolved, even. She must have felt a kinship too, because she gave me her number before leaving the restaurant. She said, “Just in case you ever need anything.”

Desperate, I called June and said something had gone terribly wrong with my husband, and would she mind if I stayed the night. I hardly finished the sentence before she said – in her lovely English accent – it would be an absolute pleasure to have you here. In fact, I’m going to England in the morning and you can stay for a couple of weeks if you like.

After picking up a copious amount of wine, I knocked on her door. She took the bottles from me and said, “I’m not much of a drinker myself, but I’ll share a glass.”

We shared two bottles before I went to the spare room to cry myself to sleep. The next morning, I noticed my phone was nearly flat and I didn’t have a charger. June and I had a leisurely breakfast (wherein I wallowed in self-pity), then I got ready and went to the bank to get money.

It was gone. All of it. My husband took everything. There are times in life when you think, This can’t be happening. I’d been dancing with him 24 hour before. WTF?

I got back to June’s and called the only other people I knew; a hippie couple I’d met when my husband and I were living at a campground. They’d come by to say hello to the owners while we lived there. They lived in a ranch house “on the hill,” and I’d been there with my husband once. Anyway, I called Lynne. Her Welsh husband, Steve, answered, and said four words that would change the course of their (and my) lives… “Lynne’s had a stroke.” Then, my phone went flat.

June called the campground, got the couple’s address, and called an ambulance. Meanwhile, we jumped in June’s car and tried to find our way to the remote address. We got lost, but we found the ambulance driver who was also lost. I ended up recognizing a dirt road and we led them to Lynne and Steve’s home.

I honestly thought Steve was overreacting… until I saw Lynne. She was motionless, urine stained and staring at the ceiling. I hardly knew the woman, but my heart broke seeing her. For some reason, I was the one in the ambulance with her. Steve was in the car behind us, running every red light for 20 miles. Once at the hospital, Steve asked me to stay. Of course, I obliged and we were there all day. At some point, I realized my own suffering paled in comparison to theirs.

Steve asked if we should tell my husband, and I told him the circumstances. Without a moment of hesitation, he said, “Sounds like you’re in a bit of a spot. No money, no place to live? Guess you’ll have to come live with us when June gets back from England. Stay as long as you like.”

Can you imagine… a man – who adored his wife, who’d just had a stroke – is offering to take care of me? I was 50 years old and went from earning a 6 figure income to quitting my job and moving to a new continant, to leaving my husband, losing all my money and living with strangers, sleeping on a twin-sized bed, and feeling like a complete loser because I couldn’t even contribute money for food. That went on for the most humbling 4 months I’ve ever experienced.

And you know what… it was the best personal growth period of my life. I “lost” everything to find the most generous, loving people I’ve ever known. Lynne is doing better, although she has speech aphasia (meaning she can’t speak), but we’re so bonded that I understand everything she’s saying. We laugh together more than I ever have before – with the exception of my kids, who keep me in stitches.

After her stroke, I attended every medical and therapy appointment Lynne had. During that time so many “miracles” happened, I knew everything that led up to this moment in my life – including all of the pain – was worth it.

We now have what’s called the “inner circle,” of friends including June, Lynne, Steve, me and 4 other souls that presented themselves in the aftermath of events, whose bonds are unbreakable. And, I am now working as a digital marketing content provider; earning enough money to have a 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with a balcony that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.

Oh… and the ex? He’s living with his mother in a one bedroom cottage, back in England. I hope he had fun burning through my money; it taught me that I never needed it in the first place. Love. Love is all you need.

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