Shades of Yellow Pt. 1

A while ago I talked about some scary events I endured while in a past relationship, and I also mentioned that while my boyfriend at the time offered an explanation I never took the time to really verify the events. Which most people would tend to do if they were putting their life in danger. lol. Part of it was my own young, trusting naivety, part of it was compassion for his plight, and there might have even been a tad bit of denial going on after going through so many life threatening events with him in the short time we were together.

This is the explanation he offered me when it first came up about two months into our dating relationship. Ironically enough, this guy was in and out of my life many years before we actually started dating. He grew up a few miles from where my grandparents lived during my youth, owned a popular kiosk in a local mall which I used to frequent, and for a short while worked at a local restaurant my family visited more than usual over the course of one particular summer. Really until we began working together and stuck up a friendship he was just a random stranger passing by.

What I’m writing is exactly what I remember. I know what he said, but I don’t know if he was completely honest. I never felt obligated to pursue it beyond what he told me, although if I had known years later it would become a legal issue with my writing I would have taken more initiative. Whatever happened to him was enough to inflict some serious damage. THAT I know, because I experienced the effects of it first hand.

One summer afternoon my boyfriend and I decided to hit up a local flea market to pass the time. While he was in-between jobs, he often found and sold collectibles for some extra spending cash. It started as a hobby, but came in very handy when he needed money. We wandered around most of the afternoon until we came to a stand which caught his eye. It was a specialty stand dedicated primarily to knives, but they also had Tasers, swords, and a whole bunch of other self defense paraphernalia.

He talked with the owner of the stand for a long time about purchasing a particular sword, and after she placed his order we went on our way. I hadn’t thought too much about it at the time as he already had a sword on his head board. It was a showman’s sword with a dull blade, but he insisted that he felt better with it near by. He told me that there had been people trying to break into his apartment after a young female roommate, had split up with her boyfriend and left on bad terms. She came to live with him and the girl he was dating at the time, bringing all of her drama with her. I don’t know the full extent of the circumstances surrounding all of it, but he was extremely paranoid about her ex boyfriend and his cronies breaking in, and stalking him. 

After we finished our errands and returned home for the evening, we were laying in bed and I brought it up. It was a very touchy subject with him, but I felt that if I was going to be living there and putting myself in danger I had a right to know. I still didn’t get more information than what I’ve written above, but I asked him why he didn’t just get a gun and save himself the trouble.

“I don’t like guns, and besides, what’s more scary? Some guy with a gun, or some guy running at you like a maniac with a sword?” He asked as a matter of fact.

I thought on it for a moment before replying: “Well, I guess you’re right. If some guy was running at me with a sword I guess I would run away, but what if whomever is after you has a gun? Just because you’re running at them with a sword isn’t going to stop a bullet. And why would you want to get right up next to some one to hurt them? Wouldn’t you rather be able to stop them from the top of the stairs instead of having to be right up on them?”

“That’s not the point Kelli. I’m not trying to hurt them, I’m trying to scare them into going away so I don’t have to hurt them. I just don’t like guns.” He answered.

“That’s stupid! Oh, here I am crazy man with a sword, hopefully I scare you enough that you don’t have the whits about you to shoot me.” I replied sarcastically, mocking him and his reasoning that I simply did not understand nor agree with. 

“Kelli, you just don’t understand.” He said, raising his voice and getting very upset.

“Why? What’s there to understand? Shoot someone from ten feet away and stop them, or chase them down the hallway with a sword? Come on why would I NOT choose a gun?” I yelled back.

“BECAUSE Kelli. You don’t know what it’s like to see someone get shot six times in the chest!! Watching some guy get his balls shot off simply because it’s fun!! Watching people laugh about it!! I don’t like guns okay?!” He roared back.

At that point I realized my mistake, and was immediately silenced. He was laying completely still breathing heavily, and until that point I had been sitting next to him. I immediately snuggled up under his arm and apologized.

“I’m so sorry, honey. I didn’t realize.” I said, my voice cracking, and tears welling up in my eyes. 

He didn’t respond right away, but he did pull me closer and wrap his arm around me. We laid there in silence for what seemed like forever until he finally said: “It’s okay. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” 

With that we lay there until we fell asleep. It wasn’t too long after we fell asleep I awoke to the most raw expression of fear I have ever seen from another human being. A scream came from him that I can’t even begin to describe, he started shaking, and flailing like he was fighting for his life.

“Oh God. I don’t want to die! Please! I don’t want to die! Don’t kill me! Oh, God don’t kill me!” He wailed at the top of his lungs, as tears began to stream down his face. 

I immediately jumped up in the bed scanning the room for intruders, trying to focus in the dark, as I dodged several punches from my flailing and screaming boyfriend before throwing myself on top of him screaming his name trying to wake him up, saving from whatever hell he was enduring in his dream.

“It’s okay! No one is trying to kill you, it’s okay! Wake up!” I yelled, holding him down as gently as I possibly could to keep him from knocking things off of his headboard and hurting himself. It took me practically screaming in his face for him to wake up. He didn’t even actually wake up so much as stopped dreaming. 

His breathing slowly returned to normal as his eyes briefly fluttered open.

“Kelli?” He mumbled as he reached up through my embrace with both hands and wiped the sweat and tears away from his eyes. 

“I’m here. That was a really intense dream, sweetheart. Are you okay?” I asked sitting up, and rolling back to my side of the bed.

He only coughed, clearing his throat and replied with a barely audible: “Okay.” Before he rolled over onto his stomach and immediately fell back to sleep. 

It was one of the worst night terrors I had ever seen from him. The others were intense, but very brief and short lived. This one seemed to last forever, coupled with his screaming, and sobbing I was shaken almost as if I had experienced the event myself. I sat there trying to steady my own erratic breathing and heart rate, staring first across the room, and then returning my attention to the sleeping man beside me. I placed my hand gently on his shoulder, and he flinched, began to mumble and quickly rolled over onto his back. 

“Shhh. It’s okay. I’m sorry. It’s just me. It’s just Kelli.” I whispered, hoping to stave off another nightmare. 

“Mmmhmm. Come here.” He mumbled, extending his arm.

I cautiously wiggled my way over under the blankets and lay my head onto his shoulder resting comfortably under the crook of his arm as he gave me a gentle squeeze.

“I love you. Are you okay?” I asked.

“Love you.” Was all he replied before he fell back into a deep complete sleep.

“Hello?” I asked after a few moments of silence, but this time he had finally returned to a complete and sound sleep. 

I lay there next to him, resting my head on his chest for the remainder of the night, well into the next morning until he began to stir from sleep.

“Good morning.” I said, rolling away from him back to my side of the bed stretching my stiff neck. “Do you remember what happened last night?” I asked not wasting anytime.

“Uh… no? Why? What happened?” He asked, immediately tense and concerned, as he brushed the lingering sleep from his eyes and stared up at the ceiling.

“You had a nightmare. You were screaming don’t kill me over and over again. What happened to you?” I asked, snuggling back up next to him. 

We both lay there in silence as I listened to his breathing quicken and his heart rate elevate. It was very much uncharacteristic of him not to have some sort of reply ready for any question. Even if he was merely evading the truth finding him speechless was practically unheard of.

“I mean, you don’t have to talk about it if it upsets you, but I really do think I need to know. If we’re going to be living together, and someone is trying to kill you it’s pretty important.” I said, gently trying to persuade him.

“Well…” He began with a heavy sigh. “When I was younger I started selling weed in high school. It was just a little bit here and there. Basically selling what I didn’t want with a mark up. I was good at it, and people started to notice. Eventually I was approached by these guys and they’re like: “hey, you’re on our turf and you’re not going to sell any more shit, got it?” They took my stash and that was that. I stopped for a while, but I missed the extra cash and people kept asking me about it so I got back into it trying to be more careful, but it didn’t last long. One night I’d been hanging out with some friends and was heading to my car to go home and these guys jumped me. Next thing I remember is being downtown in an ally on my knees with a gun in my face. The only reason they didn’t kill me is because I had better sales than any of their dealers and they wanted me to sell for them, but I had to do it on their terms and I wouldn’t get nearly as much profit. I agreed, and after that I found out they were involved with a gang, I’m not sure… you might have heard of them, the _____?” (I’m purposely leaving that detail out, it’s not important to the story and I don’t need any search engines or web crawlers picking it up and leading people here) He asked, pausing to catch his breath and regain his composure after recanting such difficult memories.

“Yeah. I’ve heard of them. It certainly explains why you don’t like [color associated with the gang]” I answered, also fighting back tears listening to his story. I wasn’t upset that he had kept his criminal past from me, but I was more concerned about everything that he had endured. It shed so much light on many of his other behaviors, and I grieved for him. 

“Yep… That would be why I don’t like [color]. So I dealt for them for a while, and eventually they assigned me two parks for distribution, and it wasn’t just weed anymore… that part didn’t bother me so much, but seeing some of the things I saw. Watching people get shot, and killed just… for the hell of it. Half the time there wasn’t even a real reason, they thought it was just fun. They laughed. They just laughed… one day I just left. I went home and told my dad everything. I couldn’t live like that anymore. Dad got me the help I needed, and I testified against a whole bunch of people. I had to change my name, and I’m hiding. If anyone from my past finds me, they’ll kill me. They won’t ask questions. They won’t hesitate. They’ll kill me.”  He finished, a quiet note of dispair in his voice. 

I wasn’t sure what to say. I had asked for this, but never in my wildest dreams expected him to be so forth coming with everything. I just lay next to him, trying to gather my thoughts.

“If you don’t want to be with me anymore, it’s okay. I understand. You don’t have to stay, if you don’t want to.” He blurted out breaking the ominous awkward silence that had been growing since he finished his story.

“What?” I asked, genuinely confused. The thought of leaving him had never crossed my mind, and I was unsure where he had gotten the idea that I would even remotely want to. “I love you. Just because you made a few mistakes in the past doesn’t mean I’m going to leave you. Thank you for telling me. Now that I’m aware of what’s going on, I can help you. We don’t ever have to talk about it again, but you don’t have to go through it alone.” 

“Seriously? You want to stay with me? Why?” He asked, just as confused by my response as I was with his initial “it’s okay to break up with me” blurb. 

“Well… you’re cute, you’re funny, and you chose to leave that life behind. You could have stayed, and you didn’t. You’re a good person. Why would I NOT want to be with you?” I said, rolling over propping myself up so I could look him in the eye. 

“I guess when you put it that way, I am pretty awesome.” He replied with a smirk. 

“Yeah, well don’t get excited. There’s definitely room for improvement, but you are pretty awesome. I’ll keep you.” I replied, returning his smirk glad to see the mood had lightened. 

“Do you know what makes me even MORE awesome?” He asked, with a coy tone in his voice. “This!” He said as he flipped me over onto my back wrapped me up in the sheets and tickled me before bouncing out of bed, gleefully calling: “I get the bathroom first! Ha!” 

And just like that, the moment was past. I kept my word and never mentioned anything he said that morning again until now writing it down many years later. It came up a few more times during our time together, but it was never discussed between us only a silent understanding when things got scary.

Or, what he told me was all just an elaborate lie because he was too ashamed/traumatized to share the truth. Either way… he endured something life altering and horrible which made all of his other bullshit so much easier to forgive. Even before I actually took the initiative to go back to school and formally study psychology I was always interested in the subject, constantly researching and reading articles. I didn’t have the level of understanding about trauma that I do now after going through my own recovery, but I knew witnessing events such as the ones he described could leave a life long impression, altering behavior. It gave him a free pass in my book. It still does, honestly.

The apartment truly wasn’t in his name, which I found out later when the land lord showed up asking about why [insert fake name here] hadn’t paid the rent yet. I had no idea who she was talking about, and didn’t put two and two together, but thankfully she wasn’t concerned with his name so much as she was with her rent money. There was also an incident soon after I moved in, but before we started dating, (there’s another post coming up about that) regarding a note hidden and scribbled with a few monetary amounts.

When I first moved in with him, his apartment was clean as far as lack of dirt, but cluttered and disorganized. There were stacks of paper scribbled with notes, or scores from various games littered all across the house. It was fairly difficult to decipher his handwriting in general and most of the notes were written in short hand. I generally ignored them until he called me and asked me to find one for him. He told me the general area where I should look, but I don’t remember exactly what he said it was for. Once I found it, I discovered it was several monetary figures followed by a jumble of letters, which seemed to be completely random. I rattled off the list of figures and paused at the end trying to figure out what in the world those last few letters could be. 

“Okay, so $125, $234, $75 and… is that all?” He asked, sounding very distracted.

“Yeah, and there’s one other thing, but I can’t figure out what it is.” I answered, turning the note back and forth in my hand.

“Do what, now?” He asked just as confused by my statement as I was by the cryptic letters.

“I really don’t know. It’s just a bunch of letters. (I listed them off, but I’m leaving them blank here because of what they are, a common call sign associated with a particular gang) What the hell does that mean?” I clarified, trying to make a word out of the nonsense. 

“Wait, what did you call it?” He laughed, at my attempted fictional word. 

“Well yeah. I mean I think it’s ______ it’s definitely something… unless that’s a g? I can’t read your writing!”

“No, it’s not a g. That’s all that’s written down? Nothing else?” He asked, avoiding my question about the meaning behind the random letters.

“No, that’s it. What’s does that last thing mean?” 

“It’s nothing. Just something I scribbled down to see if my pen was working. That’s all that’s written on there? Those three amounts?” He asked again, sort of answering my question and avoiding it at the same time.

“Yep. That’s it.” I answered. “When are you coming home?”

“Thanks, uh… I’m not sure. Don’t wait up for me. I’ll be there when I get there. I gotta go. I’ll call you when I’m on my way home. Bye.” He answered, hanging up the phone sounding very flustered. 

I returned the note to it’s proper place underneath the CD rack and went on about my business not really paying attention to anything the note said, aside from the random letters. That stuck with me for some reason, and I’m glad it did.

There was also this quickly passing incident as he picked me up from work one afternoon.

I had endured a particularly challenging day at work one morning, and my boyfriend came to pick me up. My car was in the shop, and he had been my chauffeur for several days. He had worked with the team I spent the afternoon working with, so just about as soon as I got into the car I began to vent and rant about my frustrating day. 

At this point I don’t even remember why I was so upset, but in the middle of my ranting I mentioned being so aggravated that I wished I could slash their tires. Of course I had no real intentions of acting upon my rant, but it felt better to yell about it in the safety of my boyfriend’s company.

He gave an amused chuckle as I finished my rant and turned to look at me momentarily taking his attention off of the road: “Do you even know how to slash a tire?”

“Well, no.” I answered honestly. “That’s not the point!”

“Well, there’s actually two ways you can do it. The like standard slash that completely flattens the tire, or the way I prefer to do it.” He began.

“The way you prefer to do it? How many tires have you slashed? You make it sound like it was a hobby or something. Let me just go slash tires all over the place.” I retorted with a huff, still in a sour mood.

“It wasn’t a hobby, but I did slash quite a few tires when people didn’t pay their debts. It was kind of like my signature because I never got caught. You take the knife and just sort of stab it in the sidewall. It doesn’t go flat right away, so even if they catch you doing something by their car they won’t really be able to tell what you did. By the time the tire actually goes flat it could have been anything. Road damage, or maybe they ran over a screw driver laying in the driveway or something. You don’t want to do it right after they make you mad either. Give it some time, and hit them when they least expect it. I never forget when people screw me over, I just wait to react. The longer you wait, the more they will never suspect you.” 

He never talked much about his past, and each time he did it brought about horrible night terrors and mood swings so I did my best not to mention it. Every time it did come up, however briefly, I listened intently eventually filling in the blanks. Or at least trying, but with out any hard evidence it really is all theoretical, just as much now as it was when we were together. I could share more of my little bits and pieces, but I’m choosing not to. I have absolutely no idea what or whom the money or the note was for. Just as I have no real way to verify his tire slashing “signature”, aside from having his method used against me a little over a year ago. It worked much like he said it would, aside from the fact I immediately suspected that he was involved and confronted him about it. lol. Perhaps he did just scribble the old familiar jumble of letters down testing his pen writing down monetary figures for something completely unrelated? And perhaps there really is someone else out there who stabs at tires instead of slashing them properly? I doubt it, but at this point virtually anything is possible.

And yet, after all of those things coming to light, both during our time together and afterwards, I still have a difficult time really getting angry with him. Even when he says or does something outlandish. I mean, you really can’t be angry with someone trying to survive life the only way they know how. Hatred? No. Accountability? Yes. Anything less is enabling any resulting dissociation or delusion he might have suffered as a result of trauma. WHATEVER the trauma may be. I’m fairly certain, if what he told me was NOT true, it falls into one of those two categories, where it was easier for him to adopt a story that was partially true, but not so true that it would challenge his sense of self which he had been trying to rebuild since the event(s).

Side note: For those in my audience thinking to themselves “well what about YOU? You suffered trauma, so don’t you run the same risk of dissociation and delusion?” The answer to that is: yes.

Read back through the archives to some of my earlier writing regarding all of this mess and it’s there. Like a glaring beacon with flashing arrows pointing to my unhealthy state of mind. It’s honestly a little bit embarrassing looking back at it, but I’ve left it to document my progress. I’ve not been immune to it, but I have worked past it. 

There are also a few more memories I have from childhood that seem to coincide with his story, but this post is getting too long so I’m going to split it up a little bit.

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