All of us have put in, what is lovingly called “community service” at some point in our lives. Whether we were bamboozled, mesmerized, or volunteered on our own, every now and then we allow ourselves to become: stuck on stupid , waiting on dumb to come with an answer from clueless . We allow ourselves to be susceptible to others’ vulnerability.
For women, it may be the nurturing aspect of our personalities — expecting more, getting less, and drowning in silent disappointment. For men, it may be the provider factor — they expect less and actually get more.
Be it nurture or provide, it compels us to move forward into mass hysteria — lose our mind in ten minutes or less when we fall through a slot for stupidity. Perhaps we need the experience or feel the need for personal gratification. Either way, community service is pre-ordained–most walk into it with eyes wide open, only to receive a black eye of disappointment for the effort.
When we can empower someone to redirect their lives or way of thinking, or when there is significant improvement where a total metamorphosis occurs, leaves us with a feeling which nothing else on earth can compare. It’s the fruits of our labor, tilling the soil, sowing the seed, watching it take root, seeing it grow, and enjoying the harvest. Well not always, since greed and need have become a priority in the “service” industry. But the crop is plentiful and the laborers are not as few as we may think. Some laborers are willing to work like hound dogs in heat on a hot summer day. But what is the pay off? How big is the price tag? What happens when community service goes bad?
* * *
“My wife doesn’t know how to treat me. She’s cold, distant, uncaring and we just don’t communicate.”
The words echoed in Ann’s mind
She had countered with silence. What could she say. He had signed up for the long program–marriage. Unfortunately for her, the “short” program seemed to spread out so far in her future, the “M” word was only a dream.
Ann worked as an account assistant for one of the largest hotel chains in Chicago. She met Jason, who had started as a doorman and after a stint at University of Illinois, had worked his way into the Financial Director position for the ten locations in their area.
Ann was his assistant, a single mother with an eight-year old child, who lived on the south side of Chicago. Jason was married, had four children and one on the way. He often talked about his frustrations with his wife being an alcoholic and that she was not affectionate. Those frustrations fell on deaf ears. Anne could care less.
The two worked long, grueling hours, sometimes from the wee hours in the morning to the late midnight hours. Weekends at home were becoming scarce. Jason had been buried in his office for three hours and needed to take a break. In the middle of searching for last journal, he felt overwhelmed and yelled, “Ann, I need you to find this last project so we can get out of here!”
When Ann walked in, Jason grabbed her by the arm, pinned her to the wall, his first intent was to let her know how much he appreciated her staying late. Instead he said, “I like the way you carry yourself,” he said, softly. “You’re so smart for your age. I know you’re struggling to make ends meet–I can help. I’m falling in love with you.”
“You’re married. There’s no way I can even think about getting with you,” she replied, trying to get out of his reach.”
He held her tight within his arms. “Then we have two ways to deal with it. I can either take care of you or just pay you for . . . “.
He had said the magic word. Ann did need the extra money. Maybe she could overlook the fact that he was not her type. And since he was in charge of funding, petty cash and employee travel, she could see the benefit in more ways than one. The fact that he was totally unappealing and had that itty bitty problem of being married suddenly began to dissipate. Greed kicked in, and another community service victim had staked her claim.
Every Friday became their day. Jason never fell short of his promise. In fact, after eight months of dating, diamond earrings, a new car and a new condo, Ann had began to fall in love with him–forgetting all about his unappealing looks. Being twenty-five years her senior and having a family had conveniently slipped her mind. Community service then became the natural order of the day: he provided the money, she gave her time and body.
As time went on, James became overly possessive, demanding and controlling. As her supervisor their personal relationship affected his judgment on the job.
After stalking her constantly with unannounced visits, 3:00 a.m. calls and job harassment Ann called it quits and move on. It was bad enough that she was messing with a married man, but a crazy one that thought that she was his wife. Time out for crazy!
Getting away from Jason was easier said than done. He hired a private investigator which followed her every move. Then he threatened to kill her and any one she was involved with.
After six months of living in hell, being told her every move, no privacy, control and suffocation Ann finally told Jason, “I’m not going to live like a slave! If you want to kill me go ahead. Get it over,because I’m through.”
Ann’s mother talked with Jason, assuring him, “the best thing to do is let Ann go. If she returns to you, it’s meant to be. You have too much to lose–your wife, your children–your job, and the way you’re doing it just isn’t going to cut the grain.”
* * *
Community service gone bad: falling into a relationship strictly out of need to gain with no thought to who is being hurt by the action. Think twice before volunteering for this type of community service.
I’m not quite sure what driving source makes us volunteer our emotions, especially when our hearts and souls signal Caution! Stop! Slow down! and all out Danger signs! — a long the way. When that’s the case, relationships are riding the brakes even before it leaves the parking lot. Let’s be real, most people know from the gitty-up there’s no real chemistry, no big sparks, no glitter — yet proceed to give it a try.
Maybe as we get older, we aren’t getting a whole lot of action. That certainly can lead to a loss of judgment, spawned by “lack of companionship” or “lack of sex” and another, called, “lack of self worth,” that affect the brain and cause an equally dreadful condition — “lack of common sense.”
Perhaps it’s been a while since someone has shown even the slightest interest and the places below our navels are getting ready to erupt like a 200-year-old volcano. Maybe we’ve been single too long or just don’t want to be alone any longer.
Whatever the reason, we meet people who appear to be nice, caring souls (and for the most part they are until the Nightmare on Elm Street or Fatal Attraction side of them emerges).
They appear to be able to communicate and carry themselves in a manner comparable to our lifestyle, so we attempt to establish an icy-hot relationship — red flags be damned. The only difference is, sometimes we acknowledge that we notice the red flags, but still choose to embrace the caution sign instead of the stop sign. Now, if we did that at a real traffic sign on the corner of Fifth and Main, we’d be taking a chance with our life — just as surely as we do in relationships . . .
Beverly married Vincent, her high school sweetheart, as soon as they graduated from Calumet High School. They had one child, along with the perfect home built from the ground up, (including the standard deck, outdoor sauna, swimming pool and movie room). For all intents and purposes they were “living the life.” Everything was rolling along the highway of their dreams–Beverly was a real estate broker, Vincent, a construction supervisor.
The loving couple had just returned from England a week before and Vincent had dressed casually for his Friday night Spades game with the guys. He kissed her before he walked out the door, and if the usual night held true, she wouldn’t see him until the next day.
Beverly had drifted into a deep sleep when she was awakened by the phone. A 2:00 a.m. call from the police was not a good sign. She learned after the raspy voiced officer imparted the news, that Vincent had been killed in an automobile accident.
Her life would never be the same. Beverly occupied her time by staying fit and healthy. Money was not a problem because Vincent left her well off. But the ten years she had loved the man who had stolen her heart, was just something that could not be replaced over night.
Now as a forty-three year old, Beverly sat in the family room, reflecting on how fast time moves when one doesn’t pay attention. She had married Vincent when she was eighteen, he was killed when she was thirty-three, and ten years later she needed some companionship but didn’t want to be committed to anyone. The pain of losing again was something she could not bear.
Beverly went to the local gym every morning except the weekends. For the first time since she could remember, she decided to get up Saturday morning and hit the gym. As she walked the treadmill, she glanced up in the mirror just in time to see a fine young man staring back at her. Nearly six feet tall, blacker than the proverbial Ace of Spades, muscles, muscles, his whole body was muscles! Oh, my God , she thought, skipping a step or two on the mill, where have you been hiding?
His teeth whiter than a bleached out T-shirt. She tried to ignore him, but he wouldn’t take his eyes off her. She moved on to another machine. He wasn’t letting her out of his sight. Finally he walked over to her and extended her hand. “I’m Carl.”
“Beverly,” she said, placing her small, delicate hand in his.
“I work here on weekends.”
She smiled up at him, noticing his gaze lowering to her breasts. “That explains it.”
“Explains what?” he said, his eyebrows drawing in.
“Why I haven’t seen you before.” She tired to move round him, heading for the bench press. He followed as though in a trance. Suddenly She turned to face him. “How old are you anyway?’
“Thirty-three,” he said, giving her a toothy smile. He looked more like twenty-three.
Turns out that even twenty-three would have been a huge lie. By the time Beverly figured out Carl was jailbait she had fallen in love and it was much too late. She literally took care of him, bought a car, clothes, paid the rent on his apartment, set him up with an expense account. You name it the eighteen-year old had it.
Beverly knew he would mess around from time to time, but that didn’t bother her. Carl knew whom he belonged to–and she made sure to remind him of that fact with every thread of evidence of her presence–jewelry, trips and impromptu gifts. Carl had even fathered two children that Beverly eventually helped take care of. No one was a threat. She had everything she wanted–and made sure Carl had everything he needed and wanted, all rolled up in a “made by Beverly” design.
By the time Carl turned thirty-six, he had attempted on more than one occasion to taper himself away from Beverly. Somehow, he didn’t have the heart flat-out let her know he wanted his freedom. He had been dating a young lady for eight months and was very fond of the woman. They had begun to spend a lot of time together, limiting the amount of time he had for Beverly.
The truth of the matter was he had fallen in love with Jean. She was warm, wonderful and she looked to him for guidance and encouragement. This new woman’s two children and his children got along like bees and honey. Everyone in Carl’s family and all of his friends knew about Jean. They waited to see exactly what would happen with the “rich bitch,” when she found out that her young rooster had crossed the road to “cock-a-doodle-doo” in another hen house.
One day Jean and Carl were into a hot and heavy lovemaking session, when a knock on the door startled them both. Carl jumped out of bed put a towel over his genitals, only to answer the door and find Beverly on the other side.
Carl’s eyes bucked wide, but he composed himself saying, “Beverly, please don’t make a scene.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but he didn’t give her a chance. “I’ll talk to you later.”
Disappointment flashed in her eyes. Beverly turned and walked away. Carl had never turned her away in the past. He would play her off as his aunt or cousin, but never straight out brush her off. In fact, his rule had always been phone first . Beverly had been concerned, and going on women’s intuition, ignored his request for a courtesy call before she graced his doorstep.
Carl returned to Jean, who glared at him from her spot on the California king size bed, “Who was that?”
Carl lowered his head, a lump formed in his throat as he began to explain to Jean the circumstances surrounding his involvement with Beverly.
Jean snapped, letting out a round of curses that made Carl feel like his head would explode just by the force of her anger.
Carl grabbed her before she hit the door, “Give me some time, baby,” he whispered against her ear. “I love you and I don’t want to lose you.”
Tears flowed down Jean’s perfect oval face, dropping down onto his hand. He turned her around to face him, brushing the tears away with the soft sweep of lips. “Beverly got to me when I was young. I didn’t realize how trapped, controlled and manipulated I’ve been–until I met you and realized it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Jean remained silent for a moment, then she touched him. “I’m hurt that you’ve been dishonest with me. I’m disappointed that you thought so little of me that you had to live a lie to impress me.”
“I just need some time, that’s all.”
She pulled away from him, saying, “Six months. You’ve got six months to get your act together.”
Three months had gone by and Jean was occupying her time at the bowling alley hitting the pins with as much power as her arms could muster, trying to release her pain, and wondering if Carl would keep his word and come back to her.
In the middle of her thought, Mark one of Carl’s running buddies called out, “Hey, Jean! Where’ve you been? I’ve been looking everywhere for you.
A feeling of sadness overwhelmed her. “Nowhere, at home.” Then his words hit her full force and she asked, “Why have you been looking for me?”
He didn’t answer right away.
Dark brown eyes narrowed on him. “Where’s Carl?”
Mark gaped at her. “You don’t know?”
Her hand flew to her mouth, holding back a sob.
“Beverly shot him, then killed herself.”
Mark reached out to grab her before she slumped to the floor. “She left a note that said nobody was ever going to leave her again.
Community Service gone bad? No doubt!