It has been proven that it does not take long for the “Stockholm Syndrome” to set in. When a person is taken captive, they begin to identify with their captor to survive. The victim is powerless. They must rely on the kindness of their captor to live. The threat of perishing is real and survival requires doing anything and everything to please their abuser. After I arrived at the Palace, I was trapped and acquired this syndrome immediately.
I was bewildered at how quickly I accepted that the world was not what I had conceived. I was swiftly convinced to believe the unbelievable. Artificial acceptance gave me some peace. The nasty little compromises provided some safety. security Surrender allowed me a time to disappear. sense of and gave me some opportunity to relax. But my instincts told me there was no going back; there would be no more color. Everything became a graveyard gray.
Rationalization was a powerful tool and alcohol became my armor. Somehow, it kept me alive. Denial was the most cherished gift alcohol gave to me. This was reinforced that first night we arrived in Raton. The next two years would have driven me entirely insane, but alcohol provided an escape; it became my savior.
From then on, I willed my eyes to remain open, to laugh at the insanity. My smile became fixed. I began to accept extreme and profound acts of evil as if they were as normal as brushing my teeth or taking out the trash.
I learned to agree with everything my father said, but I certainly did not believe everything he tried to drum into my head. I came to believe just enough of his bullshit to remain safe in the realm of his reality, to appear legitimate when I nodded and agreed. Yet, I had to limit how much I believed to stay one-step shy of losing my sanity. This was extremely difficult. Any hint of disbelief was met with a rant that sometimes went on for days. Nodding and appearing to agree with him was usually enough to keep things bearable.
As time went by, things slowly began to take on the appearance of normalcy. Repetitiveness had an uncanny ability to change my perception. As days went by and nights went by, I started to think my life was normal and I even felt somewhat safe again. It became normal to take a few slugs off a pint of Seagram’s 7 in the morning before homeroom.
My dad was amazingly powerful. With a small intimate murmur in her ear and a peck on her cheek, the blushing school counselor was all his. An understanding was reached. I was much too intelligent for such remedial education as high school. It became normal to be choking on my dad’s penis at 1:00 in the afternoon when I should have been in art class, learning the skill of using pastels.
Since I wasn’t in school anymore, it then became normal to lumber downstairs in the morning to serenely drink my coffee with Kailua or Tia Maria or Wild Turkey. Early morning was a golden time for me. He would be unconscious for at least three more hours. I could do what I wanted which was to drink and think in peace. It made me giddy and happy to have so many delightful choices behind the bar and they were all for me! Soon the bar became my favorite place to socialize...and since my dad managed the establishment, it didn’t matter that I was just fifteen.
I was no longer in an ordinary place. I was at the Palace. I was no longer in my time. I was an adult. I was no longer a member of my social world. I was no longer my own, I was his. I stepped into a drunken delusion that I was sure would never end.
Being a sociopath, Dad did not possess the inherent human qualities required to form natural caring bonds with other people. He did not understand what healthy relationships were, it just wasn’t within him. As a young boy, his family learned to fear him, as he was ruthless in pursuing self-gratification.
At an early age, he recognized the distance developing between him and others. This singled him out in a negative way and he understood that was a disadvantage. He found an easy fix. He started watching others interact and practiced these exchanges himself.
As he grew up, he refined a persona that appeared perfectly normal. His face was handsome and he had a charisma that drew others to him. However, he never changed inside; he never stopped feeding his darker, true character.
He molded lots of tricks and forms of manipulations into his overall personality.
His charm and self-confidence were solid weapons. Accompanied by his genius at intellectual deception, he was a very dangerous man. What really scared me is how he appeared to be such a nice guy.
Raton was a small town and most people thought Don had more friends than anyone else. When he walked into a room, he drew people around him who were easily influenced by his outside self, which he spoon-fed in the form of friendliness and generosity. In truth, he was completely alone.
He had no peers. People were not stupid; they had just never encountered a force so subtle, intelligent and so harmfully undermining. Every time his corrupt ability to appear normal was successful, he grew more confident and just got better and better at fooling people.
They never would have believed the face of pure evil underneath. He was so convincing. In fact, most people bragged when Don, himself, invited them to the hotel after closing time to sit in the Casino room to drink, smoke and play poker.
The casino room was special It resided within the bar but was separated by an eight foot wall. The lower half was wainscoting that was a deep cherry red. The remaining portion was made of the original colored glass held together by lead. The half-wall jutted away from the outside wall and slowly curved like an oval until it gave way to a small entrance. The room could comfortably accommodate up to ten people. It provided privacy and privilege for its guest. The other patrons in the bar could see the silhouettes and hear very expensive liquor in glasses clinking together, followed by rounds of haughty laughter. Its presence left the rest of bar with a slight feeling of envy.
Don was unique and could seduce the most pampered clients, even the stars passing through on their way to Aspen. The men enjoyed his easy presence and welcoming compliments. It was his invisible scent that captivated the women. His aroma permeated the air before he arrived at the table.
A blend of old spice and talcum powder mixed with expensive after-shave highlighted his clean breath that held a hint of rare scotch and a trace of sherry. This blended with the confidence that exuded from his pores. It was if he owned the Hotel. In fact, everyone thought he did and he never led anyone to believe otherwise.
Then it was my turn. Throughout the evening, I completed his persona. I provided the most attentive care to everyone’s wishes before they were even aware of them. I had quite a talent. As if clairvoyant, I would place a new pat of butter on the table just as the patron glanced down at the roll that it would accompany. To ask for water was impossible, it was already provided. With a sleight of hand that made me appear invisible, I tended to their every need.
I became aware that treating them with such delicacy and grace was rare and this was proven out at the end of the night. The tips I earned usually equaled what most adults were used to paying for their monthly rent.
Everything was fake. He was fake, I was fake, the whole show was a big lie.
With Baron, it was different. Dad’s eyes sparkled when Baron greeted him at the door. They would sit and take a load off, catch up on the day’s events. I don’t think my dad ever had a best friend in his life.
Baron was the closest he came to experiencing an equal exchange of unconditional love and acceptance. He adored that dog and Baron made him think he loved him right back. My supernatural, all-powerful dad was fooled by a dog.
Every afternoon, Dad would take Baron on the short walk to the Post Office and newspaper stand. Baron really did give dad a softer appearance. He was not harsh with him for the most part.
The only time he beat Baron was when Baron got into his pot stash and ate about a half ounce of very expensive weed. He stopped spanking Baron when he realized Baron was too high to give a shit.
It was getting close to Christmas. After four months alone with my dad, he announced we were going back to Oklahoma City for the holidays. I would be staying at my Mom’s house for about four days.
Vague intermittent questions began drifting through my head. Soon they became concrete and persistent. Why do I have to come back with him? Why can’t I just stay in Oklahoma City with my mother instead of coming back to Raton with him? What if? Hmm… I had been brainwashed but I wasn’t brain dead. Over and over and over, I tried to figure out a way to get back home for good.
I never learned how to use pleasing him to my advantage. I never knew when it was best to ask for something he probably wouldn’t allow. Would he be more compassionate after a ‘session’ in which he had been particularly satisfied? Or would he detect my attempt to gain some ground over my situation? He interpreted this as me thinking I could control him and even a hint of a thought of that was preposterous! If that were the case, he became super-pissed off. How dare I think I could manipulate him?
I had tried this several times with mixed results. It really depended on what I was asking for, on what his mood was, and what possible advantages he could gain out of the situation. On the one hand, he could get mad and stay mad, using it against me for days, until I practically begged him to do some despicable act that I had absolutely refused before.
On the other hand, he would relent and let me have my way. This was always accompanied with a that stupid, smug cat’s grin. I was a parakeet in a cage His grin silently stated that I would get my way now, but he would get his way later by performing some despicable act that I had absolutely refused before.
This time it was different. I wanted to go home. I did not want him to kill me, which was a serious concern. It was one of several consequences of letting him know I wanted to leave him. However, he beat me to the punch.
One particular afternoon, I got out of bed to get dressed. Dad was casually smoking a cigarette. We were going back to Oklahoma City in three days.
“I bet a part of you wants to stay back there, huh?”
Luckily, I was facing the closet; he couldn’t see the shock and fear that was contorting my face.
I struggled to keep the tremor out of my voice. “Umm, I’ve thought about it once or twice, why do you ask, Dad? Do you want me to leave?” I just said this to throw him off but instead he counter-punched even harder.
“Hell no, Susie, that’s not it! Of course, I want you! I love you! It’s your mother; she doesn’t want you!”
OK, now my irritation was overriding my intimidation. I turned around as I buttoned up my shirt. The look on his face made me nauseous.
“What do you mean, she doesn’t want me?”
“Oh, yeah, she and Dick want some time to themselves for once. She is even talking about sending Paul out here next summer so they can start traveling, one less kid to take care of, ya know? You are going backwards Susie! They want less, not more!”
Paul? My younger brother, here? That threw me into a spin.
He giggled which made me hate him to the deepest depth within me. Really deep hate.
“Here, call her! Ask her if you can come back home!” he gloated.
“Right now? I have to get ready for….”
“No, no, no! Right now! Call Her!”
He pulled his address book from his nightstand.
“Here’s the number. Call her! Now!”
I looked at the rattlesnake the phone had become. He was trying to shove it into my hand. I refused to take it from him. I had no choice. He grabbed my hand and slammed the snake right down into my palm. I took the receiver and gingerly placed it to the side of my head.
“Here, I’ll even dial it for you.”
Then he relaxed and leaned back against the bed board. I watched him light a cigarette as the bbbrriiinngg startled me a second time, then a third. Just as I thought I was going to get out of this hallucination, I heard a voice.
“Hello?” It was my mother, my sweet, sweet mother. Her voice was comforting and I felt like crying.
As cheerful as possible, I finally spoke.
“Hi, Mom, it’s Susie!”
“Thanks, Mom, it’s good to hear your voice too.”
“Yeah, I heard we’re supposed to have a white Christmas, that’ll be fun.”
“Umm, hey Mom, there’s a reason I called. Dad and I were just sitting here talking and, well I thought maybe I come back and live with you, does that sound good to you?”
I watched Dad stifle a laugh as I juggled the phone until it finally came out of my hands and fell to the floor. I picked it up in slow motion. My mother was not aware. She didn’t know I had missed part of the conversation. She was still going on when I put the phone back to my ear.
“…and so really, Susie, that’s why I think it would be best if you stayed with your Dad.”
I had heard enough of the conversation, more than I cared to. I looked at my dad. He was sitting on the edge of the bed…naked. His chin was relaxed in his palm. I looked at his smug grin and raised eyebrows. He was gazing at the ceiling, revealing the mockery of a twelve year old. He looked like he was going to start whistling some stupid little tune.
I looked at the receiver, no longer a snake. The danger was gone. The damage was complete.
“Yeah, Mom, if you say so.”
“No, I’m not hurt, stop it! I understand!”
“I love you too. I’ll see you in a few days.”
My dream was over before it had begun.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned the truth about why I wasn’t allowed go back home. My father had called my mother for weeks, on a regular basis, filling her with all sorts of erroneous information. He told her that he was eavesdropping on my phone calls. I was making plans to obtain drugs over that holiday in Oklahoma City. I was setting up connections and planning to start back in the drug business. They were lucky he found out about it when he did because I would probably ask to stay home. It would be best for her to say no if they were to keep me out of trouble.
Of course, when the moment came, my mother was courageous and did as my father told her. Too bad her decision was based solely on lies coming out of the most self-serving individual on the planet.
I was glum. There was no cheering me up. What a way to end the year. For the next few days, dad left me alone, only occasionally and politely asking simple stupid questions like “Hey, Susie, do you mind riding in the back on the way to Oklahoma City?”
I was in such a shit-hole of self-pity; I didn’t really understand what he is saying. Then my brain caught up and repeated what he had just asked.
Doooo yoooouuu miinnd sittttiinnng iiinn theee baaaackk seeeat?
Hubbbba jubbba jubbaa! I sat straight up. “What did you just say?”
“Well, you know that guy Matthew, the one who works at the Post Office, the Christian guy? His parents live just outside of the City. He’ll split the gas if I give him a lift. But you’ll have to sit in the back.”
Matthew wasn’t creepy, but he was weird. He was sort of an Aminish guy and kind of girly. He was definitely committed to the Lord and that actually relieved me, considering all other judgments I concluded about him. I was sure he had never had sex before, hell he probably never even masturbated.
He looked like he had never shaved because he never had grown enough of a beard to require it. That, of course, could have been the Amish in him; I wasn’t sure. He didn’t wear a funny hat, but his clothes were plain and old fashioned, just like those Amish people. I didn’t have anything against Amish people; they just seemed to live in a polar opposite world from mine.
Now I thought to myself, This could be a trick or this could be a gift from God, and since he was a Christian guy, I went with the latter.
I brought forth the most uninterested expression that I could muster. “Sure, Dad whatever, I don’t care what we do.”
“Aah come on, Suze, it’ll be fun having some company. It’ll make the time go faster!”
Amen to that. “I don’t care dad, I really don’t. I don’t mind sitting in the back seat… Baron will keep me company.”
Oh my God! For all his brilliance, he can be so stupid! He really is a fucking idiot! Hmm….or maybe I had developed into a very good actor. He really had it in his mind that I actually enjoyed ‘rolling blow jobs’.
He really thinks I like banging my head on the steering wheel for half an hour?! Being watched by every a big rig that drove by?! I felt so sick; I wanted to puke right in his face.
The day we left, I hopped into the back seat. I felt like a temporary pass to Heaven had landed in my lap. “Please, God, Please God. Don’t let him change his mind!”
Baron was elated I escaped the front seat but he was wary of Matthew. He looked at me with a question mark on his face.
One of his eyebrows, the left one, arched and his left eye widened a little. His right eye lowered into a squint. Then he started the head turning towards the object in question. First at me, then at Matthew, then back at me, and so on.
Finally, I shrugged my shoulders and gave him my best “I don’t have a clue” look.
He gave his normal response to my ignorance. He lowered both eyebrows until they met in the middle and formed a V. He squinted at me, conveying his annoyance.
“Ok, Susan, you know I want you back here with me, but are we’re going to have to travel with this fruitcake? The whole way back to OKC? God when are we going to get out of this mess, Susan?”
“I don’t know Baron, I really don’t know. I didn’t pick the fucking passenger! Give me a break!”
It wasn’t the answer he was looking for. His ears fell limp as he dropped his head between his paws. He was so sad. He looked at me as if I had crushed his world.
“Sorry little man, out of my control,” I confessed with a slight shrug.
My complacency was met with loathing. He then put on a disrespectful display of genital licking and chewing, accompanied with nasty snorts and snarls.
I turned to and looked out the window. Eeeuuuw, that is so gross! I didn’t dare let him hear me.
When he finished his act of personal hygiene, he came over and settled on my lap Then he licked me precisely on the lips, fervently.
“Geez”, I can’t do a damn thing right!! Why don’t you just find someone else to love?”
Exasperated, he looked up at me. . That was not a choice for him, he loved ME. I’d stabbed him in the heart with my words. I was sorry I’d said that to him. My tears fell onto his head, his ears...
And so, he forgave me…again. His eyes softened and went to half-mast. He crawled into my jacket and I was all his again. I fell asleep in the comfort of his soft, little bundle of love.
As we crossed the Oklahoma state line, the snow started to come down fast. Christian Matthew decided it was time for a little bible study, which was fine with me. It was getting nasty outside. I don’t remember what he read, but the more it calmed me down; the more it irritated my dad. I loved it and Baron had to stifle his laugh.
When we arrived in OKC the snow was at least a foot deep. Dad dropped me off at my mom’s and then headed to Duncan where my grandparents still lived.
After Herman, the family dachshund, and Baron squared off and chased each other all over the two-story condominium, things settled down. Dick took my bag upstairs and Paul and I started false punching each other. Paul was the youngest and was closer to me than my older brother and sister. As we goofed around, I felt so happy and so sad. I was exhausted and wanted the day to be over.
But then my mom called up to me into the kitchen. She handed me a plate with a ham sandwich, some potato salad and my favorite lime-green jello with the marshmallows on top.
She hugged me again. I hugged her back even harder.
“You need to eat, Hon.”
She was right. I was starving. After wolfing down every bite, I leaned back in the chair. My body commenced digestion. When that happens, I get a soft grin and my eyes gloss over. All the energy in me is concentrated on devouring calories. My eyes began to close and snoring was soon to follow.
My mother saw the telltale signs and helped me up the stairs. Still, being my Mom, she made me brush my teeth. I probably wouldn’t have if I had been that tired in New Mexico. I slept hard, dreamless. I was allowed to sleep in, so I didn’t wake up until around 10:00 am the next morning.
I was startled, no confused was a better description. It took at least an entire minute to orient myself. Reality check, one, two, three….reality check, one, two, three… OK, I am getting it now. I am in Oklahoma City at my mom’s, I am not dreaming, and I am not insane.
I scanned back over the last twenty-four hours. I felt like I was on another planet; planet good and friendly, not planet dark and evil. I was determined to make the best of every moment. I would not dwell on reality.
I got dressed and ambled down the carpeted staircase. As I entered the living room, a welcoming voice boomed out.
“Well there she is, Miss America! Hey sleepy head, your mom’s got French toast and bacon waiting for you.”
I smiled and walked over and gave Dick a hug.
“What in the heck, Dick? What is all this stuff?”
One entire wall in the living room was taken up by the coolest, most fascinating electronic equipment I had ever laid eyes on, except on Star Trek. There were reel-to-reel tape recorders, input devices, output devices, recording and playback mixers, phonographs, equalizers, hell, I don’t know, humidifiers! It was beautiful!
As Neil Diamond played, Dick hugged me back, “You like it, Sue?”
“Oh Dick, this is amazing! Do I like it? Shoot! I love it!” Music was one of the first things Dick and I bonded over. I was already making bootleg cassettes off the radio when we met.
Even though it was gray and cold, that afternoon I decided to go for a walk. I brought Baron with me. He hated being cold and was comfortable zipped up in my coat. The trees kept moaning, their branches were at the limit of breaking off from the weight of the new snow. As we walked along, so many memories came flooding back to me.
Hell, in this condominium complex alone, we had moved three times. My mother liked to move. She had a full time job at a clinic doing X-ray and lab stuff. Because dad was a total deadbeat and his shit rolled down hill, staining everyone in its path, my mom had to get a second job. In turn, we didn’t get much supervision and we learned all kinds of useful stuff.
Anyway, these were exclusive condominiums and we stepped up, so to speak, living there. They were not like the apartments we were used to living in. These were condominiums. None of the apartments we ever lived in had a gate at the front entrance.
All the buildings were made of stucco, and were painted a sandy flamingo pink. They were like adobe, with no building shaped like the others. The entrances to the condominiums were not easily identifiable. They were all in little nooks and crannies.
The apartments we had lived in before were sort of like motels. Each building had four apartments upstairs, two staircases, and four apartments downstairs, a newspaper thrower’s dream. I could hit eight doors in less than thirty seconds.
The Wedgwood condominiums were built on the site of the biggest amusement park Oklahoma City had ever accommodated. It had an Olympic size swimming pool with a two-story clubhouse with a weight room and a sauna and all sorts of ritzy things. The second story was a swanky nightclub, members only. My mom’ second job was as a waitress in the club. Dick met her there.
The place was very cool. One night, I got to see my first dead person. I was headed over to play pinball and there was a crowd gathering at the bottom of the stairs that led up to the club. There was a huge fat guy lying on his back.
“No, he’s not dead, he’s just knocked out,” one guy offered.
“No, no Jim! I think he’s dead! He’s not breathing!”
Now back in 1975, there weren’t any procedures as how to handle such situations so someone ran upstairs and brought back a glass of water in one hand and a shot of vodka in the other.
“Candy, see if you and Jim can lift his head up and get some of this water in him.” With that, Ed threw the vodka back into his own mouth, then squinted and let out a gasp.
I crept in close enough now to see the dead guy’s face was turning purple. I looked up at the circle of faces and said, “Yep, I do believe he’s dead, alright. Maybe someone should call the cops or an ambulance or something.”
By this time, a crowd of about eight or nine people had gathered around poor old dead Arnold. They all knew me.
“Out of the mouths of babes,” Candy said, already running up the stairs to the phone.
I had never seen a dead body before but I knew what it was when I saw it. But then again, I wasn't as smashed as all the idiots standing around me at the time.
Hmm, so that's what death looks like...
I went back the condo and raided Dick's nicely stocked wet bar. I knew Dick and Mom wouldn't be home for hours. Then I went into my mother's underwear drawer and downed five or six valiums. Even still, I slept fitfully.
Baron and I paused in front of the Clubhouse. The nightclub was closed now. The 'Arnold incident happened well over a year ago, but it seemed like decades. I was fifteen, going on fifty
It was getting dark and I was tired. I hadn't had any alcohol in almost twenty-four hours.It was time to head back.
I came in the door and my mom rushed to me. “You’ve got to be freezing! Let me get your coat.”
As I unzipped Baron, she set him down and hugged me real tight. I could hear her taking deep breaths. It was the police hug. It disappointed me greatly. I walked into the kitchen and hoisted myself up onto a corner counter.
She followed me and started rubbing my hands, first one then the other. She looked into my eyes. I had already passed the sniff test.
“Honey, where have you been? It’s getting so dark and it is so cold. How could you stay out there for so long?”
It was not suspicion that I saw in her face; it was worry, a mother’s genuine concern.
“Mom, this is nothing. I'm used to this kind of weather.” I go snow skiing every other day (oops)…uh…I mean… uh…I mean…uh… when school’s not in session..."
My slip up went right over her head.
She looked me straight in the eye. “Are you Ok? Have you seen anyone, called anyone?”
“For God’s sake, no Ma!”
“I’m sorry honey, your eyes, they just look different. Is everything Ok?”
“Yeah, Mom, everything is fine, I was just thinking about that dead guy at the club awhile back, remember that?”
“Honey, its Christmas! Why would you be thinking about that?”
“I don’t know, I just passed by there and thought about it. Please come here and give me a hug.”
She came to me, her body wrapped tightly around mine. I stared over her shoulder, out into the distance. I felt a hundred years old and a million miles away.