Here is the inspiration for a couple of scenes in my novel Tojet.
Sunday, September 4. Phil wanted to do nothing but play with Dave’s new sci-fi football game on the Nintendo. It was a weird, funny and interesting game, but I didn’t want to sit around all day watching Phil play it.
I had nothing else to do, not with everything still packed and in the van. My projects Undine and Jerisland and probably all my books were still in the van.
As for the game, it had all these different types of alien creatures, from which you chose for your team. I believe the field was in the air, and the sides were either fire pits or nothing but air. When you called up a picture of a player, some alien announcer spoke in gibberish, saying, “Bleh-BLAHH! Bleh-bleh-BLAHH!”
Then Dave and his Pearl asked if we wanted to go to the S– County Fair.
Soon after we got to the fair, Phil and I walked by a booth with posters you could win. Phil kept saying he wanted me to win him one of the babe-posters. Fed up by this and his ogling of girls all summer, I pointed to a beefcake poster and said, “I want you to win me that.”
He, of course, said no, and shooed me away, good-naturedly. Finally! I found a way to get back at him instead of just getting mad at him.
I thought the fair would be fun, and bought enough tickets for twenty rides. The first ride was Phil’s favorite, some sort of box that spins around as the big wheel goes around.
Sometime during the ride, not only did the stuff in my pockets fly out into the box, but the side of the box hit my forehead. Or my forehead hit the side of the box. I had no way of knowing what happened or how it happened. I’m almost certain I had my hands on the bar at the time.
The box moved so fast that the G-force and the speed kept me from crying out. I hated the ride and couldn’t wait for it to stop. Endlessly, the box kept spinning and moving around. Finally, it ended. I picked up the things that fell out of my pockets, and stepped out.
Phil saw the bruise on my forehead, and said a bump was rising.
Though I felt okay at first, a few minutes later my head started aching worse and worse. I turned lightheaded and queasy. Phil got me a cup of water from a vendor, and sat me down at a picnic table under the vendor’s big awning. At first, he seemed attentive and sweet.
I said I needed to rest for a while.
“Should we go home?” Phil said.
“I want to wait a while before deciding that, to see if I feel better,” I said.
Dave and Pearl soon knew about my injury.
I kept feeling worse and worse–more painful headache, more powerful nausea. Finally, I said I wanted to go home. I had to get away from the fairgrounds and into some quiet, comfortable place where I could be tended to.
On the way out, we passed a parked ambulance. I asked to go there, but we didn’t. Phil even smiled and said,
“Are you sure you need to go to an ambulance?”
I wanted to find a first-aid station, but all I saw was the ambulance. Phil and the others thought there was no need for either.
If I’d known just how serious a concussion can be, I probably would’ve insisted they take me more seriously and get help or take me to a doctor. Of course, a person with a concussion is in no condition to be forceful. Just check out this article from the Mayo Clinic.
This page recommends emergency medical attention if the bump results in a worsening headache and other symptoms I experienced.
According to a doctor I consulted by e-mail in 1999, I had the symptoms of a Grade II concussion! Cugan also said it sounded like a secondary concussion.
My headache got worse and lasted at least until the next day, possibly longer; I should have been closely watched and, because of my severe headache, taken to a doctor immediately. But none of the people with me took me seriously, not even Phil, my own husband! They actually called me a party pooper:
We left the park and went to Dairy Queen for dinner.
During dinner, Phil told them about Undine, that I had been translating it, and how big it was and how difficult. Dave said, “You’re nuts!” Contrast that to a person from a German-speaking country who said to me in 1998, “I tip my hat to you.” Apparently Dave didn’t understand the value of taking on a difficult project just to challenge yourself.
They began to talk about going dancing that night, and asked if we wanted to go. I said I’d better stay home: I thought I had a concussion. Phil said he would go.
What? Here I was, injured with a Grade II concussion, needing someone to watch over me and take me to a doctor, and he wanted to go dancing? Not only did he refuse to take me to a doctor, but he showed no sign of concern for my condition!
Through my pain, I was upset. I turned very quiet. Phil tried to say something to me once, but got no response.
Back at his house, I confronted him about this, but he insisted he wanted to go out dancing.
“My parents will be here, and you can lie on my couch, watch cable on my TV, and relax.”
I don’t think anyone told his parents about my concussion, because they never came into the room to check up on me. With my nausea and overpowering headache, I was in no condition to go walking around telling people I was hurt; Phil should have told them himself.
Phil went on, “You can find things to do, as you always do.”
Yeah, like I could do anything but sleep or watch TV with my head pounding. But that wasn’t the point.
I would’ve gone dancing, if I were feeling better. It sounded like fun. I hadn’t gone to a dance in a long time. We later planned to go to the Friday dance at Roanoke so I could finally see Phil’s dancing.
It was such a major and odd part of Phil’s personality that Pearl, on the way to the fair, said she was surprised I hadn’t seen him dance yet. She said you have to see him dance to really know him. I hadn’t had the chance because the junior year dances had no good music.
Phil whined, “Other people always say, ‘Oh, you go ahead and have your fun. Don’t mind me.'”
Oh, yeah, I wanted him home with me because I was a selfish twit.
I was miserable. Phil was my husband: He wasn’t supposed to go out and enjoy himself while I lay on his couch, suffering from an untreated injury. He was supposed to take me to a doctor!
His parents had just gotten two new puppies, little black and white ones, and kept them in a cage when they were inside. I sat beside them. Their names were something-Dave and something-Phil. They loved the attention and wanted my petting. I tried to comfort myself with them, and tried to hide my tears.
After Phil left, I watched some true-life TV movie about sharks attacking servicemen whose plane went down in the ocean. In one scene, a man seemed to be asleep while floating in the water in a life preserver; it turned out his lower half had been bitten off. The whole movie horrified me, especially since it really happened. Watching this all alone sure didn’t help. I tried to rest, but couldn’t with my awful headache.
This movie was probably Mission of the Shark, about the USS Indianapolis in WWII.
Phil later told me that Dave and Pearl thought I was a party pooper for wanting to leave the fair early! They didn’t know how I could have gotten hurt. They blamed me for getting hurt!
But it was a traveling fair, getting taken down and put up all the time, and people do get hurt on amusement park rides, especially in traveling fairs. This fact was given on an episode of the Sally Jessy Raphael show in 1998.
Also, the September 13, 1999 edition of US News and World Report stated on page 59, “[G]etting banged on fingers or head by a safety bar are common.” The article Fatal Attractions described the risk of injury at amusement parks, especially at traveling carnivals, which “are constantly dismantled and reassembled” (p. 58).
A few weeks after the incident, my friend Pearl said their remarks were uncalled for. She and my other friends would have respected that I was injured.
I did ask that Phil not drink while dancing, at least. If he came back with alcohol on his breath, that would finish me. I was already upset enough. I didn’t want him getting drunk while I ached both inside and out. Besides, as I’d joked before with him and Dave, he was still underage.
He recently told me that he drank or smoked whatever people passed around at parties (never mind his health or if it was illegal). I would never do that. He called me a pooper. I lost more respect for him.
After Phil came back from dancing, I told him I needed to talk. But instead of staying with me in his room, he left again and disappeared for a long time. I finally went looking for him, and found him talking alone with Pearl in the computer room. I asked if he’d come back soon so I could finish talking with him. Then I turned and left.
He soon came back, a smile on his face, and said, “Jealous? She’s a nice person, but Dave’s fiancée.”
I knew he liked her back before he dated me, but I thought this was over now. Still, seeing him there with her made me uneasy. Besides, how is it “jealousy” to want to finish a discussion about how he’d been treating me?
That night or maybe the next day, Phil said, “I would love to be allowed to have three wives instead of just one. You’d be one, Dave’s Pearl would be another, and that high schooler who likes me and keeps calling me at the wrong time–she’d be the third.”
Did he think I’d find this funny? It only made me feel worse. So he did still want Dave’s Pearl! And I wasn’t enough for him!
Just like all summer long, he’d tell me he lusted after this or that girl, and when I got upset, say that other people’s girlfriends just laugh when their men do this. He’d see a young woman and say he wouldn’t mind taking her in the back of his minivan. A big-breasted and blonde high-school girl would hand him Dairy Queen sundaes through the drive-up window, and he’d tell me how much he loved the sight. I’d say my breasts were big enough, and he’d say he saw bigger on previous girlfriends.
How dare I object? As some drunken guys later told him, I was so “possessive”!
Phil also told me, “Dave and Pearl think you’re a party pooper for not wanting to go dancing tonight. They think you’re a pooper because you never want to go dancing with me. They remembered a time last semester when they asked us to go dancing, and you didn’t want to go!”
HUH? What time was that? I didn’t even remember it. If it even happened, I probably just wanted to spend a quiet evening alone with Phil. Or maybe I wasn’t feeling well or had a lot of homework.
Phil went on, “I used to go dancing every weekend, but I gave that up for you.”
This was news to me! He never mentioned going dancing every weekend. He never asked me more than once or twice–if at all–to go dancing on the weekend. We went to Roanoke dances whenever possible, but they never had good music.
But then, abusers will make up things you’ve done or said that you never actually did or said, to make you the bad guy. The gaslighting from this guy was unbelievable! Did he really think I would fall for it when I knew it was a lie?
When I wrote the first draft of this account of the S– County Fair in 1995 or 1996, I showed it to my future husband Cugan and asked if I was being unreasonable. He said,
“No. Yes, people do often say, ‘Go ahead and have your fun,’ but they’re rarely taken at their word. Usually they don’t really mean it. Tell me something: What did you really see in this guy? He didn’t seem to take this marriage seriously.”
Not only that, but I had a Grade II concussion and they were calling me a party pooper because I needed to go to a doctor, not dancing!
All during our relationship, Dave, obviously influenced by what Peter had told him about me, said nasty things about me to Phil. When Phil said he wanted to date me, Dave said, “Don’t date her. We don’t get along.”
Don’t get along? But I didn’t even know the guy! We’d never met before Pearl’s party, and got along quite well, flirting all evening!
Dave also kept telling tales about me to his parents. This started way back in the spring. His Pearl did it sometimes, too.
They accused me of all sorts of things: calling Indiana on the O’Hara dime (I always used a phone card), telling Phil not to take a one-day job (Phil decided not to and I supported his decision because of a major history test the next day), and probably other things I’ve forgotten now.
Dave’s parents seemed to listen to them far too much, because I began to get the feeling that they didn’t like me as much anymore. For example, one day during the spring, as Pearl and I both sat in the living room, Maura called Pearl her favorite future daughter-in-law. Was Maura trying to make me feel like dirt?
Phil thought Pearl was nice, but I considered her just as mean as Dave. Not only did she go along with Dave’s smear campaign, but she did something else nasty as well:
I don’t remember when this was, May or September, but probably May. It was a Saturday, no classes, nobody with work. It was the middle of the afternoon, and long after I heard Dave take his shower. I found a deserted bathroom, so I took a shower. Because it was the middle of the afternoon and everyone else had already showered (including Dave), and because there were two bathrooms, I saw no reason to hurry.
I did the various things I always needed to do after a shower, such as shaving, moisturizing, putting cover-up on my face, combing my hair. I didn’t dilly-dally around in the bathroom: I only took as long as I needed to do what I needed to do, and then I got out. I was just about done.
All of a sudden, Pearl banged on the door and yelled meanly, “Hurry up and get out of there! Dave needs to take a shower!” No, she did not politely knock and ask if I could please hurry up. She screamed as if I were deliberately holding up Dave.
How could I possibly have known that he needed to take another shower for soccer practice or whatever it was, in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, when nobody else was around when I started my shower?
I’m so glad to be out of that family: too many nasty people with absolutely no respect or consideration for others. And I was being bullied by everybody together, a mob bullying!
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)
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