“Why doesn’t anybody want me?” she wept softly, hugging the baby to her.
“I did everything he wanted,” she sobbed, rocking the infant. “I did everything she wanted…why is it the only person who loves me is you?” She gently kissed the child’s downy head, the fine blonde fluff damp with her tears.
She looked around the dismal furnished room. Annie’s crib was crammed into a corner, leaving only a narrow walkway between it and her own bed. The one interior door led to an efficiency kitchen crammed into what was once a walk-in closet and, through a curtain in the kitchen, the toilet and a rusting steel shower stall. This, at least for now, was home.
She had left Rich. She didn’t know what else to do. They had only been married seven weeks when the Navy shipped him off to Southeast Asia, leaving her fatly pregnant and agonizingly alone. She wrote him almost daily, reams and reams of childish outpourings of love and hope and dreams recorded on ring binder paper in her round, immature hand, but as the months wore on and the mailbox remained empty, she had begun to despair. In his entire seven month deployment overseas, she had received perhaps eight letters, most of them written in those first few weeks. Between the time of Annie’s birth in March and his return in July, she had received only two letters, neither of them of any particular length or depth.
An invitation to visit was extended by Rich’s father and stepmother. Twelve long, swaying, lurching Greyhound hours later she arrived in the dusty, dry Central Valley town of Turlock and was swept away to Maynard and Thelma’s air conditioned double-wide trailer. Thrilled at the impending visit of their first “grandbaby,” Thelma had borrowed a white wicker bassinette and spent hours sewing a bright pink gingham liner with a tulle flounce for it, along with matching bedding. Annie, tiny, pale-skinned and virtually bald, was almost was lost in the vibrant pink, but Thelma’s welcoming effort was appreciated.
Thelma went out of her way to make her at home and engaged. An active, positive, upbeat kind of person, Thelma taught her new recipes, how to knit, new nursery songs to sing to Annie, and a host of other new things. She did her best to be a lively, entertaining and helpful houseguest, but her own sense of despair deepened with each passing day. She was fearful...afraid the silence from Rich meant that he had forgotten about her.
“It’ll be fine,” Maynard tried to comfort her in his clumsy, joking way. “Just you get yourself some black sheets, honey, and you’ll be fine,” he said. When she looked at him quizzically, not understanding his reference, he clarified with “He’s gotta be getting tired of them dark women on white sheets…he’ll be looking forward to a white woman on black sheets when he gets back!” She had not been amused, but was too inculcated with the requirement to be polite…especially to superiors…that she just nodded with a wan smile.
Annie, nestled snugly in her arms, had slept the entire twelve hours it took to get back home and they were settled back into their tiny converted garage cottage for a full week before Rich returned from deployment. A crowd of thousands was on hand to meet the ship, but Rick was easy to spot in his crisp Marine Corps uniform…there were fewer than two dozen Marines in their summer khaki shirts…amid the teeming mass of white navy uniforms. Shrieks of recognition and joy surrounded her, the sounds of women crying and children shouting “Daddy! Daddy!” filled the air. She made no sound, but stood on tiptoe and waved frantically, trying to catch his attention. But it was only when his feet stepped off the gangway and touched the dock and she was standing right in front of him, did he acknowledge her presence with a quick half-smile. Her heart sank…something was wrong and she could feel it in her bones.
‘Wait until I get him home,’ she thought to herself. She had worked hard to lose the baby fat and was now as slim as she had ever been. She had stopped nursing Annie at his request, but her breasts had retained their full, round shape. Granted, she had some stretch marks, but the Caesarean scar was hidden in her bikini line and should not be very visible. And, now out of Mother’s restrictive grasp, she had learned a few things about hair, makeup, and the provocative power of just enough…but neither too little nor too much…clothing. And to that end there was a sheer black lace-accented nightgown and peignoir at home…
It had not gone well. She was 18…he was 19…both of them were healthy, clean, attractive. Supposedly they had both been celibate during their seven month separation and yet…the black lace nightgown had been a waste of money, time and hope. Pleading fatigue…he had risen at 4:30 that morning, he explained…he lay down on the bed and simply went to sleep.
When he returned from work the following night, he brought his friend Rod with him and, despite the fact that none of them were old enough to buy liquor, the two of them killed two six packs of beer. Rod stretched out on the living room floor with a blanket and Rich collapsed on the bed in his clothes in a drunken stupor.
The third night was even worse…he didn’t come home. She had gone to the landlord’s house to use the phone, and when she learned that he had left the ship at four o’clock, like everyone else, she sat a lonely, tear-filled vigil until sheer fatigue drove her to bed. She awoke in the morning to Annie’s insistent demands for her breakfast only to find his fresh uniform gone and a crumpled one smelling of stale cigarette smoke and beer, on the bathroom floor. He had not even bothered to wake her.
The final straw came on Sunday morning, five days after he had returned. He had staggered in at 3 am and she had been awake. Not yet understanding the folly of arguing with a person when he’s drunk, she confronted him and got the shock of her young life…
"What do you want?" she demanded angrily.
“What I don’t want is to be married anymore!” he shouted drunkenly. “I hadda lotta time to think when I was out at sea, and I’m too young to be tied down to a wife and baby!”
“Shouldn’t you have thought of that before you asked me to marry you?” she shouted back, her fury effectively blanketing the hurt of his words.
“You got what you wanted!” he yelled. “You got a father for your kid, you got away from your mother, you got out on your own. What more do you want from me? Isn’t that enough?”
She stood there, stunned at what she was hearing. “You said you loved me,” she finally said in a small voice. She saw him shaking his head and a cold chill numbed her feet and began to climb slowly upwards. “Was that a lie, Rich? Wasn’t that true?”
He continued to shake his head as he sat on the bed, head between his hands, staring at the floor.
“Then why did you want to marry me, Rich?” She couldn’t seem to summon any tears, although her throat felt as if a tree stump were stuck in it and the back of her nose burned like fire. “Why?”
He continued to shake his head.
“Why?” she was screaming now. “Why did you marry me if you didn’t love me? We both knew Annie wasn’t yours, you can’t say you had to marry me…so why? Why?”
“Rosie,” he muttered, still looking at the floor.
“Rosie?” she asked, more calmly. Rosie was his girlfriend from high school who couldn’t wait for him to finish boot camp…all of six whole weeks…and come back to Spokane for her. Rosie had taken up with some other guy and ended up marrying him in rather a bit of a rush. “What does Rosie have to do with anything?”
He raised his head but kept his gaze on the floor. “I wanted to hurt Rosie the way she hurt me,” he said, his tongue stumbling clumsily. She could feel the coldness creeping past her belly and approaching her lungs. “She was supposed to wait for me but she didn’t…she fooled around with some guy and got herself pregnant. Do you know how much that hurt me?” He looked up at her, his face flushed and twisted with pain. “So I figured to get even…there’s no way she would know that the baby wasn’t mine, so she’d think I wasn’t being true to her. She wouldn’t be able to think she’d made a fool out of me. She’d be hurt to think I was cheating on her the way she was cheating on me.” He lay back on the bed and closed his eyes. “So, I thought that it would give us both what we wanted…you’d have a father for your kid and get away from that bitch you call a mother, and I’d be able to get back at Rosie the same way she got me.” He threw a forearm over his eyes to shield them from the overhead light and was quiet.
The coldness had crept up and stolen her breath. She had nothing and everything to say, but the coldness had frozen her tongue. She walked past him to Annie’s crib and lifted her warm, cuddly body, limp and heavy in sleep, and cradled her closely, then silently walked out of the room.
Rich woke late the next morning with a dismal hangover and an even worse attitude. “Coffee!” he demanded, staggering out to the kitchen table looking like death warmed over. “Gimme coffee!”
“Shhhh,” she quietly admonished him. “I’m trying to get Annie to nap. She’s teething and seems to have a touch of colic and…”
“Just get me my fucking coffee,” he snarled, “And spare me the voice-over.”
Alert to the sudden tension in the air, Annie stiffened, raised her head up and began to cry. Rich grabbed both sides of his head as the child’s piercing wail painfully penetrated his skull.
“Shut it up,” he growled.
“Rich, I can’t. She’s teething and her tummy hurts and…”
“Shut it up!” his face took on the frightening mask of irrational anger she remembered so well on Mother’s face.
She put the coffee on the table and hurried to the living room where she scooped Annie up from the quilt on the floor and tried walking and soothing her. But, no longer drowsy and driven by her own pain as well as the palpable tension in the house, the child was inconsolable. Annie wailed, she sobbed, she screamed, her little face screwed up into a red knot of misery. The tiny house filled with her cries, including the kitchen where Rich nursed his hangover.
He came tearing out of the kitchen, his bloodshot eyes bulging, his crisp red hair standing out in all directions. “If you don’t shut that brat up, I’ll do it for you!” he bellowed. “I don’t know what I am doing here!” he yelled, his body rigid with fury. “You can’t cook, you can’t clean a house”…he had found dust on the top of the doorframe during a “white glove” inspection when he first got back…“you can’t even take care of a four month old baby. What the fuck good are you? Now shut it up before I do it for you!”
Speechless with alarm, she rushed to the bedroom and hurriedly changed her clothes and packed a diaper bag. Holding the screaming baby in one arm, she took the bag out to the kitchen and pulled all of the freshly made bottles from the refrigerator and packed them.
Annie continued to scream and she grabbed her purse and headed for the front door but Rich was standing in the way, a murderous expression on his face. She did a quick about-face and ducked out the kitchen door, moving as fast as she could under the awkward weight of the baby and the bag. Where the hell was she going to go?
She ended up at Pat’s, the only person she knew who had a young baby too. Pat was living with her new boyfriend, Russ, in a bed-sit downtown. It was too small for them to put her up, even overnight, but at least it was a place where she could sit for a while and ponder her options. She was afraid of him now…she wasn’t sure if she could go back.
And so she ended up renting the vacant little bed-sit in the back of Pat’s building. She borrowed a blanket from Pat and slept in her underwear on the bare bed, Annie cuddled to her chest, and in the morning, after she knew Rich would be back at work, she went back to the little cottage and removed all her personal and household goods, leaving Rich’s clothes, shaving gear, and personal mementoes. She wept through the entire task, but she wasn't sure she knew why. She was afraid he might come back…she didn’t care if he hurt her, but she was deathly afraid he might hurt Annie. Each item she packed up drove the knife of despair deeper into her heart. She had had such hope of happiness…how was she to survive the pulsing mass of pain that had replaced it? What had she done wrong? Why had this gone so wrong? What had she done to cause it? Or failed to do to prevent it?
And now she sat on the sagging bed in the dismal, cramped little room. Annie delightedly played with her toes, gurgling sounds leaping joyfully from her tiny pink bow-shaped lips. Her little world was intact, as far as she knew…Mama was there with the clean diapers, warm bottles, and loving arms…it was a shame that this sweet baby had to grow up and learn disappointment.
She looked at her child. Was this baby the only person on the entire earth who wanted her, who loved her? There had to be someone else, didn’t there? Mark didn’t want her or his daughter, and Rich had been pretty clear about his feelings. Mother…Mother had never wanted her…and when she was unable to prevent the marriage to Rich, Mother had fixed her with a cold stare and said “you made your bed, now you lie in it…don’t come running to me when things get tough.”
Daddy? …he and Maggie had three kids and another one on the way. They didn’t want their household disrupted again…they had rescued her from the county hospital and taken care of her until she married Rich…that was surely enough. Her grandparents? They hadn’t wanted her past the end of the summers, she now could see. They probably hadn’t even wanted to take her for three months out of every year, either…she didn’t know what kind of bargain Mother had with her parents, but with the clarity of hindsight, she could see that something had been in place there. Her friends from school had dropped out of her life as soon as she got married…their paths were going very different ways. Was there anyone besides her precious Annie who wanted her, then? It didn’t seem so.
For three days she sat in the dark, tending to Annie’s needs, weeping, pondering, wondering. And on the fourth day, she got mad. How dare Mark turn his back on her like he did? How dare Rich discard her like a used tissue? There had to be men out there who would find her attractive, men she could make want her. A lot more than just the two of them, too! She pulled out her makeup bag and sat down in front of the mirror…she was young, she wasn’t ugly…she could find somebody…she could find a lot of somebodies…and she knew just how to do it.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.