And I bow as I step onto the dance floor, and the strings strain, and the bodies around us move. Bodies of abusers and saviors. Rose dances with Olsen, Destiny with Tiger. The music plays, we all twirl, and I take each of the next stories out onto the floor. The waltz is the most proper. The waltz has the arms wide, the circle, the spinning. The waltz doesn’t pull in close and breathe in the ear like I do with my wife. The waltz doesn’t get “tangled up and tango on.” The waltz holds back. It looks into the eye, holds at a distance, and the waltz appraises. The waltz appreciates.
There’s a scream across the battlefield as a hundred thousand warriors of bullies and abusers roar hatred in my direction. The Round Table lines up behind me. They bang sword on shield. You are about to read about the women standing along my side. They form the front ranks now. And when the horns blow and I collide with my abusers, it will be The Shieldmaidens waltzing with my enemies and dancing beside me as the blood and the hate flies.
I introduce you now to the women of my life and my past. I introduce you now to The Shieldmaidens.
Less was kicked out of my life in 2003. She would not agree to three simple rules. One, no more contact with Char. I would not spend any time with any one who was in his life. She agreed right away. Two, no contact with Rose or Grasp. I knew they were evil and I wanted nothing to do with either of them. She agreed right away. And three, I would not spend any time with her until she had done at least one year of intensive therapy.
At this, she screamed at me. She started to say all sorts of nasty things and I hung up. I didn’t hear from her for about six years.
Precious got ahold of me in 2009. She said that Less had reached out to her and she had heard Less’s story and knew that Less really needed me. That she was in a bad place and Less needed family right now. I told Precious that Less was unhealthy and I would not have her in my life.
Two weeks later Precious reached out to me again. “If you tell me no again I will let it go, I swear, but I really think you should get in touch with Less. She said she wants to apologize for something and she really, really needs family right now. Rose is a nightmare and Less has no place to turn.”
So I got in touch with Less. I called her and she apologized for the last time she had talked to me.
She had gotten a hold of me in 2005 when she heard that I had married Bekah. She called me just to yell and scream about how terrible a person I was for marrying Bekah and how horrible I was for how I was treating Rose and that they were all better for not having me in their life. I said nothing and she hung up.
Now she apologized for that and told me about her situation, which was a bad one, and she talked about how she just needed family and I was the only person she could turn to.
I got sucked in and we started talking every night. She mentioned all of the fucked up things that Shadow had done to her over the years. And he apologized. She mentioned all of the fucked-up things that Servant had done to her and he apologized.
But when we mentioned the terrible things she used to do to us, she ignored them and changed the subject. Or sometimes she said would say. “Well, I had to do that. You asked for it.”
But I took it.
See I have a flaw that tells me to let people in my life who hurt me. Who say terrible things about me and make my life hell. I make exception after exception for them. I make apologies for them and I tell myself they don’t mean it. Every benefit is given to a person who treats me like shit and that is part of why we are here.
A good part of why I am writing this book is to let myself see what I have been doing that was unhealthy and make corrections. You are all here with me, finding those problems and helping me deal with them.
So I started picking up Less for Christmas and visiting her in Waynesville. I started making her a part of my life. When I moved to Springfield, she was living in town and I gave her a hundred dollars a month. Took her out shopping and I bought a phone for her. I paid for her line and let her do her laundry here. And while I was doing all of this, she found out that I was friends with T.
Less and T had been friends in high school until Less had just left without saying goodbye. Now I asked T if she wanted to get in touch with Less, and she said to give Less her number. They started talking and rebuilding after so many years and everything was fine.
Then I got a call from T.
“How’s it going? What’s up?” I said. T hardly ever calls me, if at all. I think in the ten years we have been back in each other’s lives we have talked on the phone three times.
“Got into a fight with your sister,” T said.
“What happened?” Me and Less were doing great. I was helping her with her entire life and I was telling her how much I loved her. I had given her a knife as a gift and I had brought her into my life tight. And with love.
“Well,” T said. “We were talking for hours and I said, ‘I hope that me being friends with your brother is not a problem.’” T sighed.
I knew this was bad. And as soon as she sighed I knew this was going to be bad.
“Yes it is a problem actually,” Less said. “It’s a big problem. I don’t want you talking to him and hanging out with him ever again. Don’t tell him why. Just stop all contact and walk away. Let him wonder what happened.”
“I’m not going to do that,” T said. “I’m not ever going to do that.”
“She said that?” I said.
“Yes she did. Well she then started cussing me and yelling at me and calling me all kinds of names. She deleted me on Facebook and blocked me. She said she never wanted to hear from me again and she hung up,” T added. “Less said you always do this. That you get people beholding to you and you pull them in and they will never turn on you. That you are evil and manipulative and that you are the worst kind of person.”
“Okay,” I said. “Well thanks for telling me this. This changes everything.”
“I called her back and begged her to take me back,” T said. “I told her that I would not turn on you but if she could live with that, then me and Less could be friends.”
“So don’t tell her I told you. I figured you ought to know. Please don’t mention this to her. Just treat her the same as you always do.”
I hated even the thought of that, but T is one of my best friends and so I didn’t want to fuck up her relationship with Less. So I promised I would keep it secret and I got off the phone.
I keep no secrets from my wife. In fact, me and T had a conversation about it very early in our new friendship. I told her that everything she told me was as if she was also talking to Bekah. And she said the same thing, so when I got off the phone with T, I immediately went to Bekah.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“I’m going to respect T’s wishes and act like nothing has happened. I am going to treat Less the same and so are you. For T’s sake.”
So we did. We acted as though nothing had happened and we let it go.
Well Less started coming to my house and I would try not to be an ass, but I was so angry, and so hurt, that I would get quiet every time she was around. I was soaking in it, soaking in the idea that she had tried to do it again.
Less knew that T was the only one reading my work and T was the only thing keeping me going. I felt as though I was yelling into a void with my work, but T was making it better. I had told Less that without T, I would have quit a long time ago.
Now Less was trying to take T away from me and I was furious. But every time she came over, she used my washing machine. She used my dryer. She took one hundred dollars from me and she ate dinner. Every time. And I just had to stew in it.
But Less was mad, too. She had tried again to take someone away from me and it had not worked. So every time she came to my house she would snap and say something shitty. She would say something to Bekah or she would say something to one of the kids. She would snap at me.
And I rose to it every time.
We were fighting all the time. Every time she would get out of hand before, I had let it go. But now every time she said some shitty thing, I would explode. I would yell at her until she shut up. See, Less is afraid of grown men. She dates boys and throws them out as soon as they get too old or scary. So when I would rise up against her, she would fall quiet.
Every time we got into a fight, she would go home and immediately call T. She would tell T everything I had done and everything I had said, adding as many flourishes as she could. Lying to make it as bad as possible. Trying to get T’s sympathy and make her finally turn on me.
T would immediately call me for the real story.
I would shut down all the lies and tell T exactly why I had said what I said. Every time all of the shitty things that Less had done or said to get me to the breaking point were left out of Less’s story. And I would have to explain myself.
Finally after a pretty terrible lie, I exploded.
“You know what she is trying to do, don’t you, T?”
“Yes, she is trying to get me to stop being your friend.”
“And every time I have her over to do her laundry she fights to piss me off so that she can run to you after and lie to you about what I did and what I said and try to get you to walk away from me.”
“It will never work. You are one of my best friends. I am with you until the end.”
“I can’t live like this anymore,” I said. The lie she had told this time was terrible and I would need months to get it out of my mind. It would take months to try to even get to the point where I could be in the same room with Less, let alone hug her and let her talk to my kids. Or say anything positive to her.
T saw this was only getting worse and she said, “Tell her you know what she has been doing. It is going to make her hate me. But we can’t keep doing this. The only other thing that we can do is I can just ignore everything she says and let her vent and not tell you what she is saying about you.”
“And I have to try to get around the fact that I know as soon as I get done doing something nice for her, she is just going to go and talk shit to you about me?”
“You’re right,” T said. “It’s not fair and it will get in the way of our friendship. I don’t want to do that. And I am tired of hearing her bad mouth you and letting it go. Do whatever you have to do.”
I really wanted to apologize for making T lose a friend, but Less was not being a friend to T. She was using T to try to hurt me.
Well as you can imagine, things went as bad as they could. Less started texting T all sorts of terrible things, and I pay for that phone. I told Less never to text T again or I was dropping her line.
She told me that she knew when I gave her that phone I would one day use it against her. She said her gods had told her not to even let me do it, but she had gone against them and now here we are.
Well, that did not persuade me. I kicked her out of my life and I told myself that I would never allow an unhealthy person back into my life.
I did. And you guys will hear all about him. But here it is all wrapped up for you.
T had a choice. She could listen to Less’s lies about me and keep them to herself knowing they were bullshit. Or she could do the hard thing and come and tell me about it. When she was told to drop me and never talk to me again, she refused. And she tried to be a friend to a toxic person because she knew that Less needed help.
T is loyal in a world where that is rare. She is my friend and always will be. I hope this chapter has not caused her too much pain. T still loves Less very much.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.