Time to Fly
"Time to fly. Time to fly. Time to fly..." Those three words started rolling around my head again and again. I don't even know where they came from - they weren't ones I would have used back then, although I use them a lot now.
"Time-to-fly" - three short beats. Like the monotonous drip of the faucet or the ominous new knock in your car's already protesting engine. Three words that have become a call to action for me - my mantra. They tell me when I've had enough and it's time to set things right.
These words began to echo in my mind at a time of great personal stress. In those days, stress- great and personal meant only one thing. Actually, it wasn't a thing - it was a man - my man, as it happens. Carlton.
Doesn't sound like the name of a vicious wife-beater, capable of all manner of abusive behavior, does it? Sounds more like some snooty, buttoned-up valet or a fancy hotel. Well, this Carlton had little in common with tight-lipped butlers or ritzy hotels. Just goes to show you how a name can mean nothing - or maybe even worse than nothing.
Carlton worried about everything and everything he worried about he took out on me. He fretted about the state of his hairline (receding). He fretted about the security of his new office-cleaning business (tenuous). He fretted about what his equally stupid macho friends thought of him (they mostly didn't think at all). Mainly he worried about money and the recurring nature of our living expenses which were apparently my fault.
This worry, when it built to its final crescendo and was sufficiently fueled by a night at the bar, would be visited on me like the hammers of hell. Hence the problem.
It's not like I don't have any problems now - I have my share, but I don't have that particular problem anymore. That particular problem now lives in a town almost 2,000 miles away. I heard through the grapevine that since he got out of prison, he spends a lot of time with his mother. My nosy-as-all-get-out friend, Mary-Sue Wilkens, keeps tabs on Carlton’s comings and goings by virtue of the fact that her hairdresser happens to have a cousin who has a friend who lives in Rabbit’s Hole, Oregon - the place Carlton now calls home. Mary- Sue put it rather nicely:
"Honey," she said "That boy is so wrapped up in his mama’s apron strings that it’d take you a year to unwind him. The only time he comes out of his mama’s trailer is to escort her to bingo once a week." "Oh, and as a bonus, I hear he’s goin’ bald faster’n a plucked chicken in a fan factory."
It was two years ago in February that I decided it was high time for Carlton to fly. It was after a particularly bad incident wherein he threatened to beat me senseless with my own hairbrush. It was a stupid fight over nothing more than his usual case of nerves on account of an upcoming presentation that he and his dumb-as-rocks partner, Big Jake were about to make to the local police precinct.
I guess it was the proverbial "last straw" for me, though, because the minute he flung my hairbrush in the direction of the trash can and stormed out the door, I knew I had been belittled by Carlton for the last time. Well, almost the last time...
I knew he was headed for Rocco's, the neighborhood bar where he hung out with his equally moronic friends. That night, like every night, they'd be whooping it up and trying to outdo each other with their latest series of pointless "macho" tales. Tales in which they were the indisputable masters of the universe and anyone they perceived as weak (mostly women, children and the frail) were fair game.
I thought about the presentation he and Big Jake were set to make on the following Tuesday. This contract would mean a lot to their struggling office cleaning company. It was a fluke prospect owing to the sudden termination of the present cleaners who'd gotten into a messy fee dispute with the precinct captain.
The problem for Carlton and Big Jake was that there was another company interested and they were required to make a formal presentation to the captain and his staff. This wouldn't be easy for two idiots who had a tenth-grade education between them. I decided I would help.
Carlton actually seemed grateful when I volunteered to oversee the project. I found my old camera and began taping a video of Carlton and Big Jake with their dustpans and mops. I convinced them that a ten-minute clip of themselves going about their normal cleaning duties would be a good marketing angle - ala reality television. The half-wit jerks bought it.
I prepared two sets of written presentations. One set contained a list of the cleaning duties that Carlton and Big Jake were prepared to perform; a negotiable fee structure with projected increases; an assessment of the current and future projected costs of cleaning supplies, and letters of recommendation from their existing accounts. The other set contained documents and photos that would be my little surprise. I inserted both sets into identical red folders.
Making the second video was easier than I thought. I waited up for my prince on the Friday night before the presentation and I just happened to mention that the car was leaking oil and,
"Oh, by the way the heating and phone bills just came in."
It usually didn't take more than this to get Carlton's "worry" machine fueled up to the point where I looked like a good target. This night, he didn't disappoint. Carlton immediately picked a fight about the state of the kitchen (messy). The whole time we were arguing and even when he grabbed my wrist so hard that I thought it was broken, the same three words kept pounding through my head: "Time to fly".
I waited for Carlton to fall asleep and then I removed the video camera from where I had hidden it between some loaves of bread on the kitchen counter. I quietly played the tape in the living room and watched as the night's abuse unfolded: There was Carlton, red-faced, fist raised over my head shouting:
"You wanna see what I got, woman?"
There I was, backed into the corner, frantically trying to protect my face. There's the moment he grabs my wrist and squeezes and then yanks me out of the corner by it. Here's Carlton again, my carving fork in his hand yelling at my crouched form:
"I'll show you how to give me some respect yet, Janey, you whining bitch."
The fork gets thrown into the sink and our hero has one more line as he exits the scene:
"One of these days, I'm gonna wring your scrawny neck and they'll never find your body."
I removed the video and carefully labeled it "Happy Time Cleaners - Presentation - February 17th".
Just for good measure, I took several polaroid shots of my wrist which was rapidly turning purple and slipped them into the second set of red folders with a series of older photos featuring assorted bruises and cuts and three long-expired Orders of Protection. Time to fly.
Tuesday, 9:30 A.M., Six Police Plaza, third floor, Room 303. A stunned Carlton looked at me with an expression of utter bewilderment that I'll never forget as they cuffed his wife-beating hands behind his back. I can't be sure, but I think he may have wet his pants.
The only sound that could be heard in the numbed silence of the conference room was the voice of the pretty young officer cheerfully reading Carlton his rights.
"Time to fly", Carlton.