(Continued from Part 1)

I dropped out of college, moved home, and reconciled with the Good Guy. He was stationed in-state, so I moved to be near him. I didn’t have a place to stay, so I crashed in his room in the barracks, which was totally against the rules.

I found out I was pregnant, then suffered a miscarriage. It was early, and I didn’t need medical attention, but weeks went by and my pregnancy symptoms didn’t subside. I was still pregnant, with the surviving fetus of what had been twins.

Suddenly, I realized life was bigger than me. I began eating — actually eating. I agreed to a quick marriage, and set my mind to being a wife and mother. My son was born healthy, and for a while, things settled down. We got an apartment. I became a military wife. On the surface, life was good…

…but my mind was a mess. I wouldn’t be diagnosed for years, but my trauma had manifested in bi-polar disorder. I felt attacked and unsafe all the time. I didn’t trust my husband to be faithful, and I didn’t trust myself to be, either.

The breakup and following divorce was painful, and a legal mess. Back in my hometown, I took a job managing a bar, and sought help — any help — for what seemed, to me, to be a life spiraling into a hopeless void.

I joined Alcoholics Anonymous, because it was the only support group I could find. I figured I had a big problem, and drinking certainly wouldn’t help, so… I quit. I was sober for over two years, but nothing really changed.

I created relationships with addicts. I had indifferent sex with indifferent partners. I had desperate sex with indifferent partners. I told my AA sponsor, who put me on a “sex fast” that forbid me from having sex until I got my head straight, that all I really wanted was someone who still believed in love, and who believed that the fairy tale of happily-ever-after could still happen. I wanted someone to see me for the broken, hopeless person I was, and love me all the same.

Impossible.

Ten days later, I met Mr. Wright.

For me, it wasn’t one of those “love at first sight” stories people hear about. It was more like a romantic comedy moment — one in which the heroine is completely put off my her would-be wooer, but he is sure he’s going to get the girl, eventually.

We met at the bar I was managing. It was my night off, and I was sitting at the counter, working on inventory and the schedule. He walked in, sat down next to me, and proceeded to talk to everyone but me for 15 minutes. He even leaned across me, to talk to people on the other side.

Who did he think he was?! I wasn’t used to being ignored, especially by men, and he had the gall to come in, sit down, and ignore me?

Finally, he said, “Oh… And who are you?” He touched my arm when he said it, and for some reason, I didn’t flinch.

“Who am I? Who am I?” I echoed. “I’m Christina-Marie. This is my bar. These are my people,” I said, indicating my friends and coworkers, “and that’s my spotlight you’re warming your a** on. Who the hell do you think YOU are?”

With a smooth, but boyish, smile, he said, “Me? I’m Mr. Right.”

“Really? Let me tell you,” I said, “I’ve been in this business for far too long. I’ve heard all the lousy pickup lines, and Honey, you need new material.”

Then, he handed me his business card. Oh… The “W” was silent.

I told him to get lost, and he protested, saying I couldn’t scare him away — he’d been married. He’d been in the trenches, he said. He could take whatever I could dish out, and come back for more.

It may surprise you to know, Dear Reader, that I did not melt into his arms at that moment. Rather, I engaged him in a several-hours-long diatribe on what a farce love and marriage was, how monogamy didn’t exist, and how tired I was of the whole thing.

He looked into my eyes and said, “I see your heart. I can tell you’ve been hurt, deeply. What you need is someone to tell you it’s okay to still believe in love, and to show you the fairy tale can still happen.”

Hmmm… Where had I heard that before? God sometimes has to put a billboard directly in front of your face, rather than a subtle sign.

Wasn’t that what I said I wanted? Wasn’t that all I was waiting for? Of all the “gin joints in all the world,” why did this man walk into mine?

God and I weren’t exactly on speaking terms at that point in my life, so I chalked it up to coincidence. The man in front of me wasn’t running away, despite my best efforts, and he was attractive.

It’s said water seeks its own level, and in the story of Mr. Wright and Christina-Marie, that was certainly true. I was angry, with a broken spirit, and a reckless soul. He was coming out of a divorce and battling his own demons, and was my mirror image.

Our relationship progressed rapidly, physically, and chaotically. Before long, we were living together, three hours away from my hometown, with our cumulative five kids, and for every good day, there were four bad ones.

We had relationships with other people, fought constantly, and I was becoming more and more disturbed by sex — I was acting out sexually, but it was like I was outside my own body.

Again, I didn’t know it, but I was suffering bi-polar disorder, and I was dissociating on a very scary level.

I was hearing things that weren’t there, was highly paranoid, and literally saw demons hovering over my bed when I tried to sleep. Sex became a violent memory I was acting out, and I was losing control.

While on a business trip with Mr. Wright, my itinerary got rearranged, and I ended up with a flight several hours after his. I ventured into the city for a bite to eat, and found a small bistro. There was a street concert going on a block away, and the bistro was packed.

The hostess told me, if I didn’t mind sitting at a table with other people, she could seat me in the courtyard. I agreed. Of all the things I remember about that day, the most clear is Third Eye Blind performing “Jumper.”

I was seated at a small table with two men, who told me they were in town for a pharmaceutical conference. I ordered a small appetizer, and a cup of coffee. The bill that would show up on my debit card later was $12.00, which would become pertinent, only because I would later be asked if I’d consumed several alcoholic drinks. I hadn’t.

At one point, I got up to use the restroom, and returned to the table, where the two men were still seated. As I sat back down, I saw my coffee had been refilled. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the last thing I would see for several hours.

The brief flashes of memory I have include being pushed into a cab in the dark, and a male voice instructing the driver to take me to the train station, because I needed to catch a train to the airport. Then, nothing, for over an hour.

I woke up instead in a hospital. The police had been called by the cab driver.

I’d been drugged.

The “date rape” drug was something I’d read about in the news, but it never occurred to me to be afraid of it. After all, I wasn’t a college student.

I answered questions to the best of my ability about the men, but aside from first names, I was at a loss. I was told I’d been picked up at a hotel. To this day, I have no idea what happened.

Eventually, I suffered a complete breakdown, which resulted in messy legalities. It was a blessing, though, because I was finally diagnosed, and found a supportive counselor who let me talk it all out at my own pace. At first, I could only vocalize how angry I was, but bit by bit, I began to talk about how afraid I was, and how scared.

For the first time in my life, I was on medication, and it was helping. Sort of. I never could feel quite “right” when I was on meds, but I was able to function more or less normally, on the outside, and my legal issues were dismissed following a few months of therapy.

Mr. Wright and I began helping in a ministry, feeding the needy. We met a kind and compassionate pastor who headed the ministry, and didn’t ask any questions about our relationship, but always referred to us as if we were married.

To tell the truth, it felt a bit hypocritical, working in a ministry, but living together and having sex when we weren’t married — especially when we began to be more actively involved in God’s work. Finally, I spoke up.

I told the pastor we weren’t married, and he confessed he’d figured it out, but had been waiting for us to come to him. He suggested — for spiritual health and to demonstrate obedience to God — we should stop having sex, and one of us should move out, until we were ready to get married.

No problem, we said. Except… We couldn’t afford to live separately. And, I didn’t know how to have a non-sexual relationship.

I’d never had one. Never.

A short time later, during a prayer meeting at the food ministry, I received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Afterward, I cried… Not because I was filled with joy, and not because I was cleansed or enlightened, but because I didn’t want it .

While I loved the fellowship of the ministry, I really hadn’t settled my arguments with God, and I wouldn’t, until years later.

Where was God when I was molested? Where was God when I was raped? Where was God when the demons hovered over my bed, threatening to suffocate me?

I’d read that famous Christian prose, Footprints, and shake my head in disbelief. Certainly, God hadn’t carried me through my most difficult moments. I’d been alone, then. Completely alone.

(Continued in Part 3)

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