Critter Under the Bed (written because for some: “it is time to open your eyes and see”)
Cindy Charles Ouellette SFYB Staff Editor & Author
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My husband of 13 years was one of the local pharmacists plus owned 5 drug stores in our coastal town in Oaxaca. He was highly respected and loved in our community. And he was labeled as the town widower with five adult children, who had married the American Teacher. (That’s me.) Pharmacist Gabriel was wealthy, yet extremely frugal. He cut corners on everything except his own London style clothing and holiday family banquets. The family had had the same Ama de Llave ( head servant ) for 20 years .
She ran the house her way and usually with her blame game of verbal control. Her expertise of Gabriel’s favourite recipes, taught to her by his late mom, gave her leverage to do as she pleased. The adult children were very fearful of ever having to manage daily life, house cleaning and meals without her. They could not fantom the many family celebration “ fiestas” without her. Who would do all the cooking? Even though she was a prized housekeeper, Pharmacist Gabriel never gave her a raise. He assumed Vicky was where she was supposed to be, caring for whom she was supposed to care for.
One of my husband’s passions was his love for Mexico’s culture and terrain. We often took bus tours to different states in Mexico to see the ruins and cathedrals. In addition, we looked forward to spending time in the local produce markets tasting ‘fixed on the spot’ tamales, cheeses, sauces, hot soups, etc. Of course, we only toured on economy class buses with economy tourist packets and native guides.
These second class trips involved traveling with 30 folks I did not know, sightseeing through the bus’ dusty opened windows, patiently controlling between bathroom stops with my own supply of sanitary paper in my pocket, fitting elbow to elbow around family style restaurant tables, and posing in tightly grouped camera shots. All that was easy for me. Even having to sit crunched up beside strangers on bus, taxi, ferry-boat and train trolley seats never bothered me.
You see, my ex-husband did not sit beside me / he didn’t permit physical contact. I found no challenge with Mexican village menus and praying to bless the unsanitary food settings where the bus driver unloaded us to grab a bite.
In route to the next big towns the bus driver would park on a shoulder of the highway where people had set up stands to cook and serve ‘fast food’ for travelers. We would stand in line waiting for our food to be served out of hot towel covered buckets and from the makeshift sizzling hibachis. Our ‘GO’ plates could be anything from pre torn squares of pinkish butcher paper to large banana leafs. Passing cargo trucks added exhaust fumes and muffler noise to the ambience. Now that’s real getting down and being one of them! Actually, I love it! You know the ole saying: “When in Rome…..do as the Romans do”.
This trip was going to be my last adventure as the highly respected Pharmacist’s wife. I was privately preparing for a departure back to my own country. (Exciting but terrifying) I had been in this familiar, Mexican habitat some 21 years while raising my innocent son. He never deserved to be put through my codependence prisons we had endured. He was gone now and learning the American way of life. That’s a culture shock for any new comer to The United States, I assure you. And now it was my turn to go through that challenging period of adjustment as did my son.
My thought life secretly pondered: What was ahead? What to take with me , where to go, could I get a job, would I ever find a true love, could I stay clean and sober, could I drive on a freeway, survive snow, build credit, make friends? This was all so scary.
I had been in a recovered alcoholic over 2 years now. One day, just for today, I did not drink no matter what. And being in substance abuse recovery via the 12 step manual, internet sponsors, & 12 Step Study audios, I had learned one thing for over 2 years. And that lesson is to “trust and rely on God”.
My heart had run out of hope for my marriage and the painful loneliness was beginning to kill me. My private doctor and physiatrist agreed that I had one chance to live and not die. And that last resort was to leave. I had been doing the same thing over and over some 13 years and expecting a different result. No matter how hard I perfected and care gave and gave up me, I could not make my husband, Gabriel, love me. I was making him and me unhappy. His coldness, flippant indifference and public unfaithfulness were subconsciously suffocating my desire to live.
My mind and body had shut down 2 months prior on New Year’s Day 2006. I had flown to Chicago to witness my wonderful son’s boot camp graduation.
Oh how beautiful that day and weekend was. … (I’ll tell that miracle tale on another day).
But briefly I had waited my turn at the taxi pick-up point outside the Chicago O’Hare Airport two hours from midnight to 2:00 a.m. I was heavily exposed to a snow blizzard. I was used to 110 degrees hot weather south of the border. My lungs got much too cold waiting for that taxi outside 2 hours. So, three days later when I returned home to Oaxaca I had developed a bad constant cough.
It was almost Christmas and my spouse wanted us to take the overnight tour bus to Mexico City to see the famous Almeda Park Christmas lights.
Adam, my son, used to go with us each year. Just a Christmas tradition, but I had to pay my own way and my son’s expenses everywhere we went and ate. That held true for about 90% of our expenses at home, too.
I was asked to pay for my own laundry soap, cleaning agents for ours and Adam’s room. I was responsible for my share of the telephone and electric bill as well. These were senseless ‘roommate type’ living expenses that most husbands absorb, (especially wealthy ones). The 74 year old pharmacist had money, but only for his family (whatever that meant).
Remember me mentioning the controlling personality of the house cook? She was the one who made sure Adam and I knew that the family fruit, milk supply and soda pops were just for that….the family provisions and not ours! In my point of view, every-time I shopped for these household supplies, it was a stinging reminder that my own husband did not care for me! It was not about money. To me it was all about unkept marriage vows.
After getting home home from Chicago,my personal physician, told me it was dangerous for me to travel until my lungs were better, but my husband insisted we go to Mexico City. So my doctor gave me an injection to get me thru the holiday trip. Back then, Mexico City had very visible pollution. And Mexico
City has mile high altitude…not good for congested lungs.
Upon return we soon had a house full of 4 step daughters and 5 grandkids visiting grandpa’s house for Christmas and New Year’s.
I slept in my son, Adam’s room to not keep ‘My Love’ awake by my nonstop coughing. Dec. 31 about 10 a.m. my Gabriel called me over to our bedroom and stated very firmly with stand-up tall, self-dignity: “Gueda, (white one) I have told you two other times that I married you to take care of me and not for me to take care of you. Your coughing is keeping one of the babies awake. You need to leave now. Go where you need to go. If you need to return to your country, I will help you. But you need to leave.”
He adjusted his tie and walked out of our bedroom to go to his office. I turned around and entered the bathroom, looked up to my God of my understanding (which is Love, Love, Love) and said: “Well, Sir, I have been asking You over three years to do your will in my marriage and this hideous triangle of lovers my husband has. I take this as my answer from You. Thank- you, Sir.”
I had no fear. I packed a tiny bag, Bible and 12 step readings.
The doctor had the car that day so I took a cab to an internet web café to email my on line alcohol recovery sponsor, who lived in California. After that I called the dad of one of my former university students, as his dad was also in recovery. I asked him to suggest a safe and clean hostel or pension. He hurried to where I was in total shock of what had been done to me! He found a clean pension and drove me there. I was just fine and prayed, read and slept well. But the next morning my body had shut down from a truly whipped and broken heart. I could not talk so I very slowly texted Josephine, a girlfriend. Josephine rushed over and got me to the emergency room of the clinic that my doctor owned. My doctor was away for the holiday season.
The staff workers rolled me into the emergency room and popped a pill under my tongue. I only remember Josephine screaming to Jesus and digging in her purse for anointing oil.
Then 4 days later I awoke at Josephine’s home and she insisted it was time for me to talk to my husband. I finally yielded under her sweet nagging. I called him and agreed to return home per his request. He wanted to discuss something with me. And he wanted me to come back home.
The day I went back home I called Mary, a dear friend I had taught English with at the university. Actually I had had to leave my director position at the university in order to have free time to attend 12 step meetings in the mornings. That’s the way I did not relapse. Meetings were and are my reminder of the illness I have and where I came from, not to return by picking up one little sip.
I still owned my little school that I ran at night. Mary and I were going to drive around town and wait in the car, while my secretary posted signs about a new course I was opening.
That cough; that cough. I needed to buy some cough drops and there was a new convenience store caddy corner to my husband’s office over his main drug store. So I pulled in the parking lot of the handy little store to buy the cough drops real fast. As I was reaching for my coin purse, I glanced in the rear view mirror. Oh my goodness! I grabbed my chest and tried to catch my breathe! I then pointed to them so Mary would turn and look. One of my husband’s girlfriends and he entered a cab beside his office building. He had just called that he was having coffee with Attorney So and So and would be home a little late for dinner.
I whispered to Mary: “ I need a drink.” She firmly returned: “No. No drink. Breath deeply. Collect yourself.”
I dropped my face on the steering wheel and asked God “why?” This was happening on my first day home and my husband had asked me to return. He couldn’t have the consideration to pretend faithfulness just one day!
I heard the answer in my inner self. I think that was the first time I had literally known that Still Small Voice.
“Because it is time for you to open your eyes and see”
Long story made short, Mary, my secretary and I drove to every coffee shop in town and called Lawyer So and So. The lawyer had not talked to my husband in three months and the coffee shop he later said he went to was now out of business!
So I secretly began to make all arrangements to disappear. First, I needed to leave in good graces with all Mexican government departments. Secondly I wanted to bless my girlfriends with my worldly possessions. I couldn’t take my material accumulations of 21 years with me. So, I had a blast giving them away! Most of my friends were on very modest budgets, so they were excited about the gifts I bestowed on them saying I was down sizing. And I commenced to settle all immigration and Hacienda (Mexican IRS) matters before leaving the country.
My physician and psychiatrist told me to prepare my departure without telling anyone or I would shut down again from the heart breaking experience of “goodbyes”. I was silently bidding “goodbye” to my community, profession, coworkers, blended family, town, new adopted culture and foods of 21 years. It would be too hard for my emotions and mind to handle. I was told that my codependence addiction toward my cold shouldered husband was so extreme, that I could go into withdrawal. My instruction was just get to America and get immediate help for codependency. These two professionals informed me that in medical school they had learned that 10 out of 100 emotionally abused women pass away within 24 hours after walking out of the relationship. The doctor gave me 10 pills from Germany to calm me until I got to a Co-da ( codependency anonymous ) meeting for support. They were a non mind altering medication prescribed to start taking the day before I left.
Preparations were in motion to escape quietly to the airport one early morning soon.. But one last detail had to be completed on this tropical rain forest vacation trip before I left. I would make my last attempt to see if my spouse could ever love me. I hadn’t totally given up. Yet, I was finally at peace. I really knew the answer and only needed to cross my “T” and dot my “I “confirming I had done my part before fleeing.
This Chiapas journey was so beautiful, as it was extremely close to nature in the raw sense of the word. We’re talking about some nights without even an outhouse, much less electric lights, fan, TV, carpeting. I learned to whirl a rag in a propeller motion while waving it up and down my body length to keep insects away, to bathe with half a pail of well water behind nature’s shower curtain of late night darkness,
to be a quick change artist in broad daylight while sitting on my bus seat (without anyone getting a peek), to tear a piece of cardboard box off at the market to be a most valued hand fan, to use an old t-shirt for a bath towel and lay it across my seat back to get dry in transit. All these lack of modern conveniences have never fazed me as hardships. I enjoy the art of being in nature’s flow full of gratitude and adventure. I practice focusing on expectation for what God has around the bend.
Actually one of the most exciting memorable praise times I have ever had was on this last trip when we spent a day where there were several shallow clear natural pools. They looked very “you Tarzan, me Jane”.
It was quite a hot day so dipping in the clear water was tantalizing. Each pool was a different color. They ranged from turquoise to powdery blue to a purple hue. In order to enter the water one had to carefully step over and maneuver around thick intertwining tree roots. The pools were not beside each other so a mini hike was in store between swims. I was alone and having a peaceful blast quietly planning my preparations for my return to my motherland. My husband always stayed near the tourist guide’s 17 year old helper. We had been on several tours with this guide and his young assistant to different Mexican states.
Actually Gabriel was always kinder and more considerate to that teen tour guide than he ever was to Adam, my son – his own step son.
I had raised my boy to the best of my ability. To tell the truth, Adam had survived his childhood but by the grace of God. We had really been thru the emotional wringer. I had made our bed and poor Adam had had to sleep in it. He finally had a father and that father’s name was Uncle Sam! I was now able to go back to my homeland without the worry of providing for my son. I didn’t have to worry about my son should I not get a good job or find a decent place to live. His address was at sea with room and board!
I had never had family for us to go back to in the United States.
As I daydreamed about starting my new life at last, I sang my own made up songs to the Lord. After the water time our guide gathered us to a picnic sight to have beans and hand patted tortillas. There was also a paper thin slice of sun dried meat. (What animal the jerky was from, I have no clue, but it was unbelievably tough!)
After eating, my husband started off for a climb in the jungle mountain. He had a game he would laugh about as he periodically enjoyed telling the tale. The story was in memory of his late wife. He would make her walk from one end of downtown Mexico City to the other while he marched in rapid pace glancing in shop display windows. He was an athlete and walked at a very fast speed with great ease. He would laugh about how his late wife would be limping and exhausted after the almost 2 mile hike on asphalt and cement. I had also been victim to his game twice on our Oaxaca town seawall. Both times I needed injections in an ankle and ended up having to drag one leg for months. It was just not healthy to try to keep up with him. Too fast!!!
He was up to it again. ..This time the game was for me to keep up with his climb up the jungle mountain as he followed the teenage guide.
But I grabbed a strong long, dry pole from the ground and let my husband hurry off thinking I would race behind frantically. I was in my own spiritual world of praise and worship, singing to my Lord at the top of my lungs.
I didn’t see the danger of all the twig and leaf covered trail steps leading up and up. I didn’t think anything about snakes or critters in the vines and under fallen foliage. I was just finally having the freedom to worship and sing without having people around. There was no church, Bible time or prayer before meals at the house. So this very private alleluia session in a tropical forest was wonderful! I never hesitated to grab onto vines and pull myself up and step on the unknown footings. And then, I realized I was on top of a high jungle mountain! I had arrived!
I was overlooking magnificent waterfalls. I sang even louder and happier. I know the feeling of an eagle now. Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. Yeh! Oh Father God, how beautiful!!!
I had to return pretty fast because it began to rain hard and the path down could get muddy and slippery. Long fall….
What a nice day. I guess it got me filled with the conscious contact with God that I was going to need for that very evening.
Our guide had given us a pep talk that he saved the best for the last two days! Yippee! We were spending the night at a luxury beach resort area for the middle class National Mexicans. The vacation spot was called Puerto Risco. Needless to say we arrived both bushed from swim and hike; all famished for a real meal.
As the bus entered the city an unpleasant stench appeared at each street corner. There were high piles of stinky, fly covered garbage thrown at the end of each block on the media. Whoa! What an invite! It was some festival and carnival time. The booth lights were set up in little parks. The few restaurants in the resort town were full of customers eating, and our tummies were empty. So we piled out of the tour bus to walk the main street spreading out to fin for ourselves in quest for dinner. We were to reunite at the town square for our hotel arrangements in one hour.
The guide confessed we would be scattered all over as no one hotel had had enough room for the whole bus load.
Some ladies were even staying in private homes with families. One basement room had three twin beds in a circle with a toilet in the middle of the room and a curtain was improvised around the toilet. The only mini window looked out to the sidewalk as sandals and flip flops walked by. Poor ladies!
The beloved pharmacist and wife (us) were to get the best accommodations (or so we were told).
It was almost impossible to communicate with my husband. His past time at home was sitting in front of the TV upstairs in the family room. He watched Hitler movies about three hours a day never getting bored of them. His library had shelves and shelves of books based on this hero of his. I had discovered two times that it was effective to call his secretary and just make an appointment as a client if I had an issue I needed to discuss with him. I had done that upon two different occasions when I had been particularly upset about one of his public displays of infidelity.
Tonight was going to be one of those rare times we could communicate, or so I planned. We walked on the beach and sat under a palapa (palm leaf shelter) while awaiting our room. As we sat and viewed the foamy tide I took in a deep breath and bravely asked:
“I am confused about some things. Why is it you have never even turned your head to look at any of my photos when I want to share my life with you through them?
When I tell you memories of when I worked at NASA or was an airline hostess / model / had my jewelry supply business / was an Indian jewelry trader on the road in my motorhome, you never even pretend to listen, much less make a comment.
You have never told me you are proud of me for the books I have written or the language institutes I have launched. I don’t understand. Please tell me why. Today I want to know why.”
Now inside my love starved imagination I suddenly saw my husband gallop in on a white horse, hop off the stallion and run up to me, kneel and kiss my hand as he declared how blind he had been and now he suddenly had fallen deeply in love with the beautiful accomplished women that I am!!! I almost crossed my fingers waiting for his love and kindness to evolve.
His answer was quick and cutting to the core! It took my breathe away. It slapped sense into me at last.
“Oh Guerda (white one), even your son says you are crazy” at which he got up to swipe off the sand and he walked away not even waiting for me much less helping me up from the ground.
That is just what I had taken this trip to discover. And I remembered what the Still Small Voice had told me:
“It is time to open your eyes and see”
Remember the story about the frogs in the big tamale pot (or crab pot or canning pot / what did your area call it?)
Well, the frogs settled in close together and made the best of it as the water got hotter and hotter. Maybe they were thinking: “It’s O.K. It’s all good. I can do this. Things will get better soon”.
And the water began to boil and they never even tried to escape and they killed themselves. Did I tell you that the pot was very shallow and they could have jumped over the rim at any time, should they have chosen to live? They all died.
My hidden flight itinerary was dated for March 10, 2006. In two more weeks, I was going to leap over the rim of the boiling pot, passing goal and not going to, but getting out of my own jail. My husband, Gabriel, had just dropped the last straw on this camel’s back! I held back the tears and put on a peaceful face, as always. My eyes were opened. I finally could see. He had just given me permission to carry on with my escape plan.
But first for a good’s night sleep….tomorrow would unfold tomorrow.
The guide was at the nicer hotel in town waiting for us to return from eating. The lobby was under the hotel rooms in an opened area patio that was tropically furnished. On the front desk counter was a little bell to wake the clerk if he was asleep on the nearby hammock. Oh yes, and a broom was propped up against the wall. Plus there was a spray can of insecticide at one end of the counter. (That should have been my clue.)
The guide had brought our luggage from the bus and he explained this was the nicest room left in the city and he would see us at the plaza at noon. Off he scurried with his young male assistant. They were probably going to sleep in the bus.
I rolled my flight bag on wheels into our room. Double bed, marble floor, one wooden stick chair, mini closet without a door on the left of the room and 2 steps that entered a sterile bathroom with only the necessities. There was not even a shower curtain or toilet seat. I checked and the bathroom window was well locked. As was my custom, I emptied and lined up my toiletries, went to the closet and got my Bible and 12 step manual out of the luggage along with my flashlight, towel, flip-flops, and night wear to go take a shower. Gabriel was just sitting in the chair. There really wasn’t room to do anything else.
The Voice, the Voice; It said: “Go over to your side of the bed and look under the bed.”
Now, Mexican hotels are very practical about bases for beds. To save on wear & tear and because cement is so much more affordable than wood, most teachers’ desks in public schools and hotel bed frames or just poured cement. One never had to clean under the bed and it was great on the spine. So beds were merely a mattress over a concrete rectangle.
I knew that and I knew God knew it. So, I thought ‘nah’ it must have been my imagination. I went to brush my teeth.
The Still Small Voice repeated ever so kindly: “Go over to your side of the bed and look under the bed.”
Oh! O.K. Maybe someone left a gold watch or 100 pesos there. Yeah right. I better get the flashlight and a coat hanger to reach with. I mean there is no “under the bed” so best not get too close.
As you recall the broom against the wall in a hotel lobby and insecticide ready to grab and aim, were clues I didn’t pick up on. About every two months, my spouse’s grandkids, Sonny and Adriana, would come screaming ““Night-Night”, “Night-Night”, un raton!”
They named me “Night-Night” because I said that before we departed to go to sleep at night. And raton means a mouse. So when they spotted a mouse the hunt was on. Vicky, the maid, and I would run for the brooms on the back steps and head for the last scene of the crime. How the kids would shrill and jump up and down as the mouse would escape from one piece of furniture to the next and laugh at Vicky and me do our routine until mouse died ~ we won.
Where was Gabriel all this time the mouse hunts were on? Hiding in the bedroom. He hates critters.
So, that is why the hotel night clerk had the broom ready for action. They had critters!
With close toed shoes on (not flip flops); with the flashlight in one hand; and a wire coat hanger in the other; I cautiously leaned over to see my side of the bed which was 12 inches from the wall and window.
Nothing visible. Using the coat hanger I elevated the long white sheet that draped over the side of the bed almost to the floor. “WOW!”
Wow, Wow, Wow.
Big, Big…….sooooo Big!!!
As I was moving swiftly to the bathroom to collect my beauty aids and then to the closet to rapidly stuff my towel, books and other possessions in my luggage and zip up, I was singing praise songs with eyes as big as a deer looking at a spot light! That’s what I do in the middle of any crisis once my vocal cords can function. I sing to the Lord…glory, glory, glory, glory…
Gabriel asked where I was going. I said back to Oaxaca; that I had had enough. He said that there were not any buses or trains or an airport. I said I would walk; I had had it.
I handed him the flashlight and demanded he go see, but to be very careful.
He tip-toed over very slowly, bent over a bit, peeked using his fingers at the corner of the cover sheet.
He looked about a whole minute (like he was frozen) and said: “It’s a scorpion”
He left the room and I stood in the hall with my baggage in my arms and my eyes focused on the pathway from me to it! How can I explain this for you to really get it? Oh yes. A banana. That’s it, a banana. Think of a dark, over ripe yet firm banana standing on one end and curving up other end. The tip of the curved up end pointed up in the air was in a striking position!
Gabriel and the night clerk arrived with spray can and that broom. They entered. I walked down to the exit area. 5 minutes later they returned to the hall and closed the door behind them. We were all walking to another building. No one talking except then the man informed us this is a brand new wing to the hotel and everything was new. I tip toed around to check it out. There were high cedar closets that did not go all the way to the ceiling. The bed didn’t have a headboard installed yet, so there was a three to four inch space between bed and wall. I went over everything singing under my breath. “Glory, glory, glory, glory”. Then I told them to get a ladder and look on top of the cedar closets. Gabriel had never been so obliging before. He told the man to go get the ladder.
I must have shined the flashlight between the wall and bed and over the closets and around the room ten times thru out the night. I have to admit I was not totally trusting and relying on God.
Why didn’t I meditate on the fact that God did not tell me to look under my side of the bed so I could be moved to another room just to be stung by a ‘Critter’. Duh, Cindy ! “Have some faith! Know who your God is!”
The next morning I was able to get Gabriel’s attention long enough to learn the whole amazing story.
They had killed the banana sized scorpion I had seen. But they decided to check the rest of the bed to spray it.
The cement bed base was hollow to save money on construction costs. The base had cracked open with a 2 inch gap and the sheet was hiding the hole. The nest, better yet, scorpion colony was in that bed base. Gabriel said there must have been 20 of them! He and the night attendant just hurried out and shut the door behind them.
I wouldn’t be here today if I had not listened to the voice of my Shepard. Sing to Him when I get scared or angry or confused? You bet I sing to Him! Yes! Even in public He is worthy of my praise.
Behold, I give unto you power to thread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Like 10:19
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