My journey to hell and back began over a decade ago when I was 22 and wild. I kissed Blake Buckner one night and was to be married to him when I was not quite 23. We had been out at a bar in San Francisco where you could smoke, and then we went to his apartment and drunkenly ate stale bread and butter, and then we made out. I had known him for several months in a friendly way — we lived near one another — but a few days before the bread and butter I noticed, out of nowhere, an insistent desire to be near him.
Everything happened so fast; I was at a short period in my life when I really felt like I had got my acts together. After a protracted gastrointestinal issue, I was finally the level of thin I always really wanted to be. I had two part-time jobs and a condo apartment to myself. I had absolutely no sense of consequence. During this period, I had always craved the attention of men, and it was thrilling to feel that, for once, in such abundance that I could take it or leave it. I was so fleetingly confident in my ability to bend a man to my will, in fact, that when I realized I was pining for the man I would marry, I invited Blake to my grandmother’s 75th birthday party — a bold strategy for courtship. By the time the birthday party came around, we had eaten the bread and butter; I think we were already in love.
Blake’s appearance was very deceptive; no one could ever suspect him to be violent, although he was sometimes plagued by intrusive thoughts and knocked constantly on wooden tables and doors. On a certain day, we went out with some of his friends and he had been drinking all day, and then his old girlfriend arrived. I was upset because she sat on his lap. Then she held his face in her arms tracing his cheekbones with her fingertips and kissed him while he wrapped her in his broad shoulders with me right there; he didn’t stop her so I went to sit in the car. He came bellowing over, so I locked the door. He put his fist through the passenger window then dragged me through it. After receiving a few punches in the head, one of his friends drove me home. At home, I tended to my sore head, scrapes and bruises, but what hurt most was that it happened at all. The next day when he arrived at the flat he was full of remorse – things would be different, he wouldn’t drink and he would never hurt me again.
I believed him; things did improve for a while. Soon I discovered I was pregnant, he seemed over the moon with the news. A few months later, we had a little argument over his leaving the front door ajar upon his return from his drinking escapades. During the argument he punched me in the stomach. I ended up in the hospital with a ruptured cyst on my ovary. The baby was all right. Returning home I gave him an ultimatum – that if he ever hits me again I would leave him. He pleaded with me and agreed to all my terms.
However after our baby was born the drinking continued, and the abuse continued. I stayed, as I could not see a way out. Brief times when he was sober, things seemed pleasant. My way of life became moving from one house to another with him, as people became aware of my situation (the domestic abuse), although I had learnt to hide the bruises and he was good at not leaving them where they could be seen. Over the years I took out several Intervention Orders on him, which I then dropped when he made his promises and sometimes, even, threats against me.
On our child’s birthday he received a gaol sentence of several months for drunk driving and assault on a police officer. I still didn’t leave. During his time in gaol I visited often – he made more promises: no more drinking, no more abuse. When he left gaol, things were great for a while, and I hoped that his time in gaol had changed him. I got pregnant again, this time with twins. When I was pregnant we moved again, this time to be closer to his family, as I was going to need help and support with twins on the way. This was a move I should never have made. His father also had a drinking problem; they were a bad influence on each other. During my pregnancy he abused me again and again. Another time I pulled a kitchen knife on him and he laughed, as he knew I would not use it, then he spat in my face. There were times when he was at the hotel with his parents, I would pray that someone would knock on my door and tell me he was dead, rather than face him coming home. I was trapped; the only people I knew were his family. I had no way out.
Once our new babies were born, things remained the same. I looked after the children; he went to the hotel or to smoke dope with a mate. Life was tough and often there was no money for food. I stopped eating so what we had would go further. As long as he had his beer he didn’t care. He would complain when the babies cried and tell me `to shut them up or else.’ Every day I lived in fear, never knowing what his mood would be.
One day I left him to care for the twins, so I could collect our eldest child from daycare. I returned home to find one of the twins was cold and shaking, I was horrified. It turned out they had a dirty nappy and he had put them in the bath with a cold shower running, in the middle of winter. A few weeks later when i wanted to breast feed one of the twins; I went to her cot and found a blanket over her, a shirt was wrapped around her head and shoved in her mouth. Quickly I removed it and she gasped for breath. I was shocked and angry. How could he do this to his own child? I confronted him and rang his parents for help. When his parents arrived, his father was drunk, saying `it’s alright son, I know she’s bullshitting’. He swung a few punches at me, then left to go to his parents for the night.
I was distraught, frightened, and knew I had to protect my children. I found the phone book and looked under ‘Domestic Violence’ in the front. I got several phone numbers; I started with the first. The first few refuges I rang were full and asked if I could wait. Finally I rang a Salvation Army refuge, and an elderly man answered; I don’t know how he understood me through my many sobs as I tried to tell my story. He said `not now, tell me when you get here, do you need help, how soon can you get here?’ my reply was` we are on our way.’ I grabbed my box of photo albums, a garbage bag of clothes for the children and myself, and took my dog, which had been a loyal friend for many years, and we left.
Driving early that morning, I was a little scared of the future, but not like I had been every day for the last five years. The eggshells I had been treading on were gone, my children could cry and I didn’t have to shush them. I was determined to turn my life around.
I spent a week at that refuge before moving interstate. I changed my name, and began to rebuild my life. A few months later, I moved into a housing commission house, got part time work, and had started making friends for the first time since leaving school. Life was great.
Fourteen months later, after I trusted the wrong person, Blake contacted me. He pleaded with me to believe that he had changed, he been to counseling, anger management etc. etc. He was real convincing – the old charm was back. I agreed to give it a trial, but said that things would have to go slowly. He could not live with me. And no more alcohol. He saw us once a month to begin with as he lived a long way away. Soon he moved to the town where I was living.
One weekend he was staying with us, he started drinking. We were having a conversation and at some point it escalated and I asked him to leave. I walked over to the door, opened it and said we could have the conversation another day. He grabbed me by the hood of my sweatshirt, threw me out my door and got on top of me and started choking me. I managed to break away and ran out the front door. He caught up with me at our front lawn, pushed me to the ground and started punching and kicking me. I thought he was going to kill me. Our neighbour’s voice called out that she had called the police and he fled.
A few days later, Blake Buckner was apprehended by the police for assaulting his estranged wife. The only problem was that Blake had already been arrested for the same crime days earlier, and records showed that he was currently serving his six-month sentence in prison. They checked. He was still there.
Before the time-travel division could be called to untangle the apparent paradox, though, my mother in-law came and cleared everything up: Blake had a twin named Jake who had a habit of going to jail for his brother’s crimes. In total, Jake says he voluntarily served four sentences for Blake, simply because he loved his brother and believed he wasn’t ready for prison life. Since Jake was serving time for his brother’s crime I never met him.
She explained; “It all started in the ’90s when Blake signed up for the Army and went through months of training, only to decide at the last minute that he didn’t want to be shipped off to Iraq to serve as a helicopter mechanic. Jake said, “What the heck, I’ll go for you” — he’d fixed a few cars in his neighborhood, so how hard could a helicopter be?”
“Since no one caught them (Jake became a crew chief in Iraq), the twins kept pulling the ol’ switcheroo every time Blake got into trouble. Jake had some run-ins with the law himself and insisted that his bro was too soft and delicate to spend time in prison … despite the fact that Blake was a violent wife-puncher just like his dad who repeated abused his wife and children,” she cried.
When a judge told her to cut that shit out and sentenced Blake to six months in jail, Jake once again stepped up and turned himself in, pretending to be his brother. Apparently they didn’t bother to check his fingerprints because they didn’t know he had a twin, never mind one stupid enough to take his place.