If Walls Could Talk – Half-Way to Hell

Half-Way House

I opened in 1980. I originally existed as a hideout for battered women. They showed up, some with bandages, many with small children, infants in arms. Cold, afraid, angry, trapped. These women more often than not, went back to these men. Many of the women who got away from their abusers simply traded up to a better employed batterer.

One woman expressed it in a way that made me understand.

She said, “My man loves me so much he is willing to show me his worst.”

I don’t know why I understand it, but I do. To have someone love you so deeply they’d strike you, burn you, lock you up. Well, you had to stick around when it was all over with. Loyalty counts. If he shows that much care, you can’t help but stay, to earn his trust. To thank him. To honor him.

“Being here,” the woman batted a fist at her tear streaked cheek, “it just shows how weak I am.” She clutched her smallest child on her hip and held tight to a little boy’s hand. “I am a failure.”

Everyone who would listen knew she’d go back to him.

Till Death do we Part.
On a brighter note, I became a half way house for people coming out of long prison terms.
These men were abused and abusers.
I became a half-way house because too many of the women shared the location with their partners during reconciliations. A battered woman can’t find shelter in a place everyone knows about.
If your woman ran off, she probably came here.
Anyway, as a half way house, we have rules. No women, no parties, guests are discouraged. A fellow could lock his door but the manager on duty had to have a key and expectation of privacy was not to be expected.

Some men stayed for months, others reoffended right away and went back to the jail. Prison. I should have been a rehab for all the problems these men brought. They knew prison life but they were not equipped to have day to day relationships. Learning the rules was difficult. Living the rules was impossible.

Some of them didn’t want to learn the rules.
One man in particular was trouble from the moment he came through the door. He shrugged past the manager, bumping his shoulder, turning him sideways with a glare. I knew, everyone knew, he wouldn’t last.

He was okay for the first few weeks. He went to the job coaching place, did his paperwork, even went out and actually asked for forms to apply for jobs.

There was no way anyone but the biggest fool was going to hire him on. He positively smelled of hostility.

Two weeks in, this guy was listed as a walk away. Because he was a violent offender his picture came up on local television screens and anyone who saw him was warned not to take any action. Not to make any moves to apprehend.

He was two states over when some badder person than he, layed him out on a bar room floor. His case was closed. His number was up. He’d met his match.
Another fellow took his place. The guy seemed quiet, kept to himself, he was even meek. He was in for what they called kiddy porn, a crime that even criminals were offended by. It was kept under wraps what he was there for, why he had served time, but in here, people know. When there is a hush settled over a fellow’s past, we all know it had to do with kids.

He was mild mannered and kept to himself. The men here are allowed pens and note books. They can’t access the internet, especially the creepy ones. But they can write. They can receive mail but it goes through a manager’s hands first.

This fellow, though, didn’t send or receive mail. He wrote, he wrote during most of his waking hours. I remember him most because of the time he spent bent over his notebook. Sometimes sweat dripped off his nose, sometimes tears plopped on the paper spreading the ink in faded rings.

He wrote the most hateful and horrid stuff. Things he wanted to do. Things he did. Things he thought he did. Walls have eyes as well as ears. He had detailed plans of new things he wanted to try. Depraved things. Things you turn away from and spend the next few months wishing they hadn’t etched their horror onto your brain.

The meek, mild, child abuser got hold of some pills and died fitfully during his third month in his little room. Everyone knew.

The manager turned his hideous writing over to a parole officer who was likewise sickened by the first few pages. I imagine he burned the manuscript without reading any further. I hope he committed it to hell fire where the man who wrote them certainly suffers.

Half way house or half way to hell.

By Sally

Sally Franklin Christie Blogger and Author of If I Should Die and Milk Carton People.