I feel like it’s time I start talking about Elgin. It’s not the town itself that I hate. In fact I have some
warm memories of the place. Not to mention that what I hated came from Bartlett. Elgin’s just where I went to high school for 3 years.
When I moved to Chicago, one of my greatest concerns was the proximity of Bartlett/Elgin. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with those suburbs. I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to see anyone from there. I had no desire to connect with anyone from high school. Then there are those specific people. The actual ones that caused the pain. I made it clear that they are to never know that I’m back in the area. I figured Chicago is huge and I can hide easily there. That of course didn’t stop me from being fearful that I’d run into them for the first couple months.
For two years we kept a good 40+ mile distance. As time went on, I gradually stopped thinking about it and them. I stopped looking over my shoulder. I wasn’t worried when I went into airports or Wrigley Field. Chicago’s a big place. I’m safe. I’m okay. Then I met Kelly. When she said she was from Elgin, I considered ending it before it ever started. What if she knew those people? What if they were friends? What if I ever had to go out there? What if I wind up running in to them? She was so awesome though, that I decided to go for it anyway (best choice ever).
The first time back to Elgin created enough anxiety to make me feel like it was 1995 again. Throughout the evening I started to loosen up, trying to charm her family, realizing that I wasn’t going to run into “them”. I made an odd request at the end of the night. I asked Kelly to drive me past my old house in Bartlett – where all of them still live. The closer we got to Bartlett, the more tense I became. I could have backed out, but I needed to do it, and I needed her with me, so we kept going. I saw the back of the house from the main road and had a hard time remembering how to breathe. I saw the brick wall that I’d been slammed against countless times. I saw the driveway where I was beaten with baseball bats in broad daylight in case I had gotten pregnant. I saw how close all the neighbor’s homes were and for the first time realized that they probably knew what was happening, but did nothing. It wasn’t just “them” that abused me. It was the community.
The second time I drove out to meet her at her parents and to meet her dog. I hate tornadoes. I hate driving through tornadoes. Yet, I drove to Elgin during a tornado warning. Love makes you do stupid things sometimes. I’m glad in a way that I drove during the intense weather. It gave me something to blame for the fear. Everything was nice and smooth – no funnel clouds, no craziness. On the way home though, because I’m a cheap skate and opposed to tollways, I set the GPS for a different route. I wasn’t thinking where it would take me, but, it drove me past my old house. A very large part of me wanted to turn into the complex and throw a rock or a brick at a window and leave. Part wanted to take a sledge-hammer to that brick wall in the back yard. All of me wants to just use a bulldozer. I kept driving. I don’t have the strength to come face to face with them. I don’t have the strength to lie and say that I’m okay. I don’t have the strength.
I’m not saying that I’m not strong. I am. I made it through. I have a life. I am happy. I’ve done extraordinary things in my life. I rode a bike across North Korea. I’ve helped shape and mold teen girls. I put myself through college and graduated second in my class. I’m learning to love well. I’m learning to be assertive. I’m learning to be whole. I’m also learning to ask for help. I’m learning to be vulnerable. That is strength. I just don’t have that kind of strength… for now.