This afternoon at a Shell Gas Station not far from where my office is in Cleveland, Ohio, I met a young woman experiencing a pretty awful moment in her new marriage. This was a smack in my face “Back to the Future, part 3″ moment. For those of you born after 1985 and whom have never seen these movies I encourage you to bookmark this blog, go watch all 3 movies (they are fabulous) then come back and finish reading. You’re going to need the point of reference. The rest of you who watched these movies, well, keep on reading. And, it’s ok to keep reading even if you haven’t seen them just bear with my ’80′s flashbacks…..
In Part 3 the Professor and Marty McFly head both to the future and back in time. The Professor warns Marty to avoid seeing “himself in the future” and his “current self” who went to the past several months prior. Marty is warned that coming face to face with his “current” self could have consequences of epic proportions. Today, at 2:15pm I came face to face with my past self… OK it wasn’t my past self but it was with a girl who was headed down the path I walked and I could not stop her, no matter how much I tried. Here is what happened…
I walked in to pay for my gas and overheard a slender, blonde woman, who really didn’t look like she was feeling well, using the gas station phone to try and reach her husband. The clerk at the register was offering suggestions to this woman who appeared to be stranded there by her husband. I asked her if she needed some help. She went on to say she had just had a minor outpatient surgical procedure and upon leaving the surgery center she and her husband had had a fight. He dropped her off at the gas station and drove away leaving her there almost 30 minutes prior to me showing up. Her cell phone was in the car with him and he wasn’t answering either his cell or hers.
I offered, more like plead, with her to take her home, to a shelter, to the police, to my office to anywhere but the gas station and him. She was pale and weak from her procedure and needed rest. The young woman refused to sit down. Having no idea where she lived or if she had family that would care for her I again offered to take her somewhere, anywhere! She told me where she lived which turned out to be about an hour and a half from where we currently were. I told her I didn’t care, that I knew she didn’t know me, but I would be happy to take her home. I explained that I knew exactly how she was feeling and had experienced very similar circumstances in my past marriage. All the while I was offering to drive her, I knew she would never say yes. She was young, she was inexperienced with the pain of an abusive marriage and truly believed it would get better. I knew this because I was looking at myself 14 years in the past.
No, I was never left at a gas station, but I was merely dropped off at the urgent care after I “fell down the stairs” after hanging a picture, left at the door of the maternity ward to have a D&C following a miscarriage after 4 months of pregnancy, left at the surgery center to have my dead and infected gallbladder removed, left at the ER alone following my first epileptic seizure (he had something better to do…), and countless other times I was left alone to face an emergency or crisis or illness or whatever it was that he was too emotionally unprepared or unwilling to handle or just too busy to take the time to be there for me. Had some strange woman offered to take me home I too would probably have said no believing he would eventually come back for me. Then again, I didn’t have that sort of offer and I will never really know for sure how I would have answered.
I wanted to tuck this girl in my pocket and drive her so far away from this man, her husband who took a vow to be there for her in sickness and in health. But she would not go and you can’t make someone accept your help. All you can do is offer it with sincerity and the courage to back it up in case they ever say yes. So, I stood there with her and waited. We waited, and waited, and waited and finally after 45 minutes of waiting he came back. Her face beamed when he pulled up. “See” she said! “I told you he would come back for me.” All the while forgetting that he had LEFT HIS WIFE AT A GAS STATION FOLLOWING SURGERY BECAUSE HE WAS UNHAPPY WITH HER!!!
I offered one last time to take her home or to a shelter where she would be safe. She thanked me and said she’d be fine, after all, she said, he has never hit her. Oh dear child! I wanted again to tuck her away letting her know that bruises and words carry the same pain yet often the pain of the words carry scars long after the bruises fade.
I gave her my business card, pointing out that my cell phone number was on it. Please call me if you need anything I told her as I walked her to and helped in the waiting minivan driven by this man she called her husband. The man that had on their wedding day promised for better or for worse. I really hope things work out for those two before they get worse…
After leaving the gas station and going back to work it was more than an hour before I could feel the blood moving in my fingers again and was able to stop visibly shaking (I just kept telling people I was cold). Looking at myself in the past through the eyes of my future was almost more than I could bear today. I’m one of the lucky ones. I changed my future and it is looking really bright! But in Back to the Future the Professor was right, coming face to face with your past does have consequences of epic proportion. Mine? I may well be haunted by the face of this young woman today forever, but I’m going to keep looking and keep offering to help because one day someone is going to say “yes.”