Post-Katrina Lesson #1- Adventures In The
Psychic Psychotic Friends Network- Part 1
Lesson #1: If you have the time, run some kind of background check on your distant friends before accepting an offer of refuge. It may be money well spent.
This is part one of the story of our escape from the Keswick House of Horrors. We've moved twice since then. Needless to say, the last month has been quite turbulent and hasn't been much fun for us at all.
First, some background. I mentioned a thing or two about my hosts in previous posts, and will now flesh things out a bit more. For the sake of my little typing fingers, (and to protect the guilty) let me just refer to her as XX and him as XY.
After we arrived in Keswick, I was told by she who I once called "friend," that our coming to live there was XY's idea. That's only fitting because all of the resources possessed by the duo were procured with XY's money. XY is a multi-millionaire who, until hooking up with XX, lived in a simple cabin in the mountains and drove a pick-up truck. He also had a modest house in south Florida for winter getaways. In many ways, he's a republican good old boy, and maybe a little bigoted, but as experience has revealed, he's got a good heart and has his head screwed on pretty straight.
As I implied earlier, XY's simple and modest life changed when he married XX. I had known her through a mutual friend with whom we both used to sail out of St. Croix in the early to mid 1990s. My experience with her was pretty much limited to fun and leisure on the high seas. At the time, she was living in her parents' condo on the island and living off of (or more accurately, shopping through) a hefty monthly "rehabilitative alimony" payment from her ex-husband. She'd also gotten a six-figure settlement from a class action lawsuit which she blew through pretty quickly.
The last time we sailed together was in summer of 1995. My last sailing adventure (without XX) was right after I found out I was pregnant with Rachel, in December of that year. In the years following her birth, I heard from XX from time to time and was regaled with stories of the really creepy guys with whom she'd gotten involved. After receiving a second, unexpected six-figure check from the lawsuit, these guys and a resurrected drug habit helped make XX's money disappear pretty quickly.
Around 1997, now a woman in her mid 40s, XX returned to Virginia and moved back in with her parents with none of the money left and little or no other resources necessary to live independently with any real quality of life. With only a highschool education and scant retail work experience, she enrolled in a community college. In 1998, her father died and she called me in great despair because her mother was "being really mean" to her. I sent her a plane ticket so she could come down to New Orleans and be in a friendlier environment for a bit. Soon after returning from the trip, her mother kicked her out of the house and she began working as a sitter for old and sick people.
At some point in the years after that, she connected with XY. She'd known him in high school but didn't give him a second look back then. (She was a "cool" girl and he was a kinda chunky "not-cool" guy. ) But I guess things looked different to her in the light of her current state of life. In 2000, there was a courtship and then a marriage proposal. At 50, it would be XY's first marriage. When she told me about the wedding, which was to take place in Hawaii, I told her I'd be there if she wanted me to be. She asked me to be her Maid of Honor, and I think this was more so because I was willing to make the trip at my own expense than because we were such great friends. (I always liked XX and considered her a friend, but we didn't communicate that often and I had only seen her once in the preceding 5 years. I never thought she considered me to be a close friend, certainly not one worthy of Maid of Honor. But then I learned that there really are no other close friends. There's a lesson in this, as well. Beware when someone has no real friends and badmouths the ones that were once friends for reasons that strike you as things most of us would not have a problem with. Same goes for lovers that can't find one positive attribute or one good, kind thing to say about any of their exs.)
Anyway, I was impressed by how unabashed XX was about the fact that what she seemed to love most about XY was his money. He didn't seemed bothered by it and I figured that, from his perspective, he'd simply found someone who gave his money meaning. Personally, not being the judgmental type, I just observed it with some degree of amusement. (It really was amusing to hear her literally whining about wanting black pearls and other jewelery while we were in Hawaii. She whined in a sort of joking way, but she was clearly serious.)
As soon as we arrived in Keswick after the storm, XX began expounding on the many aspects of their largesse and how XY had completely spoiled her. He did everything. EVERYTHING. He brought her coffee and breakfast in bed every morning, did all the grocery shopping, cooking, gardening and everything else. (They, of course, had a housekeeper.) When not in one of her many health crises, XX spent her days watching soap operas with XY, pleasure-shopping and getting spa services and such. He also bought her a Mercedes for use in Virginia and she bragged about the "bigger, fancier and more expensive" Mercedes he bought for her to use while at their "home in Palm Beach." (Actually, it's in Riveria Beach, but Palm Beach sounds much ritzier, so she always refers to it as such, whereas XY, small on pretense, refers to it accurately.) She actually spent part of an afternoon giving me a tour of the contents of her jewelry boxes. I should note that XY still drives his pickup truck and his late mother's mini van.
As I mentioned, when we arrived, XY was recovering from a badly bruised kidney. His idea to have us take refuge in Keswick came to him while in the hospital. He recounted to us that he'd thought he was going to die at the time and upon realizing that he would be okay, felt that this was something he was called to do. He wanted to adopt us as an extension of his family and wanted to call me "sis." He said he was so blessed to have his life spared and to have more money than he could spend in a lifetime (which offended XX, who clearly felt she could easily spend it and stated as much,) and that he should share his blessings by helping us out. How could he just sit there and have this whole section of this big house just sitting empty when he knew that we had nowhere to go? This is what prompted his offer of refuge. In retrospect, XX had a motive and a set of expectations as well, but none of this was obvious to me at the outset.
The X abode is a sprawling 5 bedroom/7 bathroom house in an upscale area Keswick, part of Albemarle County which constitutes "Greater Charlottesville." (Population - less than 40,000- The New Orleans Superdome holds 72,000.) Two people occupy this 5,380 square foot house. (The purchase was XX's idea, of course.) We were to occupy "the wing," an addition to the main section of the house, separated from it by a den. We were pretty self contained there with our own little refrigerator, sink and microwave. We'd have to venture into the main part of the house only for laundry facilities and full-scale cooking.
We did everything we could to be good and unobtrusive guests. We eschewed the use of XX's twice-a-week maid and cleaned the wing ourselves. We did our own laundry and would have cooked our own meals if XX had not insisted that we eat with them, family style. (My children had to ask to be excused from the table, a formality we never bothered with at home.) I cooked a few times and would have done so more often, but XX said she liked to cook (and though I'm good at it, I don't really like to do it.) I'd help her whenever she'd let me but most of the time, "That's okay. I've got it" was XX's reply to my requests to help out in the kitchen. XX insisted on buying us groceries when we first arrived, but we took care of our own food purchases after that.
One of XX's favorite activities was to take us shopping for the winter clothes we would need. She did not pay for these, I did, with the exception of a leather coat that she insisted Rachel have. (I wouldn't have purchased it anyway, as it was not a practical purchase, but it appealed to XX's sense of style. She would have simply purchased it for herself if it had been available in her size.) XX did push me to buy a couple of other impractical (but inexpensive) items for Rachel. But the point is that we were taking care of our own needs, especially once I knew my way around town well enough to drive myself where I needed to go, (they let me use XY's mini van since he was on bedrest and not able to drive,) and we were helping out in whatever ways we could.
Now you have a sort of picture of the state of things shortly after we arrived. You know a lot about the Xs, but not everything. You'll find out more just as we did, in the unfolding of the events that will follow in the next post. To whet your appetite a bit, I'll just say that I've only recently stopped having nightmares about our last week at the Keswick House of Horrors. Brandy mentioned in a previous post's comment that she knew what was going on after reading Alex's blog entries on his My Space page. Alex mentions the reason we were given when we were asked to leave, which was clearly XY's attempt to save face. It all fell apart in the light of XX's psychotic behavior during the week it took us to find another place to go (a Holiday Inn, as it turns out.) Alex also wrote some pretty amazing poetry in those blog entries that capture his feelings of anger and frustration not just as it relates to this subject, but to the whole exile in general. Check it out.
Thanks again for your patience and for sticking with me with so much love and support. This has been a tough month.
One quick favor...Muse's package, sent via mail, was forwarded to me at my new address in Charlottesville, but please let me know if any of you sent anything to Keswick via UPS or any method other than mail in the last month or so. I may never see it if you did, but at least I might enquire.