The other day I was cleaning the home of one of my regular customers. I speak to this woman casually, but she loves to talk and always does the bulk of the talking while I mostly remain quiet and make polite noises where I think they need to be.
I can tell this woman, Heidi, is terribly lonely and desperate for someone–anyone–to talk to. I’m not the best person to engage in small talk with, but I try to for her sake, because she seems to need adult companionship even more than she needs her house cleaned (which, truth be told, doesn’t seem to be her #1 priority).
When I first met Heidi, she screamed Victim. Not in a bad, manipulative way, but there was a strange sadness about her that I recognized right away. She seemed so desperate for love and acceptance. She’d ramble on about her religion (she’s a biblical Christian) and her love for birds. She purchases bags and bags of bird food to give to the outdoor birds that populate the thick grove of trees that surround her home.
She is also a hoarder. She had no furniture to speak of, but never throws anything away and keeps ordering stuff from QVC or wherever she orders from–useless things no one needs that she is always trying to give away. She loves to make herbal remedies herself at home using various herbs, and there are bottles and jars of strange concoctions all over her house.
There is a sadness in Heidi’s eyes that her smile and cheerful manner can’t hide. So I wasn’t surprised when she told me that she was divorced and in hiding from her abusive ex husband, who she told me was abusive in every way it’s possible to be abusive. He had left her with nothing, but he continues to stalk her. He drinks heavily. They never had children.
Heidi’s demeanor is sweet, almost naive, although she’s seen more than anyone should ever see, and experienced abuse so horrendous she could have been a war veteran. She even has scars to prove it. Once she showed me the weltlike scars on her back and chest from when he had beat her repeatedly.
I noticed on her small bookshelf are books about PTSD and major depression; the rest are religious books, books of daily affirmations, and several Bibles. She said she was never religious until after her divorce, when she realized how evil the man she had been married to was. Jesus was her only comfort.
Heidi only has a few pictures gracing her plain white walls. The one that takes center stage, placed lovingly in the middle of her living room mantel in a gold-toned embossed frame, both mesmerized and disturbed me. It showed her as a younger woman (but not looking much different) at her wedding. Her smile is radiant and her blue eyes are glistening with happy tears. She was the bride every man dreams of marrying, the bride every mother dreams that her daughter will become. She trusted the man who faced her. She loved him. She looked into a future that promised happiness, security, comfort and a family.
She got none of those things.
I could tell immediately the man in the picture, the man who became her husband, was at the very least a malignant narcissist and very possibly a psychopath. It was his face and body language that gave him away. He too gazed into his wife’s face, and he held her arm, but the odd thing was the way he held his body at a distance from hers. As Heidi leaned forward, he almost seemed to be recoiling from the love she was feeling. He looked stiff, as if he was playing a role. But even more telling was the man’s face. There was no love in his eyes, no warmth, not even liking for Heidi. His eyes appeared cold and dead–small pinpoints of glittering gray-blue that were as absent of emotion as a doll’s eyes. And his smile–if it could be called that–was a smirk. The overall feeling I absorbed from looking at the two of them was a predator who had just captured his prey and was preparing to rip his kill to shreds to be consumed the way a lion rips apart a gazelle he intends to eat.
Although the picture was taken years ago and she is safely away from that man, I felt afraid for her looking at that photo. My heart felt as if someone had packed it in ice cubes.
Even sadder is that Heidi still appears to be in love with that evil POS, keeping their wedding photo on the living room mantel with two vases of flowers on each side of it, as if it’s a shrine to what they never had.
Looking at that photo made me realize just what the vulnerable of this world–people like Heidi–are up against when they fall in love with narcissistic predators. I hope one day she can move on emotionally and stop loving a man who nearly destroyed her mind and soul, and caused her so much suffering.