Chapter 35 - Ursula
It felt like death was inches away and my life was about to be lifted up to hell when the ambulance arrived. Jake sat beside me near the gurney and I was naked under the cotton blankets with satin lining. The EMTs took Jake's statement and so did the police. They wanted descriptions of the perpetrators and where to find John, as described by me and from my memories of it.
I was asleep by the time I was in the hospital and now I woke up a day and a half later, in the early morning of 4 am on a Monday. There was no one here, except for the Certified Nurse Assistant, Marley, and she gave me a chicken broth to sip on because I was hungry but I didn't want to eat anything because I was afraid I might vomit.
My headache was still there and I felt so used up, and my body felt abused and battered. My bones hurt, my shoulders felt tense and my legs felt sore. It felt like I was at the gym for hours without water, but it was actually a physical and violent trauma. I never knew I would ever experience this in my whole lifetime.
Marley called Jake, because he placed his number as the next of kin, and told them that he was my supervisor at work and my boyfriend. "That's the only reason why we trusted him and let him in the hospital," said Marley. "He said he'll be here in twenty minutes."
I tried to stop the tears but it flowed down my cheeks like a dripping faucet from my eyes. I didn't know how to stop it, and I didn't know what to say to Marley, other than, "Thank you."
Marley gave me a box of tissues, and told me, "I've had a friend all of my life because she was the only person who believed in me when I was hurt by my father. Her name is Jane, and she has been my best friend since third grade," said Marley. "Jake....Jane, almost serendipitous, don't you think. It might be a sign. That things will work out at the end."
My left hand reached my face and I sobbed uncontrollably, dropping tears like rain on my hospital gown and moistening my palms.
"Hey....it's okay. Let it out," said Marley. "It's normal. I'd be scared if you weren't sobbing."
I nodded, and said, "Thank you."
Marley sat next to me, and asked me, "What was the perpetrator's race?"
"Latinos of some kind. I'm not sure, but I was hurt before too, and he was white, and there were others from the shelter, and they were black. Basically, all men hurt me," I told her.
"My Dad was Asian," said Marley. "I'm Hmong. Do you know what that is?"
"I think so. Mountains area near Vietnam, Laos...around there," I said. I was hoping I didn't sound too uneducated with being a high school dropout.
"Yup," said Marley. "We are a close family, my family, so no one expected what happened to me. People thought I was trying to kill my parents."
"How did you get over it?" I asked. "I don't know what I'm going to do."
"This was a long time ago, I was in third grade and I'm in my forties now," said Marley. "But, it still hurts. It's time and effort."
"Are you married?" I asked. "If it wasn't for Jake, I would have ended my life in self-harm."
"No, I'm not married," said Marley. "But, I'm surrendering. It is what it is. When you're older, and realized that life can be okay without a husband, I think you've reached maturity. I make efforts to help myself, and you should to. Don't underestimate yourself, and don't think less of yourself, even with the trauma you endured."
"I was raped badly, and I didn't know if I should say anything, but I felt so low, that I was so afraid. I was afraid I'd get in trouble for being raped," I told Marley. "I'm thankful you are so open to me. I thought I was going to cry alone here."
"To tell you the truth, every rape victim thought they did something wrong, and that they felt it was their fault and that they were in trouble. It's a strange victim mentality, because we felt oppressed that we were obligated to feel lower, to be at fault, and to be victimized even more," said Marley. "Those are lies. We deserve extraordinary miracles in life. Especially because we were hurt. That's the truth!"
I felt her spoke life in to me, and I felt my spirit comforted, that someone wanted me to be better, to feel better, to heal and to progress. Marley wanted me to be healthy and to lean forward to a bright future.
"I'm not young, and I don't know if I will have a boyfriend or a husband," said Marley. "But, I know that I deserve someone who values me, and loves me, and wants me because he not only needs me, but wants the best to happen to my life."
"I haven't met anyone like that, but Jake is close," I said.
"Jake is biracial isn't he?" asked Marley.
I looked down to my palms on my stomach while laying on the bed with my back against two pillows. "I'm worried he's like them, because he said he loved his ex-girlfriend once and she hurt me. I'm worried that because I'm an easy victim, he'll drop me later if I do something wrong."
"Do you hurt other people?" asked Marley. "I think Jake thinks for you."
"What does that mean?" I asked. "I don't hurt other people, no."
"Jake thinks about what you need, and what makes you a better human being. He told me that you work for him, but he was willing to put his name down to make sure you have someone who is responsible as a support system. That's a huge move," said Marley. "If someone is willing to go the long way with you, it means they care about your well-being. Family kind."
Tears peaked out and went down my cheeks, because I never knew what it meant to have someone cared for me that much. My own family won't speak to me because I wanted to drop out and take time off. My Dad ran out faster than a laser beam to drop his own family and be careless himself. My Mom acted as if I was her mistake, and every day was a sad day with me. I wished I wasn't born into the family I was born into. I belonged elsewhere, but nowhere, so homeless I was.
Jake knocked on the door, and Marley stood up from the chair next to my bed, and dimmed the lights in the room.
"It's soothing for serious conversations," said Marley.
"Hey....Marley," I looked up to speak to her before she left. "I will keep you in my heart and thoughts."
Marley smiled at me, and left to the nurse's station.
Jake tapped Marley on her shoulders, and told her, "Pal." Marley high-fived him. Jake sat on the chair where Marley sat, next to my bed, facing me.
"Sleep is good for the brain, Ursula," said Jake, taking off his blue cap.
"Induced sleep helps too, I hope," I said.
"I have a surprise, later," said Jake. His eyes smiled at me, with a shine that lifted high and the wrinkles near his eyes crowed a bit. His endearing face made me smile.
"I'm sorry," I said, blurting out and sobbed again. It felt so bad inside, that he had to see myself in this horrible light. The worst of me, instead of the best of me. I wanted to show Jake I was capable and had a responsible demeanor, someone he could count on, and I failed miserably.
"The perpetrators will be sorry," said Jake. "You don't deserve any of this. At all." His smile was gone, and his eyes told me that he did not expect this much suffering either. That he didn't know what happened either.
"I just know the Ursula who worked for me, worked hard. She danced that billboard like a pro. She brought in customers, and she was ready to work. You're valuable to me," said Jake. His eyes moistened. "I'm sorry, Ursula. That you were hurt this way. I didn't anticipate this much violence in anyone's life. I never experienced it."
"I wish I know what to do," I cried my reply. "I don't know what to do."
"And that's okay," said Jake. "Most adults, to tell you the truth, wouldn't know."
I just kept crying, and I was so embarrassed, because he saw all of me, broken in my skin, raped and battered as if I was a dead dog by the freeway. But, he patiently waited until I breathed and said to me, "I told you I was an orphan, but my parents never made me feel adopted. I think all they taught me was based on love. That's how life works, Ursula. You just love others, as you love yourself."
"I'm not sure I know how," I said. "I know uncontrollable emotions, and suicide attempts, and drinking problems, and pain."
"Well....first thing is that sex is not love. They are not the same. Especially, the abuse of sex, is not love. It is called rape," said Jake. "What happened to you was a crime, and it was rape. It was a violent crime, and it was done to you, not by you. You didn't choose it. It forced you down to a broken path, but you're going to heal. That's first. I can write it down later."
I knew Jake was smart, but I never knew he was wise. I knew the difference between smart and wise, and often it was arrogance, but he was wise and kind. I really felt lucky to have him as my supervisor, and I hope, boyfriend, although it was unofficial, and only on hospital charts.
I stayed silent, because I wanted to listen to him speak life to me.
"The surprise is here anytime now," said Jake. He stood up from the chair and looked outside the room. A few moments later, a familiar face came in, and I screamed!
"Barbara!!!!! Oh, My, GOD!!!!" I yelled. Barbara Paradiso walked in with her support dog, a large golden doodle.
"I brought Bessie with me," said Barbara. Barbara Paradiso and I met her when I sought help from Safe House Boulder, and she helped me with therapy and spoke to me, many a times, about life and how to learn to cope with violence.
My eyes were wide open, and Jake laughed and said, "You looked like you just saw a ghost!"
"I have chocolate, dark ones," said Barbara. She gave me a small box of Dove Chocolate, and I quickly opened it and devoured one at a time.
"I wish I spoke to you more often," I said, with tears in my eyes, wishing for time to come back and our friendship wasn't so short, although it has been 15 years.
"Well...I'm busy and you're busy dancing on the street, as Jake told me," Barbara said. "How do you manuever those things? They look heavy."
"Not really, foam boards with handles behind it," I said.
"I'll leave you two in conversation," said Jake. "Ursula. I'm here. Always. And I'll be here."
I smiled at him, and told him, "I want to be with you here."
"Good," said Jake. He tapped the doorway, and walked out of the room. "I'll be back. Enjoy."
Barbara sat on my bed near my feet, and held my hands. "How are you, dear?"
I took her hands, and put them on my forehead, and I cried and cried, and cried. Barbara looked at my face, and told me, "It's healing. It breaks 10 calories a minute."
I told her, "I don't know how many girls and women understand me."
"They all need to understand you," said Barbara. "You deserve happiness, Ursula."
"As you, and I am so happy you married, and found true love, and had a beautiful daughter, had a pregnancy and gave birth, and you're stable. I miss you, so much. I wish I can sit on that chair again, in front of you, and talk about life with you," I told her.
"I think your story is a long one, a saga," Barbara said. "But, it has a happy ending."
"How do you know?" I cried my question out, because I wasn't sure what life would look like now. Everything felt so uncertain, and I was so broken, in all of my nakedness, I was assaulted and beaten and left for dead like the rats of New York. I was a long story that no one would read.
"I know, because if I'm important and true, then so are you," said Barbara Paradiso. "I've made it my life's mission to end violence. And you're an instrument of my peace."
"Am I important to you, Barb?" I asked. I felt Barbara was my guiding light, and I was the little girl she helped along the way. There must be millions of us in the world, because of Barbara Paradiso's bravery, talent, hard work and grit, truth, wisdom, and knowledge.
"You owe it to this world, to know how important you are," said Barbara. "People are born important. Life is important. You willing to keep living is important. You helping others, through your work is important. You are important."
"Barb, you're important to God, because you saved so many lives along the way," I told her.
"It takes one to know one," said Barbara. "I'm happy you woke up from the long nap after the assault. Some women didn't. Some women died."
I took her hands, and kissed them. "Thank you for your heart, Barb." I said. I meant every word.
"Jake thanked me, too," she said with a smile. "He's a good man. I'm happy you met him. Keep working for him as a billboard master. It's good exercise."
I laughed, and Barb said, "You giggled."
"That was me, laughing, Barb," I said to her.
"It was a giggle, Ursula," she said, laughing.
Jake walked in, and told us, "The doc said, a week, and mental health follow up, and bed rest. Ursula, I'll put my apartment as your future home. It's a two bedroom."
"Thank you, Jake," I answered.
Barbara smiled. It was worth a zillion dollars in heaven and Earth, that no one could take away from me.