Saturday, May 12, 2007

Update From Far West Oahu, Act II

As best I can reconstruct from my notes, the FT was attempting to get her combination lock to work so she could enter her room. Her room was hard by the front door and the light through that open door gave her just enough illumination to see the numbers clearly. As no one was going in or out of the house, I asked another roommate if he would kindly close and lock the front door. For some reason, the sudden lack of light caused her some consternation as she rushed toward me—of all people—(while I was standing in the kitchen) with her right arm extended downward and her fingers curled as she was going to “cup” or grab something; my genitals, perhaps? When I felt that grasp tighten, I broke free and called the police, who wrote up an assault charge on her and told me how to file a TRO against her and—for all our sakes (including theirs)—to do it soon.

These same cops had been out to the house numerous times on her behalf, I would later learn. She called them to throw out one roommate who had allergies that kept her awake. The FT told them another time that one roommate swore at her. She reported missing panties from the clothesline. If the cops could be called at all, they were, I found out; no reason was too small. They were kind enough to give me a phone number card to Family Court and even told me what to say when I connected.

I set an appointment for the following Monday and answered the court clerk’s request to describe the FT by saying she looked like a bowling ball on chopsticks and, as far as I was concerned, had the same intelligence. I went over some of the many actions she had taken against me and he suggested I had a case and to “come on down.”

When I arrived that Monday, I waited in the lobby for my name to be called and met one woman who was also intent on filing a TRO against her boyfriend, who was languishing in jail at that moment. I asked her why she was here and she told me her story of grief and anguish. I’ll spare the details of her horrific tale and just say I asked a couple questions of her. I asked her what was her first thought when the first bit of violence occurred. She said, “Oh, he didn’t mean that.” I then asked her did she ever think she deserved the violence as it recurred. She responded, “Oh, yes. After all, I was making mistakes, sometimes the same one more than once. Sure, I thought I needed correcting after time.” She went on to say that she finally realized what a mistake she made with this guy; that the pain was no longer acceptable when she watched him attack his own mother, subdued later by the police.

I asked others within this circle of “TRO’ers” what their experience was and much the same responses came forth. They forgave the first hit, accepted their on-going punishment and then reached a point of no-return. I am befuddled by these responses. I can only surmise that a weak self-image coupled with a self esteem dependent on someone else’s assessment brought many of these women to this courtroom. Somewhere, thankfully, they saw some value and worth in themselves, either on their own or through the intervention of some other loving person (a sister, in one case) and made a fateful decision to end the violence. Not that the TRO is an immediate solid wall of protection against the perpetrators of this violence; it can keep honest people honest. A TRO is only as good as the speed with which a cop can get there. In the main, it may even prevent an escalation of violence but the prevailing thought—as I observed it—was that it was a first step of many toward resolution.

I completed my presentation and awaited the judge’s decision as to whether mine would be approved. After about 20 minutes, the clerks returned and called out several names; they were to follow along to the second floor. It turns out these women were the most intensely in need of counseling and even physical relocation into shelters. The rest of us were handed our approved TRO’s. We shook hands and hugged each other in much relief and even exchanged our landlords’ home numbers if we needed to move to a new place. Although this TRO still needed to be delivered to the nearest police station (Waianae) to be served to the FT, I was ecstatic. My first foray into the judicial system and I felt victorious. It was only a matter of time now and the FT would be out of my life.

I just didn’t know how the clock would turn: in my favor or not?

I rode the bus back home and drove down to the Waianae Police Station to drop off the TRO. They asked if I had a picture of the FT and I presented one of her and an investigating officer as she blocked the front door to keep me from talking to him. That photo was taken on Sunday, the day before I filed the TRO and after she temporarily kept me hostage in the house. The desk sergeant said the patrolling officers generally kept a copy of the un-served TRO in their squad cars and would come by the house and see if she was there. I was to keep a copy with me at all times and to call 911 if she showed up. She did on late Monday afternoon. I immediately called the emergency folks but she was too fast—in and out in minutes. I followed her to the bus stop, keeping a running commentary going with the operator of her movements but the cops were too late; she was gone.

On Wednesday morning, at 4:30am, one of the roommates came to my room and told me the police were looking for me. I grabbed the copy of my TRO and met them at the front gate. They told me that the FT was entitled to return to the house within 24 hours of being served the TRO to retrieve personal items, like clothing. I told the police she hadn’t been served and showed him the “defendant’s” copy of the TRO over the fence. He muttered something and went to where the FT was sitting on the curb, returning with the actual served and acknowledged TRO to show me. I knew that her coming to the house was at my agreement and permission and I could have spared my roommates the disruption of her visit. I decided I would get this over with and invited the police to bring her in.

The officer told her she had 15 minutes to gather some clothing but, she ignored him with a high protesting voice saying she had to get her “things.” She dragged out a full suitcase on wheels, several black 50 gallon garbage bags and three or four flattened boxes. All the while, she was either muttering unintelligible phrases, identifiable prayers or accusations against one wheelchair-bound roommate that he “…brought young girls and boys into the house for the rest of them and even tried to prostitute me, Officer!” He responded by saying she had 10 more minutes. She wailed and cried out loud while packing as we watched. She begged the cop to help her. She slipped on one of the plastic bags and screamed out for an ambulance. The cop said she had 5 more minutes.

I went to my room and retrieved a Cuban cigar sent to me by a Canadian friend whose proviso was I only smoke it when I was in a celebratory mood. What better time than now, I asked myself. I lit up and made sure the exhaled smoke was full, thick and blown toward the front door, which the FT had to pass in and out of as she dumped her full trash bags and suitcases onto the lanai. What a rich aroma that cigar imparted to the morning dew…

Finally, she was done and dragged her worldly goods across the street awaiting a pickup. What a mess she left behind; a trashed room with a broken glass louver she admitted breaking because someone stole her room key. Sure; like someone her size could squeeze through a three inch high opening into her room. She even insisted on posing by the broken glass for a picture I took to show the landlord what she had done on Sunday, a few days earlier.

I asked one of the officers how they served her my TRO since she never returned to the house. He said when she finished reported me “running into” her with my car, they simply handed her my TRO and told her she was “…hereby served.” By reporting me, she made it easy for the cops to serve her.

There just didn’t seem to be anything more she could do or say that didn’t have us shaking our heads. Or, so we thought…

This past Friday, I was ordered to court to defend myself against a TRO the FT filed against me in District Court in Waianae. I rode the bus into town catching the express at about 6:10am. The court time was for 8:30am. At about 6:45am my cell fon rang with one of the roommates calling me. He said the FT was already downtown walking toward the courthouse. He described her outfit for me and hung up.

Well, I thought, she is actually going to go through with this. I didn’t give much credence toward her avoiding it as; after all, she might even have a stage for another performance. I arrived in town and went to court.

I was surprised to see my landlord there in the same court room. He was there on another matter and I asked if would stay on my behalf after his deal was done and he agreed. The FT came in, saw us and looked as if she was going to join us. The court made it clear that plaintiffs sat on one side of the room and defendants/respondents sat on the other. As soon as she made a move toward us, I said in a loud voice, while pointing to her assigned area, “SIT OVER THERE!” The bailiff looked at me, the court clerks looked at me but nobody said anything. The FT made a hard U-turn so tight a bobby-pin looked loose and sat down. Two people came in, sat down with her for about three minutes and left; witnesses perhaps?

The court went through all the cases to determine how difficult and time consuming they might be and came to our case. I told the judge I was protesting my being here as the TRO was not in my name although I had signed for it in my proper name. He said no matter, we will proceed and directed us to sit down until called. I didn’t feel defeated on this point so I waited confidently until we were called a second time.

The judge asked the FT if she really wanted to go through the entire process of “validating” the TRO by virtue of a hearing and she said, “Yes.” The judge tried reasoning with her saying that he didn’t see much in the TRO of merit and that the hearing might well go against her. She insisted the hearing take place. We were sworn in and asked if we would affirm or swear to tell the truth. I said, “I swear.” The FT said, “So help me God!”

The judge asked the FT to speak first about the recent TRO violation on my part. She said that I almost hit her with my car as she described the incident. The judge turned to me and asked me how I felt about her remarks. Well, he asked me how I felt about her comments and I said, “Flabbergasted!” He quickly grinned and changed the question to have me tell my version of the events which I calmly did, adding that the FT no longer lived at the address. He swung around to her and asked if that was true. She paused and said that was correct. He asked where she lived now and she replied that she was in a room in the same neighborhood. He then asked when was the last time she slept at the house and when was the last contact she had with me. He then said a short recess was in order and told us to wait at the witness table.

The judge returned and once again reaffirmed the dates of the last night at the house and the last contact with me. He turned to me and asked if I accepted these facts and I concurred. He then announced that since some harassment may have occurred in the past the fact that she was no longer in the domicile made continuing this TRO against any future harassment moot. “Besides,” he said,” you filed this TRO in the wrong court; it should have been filed in Family Court. This case is dismissed and court is adjourned.” “But,” the FT blurted out, “Your Honor, I called the number given to me and they said it was okay to file it in Circuit Court at Waianae!” “Well, they gave you the wrong information; case dismissed.’ “But, Your Honor,” she blurted out. “Listen,” he said, “This is my courtroom and what I say goes here. This case is dismissed!”

I was shaking my head as I left the courtroom with my landlord, asking, “What’s the word of the day? D-I-S-M-I-S-S-E-D!”

My next day on court is Monday, May 14th, where I present my case for the TRO filed against the FT. I am confident I will prevail.

More later…

An Update From Far West Oahu, Act I

Some of you have stayed in close touch regarding the incidents at “Nanakuli House,” by phone, Instant Messenger and email. I can tell you your support has been most gratifying and helpful. Some days were darker than others and although this saga has a few more days before concluding your being there was the many bright spots. Thank you…

Before I begin a short history to date, I must take my hat off to anyone involved with resolving anybody’s issues or problems, anybody in the human resources industry. For example, I’ve been working my way through the judicial system as I filed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the female tenant (FT) and as I responded to a TRO filed by the FT, herself. Without exception, everyone I met and worked with was a delight, helpful and sincere. These court clerks and administrators daily have to deal with horrific stories and--without prejudice--guide abused and shattered people to carefully prepare legal paperwork (TRO’s) prior to presentation to a judge for approval. They do this day-in and day-out. I saw them as kind and gentle throughout the time I spent with them. My hat is doffed.

All I had to do was get my thoughts together well enough to be coherent when I put pen to paper for my TRO against the FT. I was at least smart enough to bring those tracks of words to the TRO “Training” session and put them in between the appropriate paperwork before the judge saw it all. These clerks had to hold hands and dry tears as the “plaintiffs” struggled to describe why they were there. I saw a part of humanity I’ve never been exposed to; indescribable physical, mental and psychological violence between once seemingly loving people. I thought my TRO—albeit containing a reference to violence against me—was just not comparable to the stories I was hearing from others in this classroom. What I found was that violence is violence no matter the source or delivery method. My TRO was approved by the judge as the “kick-out” type meaning should the FT appear on the premises I was to contact the police and they would immediately kick her out of the house.

I waited all night and into the next morning, barely asleep, listening intently for any door creak that might indicate her return to the house and my signal to the cops. I was exhausted from the waiting but mostly from the FT’s aberrant behavior over the last several months which intensified daily. I was eating poorly and what I did get down didn’t stay down for long because of my strained nerves. My concentration was strictly on how quickly I could respond to anything the FT said or did. I thought of little else except how to counter her every word or deed and to protect myself as best I could. I leaned folding steel chairs against the house doors that would crash to the floor and awaken me, warning me that she had returned and I was to call the cops to serve my TRO.

But you sometimes can’t wake the dead from sleep and that’s what happened to me.

I didn’t hear the chairs clatter to the tiled floor when the door opened and I barely responded when the cop was shaking my shoulder as he stood over my bed. I had slept maybe an hour when I was so rudely awakened. He announced he was here to serve a TRO on me filed by the FT. What a wake up call.

The TRO was addressed to one “Richard California.” I pointed out this discrepancy to the cop but he dismissed my comments by telling me the FT didn’t know my last name and just entered my birthplace. I told him I was from Brazil. It didn’t matter to him. I was Richard. He was here to serve the TRO and I was “it.”

I was in a stupor from the lack of sleep, lack of food and the effects of daily medicines I took for my cancer, diabetes and high-blood pressure. I couldn’t think well enough to realize I could reject the TRO because of incorrect name. The cop asked for my ID and told me where to sign. I followed his directions. It was early Tuesday morning and I decided to go to the supermarket and get something to eat.

On returning, I turned into my street from the highway and saw the FT trying to cross from one side to the other—outside of the crosswalk. I stopped my car and waited for her to clear the roadway, watching her every step. She appeared confused as she then crossed in the opposite direction while now at the crosswalk and even attempted to cross the highway as heavy morning traffic waited for her to get across. She turned around and went back to the sidewalk and stood there waiting for a bus to pick her up. I went home.

The next afternoon, cops came back to the house to speak to me. Apparently, by waiting for the FT to safely cross the road, I had violated her TRO against me by “…making contact.” I had to explain my actions in writing waiving my right to attorney which didn’t concern me much. This whole episode in my life was a simple test of confidence and I had plenty of that, I knew.

When the FT moved in some five months ago she irritated me by never staying on any subject for very long, simply starting to talk about something else literally mid-sentence. Too, virtually everything she said was a commentary on her life, delivered in such a way to have the listener feeling sorry for her. There wasn’t a conversation with her that didn’t have its focus on her. It occurred to me that if an opera were to be written around her self-centeredness, it would be called, “MeMeMeMeee!” I finally gave up communicating with her at all and spent most of the following months ignoring her.

Over the recent weeks her behavior became more bizarre and inexplicable. When I tried to tell others what the FT was doing, virtually everyone asked if I knew anything about her medicines. One cop even suggested I contact her doctor and get him to either “…up the meds or down the meds.” I didn’t even think about prescriptions on her part; I just thought she was weird. For instance, she would turn all the house lights on in every common area at night such as the kitchen, bathrooms and hallways and if any of us—like myself—turned them off, they’d be back on in five minutes. Or, she would turn all the water taps on full so that splashing water resounded throughout the house and especially into my bedroom, which had two bathrooms just out side my door. When the trade winds blew, the FT found a way to prop doors so they would bang open and closed with every gust. How about this one? I toasted my bagel in the toaster oven for five minutes each morning. One day, sensing the five minutes was about up I returned to the kitchen from my bedroom to find that she had extended the toasting time another five minute, scorching my last bagel.

The FT would become active in the kitchen at 11:00pm and wouldn’t let up until 4:30am or so when she would replace the pots and pans banging with KGMB radio loud enough to disturb the household. She wailed and wept as she prayed or read aloud from her bible. She…well, you get the picture—she was not well and I’m a layman.

What I didn’t expect to happen was a surge in confidence to confront this FT at any time. If words needed to be uttered, they formed at my lips and issued forth with my hearing them for the first time as they vibrated in the atmosphere. I thought of nothing when I approached her, I simply watched myself interact with this person, dominating her entirely. There was not a single word or phrase that she could say that was not met adroitly. She just didn’t just meet her match in me, she was so overmatched, so intimidated that she was reduced to tears and statements like, “You’re, you’re no good!” That’s original, wouldn’t you say?

I kept a journal of these behaviors—physical and verbal—and recorded as much as I could remember at the time it happened, even if it was two in the morning. I had an idea that journal would come in handy; I just didn’t know when or how. I even transposed cell phone messages left by the FT on another housemate’s voicemail as a part of the record. The more I wrote down the more bizarre and unreal her actions seemed to become. I’m not sure she wasn’t already doing some of the things I noticed at an earlier time (when I was ignoring her) though it did seem the intensity increased.

By now, she managed to alienate everyone in the house and they all wanted her out. One even threatened to deduct one day’s rent from the monthly rental for everyday in May she was still in the house. That got the landlord’s attention more than the constant barrage of calls from all of us complaining about this nuisance, the FT. All that was really needed was a spark that would light this tinderbox and she could quite possibly be gone.

She delivered that spark to us on a Friday with her attack on me.