When I was pregnant with Riley, we had a baby shower. At that baby shower, one of my best friends said to Rob, “Okay, so you and Maria are having a baby. You really have to take care of her now.”
“No, I won’t take care of her. She won’t let me.”
My back had been turned and I’d unintentionally eavesdropped on the conversation, but the moment I heard his answer, my blood ran cold. I didn’t know what it was that made me so upset; I just knew that that little exchange had unearthed something very profound.
Fast-forward a year later. Rob was living in the Philippines with me and Riley. I brought up that conversation, and I told Rob how upset it had made me. Still, I had no idea why it made me upset. I had a vague notion that Rob’s answer wasn’t the right one, but I wasn’t certain why it wasn’t the right answer. Would I have wanted him to nod solemnly and pledge his life to taking care of me? No, not in the slightest. So what was it?
“Love,” Rob said to me. “The only reason I said that is because you’re independent. You take care of yourself. I know you don’t really need me, and that’s what I love about you.”
It sounded aiight. I mean, the words coming out of his mouth weren’t necessarily offensive. But still, there was something amiss.
Rob and I did the cohabitation/co-parenting thing for almost a year, and things were going well. Then, right before he left to go back to New York, his mom came to visit. I get along great with his mom, so I loved having her around. She even gave Rob a credit card to use so that we could really enjoy our last days together.
Turns out, though, that his brother maxed out the credit card in order to pay for his estranged wife’s bills, so we couldn’t use it.
Then, Rob’s mom offered to give us a car. The idea was, we’d have something to drive around if we went back to New York (at that time, we didn’t know if we’d move back). The idea was also, Just in case Rob can’t find a job, we have something to use as collateral for a loan, et al.
But guess what? His brother gave his own car away to his estranged wife and took for himself the car that was supposed to be for us.
Then, when it was clear that me and the kids were going to stay in the Philippines and Rob was going to work in the States, Rob’s uncle secured for him a job.
And guess who took it?
Now, here’s the thing: At the time, it didn’t really bother me. I mean, it did, but Rob’s mom’s side is very c’est la vie about this kind of thing. They’re a tight-knit clan and won’t let material things get in the way of loving each other. For the most part, I respect that and think it’s pretty cool. But today? Today I was typing with Rob (my laptop’s ancient and doesn’t have a mic or camera), and maybe it’s because I was already in a pretty shitty mood, or because Rob’s not good with English and doesn’t know how to emote via text/writing, or because the deadline for Rob’s landing a job is only two weeks away and he hasn’t gotten any calls back. All I know is, when Rob mentioned how his brother keeps on dicking us over, I got really, really upset.
Make no mistake: We don’t have much. I make a teensy bit of money every month, and now that the regular school semester’s at an end in the States and I’m too stressed with pregnancy, et al., to launch a huge business plan for the editing business, we’re depending mostly on Rob’s parents to squeak on by. I’m feeling threatened and really wishing we had a credit card, or a car to use as collateral, or a good and steady job for Rob. But we don’t have any of those things because his brother took them all. I know that if push really came to shove, I’d do the damn thing myself: Work my ass off, make that money, pay the bills, et al. – ALL. BY. MY. DAMN. SELF.
I know I could do it, but if I did do it, why the fuck am I with Rob? What the fuck would I need him for, besides sperm donation? (Assuming of course that I want all of my biological kids to have the same dad.) Why am I with someone who doesn’t have the ability to meet my needs?
In my upset state, I told Rob that I felt unsafe. I explained that I feel like we don’t have a lot, and that the least he could do was make me feel like the little we do have will remain ours. I told him I need to feel protected and taken care of. I explained that when it came to this whole thing about his brother, I expected some kind of reaction from him besides a shrug of the shoulders and complacency.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked.
“PUNISH HIM!” I yelled.
And it’s true. I want Rob to punish his brother. I want him to be mean and awful to his brother. I want him to inflict pain on his brother because I feel like his brother’s been doing that to us. It’s a primal urge, and it’s probably useless, but I don’t care. I’ve long ago packed away the need to be with the alpha male. Now, all I need is to feel like my man’s got some kind of power, authority, and control over what’s going on with us and our family. I need to feel like he’s not some doormat who will let his asshole brother take what little we have – not without a fight, at least. I need to see that he’s willing to fight for me, for us, for our family. I want to see that fight. I feel like I’ve been fighting for the longest time, and that every second of every day is a fight and he’s standing at the sidelines while I’m bleeding on the canvass.
I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel like Rob can take care of me. And I wonder if it’s always been that way. I wonder if he’s ever really taken care of me, if that’s the ugly truth that had peeked out two years ago at my baby shower. Maybe I had caught a glimpse of it and subconsciously put my hands over my eyes.
I also wonder if there’s someone else out there who could make me feel more guarded, protected, secure, and sheltered than I feel right now…