I want to begin today’s post by sharing a few books that were helpful to me on my journey. I have dived into sharing my personal experiences with a psychopath which may seem bleak. I do intend to write on brighter topics that intrigue and fascinate me. One person’s story is not enough to shine a light on psychopathy — just a pointer along the way. Reading published books can help victims identify the signs and patterns of what they’ve become mired in. So, I offer these few beginning suggestions:
Going back to where I left off…. I had felt myself increasingly drawn into Paula’s web — although I didn’t yet know it was a web. On the one hand, I felt a great sense of bliss and hope for the future. Paula had put me on such a pedestal, my head was in the clouds and my feet were nowhere near the solid earth. On the other hand, I felt a great sense of foreboding and fear. The summer of 2009 had turned to autumn and my birthday was approaching. It seemed necessary to find out whether this new romance was going to metamorphose into a reality that was not separated by an ocean. If anything, I needed to see face-to-face if I was living a dream, or if I should heed the warning signs. And so Paula and I began to talk of me making a trip to the UK.
Being visually impaired, I had not done a huge deal of traveling on my own. Certainly not traveling outside the United States. I’d had a grand adventure to Mexico when I was 10 years old. I’d been to Canada twice. And I’d had one outstanding visit to Finland — another story to be told someday, perhaps. With great trepidation and excitement, I booked a flight to Gatwick Airport outside of London. I honestly didn’t know if I could trust Paula to pick me up at the airport. But I threw caution to the wind, hoping this would be the first step in my dreams coming true, and boarded the plane at Reagan National Airport that would carry me across the ocean. At least this would give me some answers. The fear was so intense, I was emotionally exhausted and there are some holes in my memory, but the key facts are crystal clear.
I had requested special accommodations, and so when I landed at Gatwick, I went through immigration and was bundled onto a motorized cart with my luggage and with other passengers needing special assistance. As I emerged from the arrival gate on the motorized cart, I passed beside a wall of about 5 ft that guided arriving passengers to the point of exit. Paula was standing on the other side of the wall, waiting for me. She called out to me, and as the cart wheeled close to the wall, she extended her hand over the wall and took my hand in hers. It was the first time we had physically touched. Her grasp felt so warm and safe. Electric. She seemed delirious with joy to see me, and gave me a big long hug when I passed the last barrier. Paula took charge, grabbing the handles of my luggage and guiding me through the airport to the parking garage.
I had landed at approximately 7:10am UK time. Paula had secured the services of a friend of hers who was a taxi cab driver named Steve Moss. They loaded my luggage into the taxi van and Paula helped me step inside. We hit the A-25 motorway, and then took the A-23 motorway to southern England. It was pouring rain, with much traffic. I wanted to watch the landscape, but was so exhausted, I fell asleep leaning in Paula’s arms as she made chit-chat with Steve. Not much could be seen with the pelting rain and fog anyway.
I can only vaguely remember my arrival at Paula’s home. A friend of Paula’s had been watching the kids. I was introduced to the friend, and Paula chatted with her until she left. Then I was bombarded by the chaos of the kids. All talking at once and bouncing off the walls. Undoubtedly, Paula scooped me into bed to rest from my 10-hour flight. I’m sure she fed me something once I woke up. I was shell-shocked, and worrying about what to expect. I was only going to be there for 10 days, and arrived on the morning of my birthday. Probably in the hubbub, Paula gave me the birthday gifts she’d gotten me — a silver necklace and ring, a Jeep watch, and a leather coat with fuzzy warm hoodie. Much of it is a blur.
I believe that first night, Paula corralled the kids to bed. Paula did not yet have the stable door with lock for Glenda (pseudonym), with Down’s syndrome, so Glenda was put to sleep on a mattress on the floor beside Paula’s bed. Then finally we were alone. I had not intended to jump into anything intimate, but one thing flowed into another, and Paula was clearly maneuvering it in that direction. We made love, and I would describe the experience as transcendent, spiritual, two soul-mates finally experiencing bliss after long months of separation — not just the separation of the ocean, or the short months since we’d met, but the separation of a lifetime of longing.
Paula’s only concern was pleasing me, and yet when I expressed the love I felt for her in touch, she responded with unanticipated depth of emotion, In the throes of culmination, Paula grabbed a pillow at hand and when it flew out of hand, it broke a glass sitting on the window sill. Never had I experienced such intensity, reciprocated in both directions. Paula and I laughed uproariously at the glass breaking, and she cried copious tears. Through her tears, Paula explained that she had never before experienced an orgasm with anyone else. Her tears and gratitude and tenderness sealed my perception of two long-lost soul-mates finding each other at last.
The next few days are a blur, except that there was constant sex, outings with the kids, and meals served by Paula. On one of those nights, we’d been at it up through the wee hours, only to repeat for more at sunrise. But in the middle of our snuggling and playing and intimacy, little Reba (pseudonym) who was only 4 years old at the time, burst into the bedroom and squealed, “Eeeeew, they’re having sex.” I guess this was the first red flag on the trip — I wondered how a 4 year old child knew about sex. I certainly didn’t know what sex was or looked like at that age. Couldn’t help but make me question whether Reba had already stumbled onto such scenes in the past. When Reba squealed, Yuri (pseudonym) came running, and Glenda woke up. Now we were surrounded by three giggling and whooping children in a compromising position. I hid under the covers. Another big laugh despite my private concerns.
Since my Facebook friend, Martha (pseudonym), who had paved the way for me meeting Paula through her boyfriend’s sister lived not too far away, I had planned to see her on my trip. With Paula’s encouragement, my shy self summoned up the courage to call Martha, and she said she and her boyfriend would come and pick me up the next day for an outing. I had already confided some of my concerns to Martha, including Paula’s early act of masturbation on the videocam. Paula had long since told me that she owned her house, which I had shared with Martha as well.
I was actually a bit stunned when I saw the condition of Paula’s home. The entrance way was painted a dark, gaudy red, with paint peeling. Rooms with wallpaper had large strips and splotches torn off by the kids. The kids had also written and drawn on the walls. Paula’s stove top was black from lack of cleaning. The tattered living room furniture was sticky from sweet treats where the kids had wiped their hands or dropped food. Candy wrappers and potato chip wrappers were stuff underneath and between the cushions. The rubbish bin in the kitchen was filthy, with dried food smeared on the wall beside it. There were holes in the walls, and everything looked shabby and in disrepair. All of this was unsettling to me. Had I been expecting the overseas arrival of the person I hoped I might spend the rest of my life with, my home would have been spit-shined from top to bottom. Another sort of red flag that i let slide, thinking Paula had much to deal with in coping with four children on her own, and that she must have bought the house at a reduced cost because of its condition, but had not had money yet to make repairs. Before seeing Paula’s home in the flesh, I’d seen it on videocam, but my vision impairment and the limited view of the webcam cloaked the condition of her house.
Somewhere around noon the next day, Martha and Clyde (pseudonym) came to pick me up for our outing. Nothing had been pre-arranged, but I had assumed that I might be gone about 3 hours. That would give time to talk and get acquainted, have a meal at a restaurant if that’s what Martha had planned, and time for more talking after the meal. However, I explained to Paula that since I was going in their car, the timing of my return would be at their behest. Martha and Clyde knocked on the door, and spent a few minutes chatting with Paula and with the kids who were clamoring for attention.
When we got in the car, the first thing Martha said to me was, “Paula doesn’t own that house. It’s a council house.” Council houses are the UK’s version of subsidized housing. I didn’t know what to think. Paula had told me she owned her home, and I believed her, so I just assumed Mandy was wrong. I wish I had listened to her!
The outing with Martha and Clyde was a wonderful blessing, but took longer than I had expected. They took me to Devil’s Dyke, where one can look out and see the rolling hills of the south down, the patches of sheep farms and fields below. There was a pub at Devil’s Dyke, and we had a leisurely meal. The food was absolutely delicious, real British cuisine. We took photographs, lingered some more, and then Clyde drove us to Martha’s house, which was also a council house, but immaculately clean and in good repair. She presented me with a teddy bear and an English flag for my birthday, and cooked a meal of “spag bol,” short for spaghetti Bolognese, a common British meal. Martha collected rocks from around the world, and so I had brought her a rock from my yard so she could have an authentic American rock. We reminisced about meeting on Facebook, and all our happy chats and the games we played. A very lovely day.
Some photographs of me and Martha below. The first one at her home with the birthday gifts she gotten me, the second two at Devil’s Dyke.
As the time with Martha came to a close, and I had expressed some concerns about Paula, Martha had told me to call her if I needed help. By the time I got home to Paula it was late, about 8 or 9 o’clock. We hugged and said goodbye.
When I got inside the door, Yuri announced the time, and noted that I’d been gone a long while. Paula, expecting me to be home earlier, had made and kept warm a pot roast for me. But I had already had two big meals, and simply could not stomach another bite of food. I guess Paula was upset that I was not able to eat the food she’d prepared. I told her to put it in the refrigerator and I would enjoy it greatly the next day. But Paula had a “thing” about leftovers, so she said she would just dump it in the bin. The kids were herded off to bed, Glenda was put to sleep on her mattress on the floor, and Paula and I laid down on her bed to snuggle and talk.
As we were lying on the bed, Paula asked me a question about my mother — a bit of a triggering question, given the state of my relationship with my mother at the time. As I began to answer her question, Paula fell asleep. She was snoring loudly. I was a little hurt, but not overly so. I knew she’d had the tiring day keeping the kids entertained and under control, and had cooked the pot roast, so falling asleep was no crime. I was tired from the events of the day as well, so I shifted to my side so that I could drift off to sleep as well.
My movement stirred Paula, and now I suddenly saw the other side of her. She demanded, “Why are you turning your back on me?” I tried to explain that I was only trying to get comfortable for sleep, I wasn’t “turning my back” on her. She insisted she had not fallen asleep, when plainly she had, and I wasn’t faulting her anyway. Before I knew what was happening, she had flung herself on the floor, on her knees in front of me, in hyper-arousal, exclaiming, “I won’t beg for any man any more.” Where did that come from? I tried to gently soothe her and calm her down, but everything I said only seemed to enrage her more.
Next thing I know, she has left me standing in the bedroom, and has stomped downstairs. I can hear her in her kitchen, banging around and making all sorts of noise. I was surprised the children were not awakened. Thinking of all the red flags I’d tried so hard to ignore, I became afraid. The banging continued, and I next heard her exit the front door. At first I wasn’t sure what she was doing. I thought she might be leaving me alone with the kids. Listening, it became clear she was taking rubbish out to the big bins for pick-up. But it was already quite late, the neighborhood was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, and yet she was clanging and clamoring about. The neighbors must have thought she was a lunatic. If they were awakened by the loud banging, they might call the police. Without even seeing it, you could feel the rage in her movements.
With much trepidation, I went downstairs to try again to calm her. Still, every word elicited more inexplicable behavior, yelling, and accusations. I finally asked her if she wanted me to leave. Paula would not give me a direct answer. My fear was only growing. Keep in mind, Paula was a foot taller than me and at least twice my body weight. I’d seen her anger on the videocam, as when I overheard her calling Emma a “fucking lazy bitch.” This was our first face-to-face time together, and I didn’t know what she was capable of. My internal warning system was blaring, “Danger! Danger! Danger!”
When she wasn’t calming down, and when she refused to answer as to whether she wanted me to leave or not, I told her without an answer, I was going to assume she wanted me to leave her home and I was going to call Martha to come and get me. Still getting nothing but the rage, I called Martha. So, very late at night, Martha and Clyde drove all the way back to Shoreham-by-Sea from Brighton and got me and my luggage.
It was a great act of kindness on Martha’s part. I was grateful I had somewhere to turn. Martha made a cot for me downstairs at her home, and looked after me. I had wanted to see the Royal Pavilion in Brighton while in England. Clyde spent an afternoon taking me there. But meanwhile, Paula was texting me and begging me to come back and apologizing. With her deluge of apologies and pleading, i began to think of the bliss of the first few days and how brief a time I had left in the UK. Had I given her a fair chance? Would I regret it if I didn’t go back? So once again, I pushed aside the now glaring red flags. The incident had occurred on a long and trying day, Paula was exhausted, and everyone is allowed their lapses. Feeling quite ashamed at the trouble I’d put Martha through, but feeling like I still needed more answers to assess the future I’d dreamed of, I went back to Paula’s house. Martha told me it was a mistake, but she wouldn’t stand in my way.
When I got back to Paula’s house, emotionally drained and raw, we sat on the sofa for hours, Paula stroking my hair and gently caressing my fingertips. The rage I’d witnessed was nowhere to be found. I was lulled into a deep sleep. It seemed like I’d made the right decision to return. The rest of the trip was uneventful so far as red flags were concerned, except that Paula ramped up the sexual exploits, being unconcerned with what the children witnessed or what was done in public. Paula kept her promise to take me to London. What a delight to see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, and the London Eye. We had a walk to the beach with the kids, which was glorious. The whole way, Paula was careful to take my arm and guide me around obstacles. She held my hand and kept her arm around me, as if she was proud to have me by her side. I was back on the pedestal, and glowing.
When it came time for me to return to the US, Paula kept begging me to stay. Of course, I couldn’t. I had a dog and a home that needed to be looked after, I had already had more than enough drama to last me a good while, and staying was simply impossible. I didn’t know when or if I would see her again, or what my final assessment would be. The last day in the UK had be a little worried. With all her begging me to stay, I began to wonder if Paula would actually get me back to the airport. Imagine that, in the fog, wondering if the woman you loved might hold you hostage! At times, she seemed out of touch with what was realistic and practical. I worried, but in the end, she did get me to Gatwick for my return flight.
All those months before the visit, Paula had plied me with romantic love songs, pasted on my Facebook page for all the world to see, unabashedly declaring her undying love for me. She introduced me to the British band Westlife and their song I Wanna Grow Old with You. It was that song that listened to on infinite repeat as I flew home. I cried the whole flight back, half fearing I would never see her again and wanting to be with her so badly, and half numb from the strange events of the trip.
And so that was my first trip to England…..