Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Story of Belinda...

*

You're waiting for someone to understand you,

But you've got demons in your closet,

And you're screaming out to stop it,

Saying life's begun to cheat you,

Friends are out to beat you,

Grab onto what you can scramble for...

*

("Hide in Your Shell", Supertramp)

*

*

Everyone in Podunk knows that Belinda and I are best friends---but for the life of them, they can't figure out what drives the bond between us...

Because, from the outside, Belinda and I appear to be as different as night and day. Although we are both small in stature, Belinda is a delicately fragile girl with a shy smile who has never uttered the F-word in her entire life--- and I am a boisterous, tattooed biker chick whose wears black leather a lot and whose language frequently deteriorates into imaginative cussing.

I'm going to admit to you that it is very difficult for me to tell you this story. I thought long and hard about it before I wrote about it because I'm not sure that I can tell it in the right way. But I will try my best.

So I'll start at the beginning....

I met Belinda a couple of years ago when we were both hired at that huge, corporate road nurse company---the one I've told you about before where they worked us like slaves, night and day, 7 days a week, relentlessly driving us road nurses to a numbing level of exhaustion which caused us to neglect ourselves, our homes, and our families. We had all tried very hard to endure it because of the employment benefits which that job gave us---health insurance and retirement plans---benefits which are very difficult to come by in rural Podunk's crappy job market.

When I was hired there shortly after Belinda, the first thing I noticed about working there was that many of the other nurses, including the Manager, were treating Belinda horridly for no logical reason that I could decipher. They were all continually rude to her and, in fact, treated her like a dog. Many of them caused her new-employee orientation period to be a living hell. They tattled on her every mistake, ignored her when she tried to ask intelligent questions about procedures---and they gossiped mercilessly about her to anybody who would listen.

Once, when one of the other nurses had again tattled to the Manager about something she thought Belinda hadn't "done correctly", the Manager called Belinda into her office to "write her up", remarking cruelly to Belinda that she "might not be cut out to be a road nurse". I remember seeing Belinda emerging from that conversation in tears.

I was mystified. Because, watching from the sidelines of my own new-employee orientation, I couldn't understand why this was happening. From my view, all I saw was a very kind and sweet girl, an excellent nurse, and a dependable employee. And each day as I watched my co-workers continuing their cruelty towards Belinda, my bewilderment grew as to WHY on earth they were behaving that way??

At first I thought that maybe it was because she was new--- because the nursing profession is notorious for this phenomenom of treating new employees hatefully. But I was a new employee, too---and nobody was being mean to me.

And then one day I found out.

It was near the end of my new-employee orientation and I was on a "ride along" with one of the mentor nurses. While we were driving through the countryside, she began gossiping about Belinda. "You KNOW what Belinda is, don't you?" she asked with a snide look on her face.

Confused, I replied: "No.....what are you talking about?"

The nurse replied with a mean grin: "She's one of THOSE people. You know, that WEIRD religion. The one whose meeting place is over on Highway 22."

I was so totally astonished that my breath was almost taken away.

Religion was the reason people were being rude to Belinda? RELIGION??? I wanted to throttle this big-mouthed nurse and slap that smirk right off her stupid face. I simply could not fathom that people would treat someone so horribly simply because of their religion.

But I kept quiet at that time. Because I was still new there---and I needed the job desperately. I had recently burnt out of my job at a large Emergency/Trauma Center and had also recently recovered from a relapse of my alcoholism. I was broke, in disgrace with my family, at the end of my own tenuous rope, and I didn't want to cause any trouble or draw attention to myself.

But I seethed inside as I watched the daily cruelty towards Belinda.

But I also noticed something else. Although Belinda was being treated harshly on a daily basis, I saw that she calmly, stoicly, and with quiet dignity, persevered through the ugly treatment. She stubbornly kept going forwards in the new employee orientation, continuing to be gracious and kind to everyone---even her tormenters--- and never faltered despite the harshness she was subjected to on a daily basis. A growing admiration for Belinda began in me---and I instinctively realized that she was someone special.

I admired the hell out of her for not quitting that damnable company. Because let me tell you, if I had been treated that way, I would have quit in a New York Minute, running away as fast as I could with my tail between my legs. I would never have been able to stand it.

But Belinda pushed on and completed her orientation, finally earning the right to go out as a full-fledged road nurse. I also completed my orientation. It was a little easier for me because I had already had a few years of road nurse experience behind me before coming to the company. Because although I had primarily worked ER's and ICU's thus far in my nursing career, I had frequently taken breaks from that arena when I felt close to "burning out", choosing to work as a road nurse for awhile to give myself a period of time to recover from the stress of acute care.

As the months passed, Belinda and I began to gravitate towards each other. We found that although we came from completely different backgrounds, we had similar ways of thinking and behaving. Both of us were perfectionists to the point of obsessiveness. Both of us were hard workers and desired only to be good employees and good nurses to our patients. And although I didn't know it at the time.....both of us were living haunted, fearful lives...

Because each of us hid secrets that we were desperate to protect......

Gradually, we became fast friends.

Belinda was a rookie nurse then and very unsure of her nursing skills. Because of the way she was treated by the other nurses, she was frightened to death that her inexperience would bring down more ridicule upon her head from the other nurses---and she hesitated to ask for help when she was faced with a procedure or Medicare regulations that she didn't understand. But as we became friends, she found out that she could ask me for advice and that I wouldn't laugh at her or ridicule her for being inexperienced. I was only too happy to help her. And so, I taught her many things. And she was a dedicated and quick learner.

I went on visits with her and taught her many nursing tasks related to some of the more complicated IV procedures and wound care. And I also taught her about the unbelievably complicated Medicare paperwork and the RN's responsibility for coding regulations on such paperwork. And gradually, with her quiet determination, Belinda became more and more competent. Soon enough, she could hold her own against any of the other nurses.

But still.....I noticed that Belinda had an "old" look in her young eyes. I noticed that her wistful smiles seemed more sad than happy. But she never talked about herself or her family life. Her pleasant demeanor fooled everybody else---but it didn't fool me. And I wondered what it was about. I sensed that I was seeing in her the same thing that I was experiencing myself---some sort of hiding... behind a facade...

My own secrecy was that I was living a lie---I was pretending to be "normal" to everybody. But on the inside I knew that I was an imposter. And I was terrified of being found out. My secret was that I was an alcoholic with chronic depression---and I was attending AA in another town so that nobody would find out. And although I longed to be "normal" myself, I knew that I could never be "like the other girls". And so I kept my distance from my co-workers.

And Belinda had her own reasons for being a loner, although I didn't know what those reasons were at the time. And she, too, kept her distance from others.

The other road nurses wrote us both off as weirdos and left us alone. They thought Belinda was strange because of her religion and its practices. And they wrote me off as being a loner for whatever unknown reasons. But we both worked very hard at our job, trying to accomplish our insane desire for "perfection", and we eventually earned the grudging respect of our superiors for that.

Our friendship grew stronger as we were gradually driven to exhaustion by that company's unrealistic 7-day-a-week workload. And Belinda and I discovered that we could find solace from our misery in our growing friendship. We began sneaking off to meet for lunch. And in due time, we began to trust each other. And with that developing trust, we began to open up to each other about ourselves....

And, finally, we trusted each other so much that we were able to reveal to each other our secrets---those horrible secrets that we didn't want anybody else to know about.

I took the plunge first. I finally admitted to Belinda that I was an alcoholic and battled that disease along with debilitating periods of depression. I even told her of my problems with my family. I related to her about the constant guilt and shame which plagued me because of my family's open resentment and disgust about my problems--- and how I lived in constant fear of abandonment by my mother and sister, the only family members who were still speaking to me.

I told her that my mother and sister had always been "hot and cold" towards me, depending on whether or not I met their expectations. They would accept me into their lives when I was sober and kept my mouth shut about my depression--- because they consider my problems "laziness" and a "lack of willpower". And I told her that I was in constant fear of faltering---either with a depression episode or a relapse in my alcoholism---because then my mother and sister would reject and ignore me after expressing their contempt and disgust with me.

(Which ended up coming true recently when I relapsed in my alcoholism and nearly died--- and subsequently both my mother and sister refused to acknowledge me or even make a phone call to the hospital to even see if I was alright).

Anyway, I told Belinda that I lived in constant fear of abandonment by my family--- and that it was a continual, anxiety-filled struggle for me to try and meet their expectations. I was afraid that Belinda would be shocked and disgusted by my revelations---but she wasn't. She sympathetically told me that she understood completely.

And then.....she told me her own story---some parts of which even her own husband doesn't know.

* * * * * *

Belinda's secrets----to this day----are that her mother has a serious mental illness----and that most of her other family members have serious problems as well because most of them are on Disability....and are drug and alcohol addicts.

And what's worse, she also revealed to me that her family continually manipulates her in a thousand ways---which causes her constant fear, anxiety, and financial problems. Her mother and other family members continually ask Belinda for money, week after week, day after day---to the point that Belinda is constantly broke. Belinda is so extremely kind-hearted and generous that she has a very difficult time refusing her family these requests.

To make matters worse, Belinda's chauvinistic husband is continually angry with her for helping them. It annoys the hell out of him and he derides Belinda about it constantly. Like my mother and sister, he states frequently that he "doesn't believe in mental illness" and that he thinks her mother's mental illness isn't an illness at all but is simply "laziness" and "selfishness". And since he knows that her other relatives are drug and alcohol addicted, it enrages him whenever she gives them money. He rails at her, screaming that they waste money on drugs, cigarrettes and manic shopping trips. Which is true---but Belinda loves her family and simply cannot bring herself to refuse them.

And her family is aggressive. Whenever one of them is broke---for whatever reason---they begin their persistent begging of money from Belinda, even calling her repeatedly at work or actually stopping by her office, complaining that they are facing their electricity being cut off or not having enough money for groceries---and Belinda can only stand up under so much of this constant pressure--- and so she usually caves in to their requests and gives them whatever extra money she has.

Thus, Belinda is constantly broke. And her anxiety level is always very high. She told me that some nights she can't even sleep because of her worries about finances. And she also worries about her mother's mental state, which waxes and wanes depending on whether her mother is taking her medication or not. Sometimes I've seen Belinda worry so much that she loses weight---which she can't afford because she's a small girl already. I've even seen Belinda become so overwhelmed with her problems that she suffers panic attacks.

She also told me that she frequently endures the same harsh treatment from other townspeople that she endures from co-workers. Because many people in town gossip that her family's problems are due to their belonging to that "weird religion". Belinda hears the constant town gossip labeling her family "crazy" or "cult members and drug addicts" ---and it causes her untold shame and embarassment.

And so she tries to keep a low profile in the work place and in town. She doesn't want anybody to find out just how chaotic her home life is. Especially when her mother has flare-ups in her disease and does illogical or dangerous behaviors. She is afraid that people will think it is because her mother does drugs, which isn't true. Her mother has been diagnosed by a psychiatrist with a very serious mental illness. And Belinda is also frightened to death that people will find out about how she continues to give money to the real drug addicts in her family---because she is afraid that if people come to know the full extent of her family's problems, that they will label her "crazy" as well--- and that this would affect her ability to be employed in Podunk.

And so, with these revelations to each other, Belinda and I found great relief in finally being able to share our feelings with somebody about these things. Because, heretofore, we had never been able to talk about it with anybody.

And, gradually, we began to help each other in our struggles....

* * * * *

Eventually, Belinda was finally able to tell me even more details of her tortuous upbringing with a mentally ill mother. My heart broke when I heard the horror that she had endured---and still endures to this day.

She related how her childhood had been filled with fear and confusion because she and her father never knew when her mother's illness would flare up and create chaos..... and danger....

There is one particular incident that Belinda has not even been able to tell her own husband for fear of his ranting about his contempt and disapproval....

One day when Belinda was only 5 years old, her mother (whose disease symptoms had been building due to not taking her medicine) began hallucinating both visually and auditorily. She thought she could see "demons" talking to her. She became paranoid. And the clamoring voices in her head began telling her to do certain things.....

And suddenly, as Belinda watched with horror--- her mother took a large kitchen knife out of a drawer and proceeded to stab the family cat to death while muttering gibberish and vague sentences about the cat needing to be "condemned to hell".

Belinda's bloodcurdling screams of terror caused her father to come running from the next room ---and he arrived just in time. Because after killing the cat, Belinda's mother had then turned and charged towards Belinda--- intending to stab her as well. She was screaming unintelligible things about how "Belinda must die to save her soul" and she raised up the the knife, intending to plunge it into Belinda. But Belinda's father threw himself across Belinda to protect her--- and he received the stabs intended for Belinda in his own body instead. He managed to thrust Belinda out of the way and then overpower his wife, getting the knife out of her hand.

To this day, he still wears the scars from those stabbings on his arms and shoulders.

I asked Belinda why she hadn't ever told her husband this story. Because I felt that maybe if he knew the severity of her mother's mental illness he might be more understanding. But she only said sadly: "He wouldn't understand. Whenever the subject of my mother's behavior has ever come up, he starts harping about how she is just 'trying to get attention'. He just doesn't believe in mental illness. So I have learned to keep quiet."

* * * * *

Belinda never has a moment of respite from her worries. Belinda's mother calls her on her cell phone at least 6 or 7 times a day. No matter how much Belinda tries to explain to her mother that she is at work and isn't allowed to have personal calls during work time, her mother continues to call. And this used to frequently get Belinda into trouble at that old company we worked for, where co-workers would witness those frequent calls and tattle to the Manager, who would then write Belinda up for "excessive personal calls".

But what nobody ever knew was that the only way that Belinda ever knows when her mother is about to go into a flare-up of her illlness is by hearing her talk. Belinda stays on a constant vigil of close attention to determine whether or not her mother is going into another exacerbation of her illness. Belinda says that she has learned to be able to tell the subtle clues that her mother has stopped taking her medicine--- and then subsequently begins losing touch with reality. And it is then that Belinda must work very hard to convince her mother to take her medicine---the medicine which keeps the illness at bay and the voices in her head quiet. Belinda worries constantly that her mother will become so ill that she will be committed to the State Mental Hospital.

* * * * * *

One thing that developed within Belinda's and my friendship is that I began to feel very protective towards her. She is a fragile girl emotionally---and is usually unable to take up for herself whenever someone is being cruel to her or is attempting to take advantage of her kind nature--- especially on the job. Belinda is frightened of confrontation.

And frequently when we worked for that other company, we road nurses would be asked by our superiors to do dishonest things. Very dishonest things. Things such as documenting that we had performed home visits to patients when we actually hadn't performed a visit. Or else we were surreptitiously asked to change the Medicare "coding" designation on the documentation of certain patient visits to indicate that such visits were of a different type of visit than had actually occurred. We were asked to do these things because either the Manager had made a mistake with the visit schedule (causing a visit to be missed, meaning lost revenue for the company) or else because the company simply wanted to increase their revenues by lying on the paperwork, again to garner more reimbursement money to the company from Medicare. And some of the nurses there would actually do as they were asked. Even though doing such things is illegal and is called "Medicare Fraud". It is punishable by fines and jail.

Our Manager knew that Belinda had a hard time saying "no" and would frequently pressure her to do such dishonest things. But she would ask her in private so that nobody would hear the illegal requests, promising her that "nobody would ever know". And it was tortuous for Belinda since she has such a hard time saying no and was afraid of losing her job. The Manager also frequently asked me to do such illegal things as well. Although I had no trouble saying "no" to such requests, Belinda would agonize over it. She would tell me about the Manager's sneaky requests, wringing her hands and saying: "What am I going to do?" in anguish.

And so I stepped in for Belinda. I went to the Manager and announced in no uncertain terms that neither Belinda nor I would document patient visits that we had not actually performed, nor would we change the coding on our visits to increase the amount of monetary reimbursement the company would receive from Medicare. And this annoyed the management no end. They were slowly starting to see that Belinda and I were buddies and swapped information.

In fact, I soon became known as Belinda's "heavy".

This not only stopped the management from trying to take advantage of her, but it also stopped the gossip about Belinda. Because woe betide the person who made a gossipy remark about her in my presence. In fact, I was once written up for hollering at another nurse who had made another nasty remark about Belinda's religion. I had gotten right in that nurse's face and exclaimed: "Listen and listen good. The last time I checked, we were still in AMERICA--where we have FREEDOM OF RELIGION. And I don't EVER want to hear you say another thing about her religion again, DO YOU FRIGGING HEAR ME?!!"

I didn't care about being written up because it was the last damn time anybody ever said anything bad about Belinda within my earshot.

But there were other things some of the other nurses would do to torment Belinda. I discovered that whenever Belinda was on weekend call, some nurses would purposely "miss" their patient visits on Friday--- which meant that those visits would then automatically be put onto Belinda's schedule for the weekend since she was the on-call.

But I solved that problem, too.

After one such weekend, I went to the office of the nurse who had pulled this trick the most often. I stood in her doorway and, with a meaningful smile on my face, said: "Hey girl, you know what? Two can play at this little game. And so the next time you're on weekend call, I'm going to fix it so that about ten of my worst visits will fall on YOU for that weekend! You'll work your damn ass off both Saturday and Sunday, ya hear? Now, have I made myself perfectly clear?"

I must have made myself perfectly clear because it never happened again--- with any of the nurses. The news was spreading that I would get even with whoever treated Belinda badly. And there was nothing anybody could do about it because as much as Belinda and I needed our jobs, the company needed us as well. There is a severe shortage of experienced road nurse RN's in Podunk and Belinda and I were both considered good at our jobs.

* * * * * * *

As much as Belinda is timid and shy, I am the opposite. Although I always want to get along well with other people, and will give you the shirt off my back if you need it, I can be very tough and intimidating when I have to be.

Actually, I pretty much HAD to learn fearlessness and toughness to survive during the time when I was a road nurse on the streets of gang territory in east Kansas City, MO. I was married to a computer guy in those days. And during the years on those mean streets, I witnessed gunfire, drug activity, and criminal goings-on at every turn. It was not unusual for me to take care of patients who lived in such dangerous neighborhoods that the patient's relatives had to physically escort me to and from my vehicle for my own safety when I arrived at their home. And they also had to leave someone on the street to guard my vehicle while I was inside with the patient.

I was once so close to a drive-by gang shooting that the puffs of smoke from the gun's barrel floated within inches of my head. And one night I was startled to see that my patient visit route was the exact area being highlighted during an episode of the TV show "Cops".

And then later, after I divorced the computer guy, I polished and further honed my street-smarts when I married a tough biker man, whereby I lived on a biker compound and became a tattooed "biker girl" for several years.

So although I, too, hate confrontation and conflict, I am definitely able to rise to the occasion when I have to. And I particularly hate it when people pick on the underdog, treat patients badly--- or are cruel to Belinda.

* * * * * *

As much as I became known as Belinda's "guardian", she became the "calm in the storm" for my own tempestuous emotions. We began fighting our battles together----and we each helped the other in times of trouble.

Once, while we were still working for that large road nurse company, Belinda's mother again began going downhill in her mental state. She had once again stopped taking her medication and had begun to visually and auditorily hallucinate. She became convinced in her mind that the demons were talking to her again. In fact, she became so ill this time that she didn't even recognize Belinda at all.

Belinda knew her mother well enough by now to know that this time it would take hospitalization to help her mother. And Belinda didn't want her mother to have to be committed to the State Hospital where they simply warehouse patients and let them languish for months. Belinda desperately wanted her mother to get help in a private psychiatric hospital where she could get better, more individualized attention.

But Belinda's mother had no insurance....

So Belinda begged a psychiatric hospital to admit and treat her mother, promising them that she would pay for the hospitalization out of her own pocket. She asked them to allow her to pay the exhorbitant cost by making monthly payments since she didn't have the money up front.

At first the hospital balked and gave her a flat out "no" answer. But Belinda stubbornly persisted and kept calling them, begging them to reconsider. Finally the hospital gave in---but they stated they wouldn't admit her mother unless Belinda could come up with a down payment deposit of $1,000, a sum of money which Belinda did not have.

When Belinda tearfully related to me the circumstances, she was in a panic. Her mother's behavior was so bizarre that Belinda was having to call in sick to work in order to watch over her mother 24 hours a day to keep her from doing dangerous behaviors. And she didn't know how on earth she was going to come up with $1,000---but I assured her that we could come up with it.

And so we did. Belinda used the balances on two of her credit cards--- and I gave her the rest of the money.

And thus, her mother was admitted to the hospital, where she was treated successfully and begun on medication which brought her back to reality. She has been fairly stable ever since then, thank God.

Belinda is still paying those monthly payments to this day.

* * * * * * *

I was the first to leave that large road nurse company. That is when I came to work at the company I currently work for. But it took Belinda longer to leave. She was frightened of changing jobs. But the working conditions at that company finally became so unrealistically miserable that she finally did leave. She hired on with another road nurse company, taking Bonnie, an LVN, with her. But both of them quickly became disatisfied with that company, too, for similar reasons as those of the old company.

Thus, Bonnie quit the company and went to work at the hospital. And Belinda was talked into going to work for a nurse she and I both knew named Lindy, whom we'd worked with at the old company--- and who had just started her own road nurse company with her husband. Lindy lured Belinda to work for her with the promise of a high salary and a realistic workload.

But soon after beginning her job there, Belinda figured out that Lindy had lied about a lot of things. The company was very disorganized, Lindy and her husband frequently, and violently, would argue about things in front of the other employees--- and it became obvious that Lindy and her husband were either embezzling or otherwise mishandling the money.

Because frequently the employees' paychecks were delayed and they would be asked to "wait a couple of weeks" for their money---and sometimes their paychecks were less than they should have been according to their original salary agreements.

This of course caused Belinda constant nightmares about her financial situation, and she began worrying and fretting about her household finances, never knowing if she would get paid or not. And due to her family's constant demands for money, Belinda and her family were already living practically paycheck-to-paycheck.

At the time this was going on, I had become Manager of the Podunk branch of my current company. I needed another RN and so I hired Belinda away from Lindy. (I also hired Bonnie away from the hospital.)

And so at last, Belinda and I were working together again. Only this time we were working for a company which treats its employees decently.

But during the first 2 weeks of her employment with us, Belinda began fretting because she still had not received her last paycheck from Lindy. And it was for quite a large sum of money---and Belinda was down to her last $100. She called Lindy about it a couple of times, gently asking about the paycheck, and had finally gotten an assurance from Lindy that the check had been mailed and would reach her "by Friday".

But Friday arrived---and no paycheck. What's worse, Belinda had believed Lindy and had counted on receiving the money Friday---and had written checks to pay household bills. When that paycheck did not arrive, Belinda knew that all those checks she had written were in danger of bouncing, creating financial disaster for her.

Belinda was terrified not only of the financial consequences of those bad checks--- but also of her husband finding out about the situation. He would be sure to become enraged because he has never approved of her being a road nurse in the first place. He has always expressed his disaproval of the cutthroat and mercurial world of road nursing--- and this situation would be sure to give him plenty of ammunition to torment her further over her chosen profession.

Belinda was now in a pure panic state. So the first thing I did was loan her a few hundred dollars to cover the checks she had written for her family's bills. And the next thing I did was to call her old employer, Lindy, to demand that she send the damn paycheck. I told Lindy that if she didn't send the check immediately, that she'd have to "deal with me instead of Belinda". She assured me that it had been a "misunderstanding" and that she would mail the check immediately.

Finally, the paycheck arrived in the mail. But when Belinda went to the bank to cash it, it was refused for "Insufficient Funds". Lindy had written Belinda a hot paycheck!

Belinda called me from the bank, in tears, sobbing her heart out. "Oh my GOD!" she cried. "They won't cash the check because of Insufficient Funds! What am I going to do!? I'm out of money! My husband is going to KILL ME!"

Now I was really pissed off. And so I told Belinda to return to the office. When she pulled into the parking lot, I was standing out by my Jeep.

"Get in," I stated simply.

"Why?" she replied fearfully, seeing the determined look on my face. "Oh God, Bo---what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to get you your money," I stated simply. "So get in."

She climbed into the Jeep and I drove us over to Lindy's office.

I parked the car outside the small building and told a quaking Belinda to stay put--- I knew she couldn't handle a "bad scene".

I strode into Lindy's building and headed to her office--- where I proceeded to kick the door open. Lindy had been sitting at her computer but shot straight up out of her chair with shock and surprise when I kicked the door open. When she saw that it was me, a look of fear came over her. Because she knew exactly what I was there for.

"What the....what the h-hell are you doing here?" she asked shakily, trying to sound nonchalant and unafraid. "Isn't it enough that you hired my only RN away from me? And now you think you can just come in here and kick my damn door in?"

"You know EXACTLY what I'm here for, Lindy," I said quietly. "I'm here to get Belinda's money. You used to work with us back at the old company and so we used to consider you a friend. But now here you are screwing Belinda over. You are 2 weeks late paying her--and then you have the damn nerve to write her a hot paycheck."

"Oh....that check was hot?" she asked innocently, unsuccessfully trying to appear surprised.

"Don't pull that innocent shit with me, Lindy," I continued. "Now listen very carefully. You are going to give her the money today or I'm going to do something you really won't like...."

"Oh yeah?" she replied belligerantly. "And just what are you gonna do about it? Are you gonna pull your biker chick routine and beat me up or something? My husband will kick your ass up and down the Interstate if you so much as touch one hair on my head."

I stood my ground and said calmly: "No, Lindy, I'm not going to do that. But I'm warning you. You had better give her the money today or you and your idiot husband will both be sorry."

Lindy's response was to turn her back on me and make a phone call to her husband. I stood and waited for a few minutes until I realized that she had no intention of addressing me further or doing anything about Belinda's paycheck.

I turned and walked back out to the Jeep where Belinda was waiting. Tears began running down her face when she saw my mood. She knew that I hadn't gotten the money. I climbed into the Jeep and said: "Okay, now we're headed to the police station."

"The police station?" she cried. "What can they do about it?"

"They can do plenty," I replied. "You've got that rejected paycheck in your hand. And in Texas it is a crime to write a hot check. It's called 'theft by check' and you can be arrested for that. And not only that, but I think it's a felony for an employer to write a hot paycheck."

And so we went to the police station and explained to the cops what was going on. The cops knew Lindy and her family very well---especially since they have had to arrest Lindy's husband many times for various criminal behaviors. And so they had no problem believing that Lindy and her husband were running a shady business.

Belinda and I returned to Lindy's office......accompanied by two policemen in separate patrol cars. By now Lindy's husband had arrived---and he looked enraged as the two of them emerged from the building after seeing that police cars had arrived with me and Belinda.

And so, right there on the sidewalk, the policemen informed Lindy and her husband that unless they made good on the hot paycheck as soon as possible, that Belinda could make out a criminal complaint against the two which would ultimately result in an arrest warrant being issued for them. The court costs would be high, and if Lindy and her husband were convicted, the charge would go on their records and there would be steep penalties.

I could tell that Lindy's husband was so angry with me that he could barely conceal his rage. He looked at me with a significantly long and hard look, his eyes telling me wordlessly that he wanted to hurt me and hurt me bad. I knew he was thinking that he'd love to get me alone in a dark alley sometime. And I also knew that he is a very violent and rough character--- and has been in jail many times for assault.

But I returned his stare, silently daring him to act up or threaten me in front of the policemen.

"Now," one of the policemen stated calmly, looking at Lindy and her husband. "Do y'all think that we can clear this up today without any further problems? Can you give this girl the money that is owed her?"

Lindy's husband was silent for a moment--- and then he spoke with a deliberately calm voice which belied his angry expression. And he made his statement while looking directly into my eyes.

"Okay, Bo," he declared finally, his face breaking into an evil smile. And it was then that I knew that he was planning to wait until another day to deal with me. "You win....this time."

In the end, Lindy's parents came to the scene and used their own money to give Belinda the money that was owed her. The policemen waited at the scene until Belinda had received her money and we had safely driven off in the Jeep.

And ever since then I have had to be careful to watch my back---- for Lindy's husband.

* * * * *

As you guys know from previous posts, Belinda helped me through my recent relapse of alcoholism and depression. And that I was able to return from the detox center just in time to be here for the birth of her beautiful baby. And I will cherish the memory of that day for the rest of my life----the memory of standing alongside Belinda and her new baby in that hospital room, our hearts nearly bursting with the joy, hope and love that the birth of a new baby brings.

She and I have come through the fire together---after finding an unlikely friendship in the midst of the desperation and exhaustion of working under slave-like conditions for that old road nurse company, throughout endless struggles to find hope within the dark shadows of depression and fear, throughout the despair of living under haunting memories of family tragedies and ongoing troubles--- and then through the joyful discovery that we could lean on each other while trying to overcome life's spirit-sapping obstacles together.....

Because here we are... working together again.....still standing tall.... still helping each other.....and still seeing patients together as road nurses....

And knowing that no matter what....

We will always be true-blue friends....

*

*

11 comments:

Warrior Knitter said...

Your are indeed a true friend. You and Belinda are lucky to have one another and we're lucky to "know" you.

LesleyD said...

Ya'll are true to the end BFF!!! Ya'll are lucky to have each other!! Sendin love from Alabama!!

Linda in Alameda, CA said...

That is the most heart-warming friendship story I have ever heard. As the others wrote, you are both lucky to have found each other.

Now, about that baby , , , , where is a picture? what is that little girl's name? Inquiring cyber-friends want to know.

Joan K said...

You are a wonderful friend to Belinda as she is to you. I really admire your strength and tenacity. You are so couragous in facing evil and fighting for what is right.

Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

Hi all! Thank you so much for your comments!

The day of baby Daisy's birth (6 lbs, 14 oz), my secretary (who is Belinda's young cousin) took a bunch of pictures--- because of all things, it was the ONE day I didn't have my dang camera with me...aaargh!

She got an absolutely adorable picture of Belinda's 5-year old daughter holding baby Daisy in her arms. And she swears she's going to email me the picture soon. So as soon as she does, I'll get it posted on here!

(In fact, I'm going to nag her about it first thing in the morning, heh!)

POPT said...

How fortunate you are to have such a loyal friend and she is lucky to have you. For her sake, I hope some of your gumption rubs off on her.

Looking forward to seeing pictures of the baby.

Alabamama said...

To have the true friendship of one good person is better than the acquantance of hundreds. You and Belinda are good, good people and compliment each other's personalities well. Neither of you will be alone in your battles anymore. How well you've told this story of friendship. Thanks.

Paula said...

Thank you for sharing your touching story of friendship. I love your blog! Now, back to my knitting.

Anonymous said...

It is a touching story but I can't even relate to that as a nurse in Canada. I mean where the companies are ripping the nurses off and such unprofessional people running them. As a professional person, you have the right and the opportunity to go wherever you want and live among people who are not like you describe. I wish you all the best in AA and AlAnon would also help belinda.
Good luck!

mielikki said...

It is nice to find that one in a million friend, isn't it? I've been pretty lucky in my life, and actually found TWO of them. Belinda sounds like a sweetie, and you two have a great friendship.

Anonymous said...

My step mom was a home health nurse for the county, and was made administrator when someone set up the previous administrator. My mom didn't want to have that job, and loved her previous administrator. It was a few years, but my step mom was also sort of set up with people messing with records and other things. She was let go, and now she is actually a school nurse and loves it. No other nurses there with power trips to treat her like crud. She was once a nurse at a big hospital working the ICU, and has good qualifications to be in a great position...but she's happier where she is now than she's been in a long time.

You could write this into a book by the way. Flesh out some details and figure in some dialogue, and you've got a real novel worth reading.