I was almost thirty years old and each day I said to myself there must be more. There just had to be more.
On this day, it was a Thursday; the sun was shining high in the sky. The kids were at school. My oldest was almost 10 years old.
My husband and I got into another huge fight. It contained many abusive statements and physical blows. This happened almost daily. This time also consisted of being pushed up against the wall, with his hands pressing down on my throat squeezing the breath out of me. It is sad that I look back on this event understanding that it was my normal. Each time just a little worse than the last.
This argument was a little different. It had a moment that would change my life. I never would have said so at the time as it cut me to the core, but it really was the miracle I needed so desperately.
He made a statement that escaped his angry lips that rumbled through my battered brain. They settled deep into my mind rolling over and over. They drove me to a new life. One I never could have dreamed could exist.
As he was squeezing and cutting off my air he screamed in my face, “You are insane! If anyone ever got to know you, they would have you committed.”
Those words were a bucket of cold water coating me in a deep fear shocking my shut-down and abused brain. I stopped fighting him at that split second. I stared into his face with tears rolling down my face. The shock had to have shown on my face. He stopped the assault and stormed out of the house.
I sat, where I slid down onto the floor after he left, stunned. The meaning of those words woke me up. They made me think of the safety of my children. I knew I had been doing my best to keep them safe from their father, but those terrifying words made me wonder if I needed to keep them safe from me as well.
I was working a third shift job at Kinkos at the time. The only job I was allowed per my husband’s demands. I needed to work but it could not interfere with his or the kid’s schedules. I was the only person that worked overnights for over two years. The last year I had taught myself how to use a computer. These were the new option at Kinkos. Most people did not have one in their homes. Small business owners would come in overnight and I would help them with their projects. The computers brought in a lot more customers. Due to the increased business another employee was added to overnights the month before this fateful day.
The new guy, Rob, was teaching me how computers worked, not just the programs. I had saved up enough money from some of my side jobs, working with the small business owners, to purchase a computer of my own. A piece of hardware it came with was a modem, sounds archaic now but it was state of the art in 1994. At the time I did not understand what a modem was or what it was used for. I bet the person that created it did not know that it was a lifesaving piece of equipment.
Rob had shared with me the previous week that you could use a modem and your telephone line to connect to bulletin board systems (BBS). Obviously, I had no clue what that was either. Rob shared that this was a virtual place in which other people also modemed in via their telephone lines. You could connect to other people with your computer and communicate with them.
I was full of questions and wanted to know how you could find a BBS. I could only picture the kind that hung on the wall with notes pinned to them. It made absolutely no sense to me.
Rob shrugged saying, “The yellow pages are a good place to start.”
On this fateful Thursday afternoon in June, the day I finally was jarred into a new reality. I figured out how to plug my telephone line into the modem on my computer. I picked up that two-inch-thick phone book that sat prominently on the bottom shelf of the linen closet. I flipped to the B’s and looked up bulletin board systems. I was sad to see only one listed, but the stars were aligned for me and this was the only one I was going to need.
The words Top City BBS were printed in bold black ink on that yellow page. It took a few trials and many errors, but I finally figured out the modem program on my computer and put the number into the system.
I was on a journey to find out if what my husband had said was true. I was going to connect with these strangers. People who would never see me. People I would never have to meet. I was going to be 100% honest. Even about the embarrassing life I was leading if I absolutely had to share. This was the promise I made to myself and one I have not broken.
There was no need for me to hide my feelings from these people. They could not abuse me through the computer. I was safe being me.
It did not happen right away. One conversation after another helped me figure out who I was outside of the abuse. I learned I had my own opinions. This group of computer savvy people taught me so much through their kindness. They shared their highs and lows of life with me. They wanted to talk with me. They never judged me, not once. My self-esteem grew little by little, but it grew!
I found out that my husband was 100% wrong about me being insane. I finally recognized there was a world out there that was filled with joy and happiness. Everyday did not have to contain pain and fear.
As my self-esteem grew, I started venturing out of the house to see these self-labeled ‘geeks’ in person. My friends! Their friendship filled up my heart daily. I found a new world that kept me excited and smiling.
When we all gathered, we called them GTs which is short for Get Togethers, it was so much fun. Saturdays we had a softball GT at a local high school, I usually played the catcher. On Tuesdays we had a karaoke GT. I learned that I loved to sing in front of others. On Thursdays someone had a GT at their home. Top City BBS was the catalyst that saved my life. They valued my friendship and wanted me in their lives. They became the solid ground in which I was able to rebuild my world.
The abuse at home had not stopped but with the confidence that this group of people helped me build in myself is how I finally found a way out. They taught me about restraining orders. They supported me through the two-year long divorce procedures. They had my back.
Of course, I did not know any of this on Thursday, June 9th, 1994 but that was the day that my life took a step forward. I can never thank the creator of Top City BBS enough. By fulfilling his dream and making it come true, he saved my life. He gave me a future that I can be proud of and lifelong friends.
This miracle in my life was made possible by a fight, a modem, and the yellow pages.