Don’t try to rescue people. Help them, by all means, but never try to rescue them. There’s a big difference. I learned this lesson twelve years ago in the most painful of ways. Kick in the nuts every half hour for a month type of painful.
Did that visual make you shift uncomfortably in your seat? You’re welcome.
David was a good friend of mine. I’d met him when I was 17 and working in a record store. He was a DJ at one of the city’s biggest clubs and he came in every week to go through our new vinyl.
I was obsessed with House music and spent three nights a week at the venue he played for. Over that time I’d perfected the running man, the stomp and the strange little hand movements that were a hangover from the acid house heydays and were now part of rave culture.
When I saw him walk into the shop one Tuesday afternoon I shoved a co-worker into a sale rack of cassette singles in my hurry to dash over to offer assistance, all the while doing my best to look like I didn’t give a damn and was pretty much too cool to be there.
This was of course the internationally recognised default setting for staff working in independent record retailers and I did it well, aside from my first few weeks there, where I ended up looking like I was trying to hide my need to do a particularly loud belch by letting it escape through my nostrils.
After a few visits we became pals and at the club I was even permitted to stand with him in the DJ box a couple of times, gaining ultimate bragging rights. David was also responsible for hooking me up with my first set of secondhand DJ turntables, allowing me to learn to mix and ultimately beginning a journey that lead to me being a full time club DJ myself, seven years later.
David was still one of the busiest and most in-demand DJs around when the owner of the club I was resident at asked him to come and work with us. He fitted in perfectly and soon had our late Saturdays packed until we closed the doors at 6am.
One night he was really late for his shift – he wasn’t the most punctual of people – most DJs aren’t – but he arrived an hour late, looking extremely troubled. Something had happened to him, and it was bad. He took over the decks from me, handed me my record and said nothing. It was clear that conversation wasn’t on offer so I packed up my crates and left for the night.
The next day the club owner called me and filled me in. David’s life had been threatened by a club promoter after a gig they’d worked together on had lost money. A lot of money. They’d verbally agreed on who would cover venue hire, DJ fees and advertising and all went well until they had a poor turnout and suddenly the arrangement changed.
The promoter now wanted David to pay for everything and informed him of this by sending some large and frightening men to his house. Men with nicknames like ‘Big Mental Ian’, ‘Ripper’ and ‘Stabby’. Men that had been back every day since as a gentle reminder. David had sent his girlfriend Marie to stay with a mutual friend of theirs called Mark and their housemate went to stay with his sister so David was in the house alone. The stress was such that he couldn’t bring himself to eat and he was only sleeping a couple of hours at a time.
David was my friend, so I immediately offered to have him come and stay with me. Nobody knew where my apartment was and I lived alone. If we made sure only the club owner and I knew David was there he’d be safe until he could find somewhere more permanent.
He moved in the next day and within a few hours I started to see him look more like his old self. He offered to pay rent and a share of the bills but I suggested he put the majority of his earnings to paying his debt to the promoter. We were both bringing home around $1500 a week at that time so having him there didn’t impact me that much financially.
A few days later David had spoken with the promoter and made an arrangement to clear the outstanding amount over the next 10 weeks. He picked up an extra shift at the club and after his other outgoings (mainly taxis and records) would be left with enough to buy food. He was visibly relieved and I felt a lot more comfortable having him stay knowing that this was being taken care of.
He was a great guest. Always up for a chat, but also respectful of my personal space, he kept things tidy and was considerate enough to replace anything he noticed we ran out of. He helped me re-organize my record room and best of all brought his computer over and set up my first dial-up internet account and email address for me.
Because there was still a niggling worry that the promoter would change his mind and arrange a visit from his goons we didn’t tell anyone where my apartment was, even Marie. David went to visit her regularly instead and she seemed happy enough where she was.
About 5 weeks into our arrangement Marie called David in tears. She’d accidentally broken something belonging to Mark. He’d flown into a rage and tried to choke her, just flipped out. I could hear her sobbing spilling out of the earpiece as David tried to calm her down.
I offered to drive David over so we could pick her up. He said he didn’t want to put me out further by having her stay, but would really appreciate if we could go and get her. Right now he just wanted to see her and move her out of Mark’s house.
We got in my car and headed to the other side of the city. We pulled into the driveway of the house and Marie was standing there waiting for us, her suitcase next to her. She was still shaking and had large red welts across her face and neck.
I helped her into the car while David loaded the suitcase in the trunk. Mark had gone out so we were able to get her out of there quickly – a relief for me but I could tell that David was getting angrier by the second. He didn’t want to go back to the apartment. He wanted to wait for Mark to return and confront him.
Marie and I managed to calm him down enough to get back in the car so I could drive us all home.
Once we got back they talked in David’s room for an hour or before Marie asked me to drive her to the police station so she could make a statement and press charges against Mark.
David wanted to go with her but she insisted he stay in the apartment, which I thought was a bit odd, but she said that hearing her recount what happened would just make him angrier and she didn’t want to “…put him through that”.
She started to tear up again when he tried to change her mind so we drove to the local station without him. When we got there she asked that I go home again and told me that she would find her own way back. I offered to wait but she told me to leave.
I watched her walk into the station and started to drive off. Just before I turned the corner looked in my rear view mirror and saw her walk straight back. I thought about turning around and going back but then realised she must have been scared and just needed time on her own. Perhaps she didn’t want to go to the police and David had insisted. So I went home and didn’t mention it.
If David was the perfect guest, Marie was the opposite. She spent the whole day in her pyjamas, left dirty plates, food wrappers and tissues everywhere and slept on the couch from midday until early evening so we couldn’t make any noise without her waking up and complaining about it.
After two weeks of this I came home to find half a packet of uncooked spaghetti scattered over the kitchen floor, milk that I’d bought the previous day left out on the counter so it was warm and two dirty tissues sitting on the sink, one with blood on it. There was a wet towel dropped in the hallway next to a giant clump of hair that looked like it had just been pulled out of a hairbrush and further along, a patch of vomit that looked to have been there for most of the afternoon.
Neither David nor Marie were there. I was so disgusted I shut myself in my room until I heard David come in a couple of hours later. He apologised profusely and cleaned everything up, saying that Marie had a terrible problem with depression and that he was going to get her some help. He was horrified that she would do this to my home and offered to move out.
I told him that as long as they were both respectful guests they could stay but if anything like this happened again they’d both have to go.
It was one of the most uncomfortable conversations I’d ever had – here was someone I’d known for close to decade doing his best to get through one of the worst times of his life and I was complaining about his girlfriend who was clearly having some kind of breakdown.
Marie returned home that night and went straight to bed without saying anything to me. For the next week it was like she wasn’t even there. I didn’t see her once and the apartment remained immaculate.
Then… she vanished. One afternoon I got in to find her suitcase had disappeared along with David’s wallet, my watch and about $150 in change I was keeping in my wardrobe.
David was devastated and neither of us could work out why she would do this. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little relieved she had gone but I mostly felt bad for my friend. We rang around some friends but nobody had seen or heard from her.
After a couple of days David’s upset turned to anger. He stopped looking for her – there were rumours among his friends that she had moved back in with Mark – and instead focused on finding a place of his own to live as he only had two more payments to make to the promoter.
True to his word he found a one-bedroom place, paid off his debt and moved out. He left me an envelope with money to cover the change Marie had stolen, as well as his share of the bills even though I’d told him he didn’t need to.
I felt a sense of relief, for both having the apartment back to myself and that Marie was out of his life. He was a good guy and didn’t deserve to be dragged down by whatever it was she had going on.
Life returned to normal for both of us until a month or so later. I was playing a gig at a local bar and after I’d finished my set I stepped out of the DJ console to see Marie smiling at me. She rather unexpectedly gave me a huge hug and then apologised for everything, saying she had been under an incredible amount of stress at the time. I told her I understood but I didn’t have anything to say to her.
Her eyes welled up and she told me she had taken the money and the watch and gone to a hospital for treatment. Now she was better and wanted to make amends. She told me she had my watch and wanted to give it back, along with my house key. I felt a dull thud in the pit of my stomach as I realised she’d copied the key I’d given to David without me knowing. I made a mental note to get the locks changed.
I grabbed my records and followed her outside to a parked car. Sitting in the driver’s seat was a scary looking unshaven man with a long ponytail. She introduced us. It was Mark. He shook my hand and passed me my watch and two keys. One for the deadbolt and one for the window locks. I hadn’t given David the window key. The only copy was on my key ring. What the hell had this bitch been playing at?
Marie asked if I knew where David was. Straight away I knew not to tell her and said he’d found a place but I didn’t know where. Anger flashed across her face but she forced a smile and said she understood. I said goodnight and walked to my car.
I sent David a text letting him know what happened and he said he was sorry and thanked me for not passing on his details.
When I got home I called a locksmith and paid him an extortionate amount of money to change the door and window locks.
At 4am that morning I received a text message from an unknown number.
You fucking filthy faggot. You’re dead.
40 more messages came through in the next hour with similar threats.
Just after 5am someone threw a brick through my bedroom window. I called the police and told them about the visit I received from Marie earlier and gave them the address of Mark’s house.
David had received a similarly disturbing amount of text messages and we arranged to meet up and lodge a restraining order at the police station. In the time it took to get there, we’d both received so many messages our phones were full. They were similar in content, all sent from four different numbers.
While I was speaking to the officer at the desk, one of the numbers flashed as an incoming call on my screen.
I started to shake and had trouble catching a breath so David took me outside. The officer took my phone and answered it, identifying himself. The caller hung up.
The police wrote out our statements and used some software to download copies of the messages. We were told that both Marie and Mark would be served with temporary restraining orders in the next 48 hours and that the officers serving them would contact us once they had been passed on. We would have to be especially vigilant in the days following as most people react badly to receiving an RO and were likely to try to retaliate.
Within ten days, Mark had been to my apartment six times with various other people, kicking at the front door as I hid on the floor of my bedroom and I had received close to 100 more threatening text messages. The police had not been able to serve the restraining orders because they couldn’t find either of them.
Messages now started coming from a larger range of numbers, late into the night, telling me that someone was waiting outside followed by the sound of shoes running up the front steps and something banging against my window.
The most frightening text came the same afternoon the police had called to say they’d finally tracked down Marie and Mark and served the RO’s on them..
The text was from a number I hadn’t seen before. It misspelt my name and purported to be from someone who knew what I ‘had dun to Marie’ and that he and his mates were going to ‘serve justice on you fag’. It went on to say ‘u wake up with your throat slit’. Then they sent another text with my address and ‘front left window – bedroom’.
I spent the next three hours moving all the furniture out of the front rooms, leaving the blinds and curtains open. I moved all my plants from the balcony into the bathroom and I took the light bulbs out of every room so I wouldn’t accidentally switch on a light. I went and explained to my neighbours what had happened and they agreed to say I had moved out if anyone asked.
I left a flattened cardboard box, some newspaper and a broom in the bedroom so anyone looking in would be given the impression that I really had moved out, then went to a friend’s house and spent the night.
Sure enough the messages started up again at 3am, saying that my having moved wouldn’t stop them from finding me and that they’d track both David and I down and make us pay for ‘what we did’.
David and I went to the police the next day to report the restraining order having been broken but none of the texts we could show them came from Mark or Marie’s phones so we had no proof.
We spoke with one of the officers at length about our options and he said that in cases like this it was the thrill of knowing their intimidation was working that kept people like this going.
The fact that they still didn’t know where David lived and thought I had moved was good. They had also had ample opportunity to come to the club and wait after work for us but hadn’t. He recommended we both change our numbers and wait to go to court, where Mark and Marie would have a chance to challenge the restraining order. If they didn’t show up and we presented our evidence a Judge would extend it.
Both of our phones buzzed with messages the whole time we discussed this so we decided it would be in the best interests of our mental health to call our respective providers to have new numbers issued.
For the next two months I parked my car three blocks away from the apartment, just as a precaution. I only ended up sleeping in the back room for a week then moved back to the main bedroom but was careful to never open the blinds or curtains and I spent a lot of time visiting friends.
During that period Mark and Marie replied to the restraining orders saying they were going to challenge them. I couldn’t believe it. I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of being in the same room as them.
The court date arrived and I David met at his house. When we arrived at the courthouse the poor guy had to do his best to help me keep it together as I was shaking uncontrollably.
We sat at the back of the room with the other people having cases heard that day. We were eventually called up and we sat down behind a long desk to the Judge’s left. There was no sign of the other two.
My sense of relief was short lived as a clerk entered the room with them in tow. They were just late. Mark was wearing an ill fitting, shiny grey suit and had shaved his head, the resultant look presenting him as much more of a drug dealer than he had perhaps intended. Marie looked thin, pale and absolutely wired.
Her appearance certainly explained why so much of the aggressive activity occurred in the early hours of the morning. She was the new ‘face’ of meth. I turned to look at David who was just staring at her with a look of disgust.
After they were seated, Marie took one look at me, threw her head down on the desk and started wailing. The Judge looked concerned and the clerk rushed over to see if she was okay.
“It’s just..” she squeaked between sobs “it’s so painful to see them after all of this. They ruined my life and I… it’s just … I don’t even have any parents or anything..” She then rested her head in her hands and proceeded to caterwaul like a three year old who’d just fallen off a swing.
David and I exchanged a ‘What the hell?’ look as tissues were brought over and the Judge asked her gently if she felt she could continue. David leaned over and whispered that Marie did, in fact, have parents. They had filed a restraining order against her and Mark around the time we did.
Marie bleated a feeble ‘yes’ and the Judge asked me to sit in the box next to him. In small cases like this the people involved cross-examine each other, and it was their turn with me first.
As soon as I sat down, Marie stood up and loudly said “Right, then!”. There wasn’t a single trace of the trauma she was apparently experiencing seconds earlier. And her eyes were perfectly dry.
She asked me a series of questions about David, none of which made much sense but I did my best to answer. Obviously not getting the responses she’d hoped for, she then switched tack, asking the same question phrased slightly differently over and over until the Judge asked her if she knew what repeating something ‘ad nauseam’ meant, then explained she was asking an identical question ‘to the point of nausea’.
Marie then pulled a manila folder out of her bag with ‘EVIDENCE’ written across it in red marker.
She waved it at David and said ‘I have your birth certificate in here, you don’t want me to show it’. The Judge told her he didn’t tolerate his time being wasted and asked her to sit down. Marie burst into tears while Mark looked furious.
Their plan must have made more sense at 3.30am through a misty crack haze. David and I then got to tell the Judge our side of the story and we submitted a printout of the messages we’d been sent, with a log of the times they’d visited my apartment.
When they were asked to take the stand so we could cross-examine them, they declined. Marie now looked completely terrified.
Thankfully the Judge saw everything clearly and gave both of them a thorough dressing down, warning them that breaking the RO would mean fines and possible jail time. He did a good job because neither of us received contact from them again.
After we left the courts David and I went out to lunch to celebrate the RO being upheld. Unfortunately this was was the last time I spent any quality time with him. I certainly didn’t blame him for anything that happened but just didn’t feel comfortable enough to continue our friendship past the occasional ‘hello’ when one of us took over from the other at the club.
At lunch he told me he’d found out from an ex-friend of Marie’s that she had started a relationship with Mark long before the trouble with the promoter and he had gotten her hooked on speed, then meth. Also that her drug use had escalated so much in recent months that they thought she would be dead before the year was out.
She had been telling people that we had beaten her up, stolen all her money, then thrown her out of the house – even stating that we’d started a gay relationship and that David and I had possibly given her AIDS.
Mark had a lot of ‘acquaintances’ and anyone who came to the house encountered this frail, crying, waif who tearfully told the tale of these two disgusting men that had ruined her life. It was little wonder that the threats came from so many different numbers.
Twelve years on I still don’t like phones and I freeze when I hear an unexpected knock at the door.
Be there for people by all means but don’t invite their crazy into your home. If you try to rescue someone from a situation they created they’ll just create it again and again and add you as a supporting cast member.
And no friendship is worth that.
**The names of people mentioned in this post have been changed to protect their identities.