Sometimes life happens. I found out that some people and events came into my life, changed my perspectives, and then were gone. I often wondered if they were missed opportunities that God had given me, or were they just learning tools to teach me about life? In either case the time for learning was there, and I did nothing to help the situation.
I did not help Sam, his mother, or his brother. On the other hand, I survived, and the memory of Sam will always be there. For that reason I will continue to campaign against abuse against others.
During my senior year of college my roommates moved from our shared apartment one by one, and I was looking for new roommates or looking for somewhere affordable to live. During that time I often had free time to observe the people around me. I would idly wonder about their lives, trying to surmise their places in the work place and in the world.
One person that caught my interest was a woman who lived across the hallway.The lady looked older than she was. She was matronly, had graying hair, and shuffled as she walked. She lived in an apartment with her 17 year old son. Often she was dressed up and wore a lot of make-up. I didn’t realize that make-up covered numerous bumps and bruises.
I thought she might be retired but she wasn’t. In addition to taking care of her son, she worked full time at Denny‘s. When I was not in class, I saw her scurrying from her apartment and back again. I thought it was peculiar that she left her apartment frequently, especially when she was off work. I wondered if she went to the store or if she was on some other mission but usually she would return empty handed. Daily, she left and returned. I was curious about her comings and goings but never asked why. It wasn‘t my business.
I didn’t know much about her or her son, not even their names. But one day during a chance encounter, I mentioned I was looking for another place to live because my roommates were leaving and I had one more year of college. Her face brightened as she said, “I have a house just a block away. My other son lives there. You could rent there. I’d rent a room to you for less than half of what you’re paying for this apartment.”
The offer was tempting and I decided to check it out. The next day, I walked down the street to see what the house looked like. The house was in terrible condition. The outside paint was chipped and peeling, the grass was tall and full of weeds, and the windows had torn screens. But a new heavy duty red pickup sat in the driveway, contrasting with the house.
I knocked and a young man with a crew cut answered the door. He scowled and then asked, “What do you want?” I said, “Your mom said I could rent a room here.” “Come on in,” he said, “and look around. You can find a room.”
I was left alone to look about the house. Clothes and newspapers were stacked along the hallway. Two of the bedrooms were dusty and full of furniture, more clothes and newspapers. I found another bedroom and chose it.
Despite my misgivings, I decided to take the offer. “After all, I could save money while I go to school,“ I reasoned.“ It’ll only be for six months.”
I didn’t see Sam very often. His work day and my college classes were not conducive for much hanging out together. But, over the course of time, I began to see different sides of Sam. He wanted everybody to see him as being special. He wanted his friends and strangers to notice his physique.
Sam’s upper body was muscular, slim and chiseled, v-shaped, and admired by other body builders. He worked out regularly, trying to add additional bulk. In addition to weight-lifting, Sam worked at a job requiring strength and endurance. Ten to twelve hours a day he worked as a journeyman framer. He had a reputation of being one of the most industrious workers, and he earned top wages.
In spite of all Sam had going for him, Sam was very opinionated, had a quick temper, and had a penchant for violence. In addition to having an opinion, Sam’s opinion was always right. People who differed with him were deemed to be on the attack and he shouted them down, cursed, or threatened them with physical violence. To Sam the opinions of others were worthless. That did not mean Sam would not listen to other arguments or viewpoints. He would sit quietly for a moment, determining if the other person agreed with him. His eyebrows would raise, his face slowly tightening in disgust or anger. He was preparing for a battle, a battle of mental or physical power. But, whether with friends or with his mother, his patience quickly wore thin.
I saw him arguing a few times with his mother. When things did not go his way he kicked a hole in the wall, then ripped out the phone. Other times, he cursed at his mother until she fled. Always she came back, apologetic, eager to bring him food, clean his clothes, or do his bidding.
Once, he tried to impress me by stealing a crossbow and arrow set from a nearby department store and even went back to grab a large target. Later, he used the bow to shoot two cats that had wandered onto the property from nearby apartments.
He spent hours cleaning his hunting rifles, his shotguns, and his Smith & Wesson .38 special revolver. Sam was unusual and I stayed out of his way. Sometimes I would sit with his friends as he loudly proclaimed his viewpoints, but I would not argue with him. However, there came a day when Sam was in a bad mood.
He wanted to engage me in an argument but I tried to avoid it. He pushed on and finally said, “I want you to get your ass out of this house.”
I calmly looked him in the eyes and said, “If your mother tells me to move, then I’ll move.”
He turned bright red. “You’ll get out of here right now!”
“If your mother tells me to move, then I’ll move, “ I quietly replied. Again he repeated his demand and again I stated, “If your mother tells me to move, then I’ll move.”
Previously I had been in the kitchen ironing and now Sam grabbed the ironing board and swung it at my head. I ducked and moved inside, grabbing him in a wrestler’s hold. He was bigger and stronger and soon had the advantage. He tried to throw me to the floor but I countered his actions. However, I was getting battered as he swung me against the table, the stove, and the refrigerator. Finally I broke out of his grasp and began fighting as I had been taught long ago. My fists pummeled his face, particularly targeting his eyes.
After receiving several solid hits, Sam staggered back and towards his room. Watching him go, I breathed a sigh of relief that the fighting was over. My joy was short-lived, because through the doorway of his bedroom I saw Sam opening up a drawer and pulling out the .38 special. As he began shoving shells into the gun, I headed out the front door.
“O.k.,” I shouted. “You won. I’m out of here.”
I raced to my car, jumped in, sped out of the driveway, and hurried down the road. The last time I saw Sam, he was standing in the doorway, gun in hand.
I often wondered what happened to his mom and his brother. I suspected they were often abused by Sam. I didn’t think Sam would change and maybe they couldn’t change either.
I never went back to check on any of them. However, I waited to see if anything concerning Sam would turn up in the local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee.
There were a few stories that I noticed over the next five years. Several bodies were found in Sam’s favorite hunting areas. In addition, a double homicide occurred in a nearby suburb which was on Sam’s regular route as he traveled to his go cart races. The male victim’s name was similar to mine. There was only one letter difference. The male victim was my height and weight and approximate age. I was amazed at his resemblance to me. Perhaps Sam had seen that resemblance too. When I thought back to Sam and that time of potential violence I shuddered at what could have happened.
But that part of my life was behind me. With new purpose and direction, I finished college, determined to make a difference in the world, determined to be a positive force.
I believed there were too many Sams in this world, too many of those Sams hurting the people around them. God was with me and I was chosen to be a good Samaritan, chosen to touch the hearts of those who were hurt, chosen to teach that which is true and right, and chosen to witness to all.
By Dan Roberson