In the previous installment I had just left Mahasraya and fled to Nitai dasi's apartment with my son, Lakshmana.
I was enjoying the relative peace of Nitai's home and trying to figure out what to do next. I knew when her husband returned I would need a place to stay in the long term. I had left a note for Mahasraya and at some point we arranged a meeting to discuss matters. Nitai had a male devotee friend who was staying in a camper outside and we asked him to be there at the scheduled time and be prepared to step in should things escalate into violence.
We had a strained meeting and I no longer remember what exactly we said. I won't put words into our mouths. But we were trying to arrange for visitation for Lakshmana and our future baby, and I was trying to arrange at some point a method of getting my stuff out safely. Things were fairly calm, probably because we weren't completely alone and people were nearby who knew about the abuse and were looking out for me.
It turned out that the devotee woman whose apartment I stayed at the morning I was to go to Hawaii had decided to seek a housemate to save on rent. She had a one bedroom apartment and figured she could stay in the front room and whoever stayed with her could take the bedroom. I shall call her CV dasi in this account to protect her privacy. She had a daughter who was in the terrible twos named R. dasi.
I moved in and transferred my welfare, grateful that for the first time it was just going for me and my children, legitimately, rather than my lying and cheating. That had really grated on me.
I settled into a routine and got used to my new life, trying to give up all attachment to Mahasraya. I put money in my savings account each month and watched it grow, hopeful of getting my own apartment where I'd have more room. My only friction was watching CV and her daughter arguing and yelling. There was a regular drama over dinnertime where R. wouldn't eat much of what CV had cooked and CV would start screaming at her about it. Sometimes CV would put R. into a dark closet for her "time out." This was a method I'd seen a few devotees used around this time--it seemed to be spreading by word of mouth. R. would panic and scream and hit the closet door repeatedly. It was a very stressful scene and although I was also a young and very new mother I was unsettled by this and didn't feel it was right. But it wasn't my place as a guest--even a paying one--to tell my hostess how to raise her daughter. I would have spoken up about physical violence, of course, but this seemed a borderline issue.
So I was anxious ultimately to get out of this temporary situation and saving money wherever I could. I got my stuff from Mahasraya and he remained in our old apartment. He got a car from one of my neighbors, Mangalananda Dasa. Yes, the Hare Krishna singer who released the song Change of Heart on an LP years ago. I had become friends with his wife, Laxmipati, who lived just upstairs from us. It was through her that I had met CV dasi in the first place. The car was a Plymouth, I believe, an ancient thing that had a series of push buttons for Drive, Reverse, Park, and so on. A couple of times Mahasraya took me to get groceries (we were trying our best to be amicable) and I feared for my life as we navigated L.A. streets. I did not yet know how to drive myself.
Tensions were escalating at CV dasi's apartment as a male friend showed up and began staying with her in the front room. He was separating from his wife, also a friend of hers, who he said was crazy whenever she had PMS. It wasn't long before he and CV were in a relationship and since I was pretty strict as a devotee during this period I was shocked by all of this. It was also awkward with them being in the front room--in retrospect I should have offered to switch rooms and grant them more privacy.
Not long after this began, Mahasraya called me one night in a panic. He had crashed his car and left the scene of the accident. He was making a turn and he said the other car was speeding. After the collision the other guy was trying to fight with him and so he just left. He was now afraid of being arrested and of his theft in Chicago being brought into the matter, even though he was using a fake name, Askvig, for his driver's license. (Michael Askvig was Manasuta Dasa's "karmi" name and Mahasraya had stolen his driver's license when it arrived at the Chicago temple.) So he wanted to bring the rest of the stuff from the apartment over and store it at mine because he was vacating the apartment so the cops wouldn't find him from the car registration. He was crying, he was so freaked out.
Then came the point where he talked about having no place to stay. He started begging me to stay with me and that we could get another place together and things would be different. I was feeling sorry for him and pressured by my own difficult situation with CV dasi and finally I relented but I said sternly, "If you ever so much as hit me once I will leave for good." He said that he understood and agreed.
He brought the stuff over and we brought it in through the bedroom window. My room was filled with boxes to the point where we could barely walk through.
Finally everything was loaded in and we settled down to go to bed for the night. He wanted to make love and I acquiesced. Afterwards I started crying, uncontrollably sobbing, and he was very tender and solicitous, wanting to understand why. I couldn't explain but later on, only in retrospect, I realized that I was crying because I knew I was making a mistake and betraying myself.
Soon we found a place to stay, subletting from my old friend Swarupa Das a house on Baldwin Street in Culver City which we shared with Manindra Dasi. I had to use the money I'd been saving towards our new home.
True to his word there were no beatings in our renewed life together--for a year and a half anyway.
--to be continued--