Last fall (2010), I wrote three entries dedicated to the drama of a particular family. In short, the mother/wife who worked as a street prostitute in San Marcos to support her family abandoned her husband of 11 years and three children to start a new life with another man. For several days, it was unclear where K., the mother, had disappeared to and her husband, J. and I went on a Quito walk-about of all the places one looks in these occasions—the morgue, hospitals, prisons, etc. We were worried she had been a victim of a violent crime. News travels quickly on the streets and after several days of panic we learned that it was most probable that K., had simply run off with another man. She was last seen leaving a hotel in the center with another man one morning. As she checked out, she told the hotel owner, “I’m going to Ambato (another city in Ecuador’s highlands), I can’t stand it here anymore.” I know this because I went to talk with hotel owner. The owner was adamant that K. was not a victim of a violent crime and that it was simply a case of runaway love. No official word came from K., she never called her husband, nor her own family to disclose her whereabouts, but a client who had been in Ambato confirmed that she was there with her new boyfriend. Of course J. was livid. He ended up moving back to Guayaquil, the coastal city where they are both from, to be with his family, where he continues to remain today.
K. eventually returned to Quito, perhaps in January or February of this year (2011). When I saw her, it was a brand new K. She had gained weight (which means she wasn’t smoking as much base), and kept telling me how happy she was in her “new” life. She couldn’t stop smiling and talked about her new boyfriend like a giggling teenager. I was happy for her. Without her allegedly abusive husband J. and the pressure of supporting three children, I could imagine that K. would feel a certain relief. Although I have since learned that she has yet to even call her children, even now, in June 2011, when she left them in Nov. 2010. Perhaps it’s just too painful for her. Perhaps she doesn’t care. Who knows? All I know that the separation has been positive for J. too. He calls me from Guayaquil and says it was the best thing that happened to him. They no longer loved one another and he likes being back with his family. He is completely clean—he is forced to be—because he is now a single dad raising three children alone. Actually, J. was always the kids’ caregiver. They were always much more attached to him than K.
Now that I’ve come back from the States, it seems as if things have begun to change for K. Another woman disclosed to me that her “new” boyfriend now hits her. Furthermore, she has lost weight again. Indeed, when I saw K. the other day I sensed things were different. She remained upbeat as usual, but she no longer radiated that glow of early love. It was true—she had lost a bit of weight. I asked how she was doing and she answered (too) quickly, “Everything is great, just great.” “I’m happy,” I replied. She asked me if I had talked to J. or the kids, to which I responded no, which obviously indicated to me that she hadn’t either. I asked how her new boyfriend was and she looked down for a moment and said, “Times are tough, I’m working more.” Her new boyfriend makes a living selling candy, which was one of the reasons she ran off with him, so she wouldn’t have to work as much (although I can’t imagine how much a candy-seller makes…) It seems like a sex worker would make quadruple that income in a day.
It seems like her boyfriend realized just that. Rumor has it, that the boyfriend has stopped selling his candy altogether and K. supports them both. He has a worse base habit than J. ever did, so K. is back into her addiction. The women tell me that men usually wait a while before they start hitting their partners, just to make sure that their girlfriends are sufficiently in love with them to put up with it. Apparently, K.’s boyfriend waited for just the right moment, because he hits her and she hasn’t left him yet. Perhaps she will, but she hasn’t for now. So much for K.’s “brand new life.” It’s exactly the same, just with a different man, and minus her children. One would think that she would miss her children, but she hasn’t seen them in all this time. The women on the streets hiss behind her back about her being a negligent mother. Why do some women continually get caught up in destructive relationships? (I know the answer, to be discussed…) Perhaps having to support 3 children put unbearable pressure on K. to the point that she had to split, as a measure of self-protection. Perhaps J.’s beatings were even worse than her new boyfriend’s. I am certain that having 3 children, especially one who had severe special needs (he was born addicted to base), was too much to bear, but doesn’t her guilt of abandoning them consume her? When I talk to the other women, they say that can’t understand how she could leave her children—it is absolutely implausible. Apparently, she has yet to send them any money. And for what? To suffer more beatings, support another man and to slowly slip back into her dangerous addiction? K.’s luck ran out. When she sees me she smiles but I feel sad, knowing that K.’s “new life” probably isn’t much better than her prior one.