“I see their daddy every day, but my mother says he is just using me. I suppose he is, but I don’t know what else to do. I need some attention, too. Mother thinks I should tell him he has to stay away and I should just stay home and be with those kids. He gets done at the office late, and I wait for him and go for a drink. I don’t really care about it—I just do it to please him. I think he is getting a drinking habit that I’m not really crazy about.

“For me, I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do. It’s all on me—him, the kids, my mother. It’s too much for one person. At least it’s too much for me.”

Mr. C is quite tense and talks quite rapidly, with a cutting quality to his voice. “Well, I’m about ready to give up. It’s like this. I can’t find a higher-paying job, and the job I have now I got sick at yesterday. I had to go home. I had a splitting headache. Things are beginning to stack up on me.

“I’ve been working my tail off, and now my daughter is running with some white boy. I’ll kill that son-of-a-bitch if I catch him messing with her. I was having a drink at a bar the other day, and I saw this white man with his hand and mouth at this black girl. I asked him to lay off, and he asked if I wanted to fight. I broke my hand on his face. I think I’m cracking up. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m losing it; God help me!”

Mrs. D is talking quite slowly, seems exhausted, and has a quality of futility and despair. “I don’t feel like there is any relationship left. I think that over a period of time it’s built up to where it’s reached a breaking point. It just got to where I felt like I was completely responsible. He wasn’t any help to me. He was satisfied with things like going to work on his race car, and when he came home, he was too tired to do anything for me or to do what I wanted to do. When I went back to work, I told him that I worked as many hours as he did; but he always worked harder than I did, according to him. He was always too tired to do anything with the children. Things are left for me to do. I felt the complete responsibility, and he just didn’t want to help.

“One night last summer, he woke me up in the middle of the night and told me about these hang-ups he has and the stuff he has been doing. I know he thinks about being a girl sometimes and wants to dress up in my clothes when we have intercourse. He said that when I was at work he had been putting our little girl to bed early and then dressing up in my clothes and “taking care” of himself. He got to the point where he didn’t like to be home alone. He’d get a buddy and go drinking while I was at work, leaving our little girl at home by herself.

“He finally broke down and told me that he had been picked up by the police on suspicion of having drugs. He’d been drinking and had a fifteen-year-old girl in the car. He’d picked her up, but he got off lucky because the police thought she was his sister. I told him, ‘Okay, you need to get help; this is something you can’t just get over.’ He said he’d just fight it on his own, that he could overcome it. He said we didn’t have the money for help, and I told him I’d work it out to cut corners as long as necessary to get him help. He refused, and so we sent on as before. This situation was irritating to live with. Several times I asked him to change jobs, and again I asked him to get help. Nothing I could do would open his mind. I finally said, ‘Okay, I’m going to get a divorce.’

“It’s gotten me to the point where I don’t care anymore. I feel he needs help. If I can help him, as a person, I feel like I ought to go back and help him. He says he can’t live without me, and I’m afraid he might try something desperate. If he tries to kill himself or something, it would be my fault. That’s like it is, but I’ve lost all love and respect—I’ve just lost all feeling—for him.

“When he is home, as soon as he comes in, I start feeling tense and shaky. When I’ve asked him to get help for my sake, it didn’t mean enough to him—but I feel it’s too late for me. I don’t know what to do.