I sat huddled in the corner on the cold floor, hugging my knees. I thought about everything and nothing at the same time. My eyes strayed to the windows that I had meant to close. It was a stormy night; cold air and rain blew into the house making everything damp.
At some point I’m going to have to clean that.
I looked around the dining room at the wreckage of the meal I had spent hours preparing. Wasted. Wearily I glanced at the bright red beetroot stain prominent on the white shag carpet and I mentally sighed. I had to attend to it before the stain set – otherwise we would have to get a new one. Money conversations were always a complete nightmare.
But I couldn’t move. I could not make a sound.
I caught sight of my brand new phone that, just moments earlier, I had been so excited about getting; smashed to pieces; useless to use to call for help from anyone. It was just as well. There was only one number saved on that phone. There was nothing they could do to help me in my current situation.
I wondered if the neighbours had heard the ruckus, and in that moment I half hoped, half dreaded that they had called the police. It had been loud enough – I felt certain that I was already the talk of the neighbourhood and the gossip folks were already descending on my gate. The hope was that they had heard and this would mean that salvation would be soon at hand. My legs were starting to cramp from the foetal position I was sitting in. I recalled something I had read somewhere that, if you make yourself small enough, attackers find you less threatening and are less likely to continue acting in a violent situation.
The police. Would they believe me this time – which we were in real danger? Pain called me back to my cramped leg and I realised that my ankle was broken and a purplish bruise in the shape of his right hand had begun to appear on my left arm.
Back to long-sleeves and slacks for a while I guess.
I remembered from all the previous ‘situations’ that he had always been good about hurting me where it wouldn’t show or at least where I could hide it from the prying eyes of the neighbours who would wait at the gate; faces full of equal parts compassion and schadenfreude. I had always dreaded these conversations.
Warmth began to spread around my corner perch but with it came a chill. I hadn’t noticed before, around me was a pool of blood coming from the gash in my thigh. My recollection of the entire encounter returned in waves. Shock does that. Shock and I were intimately acquainted at this point. It still didn’t seem like an urgent enough injury to get up from where I was sitting. I ran scenarios in my head about the next few moments.
Do I sit here and wait for him to tire himself out screaming or to pass out from the alcohol and then I get up and go get help?
Do I try to get up and not make any sudden movements that might remind him that I’m even there and awaken any latent violence he had planned for today that he was yet to unleash on me?
In the back of my head I was saying a fervent prayer that he would not remember the children who were hopefully covered under their beds in the other room. I made a mental note to keep an eye on him when he came back from his smoke. I knew I would have to do something to distract him should he walk in and head in that direction. I was starting to feel faint as the ring of warm red blood pooling around my leg began to grow larger, but I still needed to consider all the options and decide on the least objectionable alternative.
I thought for a moment about happier times. One cannot picture this scene without pondering on how I got there. He hadn’t always been this way. I remembered happier times. He had a way of making me laugh and making me feel safe that no one could ever manage. Coming from the childhood I had had, security and happiness become the most attractive traits in another person. And then the economy changed and he was retrenched from the company he had worked for, 20 years of his life.
In hindsight, I suppose this was his black swan moment when the drinking escalated from casual to alcoholic. I tried to ask him if there was anything he needed to talk about and if there was any way I could help. He told me financial decisions are not the purview of women and I should mind my own business. His words had become sharper; his anger quick to rise – his good graces impossible to stay in for longer than it takes to fetch him a beer that was the right level of cold. But it had been just that – words. I had always known that words can hurt but that it was the kind of hurt that one can get over. Then one day he hit me square across the face because he thought I had been too friendly towards one of his friends who had come to watch the Arsenal game with him. I was flabbergasted by this and ran out of the room to my bedroom to cry. He had followed me overcome with regret guilt and remorse.
I convinced myself that he was not a bad person; he was a good person that had simply done a bad thing. How can this man whose love for me was supposed to be the standard by which all other men should compare ever mean to deliberately hurt me. He didn’t hit me for a while after that but when he was on the sauce he would revert back to using the words that cut like knives. I deduced that the rage was based on the frustration of unemployment and offered to get a job so we could make up the household income. This is a subject I brought up once and never again because 1. No woman would keep him – he was a real man and 2. He hit me so hard two of my teeth fell out.
I worried about the children. . I had always wanted to leave. I know it is impossible to raise happy children in such a situation. I knew that I would never be allowed to leave with them; I knew i could never afford it. My family was scattered across the continents and I had no one who I could ask to help me with this and there was nowhere we could go that he would not find us. I had no money of my own since he controlled all the finances and took care of us. I was lost – living in the only home I had ever known – wishing my mother were alive to save me because I could not save myself from my own husband.
I heard the familiar snoring coming from the patio – a sign that he had passed out. At the same time I heard the all too familiar sounds of the sirens at the gate as two police officers strode into the yard. I tried to get up but my body failed me and I passed out cold. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital – with his noticeably absent from the faces that surrounded my bed. My cousin informed me that he had been charged with aggravated assault as well as child endangerment and the police did not even need me to press further charges to augment their prosecution of him. She had also taken the children and would take me in once I was released from the hospital.
I had failed to save myself or my children. I had failed by allowing this man’s misuse of his manhood to continue for so long. Intervention saved my life. The kindness of strangers saved the lives of my children. To this day, loud noises frighten me. People tend to forget that emotional and mental abuse leaves lasting scars, they really do, and the trauma never leaves you, not completely. I decided that day that for me to live a life that had any semblance of normalcy, he could not be in it. That day with the ruined dinner and ransacked house, that was the last day I saw the man I had loved for so long and the last day my children ever saw their father.