We are arguing in the kitchen. I don’t recall over what. Surely something minor. I am at the stove. He reaches over and pinches my arm and holds the pinch until I cringe in pain. With my free hand I try to slap his hand away and pull free. I go into the hall bathroom, the closest place to escape.
He follows me. He always followed me.
I try to quickly close the door behind me but he forces it open. It is narrow. Trying to ignore him, I move away towards the linen closet. He shoves me against the wall, his hand pressing on my chest. I think I am a big woman, he cannot hurt me. But he is hurting me. I see my daughter in the hallway, a wide eyed toddler, observing curiously. I don’t move. I am absolutely still, and silent. I don’t fight back because I don’t want to upset her. My eyes stare into his, defiantly.
When his hand moves to my throat and he begins to choke me, I stare at him. I will not look away, thinking- you will know who I am, and my beloved daughter will be watching when you kill me. I worry about who will take care of her, and our son, still a baby; the children I share with this stranger who is strangling me. And I begin to fight back. I reach up around his arm and dig my nails into his skin, drawing blood, eyes locked into his, still silent. (years later in marriage counseling he recalls only my nails, nothing in context as to defending myself)
He finally releases. I push by him and sweep a still quiet wide eyed child in my arms down the hall and go for the phone to call the police.
He screams at me- You would have your children watch their father get arrested? I bark back – Do you realize what your children have just witnessed? He regains composure and dismissively says Go ahead and call, it’s my word against yours. No one will believe you, as he holds up wrists and hands I have bloodied trying to break free.
I, the smart, successful, spunky woman he used to love, put the phone down. No one will believe me. He, the likeable friendly guy who would help anyone and everyone but us. Respected and thought of highly. He is right. No one will believe me.
There are no tears. I’d exchanged the ability to cry for the strength to survive.
I did not have the luxury to mourn with two children who needed their mother.
I would not give him the satisfaction of my tears even if I could have conjured them.
Now a lifetime of tears stand ready to tumble at any given moment. As I awake this morning, maybe having dreamed of him, this scene plays in my head. Those unshed tears, the acuity of a premonition our daughter would watch as he tried to kill me, flood me.
I get out of bed. Grateful for a merciful God who has given me another chance.
I do the next thing. I write. I tell my secret.
‘Leave all your love and your longing behind you can’t carry it with you if you want to survive.’ Florence Welsh