A snap of cold air and chirping crickets mark an abrupt end to summer and invite a brilliant moon. As it rises through the trees, cresting the treetops, a feeling wells within me. Though I fight it, refusing to participate, the moon becomes a riptide pulling me into an impossible current as I am once again experiencing the events before the shooting as a scene replayed.
Neither reasoning nor logic provides a clear path to break out. What were intermittent remnants of sadness are now reversed to intermittent remnants of sanity, and the stress of the weeks leading up to that day swallows me. Waves of panic wash over me, reminders of his relentless emotional pounding as I struggled to keep the shore in sight that I was leaving that week to keep from drowning there with him. His threats, assault, isolation of me and attempts to alienate my family and friends, insistence I was his, his stalking…were replaced by a calmness. My fear escalated to foreboding.
I try to stay present and not give in to the feelings. I escaped death. I am here now. I am free now. I won. I have claimed my life and claimed happiness. Still, I am haunted by more than just the memories and trauma. I cannot deny the disturbing knowledge that I loved him.
I hated how he treated me, how he behaved, who he was with me and that loving him became synonymous with fear. The fact remains that I loved someone who, in our last moment together, left me with his final cruelty when he made me choose between him, my children, and my own survival. I wish I could boldly say I stopped loving him that very day, but it has been a long process to mourn, untangle, and finally deprogram.
I join you in failing to comprehend how I could love someone who not only meant to harm me, he negated any guise of affection for his children by his attempt to leave them motherless, using them as pawns in his deadly game. My pain is perhaps greatest for my children as they struggle in their own ways with behaviors and risk taking that lies in stark contrast to those hopes I have for them. I am no longer singing lullabies, holding them tight as we rocked to Goodnight Moon, dreaming dreams of their futures. My loving hold has been pried loose by an event wedged between us; intended to tear us apart, to destroy each one of us, yet we remain, the three of us a family.
I keep sweeping; sweeping away the debris, the dirt, desperate to find where innocence goes when it is lost, knowing it is not reclaimable but trying still to clear a path to it for my children.
Though the cost of freedom was high, I would not turn back. La liberté à tout prix. La liberté à tout prix.