I scrub at my skin trying to rid myself of the filth I feel ingrained there. It’s pointless because what I feel is much worse. The filth has seeped much deeper and I don’t know how to reach that part of me.
The angry tears start again as the events of the past few days play in my head. I am the victim of domestic assault at the hands of the man who’s been my boyfriend for the past five years. The thought of such a thing happening to me turns my stomach and fight the urge to vomit again. Just looking at me you would never know what I have been through these last few days. Aside from the bruises on my wrists from where he grabbed me there is no other outward appearance of abuse. I don’t have a black eye or broken bones, no swollen nose or lip. You have to look past the physical to see the real damage done. The emotional damage that is not so easy to heal. He has learned how to plant the hurt where it can’t be easily reached or seen. He is an experienced abuser. Half an hour later I get out of the shower still crying. It’s been two days and I’m still so rattled I’m afraid to be here in the apartment we share. It’s his apartment. I moved in five years ago but it’s never felt like home to me. He makes sure I don’t get too comfortable. I think about calling my parents and ask if I can stay with them for a few days but quickly dismiss the thought. I don’t want to answer questions or causing any more trouble. The only real option is to move into my own place even if it means walking on eggshells for a few more days.
I dress and walk out into the kitchen. He’s already home from work and lying on the sofa. Quietly I put on my shoes and grab my keys and purse hoping to leave before he wakes up. “Where you going?” he asks me. The sound of his voice startles me as I realize he’s standing almost behind me. “I’m going to the store to buy something for dinner. “I answer. I move behind the safety of the snack counter and keep my head down avoiding his eyes. I don’t want him to know he startled me. “Whatever.” he says as he reaches for his wallet.
I step out of the apartment before he has time to give me any money. I feel the tears threaten to start again and I angrily brush them away as I rush up the landing and out to the safety of the parking lot. I can’t remember ever feeling so much hate and anger for someone before. I go to the store but can’t really concentrate on what I’m doing. I walk around just avoiding having to return but finally I grab some frozen dinners and leave the store. On the drive home the thought of driving off into the night creeps into my head. If only I had the courage to do so. He talks nonstop during dinner. He acts as if nothing is wrong, as if none of this ever happened. More than once he tries to draw me into his conversation but I can barely eat the food in front of me let alone talk.
After dinner he asks me to sit and watch television with him. I normally enjoy this time with him but we’re not normal anymore. I feel so uncomfortable as we sit together but I’m afraid to make him angry again. He tries to hold my hand and get intimate and my stomach lurches. I can’t believe he thinks he has the right to touch me.
As Is it there with his hands on me, my mind races trying to decide what course of action to take. I know how important it is for me to be smart on how I react to him. I can’t afford to make him angry again. Is it very still not able to respond to his advances and fighting the urge to run out of there. Oblivious to it all he tries to kiss me. Suddenly he pulls away, anger and frustration on his face. the look scares me and I prepare for what I’m sure will follow. Instead, he pulls away and goes into the kitchen. I take this opportunity to go into my bedroom and as I close the door I make sure it’s locked. Sadly I realize that I have never felt the need to lock it before.
I lay down on my bed listening for him to come pounding on the door demanding to be let in. I can hear him moving around but he doesn’t come near my room. I know there is no fixing this and for my safety I’ll have to leave very soon.
I lay there for a Long time before I finally drift off into a fitful and tortured sleep filled with nightmares of hands that keep striking out to hurt me.
~~ Yoli, 44 – USA