After School Special
When you were walking up to me, all I could think was, ‘Please let that be her…’
He was he brother of a friend. He was relatively new to the area and was looking to meet some folks his age. His sister knew that I ran with a good crowd, so she suggested that I invite him out with us the next time we did something. So I did.
He came with us to a movie, and pretty much joined the circle. He wasn’t shy about his attraction to me. During an icebreaker one night, where you had to share a few facts about yourself, his final fact was, “As most of you can tell, I’m very interested in her.” Me. He was talking about me.
He didn’t come with a sign saying I ABUSE WOMEN. He had all of his teeth. He was clean cut and well-dressed. Handsome. Educated. Smart. Funny.
My divorce was final. My divorce from the man that didn’t want to sleep in the same bed as me. That didn’t want to look at me. The man that found someone else to take my place, first in the form of adult magazines, videos and websites, then in the form of an especially friendly co-worker. Enter Dr. Jekyll, who wanted to be with me as often as possible. Who only had eyes for me, and let everyone know it.
I was totally enamored. With him? Not so much. Yes, I liked him fine, but I loved that feeling of having someone so absolutely taken by me. I had never experienced anything like it. I ignored every impulse telling me that he was too into me. It was sweet that he wanted to stay on the phone with me as I drove home, he just wanted to make sure I got there alright. It was completely understandable that he didn’t want to spend a lot of time at my place — after all, it was the house I’d shared with my ex.
Between the exit of The Wolf and the entrance of Dr. Jekyll, I’d become The Old Me again. The Me I liked. The Me that trusted God. The Me that trusted close friends that were close to God. Those close friends weren’t so sure about Dr. Jekyll. Did I listen to their gentle and kind warnings? I have a couple of bone spurs in my back that scream, “NO!”
I wanted to be around him, this man that wanted to be around me. I was intoxicated with being desired. Maybe this was all repayment for what I’d dealt with for the previous two years…
I ignored every red flag. AGAIN. AGAIN!! I floated around in a blissful daze.
I came crashing back to reality with a bite on the finger.
The first fight. I don’t even remember what it was about, or what transpired throughout the whole incident. I remember winding up on the floor of the closet — whether I backed myself in there or was pushed in is fuzzy. What is crystal clear is that I was defending myself. I was standing up for myself, telling him he couldn’t talk to me the way he was, or say the things he was saying. In anger, I pointed my finger in his face as I spoke.
Don’t point your finger at me.
It wasn’t a funny, playful bite meant to break the tension. No, it was an actual bite that left marks and inflicted pain.
What a ridiculous catalyst.
The argument ended. Others came. I remember the feeling of his fist gripping my hair, right at the top of my neck. I remember seeing the hair fall to the floor. Being dragged across the floor, the only way to make him stop being to bite his leg. Being held by my arms, lifted, and shaken. The bruises I quietly cried over as I showered.
The showers. I would end each shower with a blast of freezing cold water. Why? Because the air conditioning was never on. In Florida. Near the coast. In the spring and summer. The windows would stay open, bringing in the humidity. The stand fan ran when it wasn’t tipped over on its side, the casualty of either an argument or a bad night for a favorite sports team.
Why did I stay? Admitting defeat was hard, for one. To end it meant I’d done it again, picked the completely wrong guy. On top of that, it wasn’t like leaving was all that simple. When it was his idea, I’d start to pack. Something would get broken, usually something of mine. Then there were threats.
I. WAS. SCARED. You think those Lifetime movies are a bit over the top until you find yourself living one. You think, “A man hits me, he better hope he kills me.” Sweetheart, you better hope your hands are registered as lethal weapons, because it’s not like it’s one slap and then he runs. He’s bigger than you, stronger than you, he will chase you. He doesn’t care what other people think. He will throw a baseball glove at the back of your head amidst several church softball teams and those who have come to watch them. He will chuck your cell phone across the parking lot as you’re standing outside of a Burger King.
Anyway. I was ashamed. I was scared. I did leave one time, and, yes, foolishly returned after promises were made. Promises of change. Offers of hope. And, no surprise, things were fine for a little while. Then he thought I was flirting with a man old enough to be my father, and he punished my eyes by pressing his thumbs into the bones above them with his fingers grasping the back of my head.
Family and friends had expressed their concern for me. The more concerned people were, though, the angrier he would get. It was easier to not spend time with those who cared. Especially those who showed their concern through anger. (So, word to the wise, if you know someone in that type of situation, and their issues cause problems in your schedule, life, etc. — get over it. No matter how it affects you, I can pretty much guarantee their situation is worse than yours.)
I found support in what was at that time a slightly unorthodox place. Online. A message board for women in abusive relationships. It was there that I realized a) it could be so much worse and b) it would be so much worse if I didn’t get out. It was there that I found strength in myself, through several very wise women who had been where I was.
I almost left when we went to visit his family. After he hit me the way that they must teach guys to in high school, after he dragged me into the bathroom and drew blood as he tried to keep me from crying, I was going to leave. I thought maybe I could call a cab and get to the airport. However, after the fight I was exhausted and just fell asleep. Besides that, the next morning when we were going somewhere, I realized I couldn’t find my purse. He had hidden it after the fight in case I did try to go.
I was motivated. The women on the board were encouraging me, giving me ideas and tips. None of the planning was necessary though. One night we’d been out with my family, and on the way home he said something awful about my sister. For some reason, that was what did it for me. He’d been calling me names and saying awful things about me for months, but when he said it about my sister… So the fight to end all fights happened. I started packing, and as I did he wrecked what he could of mine. He tried to wreck me.
Remember I said he never had the a/c on? He always had the windows open? That meant everything going on inside the apartment was being broadcast to the neighbors. There was a knock at the door, and I remember the fear in his eyes as he said, “It’s the police.” “So open the door,” I said. (I was getting used to law enforcement being an integral part of my relationships.) The officers came in and asked us if we’d been fighting. To his credit, Dr. Jekyll answered “yes”. They asked me if I was okay, if I needed anything. I said I was fine, even though I know one of the officers saw a clump of hair fall from my shoulders when I went to pull it back. They told us we should take a break if we had an argument. Maybe he should take a walk if he’s getting mad.
They left, and we went to sleep. I slept on the couch with my belongings in a small laundry basket in front of me. The next day, I left. He called and left voicemail after voicemail. He sent nasty e-mails. I didn’t respond. Then someone in his family told him he needed to let it go, and he did.
Eventually I stopped announcing to the general public when I was going to take two steps to the right. I stopped scrambling for my cell phone the second I heard it ringing. I regained the ability to admit when a man was attractive out loud.
I did put up a wall around my heart. I dated people I knew he didn’t like out of spite. I defiantly colored my hair. He didn’t know. He never saw. As usual, I had ups and I had downs, but in the end, I knew how far God had brought me, and what He had spared me from. My heart breaks when I think about women who are in it far deeper than I ever was. Whose finances are controlled, who have kids that they try to protect… Those women whose lives are threatened. What I went through is nothing in comparison.
But I know what I went through is what I went through, it’s my story, and it’s part of who I was. Maybe who I am. It didn’t kill me, thank God, so it made me stronger, and hopefully someone somewhere will not find themselves in a similar situation because they spot the warning signs earlier and actually get out. If it were to help one person, that would be enough.