Wednesday, 17 August 2011
A New Friend, An Old Hurt
I said I would most likely never share any portion of this part of my story. However, something pulled it to mind the other day and I just started typing. Within an hour I had this little memory transformed into print.
For those of you who have experienced domestic abuse, you know it's one of those hurts that never really goes away. While what I experienced with Michael was mild on the abuse scale, it was still incredibly painful and stressful. I didn't stay in the relationship long enough for things to progress to the level they could have. It only lasted about 5 months, but it was long enough for me to be pushed, have my hair pulled, be knocked into walls, to be pinned in a car and told I couldn't leave until I agreed to his demands, to be accused of ridiculous things that never happened, and to find myself in a constant state of checking my every move to make sure I wasn't doing anything that would get his attention.
Even after moving so far away, for months I would check and recheck doors and windows when I was home alone and kept the porch lights on 24/7 so I could see outside whenever I heard a noise. The odd thing about that is, he had no idea where I lived and probably wasn't smart enough to figure it out. But, most fear, in its most overwhelming state, usually has no logic in it at all.
This piece is one of the first of many instances I remember in the early days of my friendship with Don, the man who twelve years after this would become my husband. This was one of the things that cemented our friendship and established the unwavering trust I have in him.
The shrill bell-like sound worked a path through her senses that shouted her anxiety into a tangible presence within the room. A single lamp burned in the corner over the phone, serving only to cast further illumination on the dread she felt. Eyes closed, she took a deep breath, trying to prepare herself for what she knew would come when she answered.
“Do you want me to answer it?” he asked.
She hesitated, not wanting to face the man who was calling. She’d worked so hard to remove him from her life, moving almost five hours away to return to her home state, hoping the distance would be enough to keep him away. As her thoughts wandered to what she knew awaited her on the other end of the line, she couldn’t help but find her wounded spirit leaning towards the temptation to allow her friend to rescue her from her former abuser.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
“You could always just let it ring.”
“No,” she said, “he’ll just keep calling.” Arms folded, she trembled slightly, and felt her heart slam wildly against her ribs as if it were mocking her need for ‘fight or flight’.
“Then let me answer.”
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” she sighed. “I don’t think I’ve had enough beer to help me do this today.”
He smiled – that smile that only he could give, the smile that had melted her broken heart just a few short weeks ago. Knowing that anything he said would be ok as long as it spared her from talking to him herself, she didn’t even bother to stay in the room and follow the conversation. She heard just enough as she made her way down the hall to her bedroom.
“Hello?...It doesn’t matter who I am….Whatever man, just leave her alone….She doesn’t want to talk to you…..Go to hell, Michael.”
She climbed into bed shivering, from anxiety more than cold, and wrapped the covers tightly around her, as if the action would somehow hide her from the waking nightmare Michael had brought upon her world. Then, thinking she would sleep alone tonight and no one would know, she let the tears come in silence.
She felt him standing in the doorway before she saw or heard him. She pulled the covers more securely over her head in a feeble attempt to hide the vulnerability of her tears, and closed her eyes more tightly as if the action would somehow will him away before she sniffed or sobbed and gave way to what she felt was weakness.
Michael had taught her that. She had never allowed him to see her cry. She had never backed down, even in her most desperate and painful moments. Weakness would only give affirmation to his need for control.
In silence, he made his way to the bed and lay behind her on top of the comforter. Without a word, her new friend placed his arm around her and pulled her close. At first she tensed, her breaths coming faster, an alert to her anxiety. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She wasn’t supposed to feel safe this close to a male peer. This should hurt. She should be scared.
Then, with solid reassurance, he gently smoothed her hair from her face in a way that willed her to relax. And, as her breathing slowed, the tears fell again.
It would be the last time, for many years to come, that there would be a need for him to hold her while she cried herself to sleep. Michael never called again and, that night, the path to healing cleared.