This morning I was going through my old laptop, cleaning out the files, preparing for a new project. I ran across this article I wrote about ten years ago. I actually sold it to someone; but, to my knowledge, they never published it. I posted it a few years ago; but it isn’t on my current blog. Today, I almost trashed it; but, I thought, you know, maybe someone out there needs help. Maybe they need to read it. Maybe it will help them…make a choice. So, I updated it and rewrote the ending.
This isn’t fiction. This is part of my personal history.
By Silver RavenWolf
I’m lying, gut crumpled on the kitchen floor in a dingy two-room apartment in Lowell, Massachusetts. Stupidly, I remember that I washed and waxed that cracked linoleum this morning. I see a spot I must have missed over there…right past the blood streaming from my nose. It’s hard to breathe. I snort. Blood sprays. My head pounds. I think I connected with the chipped refrigerator door twice. I’m not sure about that. I’m dizzy. He rears up and kicks me, laughing. Profanity. From him. Lots of it.
My five month old daughter begins to cry, her voice echoing from the darkened room beyond. My seven-year-old sister-in-law is standing in the corner of the dimly lit kitchen – stringy blonde hair trembling over wide, watery blue eyes; the back of her fist pressed hard to her mouth. Terror. Oh, yes, I understand that emotion extremely well. I know that no one will hear us. There is a business building to the right of the property and a vacant lot to the left. We live in the slums of Massachusetts. A dirty city. Locals call it Lowell the hole.
Or was that me?
I try to pick myself up, fingers scrabbling at the refrigerator door to find purchase. I’m down again. And I realize that this time…this time…it’s bad. Very bad. But, I’m trying to keep him busy. Keep him away from my niece, who he probably won’t touch – the baby, that’s another matter. I rise again, just to make sure he isn’t headed in her direction.
“Stay down, bitch, and I won’t hit you again,” yells my husband as he hits me gain. I slither back down to the floor, weeping, ashamed that I have not risen like a powerful goddess and smitten this toad of a human being in front of me. I am proud, however, even in my pain, that I have kept him occupied until his anger runs its course.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been beaten by the supposed love-of-my-life; but, I vow silently – it will be the last. He heads toward the baby and I grab his foot. He returns to me. Blackness – sick, dark, ugly, filled with the smell of my own blood and urine washes over me. I pray not to God, but to my dead mother to save me. The Christian God I was raised to believe in? Checked out for me a long time ago. He never listened. He never stopped the pain or the broken bones. As a last resort, I call for my mother out loud. A rain of blows descend, and I lose consciousness.
Daylight pouring into the kitchen window. I wobble to my feet. My sister-in-law is gone. The monster must have taken her home. My brain repeats my past like a broken record. How the hell did I get in such a mess? My mother-in-law will not come to my rescue. My niece will tell her of last night’s fight, of course, but that woman won’t do anything. She too, is an abused spouse. The only reason he stopped? She stabbed him. Yep. The truth. With a kitchen knife. Didn’t kill him, unfortunately. He doesn’t touch her now, just messes around on her. I guess she’s okay with that. At least he’s not breaking anymore bones.
Unfortunately my husband is my mother-in-law’s favorite of seven children. She will say nothing, just as his paternal grandmother said nothing before her. That woman fled from England. Her beater husband was a prominent neurosurgeon, so they say. Obviously, she removed her sons too late. She, on the other hand, did her best for me. She warned me oh-so-many-months ago; but, I didn’t understand. The pattern already forged from a world I’d never known.
I realize this cold morning that I am a victim in a long line of my husband’s white trash heritage.
Not any more.
It was time to choose…again. I review the facts.
I am an only child several hundred miles from home. My abusive husband has conveniently destroyed the starter in my brand new Camero – I bought it when I was a normal person when I lived a middle class, suburban life, back before Three Mile Island. A place without drugs, alcohol, nor beater spouses. I come from a cul-de-sac of ranchers and split levels. A college education. Oak trees in the front yard. A garden out back.
I am a lamb among wolves who is about to transform.
And it won’t be pretty.
I think about wolves. I think about their power. I think about how they function as a family unit. How they protect each other. I have no idea, in this moment, as I stare into that old mirror at my broken reflection, that the spirit of the wolf will become a mainstay of personal power in the days and years to come. No. Today, I am a 91 pound malnourished woman with a broken nose, who doesn’t eat so she can buy formula for her baby.
I have no place in this area of United States where I can find refuge. No friends. No family. I clean myself up as the monster sleeps, washing away the blood, trying in vain to cover the bruises with make-up. They are nasty this time, and I give up. He’s either in a drunken stupor or crashed from drug abuse – I don’t care which, as long as he continues to sleep. I don’t go near him to find out. I hurry to the kitchen to feed the baby. I must take care of her before she cries, which might wake him up. He has made moves to hurt her this past week. So far I have been able to stop him; but , in my gut I know that the bad thing is coming.
I run my hands over my meager kitchen cutlery, pulling out a particularly sharp knife. I run my fingers lightly over the long blade; but, I think that if I did the unthinkable thing, THEY would get my daughter. These horrible, beastly people who live to hurt. She would grow up here. In this bad place with these bad people. Oh no. Not in a million years. I simply will not allow that to happen. I put the knife back and concentrate on feeding the baby. I get her dressed and put her back in the crib. I pack her bag.
I have decided that I will fight first, and kill only if I have to.
I’ve left before, you know, when I was pregnant? He punched me in the stomach to make me lose the baby. I told the women at work and they arranged for a plane ticket home. I birthed my daughter alone, in a state far away. While all the other new fathers preened and smiled at their wives in the hospital – I clung to her little body. My daughter, and me. It was my gynecologist who convinced me I should return to my husband. He said, “It’s the right thing to do. Women should stay with their husbands for the sake of the child.” Foolishly, I listened to him.
And now we were both paying – my daughter and me.
I don’t think so.
We have no phone. I couldn’t afford it. I’m now fully dressed. I’ve washed my face and packed the baby’s bag. The cracked and tarnished bathroom mirror reveals that I look like hell; but, I’m going to act like it is just another day, that I’m taking her to the care giver and then on my way to work. I’m employed in an office, so that means business attire. I can’t deviate from the norm even though jeans would be better than a suit and heels. I look over at his sleeping form with trepidation. If I’m lucky, he won’t wake up at all, and if not, he may not remember the scene from the night before. There is always hope.
To the outside world, my husband is attractive and charming. He has a charisma that people are naturally drawn to. His close friends know what he is like. They are like that, too. The general public? They see only what they want to see. He lies and they eat those words like candy. Judges, police officers, psychologists, and people in power take everything he says as truth. He always has an inventive way of talking his way out of any predicament. They don’t look past the lies to the evil that lies beneath. Perhaps it is merely too much trouble.
I, of course, am the only one employed. Over the last few months I’ve actually prepared for this day, squirreling away money in a secret savings account ‘just in case’. Today is the case. I’m ready to walk out the door and never look back. I just need the car keys and the baby. The baby is no problem, the keys to that beat-up piece of crap station wagon are another matter.
He digs them out of his pants pocket only when I need to go to work. I’m not allowed to have them any other time.
I have my purse slung over my right shoulder, the baby bag slung over my left, and I’m cradling my daughter on my right hip. I am an unsteady pack horse as I look around the room for those pants. I spy his jeans slung over a chair by the bed. I tip-toe like a drunk to the chair. He snores and grunts and I freeze, snatching my hand back. If I can just get those keys, I’m outta here. For good. My hand trembles as I reach across the chair. I lick my lips. My fingers feel stiff and sticky. I am so frightened, I’m not sure I can move. I glance at my daughter. She seems to know…something. She is only an infant, after all, but she remains silent, those wide eyes staring at me.
My breathing quickens. Fear ignites every cell in my body. I realize that if he wakes up, this could be my last day as a living human being. Like a bolt of lightning through my heart, I finally understand that if I don’t do this now, I will die today.
Slowly, I extricate the keys from the pants pocket and grip them in my right hand. They jingle as I reach to adjust the baby on my hip…
Bam! I am down on the floor, his hand gripping my arm – the devil incarnate squeezing my flesh with a tourniquet grip, and I am struggling with the uneven weight of the purse, the bag and the baby like a calf in quicksand. She whimpers.
Where do I think I’m going? he screams. Didn’t I take a good beating last night? Have I learned my lesson now? I can feel my eyes widening and my jaw setting. Fear grips my sore chest and my empty stomach squeezes, making it hard to breathe. He rises from the sleeper sofa, wearing only a pair of underwear and a nasty leer. He grabs the baby from my grip, her clothes tearing as I try to hold on. I leave go because I don’t want to hurt her. He raises her toward the ceiling and shakes her. She screams. I am filled with overpowering rage, a crimson hatred I have never known before. Outside, the business next door buzzes with employees arriving. I hear jokes, laughter, the chatter of male voices. I live in a time and place where it is still acceptable to beat the piss out of your wife. If I screamed those men would not help me.
In here, I suddenly realize I’m going to fight for our lives, and I know, as sure as the sun rises each day – I will win. From malnutrition, I weigh less than one hundred pounds; but I’m going to use every damned one of them to save my daughter.
He slings the baby across the room toward the crib. She screams and her head hits the mattress, hard. I struggle out of the purse and baby bad and rise sloppily to my feet. I’m wearing high heels and I am now blind with power. He turns, thinking he will take me down, just like last night. His confidence is his demise. I strike, catching him in the groin with the spike of my heel. He goes down, moaning. I don’t hesitate. My hand with the keys reaches for any weapon of defense. I clock him in the temple with the bedside lamp, the keys clanging against the metal base, and stomp on him again, grinding my heel long enough into his groin to make sure he stays down.
Where he belongs.
I drop the lamp.
I hold onto the keys.
I grab my daughter from the crib and flee the apartment. No purse. No baby bag. Just the keys and my kid. Hundreds of miles from home. No money. This isn’t exactly what I’d planned.
I can hear him screaming to the workers next door as he limps out into the daylight, “Stop that bitch!”
I have no memory of pushing the baby in the car seat, locking the doors, or starting the ignition. I do know that if he had stood in front of the car? I would have run him over and kept on going.
It is 1980. There are no cell phones although there are mobile phones for the rich. The interconnected banking system across the United States that we take for granted now is in its infancy. I live, however, in one of the first states to consider a banking network. I coax the old station wagon to a bank branch fifty miles away. I ask to speak to the manager. Luckily, it is a woman. I tell her who I am and the fix I’m in. She looks at my facial bruises. My freshly busted nose. I tell her how he shook my baby and threw her across the room into the crib. Her eyes narrow to slits. Her jaw hardens. Her nostrils distend. She phones my work to verify my identity and tells them why I am calling. They bend over backwards to help, including sending a manager over, if necessary, to identify me. She says that isn’t necessary.
You couldn’t do that now, but over 25 years ago, banks were still run by people, not bean counters. I leave with my money.
Seventy-five miles into my flight home my right tire goes flat. I know he is following me. I can feel it. I know he has called his brothers. They will help him. He figures I will take the most direct route home, and he’s right. I realize my time is limited. I stopped at a filling station and said to the attendant, “If you can put a new tire on this car in less than five minutes, I will give you a hundred dollars.” He rose to the challenge and succeeded.
One hundred miles out I stopped at a grocery store and called the Women in Crises Center in a city close to my home from the pay phone. I told the ladies at the center that if I wasn’t there in eleven hours to call the police because I was most likely dead. I gave them the route I proposed to take.
Two hours into my escape the green station wagon chugged and hissed. A leak in the radiator. Every hundred miles I had to stop, wait until it cooled, and fill the radiator with water. It was the longest, most frightening journey of my life complete with screaming baby as I finally pulled into the secluded drive of the center, exactly eleven hours and one minute later.
That was thirty-one years ago.
The successive weeks and months weren’t easy; but, I made it. I didn’t fall prey to cajoling, promises, or threats, of which there were many. His father even called me thinking he could threaten me and take my child away. I had the absolute delight of telling him what I thought of his behavior as well as his son’s. I dealt with the stalking and a nasty custody battle wherein I had his parental rights revoked. I won because I had a friend take snapshots of the injuries to my body, which I presented in court as evidence along with the medical information from various hospital visits, statements from my co-workers, and copies of his criminal record. I guess, in the end, that broken nose paid for itself.
Today, I’ve been married thirty years to a wonderful man, had three additional children and lead a happy life. I am an inspirational book author of over twenty tiles, many published all over the world. My daughter is married to a wonderful man that she truly loves, (a dashing race car driver) never knowing the fear and horror of a life with an abusive father nor the interference of his twisted family.
Yesterday, I attended her baby’s first birthday – a lovely affair with many children and lots of smiling parents. I am now the grandmother of two, and as grandmothers do, I sat in the rocking chair on her front porch and looked out across the field at dusk, squeals of delight and pleasant conversation drifting around me from the back yard.
Here I sit alone.
Peaceful in my own silence.
Seeing a falcon take flight.
Smelling the sweet aroma from the fields before me.
Thanking Spirit that I had the courage to do what had to be done when it counted the most.
A simple choice.
Hindsight is often the proverbial 20/20. It is so hard to choose when we are in the middle of a crisis. What we choose forges the path of what is to come. Sometimes we don’t realize that even the simplest of choices can have an enormous impact or where we will go from here. We don’t fathom how a choice we see as only personal, actually affects the web and weave of hundreds of people. They aren’t standing in front of us in a moment of crisis holding signs telling us how our choices will affect them.
Choices, then, would probably be a whole hell of a lot easier.
I guess, in the end, it is a question of: What is the morally right thing to do?
What do you choose?