WASHINGTON, December 29, 2012—I kicked myself for allowing it to get this far. I continue to kick myself harder for missing the drama. I moved to a location I deemed safe for the duration of this madness, but I don’t know if I’m safe anywhere. Safe is a word I use sparingly these days. It’s mythical, the things fairy tales are made of. The air mattress I have slept on for the last three months is far from comfortable; I don’t sleep much. When I do, my dreams jar me awake. Every night I fight for my life, I can feel as my arms start to burn and go rubbery from holding off my attacker. He never has a face, but I know who it is.
Yesterday I went into the home we once shared, I checked at least three times to make sure I’d locked the deadbolt behind me. Everything is as I left it: the bed in the master bedroom is still partially unmade, waiting for someone to curl up under the comfort of the Egyptian cotton sheets. Strands of his long, dark hair peek out from between the folds. I don’t usually go in there. It makes me question my sanity.
I went in the bedroom to look for the camera…the thing was cursed…it went missing almost immediately after taking possession. It’s his; he wants it back. I want to give it back, it’s one of the last few material possessions that ties me to him…that and the laptop he took from me. It’s the laptop that keeps him connected to the outside world; he’s used it in his creative ventures, for his schoolwork, and most recently as an instrument of torture. His grandiose sense of entitlement allows him to believe that it belongs to him. It doesn’t, but that won’t stop him from keeping it.
His mother called me and asked that I return the camera. I was in the bathroom putting on my make-up when I heard my phone ring, the familiar area code that appeared on the screen made me shake with fear. I kept the conversation short; in reality I only answered it because I thought something terrible might have happened. I couldn’t have done anything to prevent it, so I’m not sure why I thought knowing would help. I could tell by her rapid speech and high-pitched tone that this conversation was making her uncomfortable. I don’t like knowing I make people uncomfortable. She’d sent me quite a few messages on Facebook after we had our day in court. I knew she wasn’t reaching out to console me, but I responded out of respect. I don’t know why she or anyone else thought contacting me after the fact would be helpful, after the judge signed the order, after it went into the public records.
She was careful to tell me that he didn’t know she was contacting me, because that would violate the order. She even said that if I wanted to speak to him, I’d have to call him. She knew he wasn’t allowed to call me. I didn’t want to speak with him; I wanted to be left alone.
It was done then…we were done. In theory he has to stay 500 feet away from me….in practice, it’s a sheet of paper. I didn’t protest when she called me a drunk, accused me of pitting my son’s father and her son against each other. There was no changing her mind; she was his first enabler. The very first woman to look deeply in his eyes, brush off his stinging insults…and make excuses for him. She set the bar incredibly high; no one would ever be able to replace her.
I never thought I’d hear from her again. Having only seen her twice, I don’t believe she can accurately assess the content of my character. I was once very fond of her, I was wrong. Her messages let me know she’s just as insane as him. She didn’t live in our house, how in the hell would she know what was going on? Her opinion of her son’s actions is understandably skewed. Consider the messenger.
As I read her emails, I lost faith. She said her son was protecting us. Defending his reporting me to Child Services, claiming he called out of concern. I am an excellent mother; I knew that my parenting skills were not suspect. I have my own theory: the report was made to show he still had control and even from afar, he could be a nuisance. He did it for the same reason he repeatedly emailed my boss from a fake email account, threatening to have my company audited by the IRS. Manipulation brought him great joy. The only person he’s concerned about is him. He simply isn’t capable of concern. That’s not an excuse or embellished fiction. He’s of the opinion that his reaction is justifiable, no matter how extreme it is. He can control himself, I’ve seen him do it…but it didn’t suit him at this juncture.
Crazy was what he was going for. I witnessed control when he backed me into a corner, yelling at me at a volume so loud it made the skin on my face ripple. As I made myself small and prayed for easily hidden bruises and not broken bones, he stopped himself from striking me with the fist he’d made ready. I don’t know who I was kidding with this request, there was no way I was going to survive the blow. He’s a foot taller and one hundred more pounds than me; there would have been damage to my internal organs. I listened as he kept himself from calling me unspeakable names in the heat of an argument, nervousness made me laugh with relief when his mouth would not cooperate. Yes, he was very much in control and aware of the venomous words he spewed. He claimed he blacked out when he reached a certain level of anger, I knew it was a load of crap…his mother did too.
He did so much to hurt me, and yet this sickness, this emotional cancer still eats away at me. “Why?” you may ask. I asked my therapist the same question. He has a way of answering a question with another question…I hate that. “Why do you think you miss him?” he said, looking all therapisty in his high backed, brown leather chair. “Because, I miss the turmoil taking up space in my life.” Dr. D. smiled, sometimes I feel like I’m his favorite patient. “That’s very honest”. Yep, that’s me…honest. “You need to move on. You need to take your life back. Strip the sheets and burn ‘em.”
I’m fairly certain the good Dr. isn’t advocating arson as a means of healing a broken heart, if he were…that’d make him…awesome. Metaphorically speaking, that’s exactly what needs to happen. How? I don’t rightly know. I got me into this mess; can I be trusted to extract myself? I was stupid, is stupidity forgivable? This isn’t my first offense; I’m guilty of multiple counts. My sentence…time served…good behavior, that should all factor in. I shouldn’t have to pay for this forever.
You’d think I would know better by now. I do, but knowing better doesn’t fill up the emptiness. Knowing better keeps me from going back, it stops the cycle of violence…on my part at very least. It doesn’t stop him; it doesn’t get him help or ease my guilt. I can only go halfsies on this one. I was going to keep my mouth shut. I promised his sister that I would…but I can’t, that route is reserved for victims and the deceased. I intend on being neither.
Yes, there are two sides to every story. He could probably recite a litany of disparaging things I’ve done, but that matters very little to me. I did what I needed to do to survive. He no longer exists. The fear is still very real, but I see him for what he is now. He’s not strong. He’s not wise. Most importantly, he’s not in control. That was the first step.
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