It starts with a fuse, you ignite it, he ignites it, you’re not quite sure. What you are sure of is that he rises to it, like a moth to a flame and succumbs to whatever demon is lurking inside.
The first hit happens, you sit there, confused, in shock, not sure how to process what has just happened. You’re not the cliched battered woman. You’re in your twenties, childless, a normal looking, white middle class girl, the kind of girl that no one looks at twice in a crowded tube carriage, you’re a normal girl. He doesn’t look like a wife beater. He’s just as normal looking, average build, no massive muscles, no moustache, not a patch on the typical Eddie in The OC figure that as a teenager I was warned to watch out for.
Your cheek stings with pain, and blood starts to slowly trickle down, you can’t ignore that, but as he instantly drops to the floor before slamming the door and leaving, you realise he can.
He’s a geeky boy, medium build, but a good guy. Everyone thinks so, everyone says so. You guys are good together, he’s a good guy. Good guys don’t do that sort of thing.
“It can’t be an abusive relationship.” You think this to yourself almost on repeat, you aren’t the kind of couple that deals with that kind of thing.
“It’s a one time thing.”
“He was drunk.”
“I was egging him on, I was being a bitch, I almost asked for it.”
You smile through the concealer that you use to cover up bruises and you lie to yourself and everyone around you.
“Oh this old thing? I fell over when I was drunk! Typical Millie!”
I peer through old journals, trying to reckon with myself, trying to knock some sense into myself, trying to understand what I was thinking, trying to peek through my mind into my past self and wonder where on earth my state of mind was.
The truth is, I carry shame. The shame weighs down on me every day. I grew up with violence, I saw violence, I understood violence as a child. Meaning I knew the warning signs, I knew the apologies were just fumbling at words begging me to stay, I knew the cold harsh truth. I knew that it was never going to get better.
I stayed through it all, grasping at the past, thinking all that the past three years had meant to me and thinking that it wouldn’t happen again.
But it did.
I’m still paying for that decision, and I might pay for it forever. My current partner is paying for it. He pays with the ridiculous hoops I make him jump through to prove himself trustworthy, I pay with the lack of love and respect I have for the stranger gaping back at me from the mirror. As I sit here, separated by so many miles and oceans and lifetimes away and I wonder if you’ll ever pay.
I dream about that first punch, along with the second, the third and the fourth. I dream about everytime you lay your hands around my neck. I dream about the look of pure anger and discontent for the apparent love of your life that you had as you held me up against that wall. I dream about the breath I thought could turn out to be my last.
But then I do wake up. I realise I’m still here. I thank myself for having the courage to walk away from something so toxic, I could barely see a way out. I know that moving on means not only forgiving you, but forgiving myself. That’s a journey I hope I’ll walk.
Of course this little essay to myself is all a bit pointless now, but my point is this. Don’t sweep it under the rug, abuse is abuse and more times than not, it won’t end. Gather your strength, because you can walk away, and it will be the best thing you ever do.