I don’t own a coat for a very simple reason: the coat that I used to wear reminds me of my abusive past. As a survivor, I will emphatically say that belongings take new on new meanings after leaving. While Mike isn’t actually tied to these things, he’s in each of them. It might be the scent of his cologne infused into the fabric, or it could be my remembrance of his thoughts on the item, but either way, he’s there. Sometimes it’s a memory, too. My coat, in particular, brought back memories of the day that the zipper broke. At the time, the physical abuse had just started, but he’d already begun his verbal assault.
My coat wouldn’t zip. It wasn’t especially expensive, so after a season of wear the zipper became fickle. We were heading to his parent’s house for his son’s birthday party. Mike had spent too much time at the office that day and we were running late already, so when I was stalling because my coat wouldn’t zip, he wasn’t thrilled and shoved me against the wall before storming out of the house to wait for me in the car. His parent’s house was an hour away, and he spent the entire ride telling me it was my fault that we were going to be late.
“If we didn’t have to stop because you’re too stupid to zip your own fucking coat we’d already be there.”
“Maybe if you didn’t buy cheap things this wouldn’t be an issue.”
“I’m embarrassed to be seen with you, Fina. You’re an embarrassment to me.”
“If you would take care of yourself, this wouldn’t have happened. You do realize you’re gaining weight, right? You could have zipped that if you weren’t so fucking fat now. It’s disgusting.”
For an hour, I was subjected to comments like these, all because my coat wouldn’t zip. Nevermind that he’d stolen my money, so I couldn’t afford another one. Or that he was buying and cooking the food at the house, so my diet was dependent on him (or that I was only a size 8 at my largest). And let’s not forget that HE had spent too much time working. If he hadn’t been at the office, we would have been on time. But you get the idea.
The coat was one of the first items I threw away when I left. It was July and I wasn’t sure that I’d be alive when winter rolled around, so I didn’t struggle with making the decision to purge my coat from my house. The following winter I was so thankful to be alive and so numb to reality, that I didn’t even notice not having a coat. Shivering made me feel alive for the first time in several years. And last year, my rebellion against everything related to him kept me from buying another one. I was trying to prove to myself that I was strong, so I wanted to do that by proving that I didn’t need a coat. But I think this year I’ll be getting another coat because I don’t really need to prove anything to anyone anymore. Missouri’s winters are too cold to go without, plus I’m ready to start rebuilding my own belongings. I know I’ll be here next winter. I know that I’ll need these things for myself. It’s time.
I’ve thrown away many items related to our relationship. A bed. A couch. A TV. A kitchen table.
Yes, each of them being a source of some turmoil in our relationship. Or, in the case of my couch and box spring, broken in one of his fits of rage. So I have to rebuild.
Now, these things are becoming more and more symbolic of my rebirth. I’m so proud of being able to buy new items. I know it might sound silly to some of you, but every ounce of my life was so connected to that time period…everything held a memory (even silverware and socks). And now I’m almost out of this cycle.
I’m not suggesting that every person who has been in an abusive relationship throw away all of their belongings, especially if they are in financial ruins. But I am suggesting that we each find our own path to recovery, follow it, and own the fact that goals help us see ourselves as human beings again.
I’m rebuilding my belongings. I’m rebuilding my life. And I’ll be getting a new coat soon. I probably won’t spend much more money on it than last time. I don’t like keeping coats for longer than two seasons, as my taste in fashion usually changes in that amount of time. There isn’t anything wrong with that. And there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to make sure that I like what I’m wearing, because unbeknownst to my abusive ex-boyfriend, I DO care what I look like, and the rest of Missouri will be privy to seeing this as I strut my sweet ass around all winter.