I often wonder, if I were given the chance, what I would say to Mike if we ever crossed paths again. Last night, after driving home from my dad’s house, a woman was in my apartment building’s parking lot, asking for jumper cables. Immediately, I began scanning the area. Where is he? Get your mace ready, Fina. The poor woman couldn’t have guessed why I seemed so skittish, but I knew why: I expected him to reappear. Planning that moment (what I would say, how I would escape, etc) happens often. Sometimes I think he’ll show up out of nowhere (like last night) and other times I believe it’ll be a well-planned moment, when he thinks he’ll have the most control over the situation (i.e. in public, at an event where he knows I’ll be forced to be on good behavior).
This plan of action grows every time I have to think about it, or every time my PTSD is triggered. Most people who’ve never experienced abuse might be alarmed by this, they might not understand why or how I could allow myself to continue down this path, and might even consider it paranoia. Sadly, a safety plan is a normal component in domestic violence therapy; it’s a way to be certain a survivor isn’t caught off guard, if the abuser resurfaces. It’s an ugly reality and one I wish I never had to face, but I do and it’s here, so there is no reason to fight it. The cards fell. I’m playing my hand.
The parts of this plan that most don’t hear are the ones I’m laying down today: the side effects. The side effects include playing out the scenarios of the moment that he returns, the little things that I haven’t dug into in therapy (yet). See, when you leave an abusive relationship, often times there is no closure. For example, I couldn’t say what needed to be said and, even if I could, it wouldn’t matter because Mike is a psychopath that wouldn’t hear me. With closure being an important component in the end of any relationship, this is brutal. Knowing that I’ll never have closure because he’ll never understand is one of the hardest parts of this journey, but instead of surrendering to this fact, I think it’s only fair that I allow myself to speak the words that have gone unspoken.
Do you remember when you told me that you had Testicular Cancer? It was our last March together. Before then, we hadn’t spoken for two months. I made you leave when you broke out the stairwell into my basement. I dialed 911 before you shattered my phone and threw me down the hallway. And that was the day I promised myself I’d never let you hurt me again. But then you called two months later and you were hysterically crying. You were sick, you said. It was bad, you said. And your daughter missed me.
I had just gotten a second job at a restaurant near my house. I was trying to pay back bills that were unmanageable at the time (only because I quit teaching when you told me to do so). I was getting stronger. Two months without you and I was getting back on my feet. But I was really, really exhausted, too. 80 hours of work a week was awful.
I didn’t answer the first few times you called that day, but by the afternoon I thought it had to be serious if you kept dialing. And I was right, because you told me that you thought you might be dying.
I told my friends that I couldn’t turn my back on anyone that had cancer. I told them that it wasn’t right or fair for you to go through that alone. Eventually, as your story progressed and more tests were completed, your dad offered me a job at the company. He told me that I could live with you, if I wanted. And I could take care of you, too. I wouldn’t have to work 80 hours a week; he’d match my income at both places and I’d be fine. I didn’t realize you’d convinced him to say these things, but I was thankful nonetheless. So I packed my belongings and moved 80 miles North to my favorite small town in Missouri.
You didn’t have cancer.
I wish you did.
Do you remember the time Huck went missing and I ran through your neighborhood crying and screaming for him? Your house was near the busiest street in town, only one block separated us from it. So I was frantic. If Huck made it to the street, he was a goner. He was too small to be seen by traffic going 45 mph and too insignificant to drivers for them to swerve out-of-the-way and cause an accident, if he ran in front of their cars. After I ran up and down the streets with no success, I forced you to get into your car and help me. I screamed at you. I called you a motherfucker. I refused to stop screaming until you got out of your chair. It was one of the few times that I stood up to you.
I think it’s because I knew how he really escaped.
You jumped in your car. Within two minutes of leaving you were back. So was Huck. You used that moment to look like a hero while, in reality, you were the monster that tried to kill my dog. He didn’t get out; he was picked up and tossed out. You knew how important he was to me and wanted to feel in control again, so you tried to kill him and you tried to take away another piece of my happiness.
I wish one of the three of us would’ve run out into that street that day. Huck and I would have had a few months to add to our recovery.
Or what about the night when you threw my bed frame down the stairs?
I was on Facebook. James had posted some silly commentary on my wall. You were livid. “You’ve fucked him, Fina, haven’t you? You’ve fucked him on this bed. Haven’t you, you slut? I can’t even sleep here tonight; it makes me sick. Nobody should have to sleep on this bed again,” you said. And then you made me call my ex-boyfriend and ask him if he gave me an STD. You told me to tell him that I had Herpes symptoms, even though I didn’t.
I sat in the corner of my room, with tears streaming down my face, as you stood over me. You were spitting on me while you were screaming, and I didn’t want to show you that it was bothering me, because then you would’ve done something to make it worse. As long as you weren’t throwing me down the stairs, my bed seemed like a small price to pay for you to get over your moment of rage. And by the time I called David to ask him if he had been tested lately, you seemed to be calm again. But you wouldn’t let it rest until I’d gone to the clinic and been tested for every STD imaginable, and when my test results came back clean, you wanted to sleep in my bed again.
You were sleeping with other women then, weren’t you? I think you’re a disgusting excuse for a human being. Did you know that? Truly. You’re repulsive. And pathetic. And I feel sorry for you.
I still dream about you, but only in nightmares. You’re the worst thing that’s ever happened to my life. Quite frankly I’m unsure as to why people like you exist. You don’t deserve your lungs or heart. I used to think you needed help. Now I know that you won’t accept it, because you think you’re perfect, so there is no use in wasting time on someone who won’t be fixed.
You’re a defect because you choose to be. You’re a monster because you think it looks good on you. You’re an idiot because you had a woman who was willing to do whatever it took to make it work, to help you through all of this, and you couldn’t even see how much you had.
There are things that survivors aren’t able to say: some things seem inappropriate, while others would fall on deaf ears.
Do I really want Mike to die of cancer, get hit by a car, or contract an STD? No, probably not. But if we’re looking at what seems fair and just…if karma were real…then, yes, maybe I do.
Recently, a friend of a friend on Facebook commented on post. They know me in real life, but they have no idea this blog is mine. And, while they said that what I wrote was beautiful, they said I seemed a bit angry. This bothered me for a minute and then I let it go. He has no idea what I’ve been through. Most people have no idea how damaging abuse is and there is NOTHING wrong with being angry, as long as you don’t allow the anger to become all-consuming. In fact, if I wasn’t angry, I wouldn’t be healing because I wouldn’t feel anything. Anger must be felt, it must be purged, and then it can die.
If we leave unspoken the things we feel, we are no better off than we were yesterday.