When the blow comes…I can see it. His hands ball into a fist. Each. Finger. Curls. Slowly. Inward. He pulls his arm back like a lever and his fist rams into my face. My mouth, to be exact. My tooth pierces into my bottom lip and as the lip starts to already swell, it trickles blood. I can see in his eyes, the hot red anger subsides to fear. Not like the fear I have, but it’s there. That is how I replay it in my head, like it was something I could have stopped. What if I just did something…or not said something. In reality, when it happened, his knuckles were already crushed against my lips before I even knew what happened.
“It’s! Your! Fault! You fucking say shit to me!” He spat out, “for fuck sakes, your teeth hurt my hand.”
He stalks out of his bedroom leaving me on his shitty bed. It has always reminded me of what I imagined a flophouse would have. Thin sheets with stained dead pillows. Blankets that smell of alcohol and sweat. Is that what I smell like now? He’s right though, that is the kind of “shit” I say to him. I did provoke him. I said what I said knowing that it would come to this…losing his cool. Some of it I mean, some is just to get to him. Most of my words are a mix of the two. I know what hurts him, wounds him—it’s my words. I’m clever. I am smarter than he is when it comes to words. I use them like he uses his fists. I knew something bad would happen. But yet, I didn’t expect a punch to the face. I never expect him to lash out physically. Although, it is better than a can of soup to the shins, like last time. He’s angrier this time because this is empirical proof of his loss of control. It’s my rebellion. My pain, blood, cuts and bruises are nothing in comparison to seeing him scramble to figure out what to do next.
“As klutzy as I am, I rarely bruise,” I proudly told him when we first met, and he accidentally kicked me in his sleep.
Now I know what it takes for the purple, blue, and yellow to bloom on my skin. Not even when I dislocate my bad knee do I bruise or hurt like this. I remember when I told him I wouldn’t come over anymore until he came over to my place, he pressed his thumb into my chest, right above the breastbone. He presses deeper till my eyes water and I had to cry out. He smirked as he got up from the bed and walked away triumphant. The bruise is there so he can’t deny it like usual. And, so it starts…he’s stronger than he thought. That it was all my fault. That he just wishes I was more agreeable. I say I am sorry, erase the picture on my phone and cover it up. I always cover it up. Keep it a secret. For him. For me. How do I, a strong woman who has worked as a peer counselor in a transition house for abused women, ask for help? Help, I don’t deserve as I should know better.
I avoid confrontations of any kind. I will agree, go along, pretend, and lie, just to avoid those aggressive feelings. I am cool and calm ’til I’m not, and then I lose myself to the fear. Fear that I am really alone, even with him beside me. Fear that this is the last burst that will end me. Most of all, I fear that this is who I am. I am the girl that not just stays, but is condoning it. Fear that the real person I am angry at is myself so his behaviour is the consequence I deserve.
I roll over to my side and curl my legs up in a fetal position. He’s outside smoking, reclining back in the chair, his leg jiggling. I wish I knew what was going through his mind. I squeeze my eyes so that the tears race down my cheek. I could run and not have to deal with this anymore. He won’t chase me. He can’t even come to pick me up anywhere. It’s familiar though. This feeling, needless drama, I know this. Then the dead silence after the crescendo. He will drink ’til he passes out. I will still be quiet. I will pull out my eReader and read in the dark ’til I fall asleep. If I leave…I am alone and I have lost. He will not be fixed.
Sometimes I blur him with my father. Who am I really trying to save? I know without any therapy I am with him because he is like my parents. He drinks too much alcohol and lies about it like my father. He is so critical of how I look, speak, and am. He’s conditional with his love, a bit like my mother. I had escaped to him so I would not have to deal with that pain anymore. He was supposed to save me. How did I get more of the same? I don’t know if I can be saved. Or if any of them can. I have to tow all their lines, keep the balance. I let go of one and it may all unravel.
I thought we were meant to be together because after seven months of meeting we found each other again. We both had phone mishaps, so we almost never met in-person. But we did. Then a few months after connecting, I was single again. After a year of not really dating—me wanting to prove I can be loved by him, and him… who knows what he thinks. And then, when I might have been able to give up, my grandmother passed away. He has become my lifeline…my grandmother wanted to see me happy and settled. God wouldn’t take her before that, right? I find any and every little thing to stay with him from then on. But even I know I don’t love him, not really. I am addicted to his fucked-upness. My father could not give up alcohol long enough to do anything with me after he came home from work. My mom was, and is, so involved in his self-destruction, she forgets I am a victim too. I wasn’t always in the same trenches, but I fought the same battles. If they can’t love me enough…maybe no one can. I could be unlovable. Maybe I am supposed to be the one that gives…fuck this. I push myself off the bed. I rummage through my purse and I pull out the anti-anxiety pills I hid. Hid because all three think my anxiety is all in my head. If I could just be happier. Why can’t I just get along? This is my doing. I need to stop taking my medicine and smile more—why is it so hard for me to forget and let go of past things? But how can I let go of something that hasn’t gone away? I pop one pill out of the blister pack and hold it in my palm. If I take this, I could save myself.
Author: Kris Kaila
Author Bio: Kris Kaila is an aspiring writer and an avid reader. When not reading or writing she can be found posting reviews on Goodreads or My Novelesque Life blog.
Link to social media: Instagram @my_novelesque_life