Two hours have passed since I locked myself in the bathroom.
I sit on the toilet seat with my thighs pressed to my chest, pushing my hand into the wall, distributing the force between my fingers. I imagine that my hand is a spider climbing the wall, desperately clinging on for my life.
My thumb lunges up, followed by my pinky. Then each subsequent finger climbs up one at a time. A loud thud hits the door of the apartment and the doorbell rings once more. The incessant noise becomes unbearable.
Focusing all my energy on my hand’s path up the wall, I begin humming:
The itsy-bitsy spider…
The banging and the slurred screams and the doorbell go off once more, all seems to be getting louder.
Climbed up the water spout -- I sing, raising my voice to counter.
“F----… B---! ”I hear through the steel reinforced apartment door and the marble tile walls that stand between me and him.
Down came the rain -- I belt out in full frustration as I begin to let my fingers stumble back down the wall once more.
“Stop, stop, stop,” I whisper continually, as my rhythm is abruptly interrupted. Rather than feeling the general sadness and need to apologize that accompanies this series of events, I feel a different sensation. I clench my jaw incredibly tight. All of the words that I have swallowed for years are now bubbling at the back of my throat. I screech. Pure, unadulterated anger spews out of my pores, veins, and throat, leaving my vocal cords raw and my hairs all standing on their ends.
The bathroom is so narrow that I am able to spread my arms and reach the other wall. I let both of my hands crawl free on the beautiful marble. As my other hand migrates to the other wall and I push furiously, as though I am trying to separate the walls. I use this motion to propel myself off of the toilet and out the door. As I am already out of the door, I hear the click of the lock and the metallic feel in my hands, as though there is a delay between my physical body and my mind.
The steps between the bathroom and the apartment door feel unreal -- as if I am living static. The keys rattle in my hands and the lock clicks twice. And, as I lean in, awaiting the freedom that I have somehow gathered the courage to pursue thus far, I feel a sharp pain in my left wrist as he charges and lets his coarse fingers inflame my skin. All the while, my knees buckle below me as I swiftly fall backwards, and my face enlights with a pure burning sensation as I endure a blow.
I sway back as he drags me by my wrists back inside.
I pause as I watch the door creak shut, feeling as though we are encumbered by ice as time has frozen to preserve this moment.
My hope drains directly through his fingertips as his grasp tightens.
I let out a scream, hoping for the entire world to hear.
“Help,” I yelp as the door slams behind him.
Slurring his words once more, he swears at me.
Before he is able to finish his sentence, he falls forward, directly on me, clutching my wrists firmly. “You… never do that again,” he mumbles in a half-sleepy, half-drunken voice.
His rage seems to have dimmed, probably because he is barely conscious. The intensity of alcohol on his breath is more than I’ve ever felt it before. There are three open beer bottles still clinking around in the doorway.
I just stay there. Absolutely frozen. The embrace of his arms feel like an anvil crushing my lungs, bursting them like little grapes, leaving me with less and less breath.
Breathing in -- 4… 3… 2… 1…
Holding breath -- 2… 1…
Breathing out -- 4… 3… 2… 1…
I just lie there. Waiting patiently. What I wait for, I no longer know. Silence drifts through my body. And for a brief moment, I feel the first instance of tranquility that I have felt in days. But the anvils still lay at my side, and his breath reminds me that I must escape. But I look around, at the beige paint that we put up months ago, and the plastered holes dancing across the walls like constellations, and the trickle of blood on the corner of the bookshelf from when I “fell.” And I don’t know where I will go.
This is my home. Or at least it was. Home is meant to feel safe . Though there are loving memories here, they are overshadowed by moments like today, when everything feels hollow.
The couch is but a couch. No longer does it hold the loving moments curled up watching Gilmore Girls reruns with him as he stroked my hair and I his. It is the couch I fell on when he hit me for the first time.
The stain on the carpet where my hair lays at this very moment is no longer the result of our first reckless night here, when we popped out the wine and champagne to feel the beautiful tingling in our stomachs, to help our already bubbling butterflies. It is no longer the love. Instead, it is yet another reminder of the alcohol boiling in his veins, like gasoline to his burning rage.
It is now merely an apartment, but it is the one that I inhabit, and I could not imagine being anywhere else. When I try to visualize myself in another place, I am only able to envision haze, until reality comes back into focus. And the image projected onto my eyelids are the very same that appear before me in this very moment.
My eyes glide over the room. I look out of the kitchen window down the hall. The daylight is receding and everything seems a little bit dimmer. The worldly sky fills with a beautiful blend of teal hues and clouds of light rose -- hues that bring warmth to one’s stomach when experienced with loved ones. But as I see the beauty that lay outside, the details of the room fade away with the receding sun. The polished marmoreal tabletop no longer glistens in the sunlight. The flowers seem darker and withered.
Before me, I see the shelves that hold our mismatched shoes. To an outsider they could look oh so casual, merely tossed in after a long day’s work. But they are thrown with anger, tossed aside and forgotten. There are singles because the matching shoe has been flung at my head regularly.
The lyrics of “Chasing Cars” play through my head on loop.
If I just lay here, would you lie with me and just forget the world. Oh the irony of those words at this very moment. When we are lying here and forgetting the world, but in the worst way imaginable. The love and comfort that resonates from every note of that song feel hollow at a moment like this.
As I’m running through the chorus for a sixth time -- since it seems to be the only aspect of the song that I can accurately recall -- I hear a pounding on the door.
“Police,” someone grumbles from beyond the door.
I contemplate lying there, a few more moments, wondering if maybe he could change, if we could pretend that this had never happened. I cling to the rough carpet and the smell of a long day, filled with dirt and discomfort. For a moment, I let myself melt. I let myself absorb his heartbeat, and I let myself hope. But I know. There is a reason I got out of the bathroom today and opened the door. I was searching for -- no -- craving freedom.
He lets out a groan that vibrates throughout my skin as I slowly lift his arm from my chest. The last touch of his skin on mine leaves an imprint of warmth. One that I cling to.
And as I begin to rise, I fear his awakening and the terror that may ensue, but he remains frozen, looking almost frail with his eyes ever-so-slightly shut, as though he is moments away from waking from a pleasant dream.
With his arm away, I shuffle forward as I hear another, louder knock accompanied by, “Police, open up!” As I propel myself up from my knees I look back at him with my breath trapped in my lungs, awaiting his rise and my fall. But he remains completely and utterly unconscious.
The world seems as if it is tipsy and swaying around me as I rise to my feet. I open the door and look at the officers, with a glimmer of sadness in my eyes.
For the first time, reality comes crumbling down around me. The bubble that held my secrets, that hid my tears and scars, has forever burst. My body feels as though it is in a different plane than my mind as one of the police men before me begins speaking, breaking the illusion of the game I wish this were.
“Ma’am, we received several noise complaints and some concerns about extremely drunk behavior.”
After watching my stomach inflate as I breathe in. I stare down at my stomach hold my breath,
“I would like to report the man on the floor for abuse.”
“Would you like to come back to the precinct to give a full statement?”
“Yes. Thank you officer.”
And I drift.
Past the bright blue sign that read “Police” that illuminates the sky and into police headquarters. Through the hours of meticulously detailing every gruesome encounter I have endured from him. Though the endless piles of scribbling my signature on my statement along with seemingly hundreds of other police forms. Through the painstaking medical examination. Through the hours of being told of the excruciating trial where I would have to, yet again, detail every way he has ever hurt me to any spectator who wishes to come and observe. Through the piles of paperwork for the restraining order. And I drift through the tears. They didn’t quite feel like my own, instead I felt lifeless as tears dripped from this body that I merely inhabited.
As I sat atop a cushioned folding chair, I observed the officers staring at me, waiting for a response about what I plan to do.
I inform them that I have no intention to follow through with a trial for domestic abuse because I know that it would merely be a diversion, a small hiccup in his life that would be over before it began. He would be free in a matter of weeks and I would be forever tormented through seeing his eyes.
The haze broke and my thoughts dwindle as the officer came to me and asked if there was anyone I wanted to call to get me home or if I needed a ride. I think back to the apartment that is not a home. The one with drunken stains and cold, meaningless couch and I decided that I should not, and could not, go back. I also knew that that is where he would search for me the moment he got out on bail.
I pulled out my phone, and its screen illuminating my face. Taken aback by the brightness, I dim the screen and look through my contacts. There are only three that have been dialed in the past months: mom, dad, and him.
In that moment, I feel my stomach churn with sorrow, thinking back to the friendships I lost, or never even had, and how I ended up here in the first place.
I want to call my mom, but I know my father would be furious. So I call my father instead.
The phone rings three times before he picks up.
“Dad… Could you pick me up?”
I tune out his response, feeling the haze settling back in.
“I’m at Mellbrook’s Police Station off of 94th and Burnt.”
I hear some aggravated grumbles and then the clinking of keys.
Maybe things have changed, I let myself believe.
I let the haze around me settle in as my eyes stare off into the distance. The world around me blurs out.
I stay in this daze until I hear three consecutive honks, I know my father has arrived.
I rise, feeling static buzzing around inside my legs, like a single determined bubble was left to stumble around in my body.
I politely thank the police officers for their help and glide to the door. As my limbs begin to weigh me down as though they are barbells piling on top of my every cell, I thrust my entire body weight against the door to make it open.
I see his midnight blue Jeep Wrangler standing before me and I drift to the passenger seat door, open the door, fling myself into the seat, and buckle my seat belt, in one swift yet slow motion moment.
I drag myself out of the car and up the steps to the house once we arrive, as if each of my legs are held down by a ball and chain. I watch the picture-perfect door, painted in a beautiful off-white, swing open as my father enters the house and I watch if close shut behind me, reminding me that everything is not what it seems behind each door. I kiss my mother and sit in the kitchen without another word, feeling incredibly depleted -- emotionally dehydrated.
She sets food before me, but my eyes are fixated on the corner where the ceiling meets two walls. There are merely a few threads of web remaining from the last inhabiting spider. This corner may be where my eyes have chosen to rest, but my mind has far past drifted beyond the constraints of my body. I am detached, broken into pieces, and if I remain that way, I cannot process the sensory overload that my emotions have undertaken. So I sit. Holding my spoon, unable to eat. Because the physical and emotion nausea is so intense that I may just vomit right there.
As my mom passes, my glazed eyes slip down to her sleeves, which are riding up. I see what I dread the most: her frail skin ignited in hues of yellow, green, and blue mixed with blooming irises and dread.
She glides past, in her own world as well.
So I sit, for hours, exhausted and alone.
When my eyes finally decide to glance around the room. There’s a shard of glass that has fallen out of the trash, reflecting the light on the ceiling. The bread has all been sliced and left out to harden. A few of the fridge magnets lay fragmented on the ground. Everything is slightly crooked or off in one way or another - in slight disarray.
As my mom passes, my glazed eyes slip down to her sleeves, which are riding up. I see what I dread the most: her frail skin ignited in hues of yellow, green, and blue mixed with blooming irises. And so my heart wavers and I drift until I eventually find myself sitting back on the floor of the bathroom with my hand slowly climbing up the wall as I sing itsy bitsy spider to drown out all the pain.