On television, you hear people say how they “saw their life flash before their eyes” but for me, it was more like I saw my death flash before my eyes. From somewhere above the tiny row house apartment, I saw my beaten, bloated body twisted among the wreckage of the evening, and the first thought I had was of my mother. I saw this scene transposed onto a police photo, and a man handing it to my mother and as if propelled by some force outside of myself, I knew I could not let that be the last way she saw me, and I sat up.
To say the room spun would not fully describe how the room felt. The horizon of my vision tilted to one side and the room, like a picture frame on a shelf, slid off of it is more accurate. And with it my equilibrium. I focused on one destination at a time, falling to the wall, to a door frame, to the floor and finally on the door knob. The whole time, my ears pounding with blood, but I could still hear him laughing maniacally in the background.
When the hot, wet air finally hit my lungs, I cried with relief. Even though he could have easily followed me out and finished the job, I believed for some reason I was safe on the stoop. I stumbled to my closest neighbor, his co-worker that we had over for dinner, and asked him to use his phone. I collapsed on the step as he called the police.
While waiting for the police cars to arrive, I recalled the night, three months prior, when I still lived on Macon, that he showed me this side of himself. He didn’t touch me, but he threw things around the apartment and he seemed to be yelling at someone that wasn’t there. An ex-girlfriend, I found out the next day when I mentioned to him all of the things he said. Their break-up involved a very close friend of his and a betrayal, and resulted in a stupid tattoo on his back of two bullet holes. Apparently, I looked like her. Lucky me.
We had just moved in together into a tiny row house apartment right alongside the ‘hood, and things were getting tense between us. A condition of our nearly non-existent rent between he and the landlord was that he would use his carpentry skills to fix the place up. But, so far all he had done was build a fire pit in the dusty back yard where he would sit and get drunk. Everything in the place was dirty and old. It was nothing like Macon and I was beginning to realize that I was a princess that had been captured by a warthog.
Maybe he could sense that, or maybe it was a completely random act of a violence. I’ve stopped trying to fit it into a sensibly labeled box. It just is what it is – a chapter of my past.
It was summer in Savannah. I walked home from work that night, along the river, expecting to come home to some dinner and a drink by the fire pit with the dogs. But, when I opened the door, I saw him passed out in the hallway. I stepped over him to find the cabinets in the kitchen ripped off the walls and everything in them sprawled across the kitchen floor. I opened the back door. There was a fire dying and the dogs looked at me with terror in their eyes.
I should have left. I should have put out the fire. Said I was sorry to the dogs, and walked back downtown. It was only 9:30, I could have easily found something to do. I could have met a friend. But, I didn’t even consider that I may have been in danger. Instead, I decided to move him the short distance from the hallway to the bedroom so he could sleep it off and so I could let the dogs in the house without us all stepping over the drunkard in our hallway.
“Baby,” I whispered and kissed his lips. He opened his eyes, stared me dead in mine, and called me a lying bitch. Then, he had his hand around my throat and threw me off of him.
At first I tried to convince him that I wasn’t her, but he just kept throwing my head against the floor. It became apparent quickly that he was not going to stop, and if I didn’t get away from him, I would die. I began what felt like a mile long journey down the hallway that was usually only three long strides to the front door. The attack came to a climax in the front room, where while he was on top of me, choking me and slamming me against the floor, I grabbed a screw driver from his tool belt. I attempted to plunge it into his back repeatedly, but he just laughed. It may have been the pain from the screw driver, or the large mirror that shattered above our heads that caused him to roll off of me, laughing.
At the end of it all, I slept for three days straight in between changing bandages, and cleaning wounds. My mom and my sister came down and helped move me into a new apartment. It was like a sadder, dingier version of Macon Street, and I could see no outline of love from my bedroom window. I finished up college. And I continued to see him. I know. That’s the part that always makes me cringe, too.
One night we were out for a walk in the park and ran into a mutual friend of our former friend. I gave them my new phone number to share with her. A few nights later she called. I told her what had happened. I knew I had to do it. I had to take my medicine. She made sure to remind me that he was an asshole for what he did to us. I told her I was still seeing him and she became distant and said she had to go.
We didn’t speak again for 11 years until we found each other on Facebook. We arranged a phone call, and while I was apprehensive at first, I couldn’t help but remember that first day of class, where she had broken the ice and we spoke and laughed easily together. We were both in good places in our lives, and had many things to celebrate, not the least of which was how we each had found the fulfilling love that we always wanted. And how, as if by magic, it had made him disappear.