It’s time to share how I escaped my prison.
It was the summer break. Daily I contemplated my existence. What was I doing in an abusive marriage? Was it ever going to get better? Would he ever change? Was this really going to be my life? The same questions came everyday. They were whispers when they started but now they were booming. He didn’t want us to seek counselling because I was too eloquent at expressing my feelings. I suppose it made him feel bad. Speaking to him produced short lived promises of change which were always broken. Tolerating him was just enabling his behaviour. The repeated, consistent cyclical patterns of abuse were indisputable now. If I stayed this was going to be my life. I didn’t sign up for this. I was no longer willing to live this life and watch myself die a little, every, single, day. Enough was enough, my life mattered. December was my deadline.
Neriah announced that she was coming over for a holiday. She was supposed to have come the year before but God used the tropical storm to change plans but that’s for another blog! She had rescheduled and was excited about the trip. I wasn’t. She was one of three people I confided in. Her strength and support helped me on many black days. She was my friend so she should stay with me but how was that going to work out? How would he react? How would he behave around her? Would I be able to keep my cool? What kind of holiday was this going to be? My anxiety meter was sky rocketing and I hadn’t even told him yet. I felt sick.
Two weeks had passed and I still hadn’t worked out how or what to tell him, but time was running out.
“There is something I need to tell you. Most likely you are going to be angry with me but I need to tell you anyway. Remember my friend Neriah who was supposed to come down for our wedding last year but couldn’t because of the storm? Well she has rescheduled her flight and will be here in two weeks.” I delivered my speech as a series of facts, no fear, no hesitation, no anger, no reluctance, no emotion.
“How long have you known?”
“Why didn’t you say something before?”
“Because I knew you’d be angry and I didn’t know how to tell you. She can stay at my parents home, then I can meet her there when we are going out. There will be no impact on you.”
He looked at me then turned and walked away without saying a word. Round one complete. Breathe. I remember feeling tired after that conversation. A few days later he brought up Neriah’s visit.
“Why does she want to come here?”
“Well remember she wanted to come visit but the storm meant that flights were cancelled.”
“Why doesn’t she visit another country?”
“Well I guess the airline would only let her re-book to her original destination. Besides she knows the entire family and probably wants to see us all.”
“Why is she coming for so long? She will get bored. There isn’t enough to occupy her while she’s here for that length of time. Write her back and encourage her to spend some of that time on another island.”
“No. I will not. It’s her holiday and she has a right to spend it where she wants. It’s her money, her time off work. I don’t think anyone could ever tell you what to do with your holiday. We don’t have to go out everyday. Sometimes we will chill at my folks place.” That was round two.
A few days later, “Why is she staying at your parents house?”
“That’s not her decision. I know how much you value your privacy and don’t like it intruded on. As she is my friend she should be staying here but I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable in your home, so I figure she can stay with them. They will be fine with that.” He left the bedroom and returned about ten minutes later.
“How are you going to show her around? You are sick. Remember what the Dr told you?”
“There are buses to many of the tourist sites. If needs be I can hire one of my cousins to take us around. I can ask dad for all of us to do something together on a Sunday. I’m not sick. I’m recovering from surgery. The Dr said I need to move around. I’ve been pushing myself to do more each week so that returning to work will not take my body by surprise. This will also be good for me.”
I could tell he was trying to find a rationale, analysing the situation in his mind. “Let her stay here with us, but what about her last week here when you will be due back at work?”
“She can stay at my parents home. Are you sure about this? I prefer she stays with my folks if it’s going to be difficult for you. It won’t be a problem for them or her.”
“She’s your friend and should be here with you.” He left again. At least that was now sorted.
At some point I mentioned the ‘we’ word in relation to going to the airport to pick up Neriah.
“We? I had no intention of coming all the way back here for you. I’m leaving from work.”
“Oh. Well I can meet you at work so you don’t have to come all the way home for me.”
“You can’t come, you are sick. You can’t handle that journey.”
“I’m not sick and I will be fine. Besides as her friend I should be there to greet her at the airport.”
“You are not going anywhere. I will pick up Neriah and you will stay home. You need to obey your husband.” Please stop, I never put you on any pedestal and frankly you’re making me sick. “Do you hear me?” he had raised his voice. “Yes” I said. Loud and clear. Problem is, do you ever hear me? I hear you loud and clear honey. Loud and clear.
Her arrival day came. Although her flight wasn’t until the evening there were a few things I needed to do. Time was of the essence that day. As soon as he left I got to work. I tidied the house and spruced up the room she would be staying in then cooked. I got myself ready and headed to town. When the time was right I headed for the bus stop. It would be a while before the bus filled but I had ample time.
When I arrived I settled into one of the outdoor chairs and took out the book I had been reading whilst at home. Though I love to read I found it difficult to concentrate. What would his reaction be once he saw me? Would he make a scene in such a public place? I read and re-read so much of the same page that it seemed silly to have taken it to occupy my time.
I saw his car arrive over the rim of my book. I saw him park with my peripheral vision and watched him approach. I did not look up until he was standing in front of me. Truth be told I was loving the look of surprise on his face.
“What are you doing here?”
“But you know why I’m here. Neriah’s coming.”
“How did you get here?”
“So you refuse to obey your husband?”
“Obey? Am I your child that I should obey you?” After every response I feigned boredom by returning to the same page I’d started to read a few hours ago. I needed to stay calm at all costs, even if only on the outside.
“A wife is supposed to obey her husband . . . ”
I interrupted him. The stuck record thing wasn’t helping me remain calm especially this particular record. Better jump in. I held up my arms and imitated playing a violin. I even had sound effects to go with it “Poor you, disobedient wife, violin , poor you she doesn’t know what a great husband she has, violin, poor you, she’s so ungrateful, violin, poor you, you sacrifice so much for her, last violin with crescendo, poor, poor you” I picked up my book from my lap and continued pretending to read, noticing the incredulous look on his face.
“Well . . . For your disobedience you can pick up your friend. I’m going home.”
“Ok, see you later” I said without raising my head. Out of the corner of my eye I watched him get into his car and drive away. Good thing I used the atm before leaving town. ‘If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest’ Proverbs 29:9 King James Bible.