Sunday, January 07, 2007

20/20 Segment on Abuse

This is a 20/20 segment based on a videotape that this arrogant man made of himself verbally berating, and then physically abusing, his wife. The camera was held by their 13-year-old son.

It is collossally disturbing.

To me, though, the most disturbing part is the 45 or so minutes that precede the physical violence. The segment focuses on the slaps, the tears, the palpable evidence of abuse. Then it asks, "Why does she stay?" The answer lies in the verbal beating she takes in the first place. This man twists everything she says and I know from experience that she's trying to make sense of a world in which she is told everything she says is wrong. The only way to make sense of that is to say, "He must be right."

That is what paves the way for the physical abuse. And these verbal tirades are entirely legal. If he had not hit her at the end of the tape, this would have done her no good. Hell, even the slaps he gives her are nothing but a misdemeanor. She had to back up this evidence with documented proof that he bruised her on many other occasions before they would up his charges to assault.

My point is: the verbal abuse on this tape is MUCH worse than the physical violence, and yet it's legal. And yet it doesn't inspire people to tears. And yet it continues. When women try to leave because of verbal and emotional abuse, they feel unworthy because "it's just words," and "I say crappy things too," and "everyone argues." There is NO way to explain to someone how bad it is, how scary it is.

We often WISH for physical abuse because we think it will give us something to cling to, some way to propel ourselves out. But the sad and frightening truth is that by the time the physical abuse comes, the abuse has paved the way with so much emotional abuse that we think, again, this is our fault, and we can do nothing. By the time the physical abuse comes, we are too destroyed to fight back. That is the crime and I don't know how to begin to punish it.

But this woman is seriously awesome. She was with this monster from the time she was 18 and spent more than 20 years under his thumb, yet she is so clear and wise and well-spoken about her ordeal. How? Is she Superwoman? In some ways, yes; in other ways, we all have the same strength if we would only use it.

But how. But HOW?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

distilled emo

here's what just kept me in bed crying for an hour:

the day my shoulder was broken, I spent the morning in the emergency room. He picked me up from the emergency room but became enraged when he realized that I had not called ahead to have my prescription filled. Because he did not want to wait for me at the pharmacy he drove off and left me there. I took a cab home.

I walked in the door and his mother asked why i had a sling. i had no answer for her. why she did not know is still a mystery to me. she knew why. the kids were confused. i had been given a shot of painkillers and I just wanted to go upstairs and lie down. Sleep, egh, I knew that would not come but I wanted to check out for a while after spending so much time pretending to the nurses that everything was OK, I was not what they thought I was, plus juggling the pharmacist and his temper tantrum, plus calling a cab... i just wanted to lie down.

I went upstairs and lay down but his older son missed me. They were decorating the tree and his grandmother was there, his father was there, his brother was there, but he wanted me. Me. He came upstairs and sat on the bed next to me and asked if I was OK and laid down next to me. Me. He loved me. He was worried about me. Knowing this I got up, went downstairs and helped decorate the tree with the man who had broken my shoulder. I wanted it to be okay. I wanted to make a nice thing happen.

Later, after we dropped the kids off, he complimented me, saying I was funny, I was very present, I was completely on the kids' level as we decorated the tree. I think he was having a panic attack. I think I had to sit up with him as he did this. I don't remember exactly, that time is a bit of a blur.

All I know is, it took years for that little boy to love me enough to seek me out and lay down next to me when I was in pain and feeling sick. That was a precious gift and I had to leave it behind when I left. I'm supposed to meet my new love's two children and all I can think is they won't be the old ones, and how will I ever earn that kind of love again? And even if I could, who am I to deserve it? Will the children ever understand? Will I ever connect like that with my own children? My new stepchildren?

This is why I keep my feelings at a distance. I feel like as I type my hands are sticking out of a cloud. I feel like an emotional Pigpen, dread misting about my body wherever I go. I don't know where to go with these feelings; I prefer when they are stuffed down and can't bother me. I'm doing my best, I understand this is part of the recovery, but it is too too hard. It is too too hard.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Police Special

Reading the Times today, I found this tidbit buried in an article:
While my face swelled a bit, there were no bruises, and I later was told that the beating I got might have been a kind of “police special” whose purpose was to leave no marks.
Huh. So there is a name for that! And so -- that's still hitting, right? That's still bad. Right. I have to tell myself because I do not know anymore. I do not know that in the way that most people know that.

They also poked him with a bat, the police in this guy's article. Which brought this back: I have followed N out to his bike while he gets ready to leave for work. I was told to do this. He said something I did not like; I reacted with anger, forbidden anger, in view of the neighbors. He orders me inside; he picks up a hammer. I know he won't hit me with the hammer. Halfway up the basement stairs my face is in the carpet, jammed against a step. Knowing turns to hoping. He pokes me with the non-business end of the hammer, shoves it into my side like a firearm, asking me if I would ever do that again. Ever? No. Ever? No. Ever? No. Never. Sorry.

A hammer to the head could kill me; a hammer to the arm would make me scream. He didn't hit me with the hammer, just let me know he would.

Friday, October 06, 2006

He left for work one morning.
After leaving the house he called me up and said "Call AAA and tell them you have a flat."
I said, "I have a flat?"
He hung up.

I called him back. "Do I have a flat tire? Where are you?"
He said "Just do it." Hung up.

I called him back. "I don't understand. Why would I tell AAA I have a flat?"
"Don't call me again."

I went out to look at my car. It was gone. I called him again.
"Are you in my car?"
"Have you called AAA yet? I'm not talking to you till you call AAA."

I went out back, saw his truck. It had a flat.

I called AAA and reported that "my" truck had a flat.

I called him and said, "You took my car?"
He said, "did you call AAA?"
I said, "Yes. Did you take my car without asking?"
He hung up.

My stomach was in knots. I called him again. "I need my car today," I said, screaming at this point. "I am supposed to pick up boxes from someone on Craigslist. She can't hold them for me. Did you leave me keys to your truck?"
He said "I have to get on the subway now."
Hung up.

This is what my life was like. Every single day.

The past 3 days, he has managed to get a message thru to me every day. Left a voicemail. Texted my phone. Posted to my blog. Emailed my friend. I become so tired. I become so sad. I feel my face falling into an expression of distracted misery. It is impossible to smile. And then I realize: I always felt like this when I was with him. It was always like this. Calling calling calling. My phone beeping beeping beeping. Or deadly silence. Or explosive words, insults raining down on me. My bones, my muscles hurt where he hit me, but worse, my soul hurts where he hurt me.

New love: how do I know it won't devolve into that? He's ruined everything. No no, I'm not supposed to say that: I'm supposed to say tomorrow is a new day and I feel like he has ruined everything but that's an absolute and I have to retrain my brain. I'm trying. But my heart, my heart won't listen just yet.

Holy shit. I lived like that. How did I live like that?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Something I posted elsewhere

A gal in another online community unrelated to abuse posted a horrible story. Her sister was killed by her abusive husband and she was in mourning. Another person posted that she was so sorry and shared her story. So I posted too! Later I went back and deleted the post, feeling horribly overexposed, but I wanted to keep it somewhere so here it is.

It was my mom who told me. I answered the phone because I thought Iwas calm and I knew she would worry if I didn't. But she had beenwatching and worrying for so long and she heard in my voice that thing shad "gotten bad" again. I didn't say anything about it. Out of the blue she said "When my cousin was killed by her husband, none of usknew what was happening. And he was horrified at what he had done after the fact. But it still happened."

I asked "Why did he do it if it horrified him?"

She said "Because he was crazy. Because they are crazy. Please justleave everything there and come here now. Don't give him a chance tohurt you again."

Erin, this wasn't the first time she'd said such a thing to me. Thiswasn't the first time anyone had said something to me. It was said to me over and over and over again, and something had to change in me inorder for me to leave.

Humdog might say I made the decision to leave but it didn't feel that way. It felt like something outside of myself made me leave. Regardless, Erin, there was nothing, nothing you could have said or done to make the outcome any different. Read that again, because I'm telling you this from having been where your sister was: there is nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing you could have said or done. She rabidly protected her horrible marriage. I did the same thing.

I was crying crying crying on sunday, asking why did it go on so long, why didn't anyone do anything about it? What about his friends? What about our neighbors? the truth was I did my part to hide it as skillfully as a stick of Dermablend. I did it too. Those who knew didn't know what to do about it.

I feel incredibly lucky to be out and I thank you for telling this story. I wish I could do something to help you. Please let me know ifthere is anything you want or need. I am so very sorry that this happened to you. Erin, anything. I am so sorry, anything.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

this is pathetic to admit and I am so ashamed but I've been unable to get out of bed today. I get up for a little while and then boom I just get sleepy and lie down again. I have no energy and I know I am supposed to force myself to exercise but I am just crying so much and my head hurts and that makes me cry more.

I don't want to do anything and I just keep thinking why was this allowed to happen to me? everyone could hear him screaming at me. his therapist knew things were very bad. his mother witnessed him screaming at me. the kids too and they just went right on playing. does everyone think this is normal? what about when we were driving to ikea and he pulled over and threw me out of the car in the middle of long island? what about when he shoved me out the front door and began slamming it on me with the outer door closed so I kept getting jammed in the middle? What about when he took the hammer and smashed my face into the steps and poked the hammer into me? What was he telling himself to make this ok? That I was a bitch for yelling at him and deserved it? But why did nobody else tell him this was unacceptable? Does this go on every day in every street?

And I know it's really my fault for allowing it to go on for so long but where was everyone else? I mean in that broken down broken up state was I really supposed to know how to fight back? Am I really to be condemned because I yelled back, and since all yelling is bad, I was just as bad as he was? Is this really how it works, one person can abuse another and that person has to behave like a saint or be abandoned because she's an abuser too?

I feel all this -- I feel so angry -- I feel so sick. I'm lost. I don't care about anything. I don't want to get better, what for? So I can go into a new relationship and get treated like sh!t again? Oh sure they all start out great, but down the road somewhere, I'm going to get crapped on adn I'm going to have to put up with it because all relationships have something wrong with them and I'm just going to end up feeling just as alone as I did with him so what's the point? What is the point??

Why did this happen to me? Why do I have to fix everything now? Nobody stuck up for me? Nobody he knows? Nobody said "This doesn't sound right?" His friends saw, not all of it, but they saw really bad times, did they just think "well she must like it like that?"

I have nobody to call because nobody is left, nobody who knows me still loves me. That's not true I guess but I can't stand to call anyone because what will I do, just cry while they sit at the other end of the phone doing dishes, waving their husbands away while miming "it's [myname]," wishing they didn't have this screeching noise in their ear, telling me to get up and go for a walk? What for? Where am I walking to? My life's a treadmill, I'm walking nowhere.

I can't take any more of this, I don't want to make every decision myself, that must be why I let him control everything, because I can't do it on my own. There is something wrong wtih me, that's why I stayed in it, that's why i got in it in the first place. Normal people don't get into these things. A normal woman would have walked away the first time he screamed about the ethernet cable. Before. Way before. I was in this because it fed me, isn't that what the codependent literature says? so what's the point? if that's what i am what's the point? his therapist said I was codependent for staying, why didn't she tell him he was codependent for trying to force me to stay, for threatening what would happen to me if I left? I feel like I've been emotionally gangraped and I honestly see no way out.

So sorry this is so long. I would delete it but I'm afraid not to because if the words aren't here, they'll stay inside me. God my head hurts.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fury hurts

More dreams last night: we were at a resort and I came back to our room and he had packed all his things and left. Rather than being glad I was desperate to join him as I so often was, because that would mitigate my punishment for whatever infraction had made him angry in the first place. I called him and ran for the airport.

I am desperately furious. This is so much harder than I thought it would be. I am furious to have lost as much as I have lost and I am furious to be poking around in dusty rooms with bad light, wondering if I can afford a nicer place to live. I am furious to be depending on my parents for so much, as if I were a child who just had to climb on the monkeybars the wrong way and now I'm paying the price. They are not acting that way, but -- well, that's complicated.

When I had my broken shoulder, the X-ray technician looked at the break and asked if I played football. It had been broken with such brutal strength and violence. My shoulder hurts every day. I put my purse on my shoulder and I feel it slip into the hollow created where the bones fused together sloppily. I sleep on my right side and wake up in pain, slowly rolling over so I can ease it straight; somehow it gets very achey if it's squished into the mattress in the wrong way. It's a constant reminder of what I did to myself. Oops. I mean, what he did to me, right?

No... I'm not sure I mean that at all.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Birthday ramblings

Sister3 and I were sort of making fun of Sister2 a few nights ago -- Sister2 sorta spoils her kids and is wrapped around their little fingers, and the younger of our neices told her she was "weely fweaked out" because Sister1's husband said he was going to give her a yellow card (during the world cup) -- this niece is charming and lovely but ONLY talks this way ("wheely" instead of "really," which she is perfectly capable of saying) when her mom and dad come into the room -- it's all in gentle fun, mostly because the neice in question is the least freaked out child in the world...

Cut to ... my memories of when he would have me put the kids to bed, and he'd either fall asleep or have a panic attack and be unavailable, and I would sit with the kids and put them to bed. The older one (9) would drop right off, but the younger guy (7) never fell asleep easily. Chez his mom, he won't go to sleep until his mother kisses him, and if she is out for the evening he sits up and cries. At our house, I fit the bill -- high praise for a stepmom. I would sit with him and joke and suggest things he could think about ("Wait, [myname]! What do I think about??" he'd ask if I left without doing this).

Usually he'd go so sleep but a lot of times he'd cry, big tears that seemed outsized, like from grownup eyes, just feeling lost. "My parents got divorced so I'm nobody's kid," he'd say at 4 and 5 years old, and at 7, he said he didn't feel that way, but just felt afraid, "not comfortable," alone. He'd call me at 2am, 3am, he'd wake and call my name and I'd be out the door before I even opened my eyes and he'd just be crying, crying so silently, and I'd sit with him till he dropped off again.

The night before his communion he was so nervous, and asked me to at least stay there till they both went to sleep, I remember it so clearly, because I said "But I don't fit in your bed and I don't ahve one of my own in here." Suddenly a comforter rained down from the top bunk (his brother's) and a pillow hit the floor (his) and what choice did I have but to snuggle up in my little boys'-made nest? They were both asleep within 20 minutes.

The communion itself was a nightmare. His mother and sister had made a horrible fuss that I should not be allowed to sit up front "with the family." Knowing this it was so hard to be cordial to the mother. His sister did not even show up, because she took the wrong route, so after all her hate-filled spewing and demands that she be given my ticket, she wasn't even there. By the end of the day he was so drunk I had to ask people to leave, then spend the evening cleaning up the alcohol he'd spilled all over the bedroom, and then hating him as he did drugs long into the night.

I know I had to leave but I will never be okay with it. I don't see how any relationship will ever be as good as the ones I had with the kids. And he destroyed that. I want to kill him for it. I will never be OK with this. A heart that breaks for a guy? Pish-posh. A heart that breaks for a child? So much worse.

I am crippled with this pain today. I miss the kids so much. In a way I've never missed anything. I can't stand to think he'd be crying at his father's house without me there. He yells at the older kid and assumes the younger one is fine and I -- well I suppose he'll let them sleep with him in the big bed now, which is all they want anyway. I hope so. I really hope so.

Friday, July 07, 2006

do I have to dream about him every night?!

As I expected, my physical escape has to be followed by an emotional escape. He can't get to me physically anymore, but he still invades my brain. So far he has pretty much kept to "no contact" except for a few brief comments which he tried to post to my blog, but which I rejected. I did read them, though, and mostly they were laughable -- except when he said I had abandoned the children.
She smiled to leave her husband dear
To go with the Gypsy Davey
But the tears come a-trickling down her cheeks
To think about her blue eyed baby
To think about her blue eyed babe
This from the guy who told me "You should not concern yourself with children that are not yours" when I called him on his behavior -- sitting upstairs indulging in untreated panic attacks while the kids asked me why he wouldn't come down to be with them.

The dreams:

I sneak back into his house to find he has made it a paradise. My bird is missing but there are dozens more in huge, beautiful cages, some not even kept in cages but given perches to climb around on. Several large lizards in handsome tanks. I'm overwhelmed trying to find my bird among these and get out of there. I see him coming in the door holding the hands of both children and he sees me and I am trapped. I close my eyes and think, "This is not going to happen," and the dream switches. I'm just wandering around the house trying to find my way out. I wake up.

I dream I am far away from him, in the hills of California, in a house with a large kitchen with huge windows. My housemates are college acquaintances. I look out the window and see several small planes; one is on fire. It is heading my way. It is going to crash. I dive to the floor to wait for the impact, and something shatters the window, but it seems smaller than I thought. I look up and it's just a remote-control plane. I pick up the plane and see a note inside; it's several pages from him. I can't read most of it but the end, where it says, in huge letters, "I STILL WANT IN." I realize he will not let me go. I realize that this remote-control plane means he is nearby, waiting, physically close enough to get me. I run upstairs in the house but all I'm wearing is a towel, which I clutch to myself while hanging on to the note; I'm hysterical. On the top floor there are three therapists; one is my friend Stacey. I beg to speak to her. She comes out of her office and sees the note. "Oh, honey," she says. I wake up.

I am in the car with him and the kids, just like always. We are chatting and happy. The kids fall asleep and he turns to me with this look on his face of anger and fury and hate. I realize that I am trapped and he has got me now. I wake in terror.

My compulsion to contact him is so strong. I know that he is in pain and I have to force myself to remember him slamming me to the floor, smashing my face against the wood so hard that I could not close my mouth, feeling the drool slick against my cheek, I have to remember him slamming his boot onto the floor next to me as I curled up to avoid him, missing me my millimeters, smashing whatever I'd been holding. Then I manage to not send him the angry email or post a response on my (other) blog. Knowing that once I respond, the floodgates open. They will open sometime in the next 6 months and I want to stave it off as long as I can because I don't know what happens next. He has always gotten me back that way and I don't know what happens when I don't.

Monday, July 03, 2006

he kept my bird

and sold it to someone else rather than letting me have him back. and all I can do is sit here feeling grateful he didn't kill the bird.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Empty shell

So I have left and I guess this is my life for now: Wake up, dress in one of three available outfits, and wonder what to do with my day. Being free does not feel like finally flying aloft above silvery clouds as my troubles drop away. Being free feels like being kicked out of the nest, even though the nest was lined with barbed wire and electric shocks. It will take some time to find my way. I understand that.

When I think of things that were done to me, that he did to me, I become so angry – no, not angry exactly. I get so puzzled. How could that have happened? I remember a story my grandpa told about when he was a little boy and he was on the other side of town buying milk when the Turkish troops began attacking his village. He was so scared of the gunfire and shouts that he ran all the way home. When he got there his mother said, "Oh, your feet!" and he realized for the first time that he had run over the broken windows of stores and houses and cut his bare feet to shreds, but he was so scared he had not felt a thing. When he told this story, he did not tell it with angry fire in his eyes, he did not tell it so we would hate the Turks. He didn't say anything about anger, just fear, and puzzlement: at the end of the story he always shook his head and said, "I just don't know why they did that. I don't know why they did that."

Not that I lived through a genocide or anything, but I know what he means. I don't have anger in me, not yet at least. All I have is this feeling of pity and being perplexed. Why on earth would anyone do that? Why would you grab someone by the hair and pull her up a flight of stairs? Why would you slap someone across the face or slam her head against a wall? Why would you scream at her after she's already dissolved into tears? Why would you destroy things you wanted to keep? What a stupid way to behave. I don't want to figure it out, I just regard it as a lump of curiosity. Hurm.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

First dream of him

Last night: Dreamed that I went back to him, as I have done so many times. I felt the old familiar mix of relief (to be back in my routine) and dread (at having to explain to everyone else that I had gone back). I got my bird. One of our other birds had died of a mysterious ailment, and there was a new one. They were kept in an antiseptic but nice white basement. I thought, "I should just grab my bird and go," and composed a note: "I don't know how to say this, but I have left." I felt too guilty to do it. I could not do that to the person I had come home to. I felt like my heart was breaking and it was overwhelming. I decided to stay. That's when I jolted awake: didn't know if I'd just had a bad or a good dream -- because the relief of being somewhere familiar was so intense, I guess. Well. I guess these are the feelings I'll be dealing with.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

sudden leaving

everyone keeps saying I am so courageous. I do not feel courageous.

here is what happened:

we had a wonderful weekend. but on sunday night he began nagging me about borrowing money from my parents. he kept haranguing me about how I was "sitting on a mountain of money." we sat in the car as he nagged and nagged and said "you had better work on them this week when you see them." which soon became "I'm locking you out of the house until you agree to get the money." then the subject switched (money is the theme of the evening) -- to life insurance. he was incensed that I did not have a life insurance policy with him as the beneficiary. he said "you will get the papers tomorrow or you will be locked out every day until you leave for california. this will make it difficult to pack, won't it?"

I said I would get a policy when I saw proof that I was on his policy. As usual, he said he would not show me anything till I did what he asked of me -- got a policy, showed him the papers. From experience I knew that if I did my part, he would still not do his, and I said so. And round and round we went...

All evening I tried to do what he wanted -- took out the garbage, cleaned up, didn't eat when he told me I could not eat, just didn't make a fuss -- thinking he would stop eventually -- but every time Ithought I was done and sat down, he asked, "Did you get the money yet?" "Did you get the insurance papers yet?" in a taunting voice...

Still the next morning I felt relieved when he told me to drive him to the station and did not mention locking me out -- but on the drive to the station he began grilling and nagging me again -- rather than lying (why did I not just lie??) or saying "yes" to his demands, I just kept on my course, saying "I am not going to ask for a loan, I do not want a country house, I am not getting life insurance for you," and he said "That is the wrong answer" and turned around to go to the house and lock me out of it -- he said I could get my computer -- I went in and grabbed it -- I had packed it with all cables, external hard disk, and my most importnat files -- I wanted to grab some other things but he was screaming -- so I left and drove him to his office --

I was so out of sorts and miserable -- here i was, locked out again-- he called twice to taunt me further, to nag me about money -- and to inform me that I would be locked out every day till I left for my trip. I was feeling frayed when my mom called...

she said "are you coming to see your father today?"

I said "it's too late, I have to be back at 5 to pick TK up at the station"

she said "Why? You're an adult with your own life."

I said ruefully, "TK would beg to differ."

She began talking gently about her cousin who was killed by her husband. She said "her husband was so charming. We never saw him act that way. And after he killed her he was horrified at what he had done."

Rather than argue and defend, I just surrendered.

"Why would he do it if it made him feel bad?" I asked.

"Because he was crazy. Because they are crazy. Please just get in your car and come home now."

I did. I left with the clothes on my back and my computer. I turned off my phone and changed my email. I went to California and moved in with my sister. I feel lost, alone, weird, unsettled. I knew this would feel like chaos. but I am so relieved. The pain will come later; for now it is a relief to know i can sleep through the night without being awakened to nurse him thru a panic attack. To know I can refuse to clear the table and not taste floor as a result. Oh god. It's so sweet not to live in fear... is this what it has come to? The simple pleasure of not living in constant fear? Why did I allow it to go on for so long?

Questions I'll have to answer soon. Not now. Not now. Too tired. Not now.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I feel so hopeless

I have not posted because my plan was to delve into my history (my god, I just made a typo and typed "shit" instead of the "hist" in "history" -- is that amazing?!), but to do so felt insurmountable, boring, and pointless. Maybe that is an indication that there's so much there that I must delve into it, but -- anyway, it hasn't happened yet, though I've disussed in in therapy a bit. Bottom line seems to be, as my therapist says, "It could be for any number of reasons, but the important thing is you have to get out."

Getting out feels completely impossible. I am told, "Leaving me is not an option." And I don't know if I'm brainwashed or just -- I don't know what -- but I believe him on some deep level. I believe that if I leave, I will return, and things will only get worse. I believe this the same way I believe that if I drive my car off a cliff, I will crash to the ground. It is a law of nature that I can not fight.

Today I wept into the phone that I hate him, I want to go, he has to let me go, and he says, "You can try to go. See what happens." A statement that fills me with a deep dread that I can't describe except to say it's the feeling you might get if you were afraid of heights and someone told you to cross a chasm on a footbridge. The frozen feeling. The disobedience of your body as you tell it, "You are hooked up to bungee cords, you are over a net, you are on a very safe footbridge, you can not die doing this," yet your legs remain frozen. Oh! That is really the perfect analogy. I know I have to leave, and I can't because I have some kind of phobia about it. I am fucking sick in the head.

He locked me out this morning because he wants me to get money from my parents so we can get a summer house, and I don't want to ask them for anything. He locked me out because I "gave him the wrong answer." When I became upset he said "You are violating me with your tone and your volume." He learned these therapeutic terms and now he uses them against me.

He says he will continue to lock me out and will not allow me to pack for my trip because I will not get a life insurance policy and name him as beneficiary. I am ONLY allowed to name him, and I MUST get this policy. He claims I am on his, as one of 5 beneficiaries, but will not show me the paperwork: "I will show you when you show me." (A promise he has laid out before and broken each time.) He says that he will continue to lock me out of the house and will not allow me to pack for my trip until I show him these insurance papers.

I used to post on a message board, but the people on it became disgusted with me and asked me to stop posting since I obviously don't want to leave. This is what always happens. I disgust and disappoint those who think they can help me. I do want to leave. I want to leave so badly. I'm sick and I can't manage it. I don't know why and I'm so scared and I feel so alone.

Every half hour or so he calls and coldly asks, "Did you get the insurance yet? Did you get a loan from your parents yet?" If I become upset he hangs up on me. If I answer him he twists away from my words, hammering me with his angry questions about anything and everything except the fact that he won't allow me to be in his house if I disobey him. I must get away; does he not see that's the logical response to his behavior? He says I must "go with the flow" and everything will become great: he won't yell, we won't fight, all I have to do is bend to his will. For seven years I have been breaking my back trying to bend to his will; it is never enough. I told him "There is no flow. Living with you is living in chaos." Of course he can not hear, and the fact that I still expect to reach him is proof positive that there is something very, very wrong with me.

I could so easily lie and say I will ask my mom. I could so easily forge paperwork. I could get a month's worth and cancel; he won't know till I'm dead. The fact that I won't shows how sick I am. I really have something so wrong with me. The counselor who said I'm not sick is wroooong.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The abuse has gotten worse, yet I can't convince myself to leave. I'm at the point where I say "I have to get out of here, I have to make a plan," but when I think of having a friend come help me get my stuff out, when I think of him coming home to find me gone, I crumple and begin to cry again, because I feel responsible for him, because I don't want him to hurt.

This is insane behavior. He clearly does not care if I hurt. In fact, he taunts me. My lower back is in terrible pain for 5 days now. Why? Because he shoved me to the floor on Friday and bent me forward, so that my spine was in the shape of a C, and slammed down on the back of my neck one, two, three, four times. Both hands. I was crying and asking, "How do you do this to somebody?" My words and the sound of my crying only enraged him more. When I think of this I feel nauseated. Since then he's been brutal with me, constantly and aggressively nitpicking everything I do, as if daring me to leave.

Yet I have not yet taken him up on his dare. I call it "the nuclear option." It means reducing my life to rubble. He's the one that misbehaves, but I'm the one that has to change my email address, my cell phone number, and live in transient homes where I can't be found. And it means hurting him. Which for some reason... I just... I don't understand it myself, so I don't blame you if you don't either.

I started with a new therapist, a very direct woman who calls me on all my bullshit, and who is as baffled as I am at my behavior. Our first session was a real reality check. She said, "I'm not saying this is your fault, not at all, I'm just saying there's something in you or on your past that made you stay the first time he did something like this. Because if you were in your right frame of mind, you just would have laughed and walked out on him immediately."

I said there's been a point with almost every boyfriend I've ever had when I said to myself later, "Why didn't I leave him then?" But then again, doesn't everyone feel that way?

Frankly, I don't care why I'm still here, I just want to get out so badly. I've been avoiding posting here because I'm bored by the idea that I have to write about my past relationships, endlessly poring over every mean thing ever said to me by a guy or by a close girlfriend. I know it's probably necessary but it's boring and exhausting... exhausting like the rest of my life.

I'm exhausted all the time.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


A magician has spent a week floating in a water-filled fishtank. Now he's trying to break the breath-holding record. He sits placidly underwater, eyelashes fluttering slightly; when he runs out of stamina, he starts burping out bubbles and two helpers in silver wetsuits flash into the tank. One flits to the bottom to free him from his chains. The job of the other one is to hold her hand over the magician's nose and mouth so he does not breathe in water. He's struggling to breathe in, in a blackout I hope, his lungs making him convulse with their need for air, and her job is to clamp her hand over his airways and hold him there. Torture. It's pure torture. I think, that cruel bitch. I know what's she's doing is necessary and helpful, the same way Temple Grandin's job is necessary and helpful, but I think, "What a cruel bitch." Because I know what it feels like to have someone clamp a hand over your airways, and I know what agony it is to convulse as your lungs beg for air.

I wonder if the water sometimes feels good, like someone curled around you in bed, on a "good day," when you weren't called a stupid cunt because you forgot your phone. I wonder if sometimes he wishes he'd never see water again. I wonder if I'm overdoing the metaphor.

I think, "People put themselves in all sorts of boxes." I think, "There's a reason people watch his stunts." I think, "If I could escape from this, I would have done more, quietly, without cheers from Fiona Apple and David Arquette, than he is doing." I don't fault him for doing something harder, but easier. I don't really think of him as inspiration, either. I just think: "People put themselves in all sorts of boxes. All sorts of fishtanks. All sorts of chains. People sit in all sorts of impossible, self-induced torment, and either they get out or they don't." He did. Will I?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Good (?!) Times

Last night I was sitting on one couch, curled up. There was a bruise on my forehead that I had not yet seen. My lips were puffy and tender to the touch and the lower one had the metallic taste and rough texture that recalled its being jammed against my teeth by a hand. He's lying on the other couch, stretched out. We are watching an old episode of Good Times on TVLand. In this extremely strange episode, a kid is glaring at John Amos in the bedroom of the Good Times apartment, rubbing his backside. He's upset that John Amos just hit him.

They walk out of the bedroom and the two Good Times sons are trying to figure out how bad the beating was, comparing it to ones they've had. "He didn't give him the Big Mac," says JJ. "I know, 'cause he's still walking." The kid goes to sit on the couch, but can't, because his butt hurts. "I guess he got the Big Mac after all," the oldest daughter says to Flo.

They gather around the kid, who is upset, John Amos included. One of regulars says that their dad must really love him, to throw him a beating like that. The kid says, "Nah, y'all don't love me," and the dad says, "I wouldn't have beat you if I didn't care." This is clearly supposed to be a Warm Moment. The kid says, "Well, I guess I didn't know some could love you and beat on you." They all laugh; it's obvious that the two are expected to go together.

"See?" he says, from the other couch.

My tongue pokes against the tender spot inside my lip.

"I don't think that's funny," I say.

On the TV, the other kids give the beaten kid a pillow to sit on, and they all go back to their regular lives.

Good times.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Places I Stay

I have become a super duper expert on places to crash. I don't mean squats, I mean gray-market, on-the-fringe places where shadows can flit in and out of the shade without being noticed. There is a place on Union Square, run by the Lutherans, that has no internet access and I have to walk down the hall to get to the bathroom, but it's $80 a night. If I get there late, there's always parking on the street. I never see anyone else who stays there, but it's always the same Eastern European man at the desk. He seems handsome and lost. The last time I went there, I arrived at about 1:30 am and three people were sitting in the lobby having an argument about the Gulf War. Lutherans argue really loud. They're really well educated and opinionated. One guy was so loud and so opinionated, I wanted to thump him over the head with my laptop after about 30 seconds. I looked at the guy behind the desk and he didn't even seem to hear it. He is there every night. I suppose he hears a lot of things.

On Queens Boulevard, there are hotels that run about $100 a night.For the extra twenty bucks I get a parking space, HBO, and high-speed internet, plus a little breakfast. They are run by Indians (the ones from India) who are extremely friendly and solicitous, and the other people who stay there are tourists. Sometimes they murmur in French to each other as they eyeball the cornflakes. One father was taking his daughter to visit colleges, and he chit-chatted enthusiastically with anyone who'd meet his eyes as he waited for the shuttle to the subway. Once I saw a rock-and-roll couple with rolly-bags; she was organizing things while he stood lost like a kid.

There are directions I don't go in. A Super 8 in Long Island City? Bad idea. You get free internet, but you hear hookers having sex all night and trucks go by at all hours. Stick with a Best Western or a Howard Johnson's. There are extremely cheap places on the Upper West Side that I have not investigated, because I know I won't be able to park up there.

I don't like to stay with friends, because my mate tends to call early in the morning to shout at me, and I shout back. I am also in chaos and I know that's horrible to be around. I do not want to upset people. I do not want people to know how bad it is and then see me go back. I do not want people to hear the way my voice rises to a whinnying whine, then blasts forth with a roar as I curse out my mate for demanding to know where I am. I do not want anyone to witness what happens. Maybe what I don't want is for people to stop me.

Besides, he has forbidden me to stay with friends. He kicks me out, but he tells me where I can stay. He says I am bringing unwanted attention to him. He says people will think badly of him for kicking me out when in fact it is my fault. He has no choice but to kick me out because I "give him so much lip." I have never heard people actually use terms like this. It's as if he watched entire seasons of The Honeymooners and took them as his guide. I understand the ridiculousness of my adhering to this rule. At the same time I adhere to it because what if I don't? What if? What if? I worry that he can see everything I do. I worry as I type this that he has installed spyware on my computer. I worry as I put it online that he'll come across it and guess it's me. I know this is irrational. But he's in my head. He is a small chip in my medulla oblongata. He is a dye in my bloodstream. He is radiation injected into tattoos in my midriff. I see everything through his eyes. I suppose this is what it is like to be brainwashed. I'm like a Scientologist. Well, that's exciting.

I have not managed to find a place to park my car and sleep in it. I am afraid to be anywhere too deserted, because then someone could attack me. I'm afraid to be anywhere too populated, because then someone could see me. Also, if I slept in my car, I would have crossed a line into the marginal world I'm so afraid of. I'll be someone who has to sleep in her car, like crack-smoking people before they sell their cars for more crack. I'd be like Whitney Houston. Well, that'd be exciting.

There are lines I won't cross. Then again, there are lines I thougth I wouldn't cross before. I never thought I'd stay with someone who threw my wedding ring in the garbage. I never thought I'd … You know what? I'm not finishing this paragraph. You get the picture.

I found out that people rent their extra bedrooms and even their couches out on Craigslist. There's a theater that, when there's no production going on, puts out neat rows of air mattresses separated by curtains. You can sleep there for $40 a night. I have not done that. I have rented a girl's bedroom while she was on vacation for 3 weeks. Her roommate was excited to be having a new romance with a rich guy. She watched movies in French. I had a place to my own for a little while. When I told her that my mate did not allow me to have my books in his house, she wrinkled her beautiful forehead. "Why would you stay with him?" she asks. "I love his kids," I say. She blinks. "I'd rather have a bookshelf," she says.

Girlfriends Are Relationships Too

Back To Boyfriends

Monday, April 10, 2006

History, Part 1

What do I blame this on? My parents are nice. Seeing me in this situation breaks their hearts, but they have stopped trying to talk me out of it. My dad sends me sad, confused emails saying how much he loves me, and hopes I am getting something out of this. He does not know how bad it is. My mom used to scream at me, pressure me to leave. Now she just listens quietly when I tell her everything is fine. She has glaucoma. Her bones are brittle. She had back surgery and was not sure she would be able to walk for a couple of days. She can't yell anymore. She rides with me in my car and perches in the passenger seat, peering carefully at me, missing exits because she's hoping to say the right helpful word. I have never liked her helping me. I could really use her help.

Personally, I think this is somehow connected to the shitty time I had in elementary school. I was the pariah of six entire grades. I don't know why. I look at pictures of myself and I was cute. I responded to teasing, that was the thing. I cried easily so people made me cry. By the end of first grade I was known throughout the school, even to sixth graders, by my nickname. Kids are mean. Kids are not human. I used to sit in the bus with my head down as they screamed abuse at me. Screamed. Abuse. In my ear. I pretended I could not hear them and/or it did not bother me. I tried to make wisecracks like in the movies. Word to the wise: don't make wisecracks to school bullies.

Once I stood at the bus stop and waited for the bus. I could always hear it coming because the kids on it would scream, "Go, go, go, go, GO! GO! GO!" as the driver neared my stop. The driver knew to stop and they would all scream "AWWW!" and curse him out. Then one day there was a substitute driver. He followed orders. He hit the gas and went right past me. I heard them scream, "Go, go, go, do, GO! GO! GO! YEAAAAAHHHH!" I stood there for a moment, then went back up to my house. I told my mom the bus went past me. I did not tell her about the kids. She was annoyed but if I told her she'd have raised a fuss and I'd have felt more embarrassed. I didn't elaborate. I didn't want her to know how bad it was.

I always pictured myself in dramatic situations. I was not naturally reticent. I was outgoing, too much so. I annoyed my parents. But at school I just – I've managed to forget most of it. I'm going to leave it where it is for now.

By high school I managed to get funny, and also had a cute body, and also the school was bigger, so I could find misfits to fit in with. But before too long I found a boyfriend. He was fine. He had dropped out. He dressed like John Taylor from Duran Duran and had that same fashion-mullet. He was slowly going crazy with schizophrenia, but I did not know that at the time. I just thought he was a little weird like me. He wasn't mean to me. Just a little weird and suffocating.

My college boyfriend was brilliant and distant. He would make fun of me with cutting remarks. He expected me to respond with obnoxious comments right back at him, like I did when we first met. I couldn't. I felt too hurt when he said those things. I had spent my childhood hearing those things. I couldn't explain why I took everything to heart. Nobody else took things as hard as I did. Well, some people did: Danielle did. Danielle would start crying and refuse to go out because someone said something she took amiss. I kept as far away from Danielle as I could. I saw too much that was familiar in her.

A, My Name is Asshole

I'm finishing up my sushi. I'm parked in the corner of this little restaurant where people get together in small groups to chat and eat raw fish. There is also free Internet so I have been camped out here for a while, hoping that if it stays busy, and I tip well, nobody will mind. I slide my white laptop into its bag and go up to the register to pay my bill.

"Thanks," I say, signing the chit. "See you soon."

"See you soon," the cashier says. "Tomorrow."

He's smiling at me. He's kind. He does not mind my parking here for hours at a stretch, at strange times of the evening or on the weekend. But my heart sinks, because I really, really don't want to be noticed.

For, like, the first time in my life.

I have to camp out in sushi bars, coffee shoppes, bookstores, and the occasional library. Sometimes I have to get a hotel for the night. I'm not homeless. I have a home, it's just that the guy in that home kicks me out, oh, once a week, sometimes more. So far the record has been three times in one weekend. I drive around crying and when I stop crying I park in front of my computer and do work. My editors love me. I'll come up with 20 story ideas in a weekend. Or sometimes they hate me, because I never stop crying and I don't do any work at all. That's usually when I've gotten up the gumption to leave him. I do this about once a year. Every time I go back it's harder to get out.

I just don't want people noticing how often I'm hanging out with my computer. I would hate for anyone to guess how bad things are. What I allow to happen to me.

I find myself reading the James Frey rants and feeling like I understand the guy. He had a sickness and had to invent a superhuman version of himself to express how hard it was to kick his addiction. If you just say "it was so hard to kick it," people go, "yeah, musta been," and move on. If you say "it was as hard as having root canal without anaesthesia, it was as wrenching as a beautiful girl who hangs herself, it was as rewarding as making friends with a mobster who looks like Gene Hackman," people go, "Oh! I get it!" Frey just wanted everyone to know how hard it was so they don't think he was weak for being addicted in the first place. I want people to know the same thing. I want people to not say, "She's pathetic for staying with him." I want them not to say "She's so powerless in the face of emotional abuse." I want them to say "She is up against monsters bigger and more powerful than love, than motherhood, than fear, than self-preservation." If I could write a monster story that would get that across, I would. But I can't imbue a monster with the kind of flatfaced terror I feel when I think of leaving the man who kicks me out. In monsther movies, I always identify with the monster. Even Alien. She's just laying eggs. Even Predator. He's just doing what comes naturally. I'm less intimidated by Jaws than I am by my mate. So I am just writing what happens.

I walk out of the sushi restaurant and get into my car. Tucked away in my trunk is a couple days' worth of clothes, a little shopping bag with toiletries, and my favorite boots, which I was afraid to leave in the house because he gets into frenzies and destroys my things when he throws me out. I know I can't come back here for a while. It's hard to find free wifi in this neighborhood, but not as hard as it used to be. Sometimes I drive around with my laptop open, like a little friend, and watch for the signal to kick in. Then I look for anyplace where I can sit. Inside. Outside is too … too close to what I'm dangerously close to. A bag lady with an iBook. Homeless with a Honda. Oh, it's all so cute and so disgusting. I would hate myself if I could muster up enough emotion to give a shit.