Saturday, May 17, 2014
I stayed with Matthew for three years. I wasn't allowed to cut my hair so it grew down to the middle of my back. Matthew never changed. He controlled every aspect of my life. He threatened my family constantly and I believed he would hurt them if I disobeyed. I read all of their e-mails though, which they sent me on a regular basis, but I never once tried to get in touch with them. The cycle never changed. Matthew would come home drunk and assault me.
Then, he would beg for my forgiveness and promise to change.
After that I usually had a few days to one week of peace. Matthew would be loving, attentive, and gentle. After two years of this back and forth behavior I knew better then to believe him when he promised he would stop drinking.
The bruises would come and go and I became an expert at hiding them. I never wore short sleeves or shorts anymore for fear people would see the marks on my extremities.
I laid in bed every night and repeated the address Marina had given me but I never gathered enough courage to actually leave him. Once, I even drove by the shelter but that's as brave as I dared get. I wasn't afraid for myself, I was afraid for my family.
One morning, two years into our marriage, something changed the way I felt about staying. It started as a perfectly normal day. I woke up and Matthew had already left for work. I went downstairs and ate some leftover waffles. The waffles didn't taste as good as they normally did. They made me queasy so I set them aside and went into the living room to study mixology.
About two hours into my studies, I felt a wave of nausea. I set my book down and ran to the bathroom.
I was sick to stomach. After I had vomited, I sat on the bathroom floor. Was I getting sick? I had been tired lately. Maybe I had some sort of stomach bu....my heart felt like it skipped a beat as the realization hit me like a ton of bricks. "No, no no, no," I actually said out loud. I knew I didn't have a stomach bug. Fear froze my body as I did a quick calculation of when I had my last period. I was two weeks late. How did I miss that?
It was Friday so I wasn't allowed out of the house but I knew I had to get to the store to get a pregnancy test. I threw on a rain coat, hat, and sunglasses to hide my identity. I prayed no one would recognize me. Matthew kept track of the miles in the car so I had to take a cab. I arrived at the market and was in and out in a flash.
I got home and quickly took the test. It took three minutes to confirm my fear...I was pregnant.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror. What could I do? I didn't want to raise a child in this environment under the constant fear of being abused. What if it was a boy? What if Matthew raised him to abuse and control women? No. I wouldn't let that happen. I knew what I had to do. My pregnancy had given me the courage to do what I should have done a long time ago.
When Matthew got home from work that day I asked him to go slip into his pajamas. I was going to treat him to a romantic night in. He had hit me just days before so he was in an agreeable mood and I planned to take full advantage of that. I had to leave tonight. If I waited, I risked Matthew finding out about the pregnancy, or worse, not finding out about the pregnancy and putting the baby at risk if he hit me. I made him cocktails all evening. After about four drinks I managed to slip two sleep aids into the fifth drink.
It took about an hour, and a few more drinks, for the sleep aids to finally kick in. I saw Matthew's eyes turn groggy and his body swayed from the combination of alcohol and medication. It was only 7:30 pm but I suggested we turn in for the night. He agreed without a fight. He kissed me goodnight and told me how much he loved me. I felt a twinge of guilt as I tucked him in to bed.
I pretended to sleep on top of the covers. I listened to his breathing slow and I got out of bed when I was sure he was sound asleep. I went into the bathroom and got dressed. I threw on a maroon rain coat and wrapped my long blonde hair in a scarf. I left with only the clothes on my back. I didn't want to risk anybody finding out my true identity. I would get rid of the clothes I was wearing as soon as I could find some new ones. I decided to walk to the shelter instead of calling a cab for that same reason. I didn't want to leave any type of a trail. I slipped out of the bedroom and the door creaked loudly as I shut it. I froze. Matthew stirred in bed. I felt nauseated. How was I going to talk my way out of this one? I stood there, frozen, for 5 minutes. Then 10 minutes. Then 20 minutes. Matthew's breathing eventually returned to slow and rhythmic patterns. I knew he was asleep again. With a deep breath, I turned around and fled.
I stood outside for a moment and looked back at the house. Memories flooded my mind and I hesitated. Before the abuse, life was so perfect. The good memories were then replaced by the bad ones. The memories of pain, loneliness, and loss. I put my hand on my stomach and remembered the reason I was leaving.
I turned around and began to run, visualizing my freedom the whole time.