Alex Weimer CC
“FIRE! FIRE!” I screamed, as I frantically tried to make my way out the front door as he chased me through his house.
There was no fire, not a literal one anyway, but in that moment, I remembered something my 9th grade health teacher, Mr. McLaughlin told me; in case of an attack yell fire not rape because more people are likely to act. I don’t know if that is true because just as I got the front door open he grabbed me from behind by my waist.
“NOOOOO!” FIRE!” I yelled to the dark neighborhood, hands clamped to the doorframe as he peeled me off and threw me into the living room. As my head struck the side of the coffee table, everything went dark.
I don’t know how long I lay on the cold floor, but when I came to I could see the blurry face of my black lab, Harley. I wanted to run. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted, more than anything, to get away, but all I could do was lay there motionless, and look into the eyes of my faithful friend.
“It’s going to be alright.” I whispered to him, reaching out to touch his warm, fuzzy face.
It was just then, as my hand touched his whiskers that something inside my head yelled RUN!!
Only a few hours before that I had called my mother to tell her that I was having our favorite, Two Guys Pizza, for dinner. I made a blanket nest on the couch and put in one of my favorite movies, “The Hobbit” and hoped for a peaceful night. I hoped, because not many were, but still, I hadn’t given up the idea that one was possible.
I had moved in with my boyfriend, Tad, the year before and although on paper he looked amazing and wonderful, in real life, he was an alcoholic, an addict in every arena, and had anger issues that frightened everyone in his inner circle. My cousin, Jimmy, a police officer, reminded me often that I would not get out of the relationship alive. He would half-jokingly compare us to Nicole and OJ, and although I would force a smile, I knew in my heart that he was probably right. There was no way out.
As I tried to push myself up from the hard floor using Harley as leverage, I realized that my wrist was already bruised and likely broken and a large lump was growing on the side of my head from where it struck the wooden table.
The room was dark and fuzzy and I couldn’t see where he was, or even if he was near me. As the clock in the kitchen struck 11pm I listened to that inner voice. I jumped up, grabbed my keys off the end table and darted out the front door, leaving my best friend, Harley, behind.
I ran as fast as I could to my Jeep parked only a few feet away in the driveway and threw it into reverse as fast as humanly possible. Just as I hit the gas, Tad threw himself on to the hood, clawing at my face through the glass and ripping off the windshield wipers in a desperate attempt to reach me.
I don’t know how I made through the gated fence in reverse at top speed but I did. As I threw it into first gear I ripped the head off the shifter and raced away, head bleeding and wrist swelling with each passing second.
Luckily, I felt nothing.
I weaved in and out of side streets in case he was following me, and realized that I had nowhere to go. For most people it was a cold, Sunday night in the dead of winter in New England. Most people, the ones I perceived as “normal”, were tucked in for the night and had very little need for my drama. Over the last year living with Tad, I had worn most of my relationships with friends and family to the nub. While understanding and sympathetic, it became increasingly difficult for anyone to understand why I stayed with him.
Many nights I would crash on the couches of friends or family, or in my car, to escape his drunken fits. Many nights I slept alone far from him, wondering if he would in fact, kill me.
Although he had a professional job, his taste for Budweiser, drugs and other women, would often prevail.
After a few minutes I realized he wasn’t chasing me so I pulled over to collect my thoughts. I had heard stories like mine and listened to people remark and wonder why women stayed with abusive partners. Now it would be my turn to explain, even defend, myself to everyone.
Just a few hours before as we settled into bed for the night watching “LOST” on his laptop when he erupted into a fit of rage. The catalyst for this episode was a message that popped up on his screen while we were watching the show. It said only two words, but they spoke volumes.
I didn’t need to react. I didn’t need to start a fight. I didn’t need to say anything, because we both knew that on his recent trip to Costa Rica he had enjoyed the scenery, as well as his share of prostitutes and drugs.
I knew this, he knew this but still, as my heart sank in my chest, I just couldn’t help but ask.
“Because you are a stupid cunt!!” He screamed in my face with hot beer soaked breath.
I had lived with him for the past year and handled his alcoholism, his steroid use, his narcissism, vanity and rages, but this was the last straw. I made excuses to my parents as to why we couldn’t attend holiday parties and worked from home quietly as he threw dishes at my head and screamed when he couldn’t find his car keys or get the top off a container quickly enough. I hadn’t slept soundly in months, as he slept restlessly with beer on his nightstand, and often would get up, drunk, and urinate in the bathroom sink if I was lucky, or on the carpet in the corner of the bedroom, if I was not lucky.
I didn’t want to love him. He had more flaws than anyone should tolerate but for the first time in a long time I believed I was in love and I fought for the imperfectness that had become my reality.
On a night that began with the hope of peace, ended with a call to the police and yet another night on my sister’s couch. The police would recommend not getting a restraining order because I would have to face him in court, but they could not guarantee my safety either.
It was a coin toss that night, whether I would live or die, and all I could think about was my dog.
I returned the next morning with the police to gather my things and Harley and returned to my sister’s house where I would not leave for the next two months.
Christine Brooks is a graduate of Western New England University with her B.A. in Literature and her M.F.A. from Bay Path University in Creative Nonfiction. Her poem, the price, is in the October issue of The Cabinet of Heed and her poems, life and I Don’t Believe, are in the fall issue of Door Is a Jar. Two poems, friends and demons are in the January 2020 issue of Cathexis Northwest Press and her poem, communion, is in the January 2020 issue of Pub House Books. Her series of vignettes, Small Packages, was named a semifinalist at Gazing Grain Press in August 2018. Her essay, What I Learned from Being Accidentally Celibate for Five Years was featured in HuffPost, MSN, Yahoo and Daily Mail UK in April 2019. Her book of poems, The Cigar Box Poems, was released in February 2020. Her second book, "beyond the paneling" is due out in early 2021.
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