r. nial bradshaw CC
I am not me in this story. I stand, separated from myself, with my two feet on the kitchen floor, waiting. I have anticipated the moment and I wait for it to arrive.
We have been fighting. We have been fighting for two months. I cannot remember what set it off, but I should have known we would fight, because we always fight as a precursor to him telling me that it is my fault that something has gone irredeemably wrong. I do not know what caused this fight and I do not know what has gone wrong this time, but I recognise the dance of this and how I will be blamed and how I will end up receiving the blame even though my shadow self will know, will deeply understand in the only part of me that does not take on unnecessary guilt, that it is not me.
I wait and smell the garlic on my hands, and look at the stove, and the dirty pots. Earlier I made food for us and tried to call a truce by taking a bowl of pasta into his office for him. The spare room has become his office and now nobody can come and stay. Without looking at me, without turning from his monitor, he kicked back in his chair and the leg scraped hard on the floor. I froze. Finally, my words came, as they always do, to fill the space, to hang there, to sound and resound. “I made pasta.”
“I’ll leave it here.”
“Fuck,” I said, and left, hearing my frustration in my heavy stride on the wooden floor, and regretting it, but too late, already done.
Without warning the sound arrives. The crash of bowl on door then floor. It is the pasta being thrown. He executes his flame of rage with precision. He punishes me through food. He is a rake where I am round. He says no to food with violence. He says no to my offer, my love language, my conciliatory food embrace.
I flinch as he walks past me. He yanks the bin drawer off its hinges, slams the shards of bowl and red food into the black bag, then rinses his beautiful thin fingers under the pure water of the kitchen tap. I hope to catch his eye to gauge the scale of this war; I can usually tell. Sometimes the pounding of his temple, or the grinding of his teeth will help me assess it.
He brushes past me and leaves. I know nothing other than this is not over, and it is not up to me.
I prepare food for the dog and cry into her bowl. She sits with perfect focus and watches me, but her ears are pricked, listening for him. What new failure is he preparing me for?
The sun has set. The strip of light under his office door means he is awake. No sound from him. He has his headphones on. I sit on the couch and rub the dog’s ears. My stomach rumbles. I am hungry. I creep back to the kitchen and dish up some of the cold pasta and sauce and pop it in the microwave. I am suddenly anxious about the loud ping it will make when it is ready. I don’t want him to hear that I am eating. It makes no sense. I count down the seconds and open the door at four to go. Before I get a mouthful in, my phone rings. I put my bowl down with a clatter and dash to my phone, which is charging near the couch. It is my sister. She lives in New York.
“Hey George,” I mutter.
“Hey John,” she replies.
There is a split second of a pause. “You’re fighting again, aren’t you? Jessica.” She reverts to my real name. This is serious.
I cannot speak. I go and sit on the back steps. I start to cry.
“Jessica. You have to tell me what’s going on. What is going on?”
“George, I can’t speak freely. I feel like he could come out any minute. I don’t want him to catch me talking.”
“Listen to yourself, Jess. You are talking like a prisoner. Jess. Pack a bag. Come to us. Come stay with us for a bit.”
“I can’t. I can’t. The dog. The house. My job. I can’t.” I am weeping now, the words coming out in puffs.
“What has he done to you, Jess? I can’t take this.”
“George,” I say under my breath, “this time is different. I think I may be in real…”
I do not finish. He is towering over me. “Who are you talking to?”
“I have to go, George.” I hang up.
“What did you say? What did you tell her?” The idea that I may have opened up to her, spoken ill of him, makes him insane.
“Nothing,” I say, and then in a moment of mad, brave honesty, “I didn’t have a chance to.”
He lashes out at my bowl of food, cold on the kitchen table. It smashes to the floor, the dog yelps, I cry out and he growls, “You disgust me.”
At 2:00 a.m. I am brave enough to call Georgina again. I tell her everything. She sends me the number of a lawyer.
I stand in his office doorway. It is the next day.
“I saw a lawyer. I want a divorce.”
Everything happens in a single fluid motion. He stands and the chair screams backwards. He reaches for his wedding ring, pulls it off and throws it in my face, stinging my cheek. He shoves past me, picking up his phone and laptop bag.
“You have no idea what you have done.” He kicks at the dog.
It is true. I have no idea what I have done. He yanks open drawers. Strides through the house.
“What are you doing?”
“Where the fuck are my KEYS?”
“Here,” I say and hand them to him. It takes a single look for me to understand that I was not supposed to have found the keys and he is scared. The power shifts for a nano second.
“Fuck you. You are so fucked. Fucked.” His white spit catches my sleeve.
He leaves. From inside I hear him rev the car and skid away.
I stand on shaky legs. How did that happen? He left. He has never done that before. He has always trapped me in his ability to never, ever leave. I have been imprisoned in his ever presence. His gloomy, towering, silent, vicious, temperamental, toxic ever presence.
I call George even though it is 6:00 a.m. in New York. “Hey, George.”
My voice is loud. It is clear. I am standing in the middle of the house.
“John! You’re back.”
“He has left, George. I am alone. Listen to my voice. Maybe he won’t come back. I don’t care, George. He made a mistake. He left.”
“Oh John.” Georgina is weeping now.
I laugh. I am shaking, and I stamp my feet, making a noise, a noise. My tongue is unbitten and I taste freedom.
Megan Choritz is a South African born playwright, actor, writer, director and improviser. She has spent all of her life involved in theatre and make-believe. She has written and co-written numerous plays and musicals, performed and directed theatre, and she creates industrial theatre with her company, Improvision. She has self-published a novel, has just finished writing her second one, has published her first rhyming children’s book, The Big Bird Battle, published in June 2020. She is currently waiting to hear if her screenplay will be made into a movie. Hold thumbs.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.