It's going on 15 years now; for the first five, he invaded my sleep and I would wake up struggling to breathe, the feeling of his hands on my throat more real than the 2500 miles I'd put between us. When I went, I left without a forwarding address. It seemed utterly unreal and dramatic; swearing my family and friends to secrecy and taking off for the opposite side of the country. I'd never lived more than 25 miles from where I was born, and suddenly I'd multiplied that by 100.
It took me ten years to leave. Looking back, there were warning signs, but they were easily explained away. He always apologized; he never knew beforehand that I was going to get upset; he was just a bit clueless. He was frustrated at work, he wasn't getting anywhere, and he was always so sorry when he brought his anger home with him. He drank too much, but he was an easy drunk. He just fell asleep, and truth be told, I encouraged him to drink; he was happier when he drank. Usually. And on the occasions when he wasn't, it was easy for me to understand. He was drunk. He didn't know what he was doing.
He never knew what he was doing, not even the night he sat on my stomach, pinned my arms to the bed with his knees, put his hands around my throat, and squeezed. He was screaming. I could not understand a word he was saying. That was what bothered me the most; I was going to die and I didn't know what I'd done to deserve it. Our dog knocked him off and saved my life. He swore he was asleep, having a nightmare about being attacked, and I wanted to believe him. He'd always walked and talked in his sleep, and he was quite horrified at what had happened. When the nightmare returned a few weeks later, bearing a large kitchen knife, I finally woke up.
After I left, I overcompensated by being hyper-sensitive to anything that reminded me of him; I still have buttons that get pushed from time to time. I'm working on that. Getting out was the best, and hardest, thing I ever did. I'm proud of that.
© 2007 Cynthia Newcomer Daniel
Necklace; sterling silver, sapphires, lampwork by Gail Kops of Beadles. Hand fabricated.