I was talking with my husband this morning. We were watching one of the morning talk shows drone on. This one about abused women. The poor souls seem to be everywhere in the media this week.
It is not uncommon for me to rail accusations at the television, hissing and booing my contempt for batterers at my safe little television. I don't think too hard on the mournful ghost faces of the women--their bowed backs, their dead eyes, shining with tears.
I was one of those women--a person who let such horrible things happen to me that I can't bear to think of them now. I was chatting with a friend today, and somehow the time I spent watching TV with Ken came into the conversation, and with it, a memory with startling clarity.
I am twenty seven years old. A mother of one son. I am still pretty, if you can look beyond the haggard appearance being constantly physically, psychologically and sexually abused imposes on your body.
We'd argued, and he had grown fond of a particularly cruel indignation. He would force me to strip, and toss me out of the house naked. I remember the quiet resignation and dead affect when unbuttoning my dress and stepping out of my underwear. My body was ripe with his child, the belly round as a peach, the hips flaring out wide in expectation. I should have been his joy, an his reward, but I was the object of his hate, a constant reminder that life did not go his way, and he was forced to keep me for appearances sake.
He'd grab me by the arm, and shove me out the door, slamming it shut and bolting the locks. I would stand there, bewildered, almost high. Blocking out the reality so that I could endure it. I never felt the horror of it while it was happening. I simply asked my self, what do I do?
I wandered in this deadening daze across the street, glad that no cars were coming by. It is very difficult to cover yourself with bony arms and small, girlish hands when you weigh all of 110 lbs fully pregnant. A man came out of his house shocked to find me in his yard.
He was tall, and young and handsome. Brown and sunloved, and when he spoke I heard his Island accent. He came to me, with his arms streched out like he wanted to cover me with his arms, but he didn't. It was as if he were afraid to touch me. Like I would break. Like I would shatter in his hands.
He spoke tenderly with his soft, lilting voice, but his questions were rapid fire. What has happened? Who did this to you? And I answered him--the truth. I saw the disbelief and horror in his eyes. He could not comprehend the kind of cruelty that throws a pregnant young woman naked into the streets. I could not either, but for a moment, I was outside of myself. That wasn't me naked and pregnant, explaining to a kind stranger. He told me he would call the police, and I begged him not to, fearing the man I lived with would kill me if I ever got the law involved. I was in Maryland, far from home and people who loved me, and he had my son in the house.
The man went inside, and came out with a bathrobe to cover me. He told me he called the police. You know what? I can't remember what happened after that. I don't remember if I ever saw the police, or when I went home, or if I ever returned the bathroom. It's gone. The rest of that story hides in some dark corner in my mind and refuses to reveal itself to me.
These memories, they come like a distant discordant tune. Strange music that I don't understand. I hear the melody, but don't remember the name of the song. I don't hear it often, not even when I watch talk shows. Somewhere she stopped being me.
I wonder if that man prayed for me. I think he did. I sure hope so.
Listen, if you ever find a naked pregnant woman in your yard, please, I beg you, cover her. Call the police, pray for her.
Remember her, many years later, when she is 4o and loved, and the mother of seven. Because sometimes, when she leasts expects it, she will find herself unable to stop crying while she types on her laptop computer. Mourning the woman she was. The woman she had no strength to mourn back then.
And say another prayer for her.