It was bone cold. I was in my pajamas and a long hooded wool coat. Tall secondhand shearling boots. I took a bottle of whiskey from the cellar and passed the phone. Pausing yet knowing that no one in my village could help me.
Pushing the heavy doors open I escaped in the whoosh of air, not even bothering to walk I started running. Covering ground, I cut across a farmer’s field and listened to my boots crunch the frost. I held the whiskey bottle like a football. My destination barely visible in the fading moonlight. I feared not man or animal. I was running from a beast like no other. I was running to a house of a god I didnt believe in anymore, but whom had never turned its back on me.
Up the hill, past the rabbit briar and brambles, to the vantage point where I could see the crown of the abbey. In the half dead field I sunk, as small and crouched as could be. Heaving puffs of broken breath into the still, I wrestled with the wrapper on the stopper of the bottle. When opened, I pulled a long draw of fire into my lungs, begging for numb. I winced hard at the pain of my lips as the alcohol kissed them, recalling his words as he beat the love out of me the night before. I touched my swollen grotesque face. I had two black eyes, a broken nose, a broken side tooth and a badly damaged lip, lump at the base of my neck. Quasimoto without the belltower….
I stared up at the abbey and keened. I relived 42 years of my life in the space of an hour, I thought of how far I had fallen, how could I ever believe it would get better, how could I escape. The more I tried to save my husband with desperate measures, the more the monster came out from under the bed. It wasn’t just ugly words and the occasional unmentionable incident any more. He broke what little our house fire had not burned and his fist fell and feet kicked like an angry pack mule on a weekly basis. My insomnia and work load has whittled me down to a constantly nervous mess. I barely ate, began to drink heavily in the middle of the night and shook constantly. I would startle from a touch on the arm and went mute if someone hugged me. My hair fell out in handfuls and my eyes went dim.
I survived that night and many more like it before my former boss E, found out what was happening and he, my team and BL, brought me back to America. I had to surpass the farthest reaches of shame, disgust and self loathing before I could find the courage to call the people who knew me better than any in the world, and ask for help. On what would have been my 2nd wedding anniversary I flew out of London and back to the USA to what would become my greatest broken bottle road.
I am an extremely durable woman. I have had more in life try and kill me then nurture me. I don’t wear it like a flag but at this point it shows a little. The small dents in the fender…, bent rearview mirror. The scraping paint near the eyes, the broken window of my heart, that can’t seem to keep the love in. I wear fear like a raincoat in this rainy part of the country. I laugh hard as if I am afraid soon I won’t be able to. I am so aware of the passing of time, that tears often leak out as Sully holds me at night. I beat back the nightmares. I stoke my hatred of the man who caused this. I plan my life with infinite care, so that it will survive anyone who comes through it. I am so fearful about money I infuriate everyone I know.
Sully and I had an argument. The kind where he wants to talk it out and I shut down. We are extremely well suited but life is never gonna let that go without tossing in a few firecrackers….I found myself hating the sound of my own voice. Turning my eyes from his as he grew frustrated. The tired part of my soul wanted him to walk away before the argument grew legs, so I could be right about not being worthy of him. But Sully doesn’t run from anything. He stood up from his barstool, slipped a hand under my hair, onto my neck and bent to kiss me softly. Brushing the back of his hand onto my heated face, he tried to coax me to open up…
Want to rent a room here and have crazy hotel sex? How ’bout some fried chicken? Want me to sit here and let you flirt with Pete without jackin him up one? Want me to tell you I’m an ass… I’m an ass. Come on baby, your Goose is begging for u to just give me a break here.
And with that there I whisper answered….. Goose ya big stud…. take me home to bed or lose me forever….. Because sometimes, its the tiniest of things remembered or invoked.
He pushed the console up and buckled me next to him in the truck. He took the long winding route to his house. Mountain vistas, wide rivers beckoning. Cold breeze from the cracked windows. He winked at me at one red light and kissed my hand at the next. Bent my ear with his southern drawl on full charm. We were in his living room when he asked me for my ID badge for the org. I dug it out of my bag and in doing so my wallet spilled open. As he fiddled with my badge holder adding an ID, I picked up the contents of my wallet. The Abbey pic stood out like a caution from the floor. And the doubt and self hatred came rushing in like a gulf coast tide. My hands shook as I tried to shove the paper worn photo back into my wallet. I hiccupped back instant and unwanted tears. His arms were around me as we sunk down to the floor. He gently asked me why I still kept the pic in my wallet… I told him so I never make the mistake of letting anyone hurt me like that again. So I can survive my own foolish pride, so I remember I am worth something, if only to myself.
He ran a bath, putting in extra bubbles and as I snuck into the froth, he stripped and climbed in behind me. I felt embarrassed of his touch on the same curves that melt into his body with abandon. He ran a washcloth down my back and ignored my wiggling as he soothed me. We talked about me not feeling enough for him and spoke of his frustration that I won’t let him help me reconfigure my future faster. We talked about how well we know each other, the good and bad of that. We talked about abuse and my kinky heart. His limitations and guilts. We talked about his demons long vanquished and the strength it forged in him. Things that can be changed and those that must be accepted. We pickled into prunes talking. We talked of dark thoughts. We talked about a forever us. Our hearts grew warm as the water cooled. We chased down the hall like kids, laughing away the lingering fear.
Slipping into his Shirt, then his bed. Slipping into his arms as he scrolled through the Tv and I scrolled my twitter timeline, I was content. Then I read a throwaway remark about abused women choosing to stay. And the familiar nightmare hit me again. Rage burned the edges of my calm.
I paid an awful price for staying as long as I did. And in the end, I lost every single thing. Five dollars to my name. I came home with scars and broken, never healed bones. A confused heart and insanity holding the reins to my tenuous grasp on life. I thought there was no where I could go to heal or start over. I stared death square in the face for months begging. So many friends tried to help me. Kept me full when I was emotionally empty. Yet I cleanly, surgically lost the last little bits of me. I wound up in a hospital, then a nightmare. I wound up stripped of dignity. I wound up alone with every hurt 42 years had hazed me with. I picked up the phone and called collect to my old boss, E.
Beau got me released from the hospital, BL and E made threats to the right places. E and Tippy, Sully and Lance kept me on the phone or skype for almost 24 hours as I packed what little I had. Leaving my son for a while, knowing I would never see my parents again, saying goodbye to Mac…. I handed the ticket that E bought me to the smiling lady and flew north. In the car that night, I was shaken beyond measure… Dierks Bentley’s song Riser came on the radio. I remember E taking my hand, barely able to speak from emotion as he told me I wouldn’t believe this now. But that I was a riser and one day I would be able to get up and hold my head proud again. I listened to this song alot. Its very personal to me. I am surrounded by a small band of Risers, that have made it their life’s calling to help others rise. My son and I are thick as thieves as he watches me shake off the past slowly and I know that even though things are impossibly hard at times, I will never go hungry again, be abandoned and homeless, or not heard. I am safe. And sweetky now, I have a man that is the epitome of the lyrics of this song.
But so many don’t have the safety of a place to escape or heal. And it doesn’t mean they are weak or ignorant or without self respect. It means that no story is simple. Exit is not always marked clearly. 100 dollars doesn’t go far. Sometimes you think you can love them better if you are a fool like me. We talk about race and sexuality being subjects we need to be careful with. I think this deserves a lil of that latitude. Don’t equate a woman who is in an abusive situation with ignorance. No story is ever, ever black and white.
I am lucky to be alive after the last time he beat me the fuck out of me. I am lucky to have Drs that are fixing my body, as my friends help me heal my heart. Lucky to have open ears and eyes when days are bad. I am lucky to have purpose and one of the most beautiful places in the world to live. I am lucky to have a brilliant compassionate son. Lucky to have my grumpy lovebug E and his family who made me one of theirs. I am lucky for my lie and die team. Truly and honestly blessed to have my “Goose”, Sully, a fellow Riser.
I am just one voice. I am just one that made it out. There are too many of me out there. too many stories untold. Too many variations from child to what should be our treasured elders. This was my throat clearing.
Damn, am crying. I made it. I really made it. I am a riser.