It didn’t start out like that.

IMG_8657I was barely seventeen when I met him.  Most of my kids are older than that now.  We were both army brats on Biggs Field in El Paso, TX.

He was tan and handsome and had amazing eyes.   I thought I could drown in his deep voice.  Life was leisure living with our parents.  We spent our days running around the desert catching  lizards, and our nights around bonfires with our friends.

Sometimes we’d play fight.  At more than a foot taller than me I didn’t stand much of a chance, but I thought I was a tough girl.  I remember my mother trying to warn me.  She said that play fighting could easily turn to real fighting and that perhaps we shouldn’t be playing so rough.  I thought that was funny.

I remember watching some domestic violence episode of Jerry Springer.  I thought those women were weak or stupid.  Why would they stay with someone that hit them?  I thought that could never be me.

I wasn’t 18 yet when we moved to Colorado.  Our fathers had gotten orders.  My parents were moving to Alaska. His parents were moving to Colorado Springs.   We knew we couldn’t bear to be parted.  He and I packed what we could into my little red 1981 Toyota Corolla Tercel and drove to Aurora, Colorado with about $400 to our name.  It was just enough to rent our first apartment.

A friend helped me get a job at a car rental place at the airport.  We took in a roommate we had known in El Paso.  A month later I was still the only one working.  We fought.  He started calling me names.  Stupid fucking fat lazy bitch.  I tried to leave.  He had disabled my car.

He begged my forgiveness and we made up.  I loved him.

He wanted to tie me to the bed with my pantyhose.  He said it would be fun.  He left me tied to the bed and went to the store.  I don’t remember how long he was gone.  It was long enough to leave me feeling humiliated.

I loved to play piano and sing.  I had brought a keyboard to Colorado with me.  He told me I was awful and embarrassing and that he wished that I would stop.  He said he loved me enough to tell me the truth.  So I stopped playing and singing.

We lost the apartment.  His parents said if he moved home and went back to school they would pay off our mistake.  So we broke up and he went home.  I stayed in Aurora living out of my trunk and couch surfing.  I made friends and we got an apartment.  I dated someone for a month that quickly ended up cheating on me.

So, to console myself, I drove to Colorado Springs and brought him back with me.  It was winter.  I turned 18.  My roommate had gotten me an ice cream cake.  He refused to come out of the bedroom.  I remember his slice slowly turning into a puddle.  He was calling for me to come back to the bedroom with him.  I just couldn’t.  Stupid fat fucking lazy bitch.

He begged my forgiveness and we made up.  I loved him.

We both got jobs at fast food and gas stations.  We were totally grown ups now.  He asked me to marry him.  I said yes.

I don’t remember why we fought.  I still make excuses I know aren’t real and don’t matter.  I say he was hungry.  We didn’t have enough money to feed him.  He burned calories faster than anyone I’ve ever seen.  We were young.  We didn’t know how to communicate.  We were both hot headed.

The play fighting had stopped being play.  Lamps were broken.  He punched holes in the walls.  He threatened to leave me.  I was naked.  I was begging him not to go.  I tried to hold on to him.  He put me in a head lock.  I remember the fight draining out of my body.  I remember the darkness closing in.  I remember thinking he was killing me.

I was on the floor.  He was tying his shoes.  I was crying.  He was walking out the door.  I was begging him not to go.  Please don’t leave me.  Please don’t leave me.  Please don’t leave me.  Please.

He begged my forgiveness and we made up.  I loved him.

IMG_8661The wedding was in a week.  My back was bruised and my fingernails were ripped and bloody from trying to push him off me.  My family was coming.

My friend helped me put on acrylic nails to cover the mess.  That stuff stings when you have to glue it to the nail bed instead of the nails.  The cut of my dress wouldn’t show the bruises.  No one could know.  They wouldn’t understand.  They would judge him.  I love him.

June 20th, 1992, torn and bruised, I married him.

Another fight.  My friend was there.  I thought being married would change him.  It hadn’t.  I was now Mrs. Stupid Fat Fucking Lazy Bitch.  I told him I was leaving the apartment and he needed to be gone before I got back or I would call the police.

Four hours later we returned to the apartment.  He was gone, but all of his stuff was still there.  The phone started ringing.  They asked for Mrs. Him.  It was the hospital.  My husband had attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of aspirin and getting into the bathtub.  Then climbing out and calling 911.  They had pumped his stomach.

I called his parents.  I tried to tell them what was going on.  They said, “You married him.  He is your problem now.”

He begged my forgiveness and we made up.  I loved him.

Then my cousin died.  I needed to go to California to be with my family.  He needed to stay and work.

A week away from him.  The fog lifted a little.  No one was calling me names.  I wasn’t scared.  I told my mom a little bit, though certainly not the extent.  My aunt said cut and run now, more time makes harder.

When I got home, he was waiting.  He was all smiles and promises.  It was going to be better now.  He was going to be better now.   He had a gift for me.  It was jewelry.  Emerald cut blue topaz set in 18K gold.  Beautiful.  But it wasn’t enough.  I didn’t want it.  And I didn’t believe him.  I didn’t want to be the Stupid Fat Fucking Lazy Bitch anymore.

I thought this was it.  I thought it was over.  I thought this was the beginning of a new life for me.

When he left he walked across the courtyard and moved in with a friend of his.  Their balcony had a perfect view of ours.  He was sitting out there watching me. Every day I came and went and he would be there staring at me.  It was scary, but what could I do?  I enrolled in school and tried to get back to where I had left off when I met him.  It doesn’t work like that.

He kept calling.  He wanted his wife back.  One night he came knocking on the door.  I wouldn’t answer.  He wouldn’t leave.  He got angrier and was screaming through the door.   And then he was on the balcony. Beating on the glass doors.  I called the police.

Have they changed since then?  I hope so.  They came and they told me that he had every right to be in that apartment if he wanted to be.  They didn’t care about the holes he had punched in the walls and didn’t want to be part of our little dispute.

I was too scared to leave the apartment after that.  I called in sick to school and work until we all figured out I wasn’t going anymore.  Eventually his welcome with his friend wore out.  He moved back to Colorado Springs with his family and my life began to recover.

The next year my parents helped me hire a lawyer.  He told me that due to the brevity of our marriage we had a good case for an annulment.  I just had to be sure that my husband would say the right things to the judge.

I hadn’t seen him in a year.  I felt better and I guess I thought he would, too.  We had both had time to come back to our senses and get on with our lives.  I called him and told him we should meet and talk.  I made plans to drive down to Colorado Springs to have lunch with him.  He sounded really grounded and reasonable on the phone.

The day I was supposed to meet him I had a flat tire.  I didn’t want to miss this meeting, so I borrowed a spare from my neighbor.  I remember my friend standing on the tire iron tightening the lugs.

We met in a parking lot.  He was in his roommates truck.  He talked me into getting into the truck and he would drive us to lunch.  I was wary, but because of my tire I did it.  That was, of course, when the plan changed.  We had to stop by his place to check in with his roommate.  When we got there they both had a beer.  Then his roommate needed to leave with the truck.  We were going to have to hang at the apartment for a while.

Aside from beer cans the whole place was immaculate.  It hardly looked lived in.  When I went to the bathroom I could see from the door of his room the only personal item was a picture on the dresser.  It was a framed picture of us at our wedding.  I was getting a little scared.  He was having another beer.  He started telling me that he missed me.  I was his wife.  It wasn’t too late.

He begged my forgiveness.  Didn’t I still love him?

As gently as I could I stood my ground.  I said I really needed to head home.  Please, please, get me back to my car.

He said the car was a few miles away, but since we had no ride I could wait there and he would go get it.  I gave him the keys.

Two hours later he came back – without the car.  He said he realized on the way there that he was too drunk to drive.  He called his dad.  I got a ride back to my car.  Finally, I could breathe.

No one hung around to watch me leave.   My car door was unlocked and the seat was slid all the way back.  The mirrors were all adjusted.  I knew he had been at the car.  My heart was racing.  I popped the hood to see if he had tampered with anything.   Was I just being paranoid?  I didn’t see anything amiss.

I made the hour drive up over Monument and back to Aurora.  I was relieved to be back.  I knew that except for a court date I didn’t need to see him again.  I had friends over that night so we weren’t surprised when there was a knock on the door.  It was him and his roommate.  Who knows how much more they had to drink that day.  They said they were checking to see if I made it home ok.  Of course I had.  Why wouldn’t I have?  They weren’t invited in and thankfully didn’t stick around.

The next day when my neighbor went to take his spare tire back all the lugs came off with a single twist of his fingers.

I wanted to pass it off as coincidence.  But the late night road trip to see if I had made it home ok was too much to ignore.  Would this ever be over?  I was tired of being scared.

As it turns out it was mostly over.  We had our day in court and had our brief marriage annulled. He showed up in my life in little ways for a while – like partying with a roommate and sleeping with her and calling up my parents trying to track me down.

Just a few years ago his current wife contacted me on Facebook.  She said she was throwing him a big birthday party and was hoping I could provide some significant dates for a “This Is Your Life” slide show he was planning.  For several days I stared at that message trying to summon some way to respond and decline without venom.  Before I could manage that I got a message that said, “I guess everything they have said about you is true.”  I blocked her.

Being scared never completely ended though.  When I see a man with his build on the street I nearly shrink into my floorboard.  I’m still embarrassed and I feel the blame and the shame of letting that happen to me.  It doesn’t matter how logically I approach it – I feel that.  Telling me I shouldn’t doesn’t help.  It adds one more layer of guilt and shame for what I shouldn’t be doing.

I wonder if his next wife (or the next one) or his daughters have suffered at his hand.  I wonder if there is something that I should have or even could have done to prevent that.  I wonder if getting support or joining a group would have helped me at all.  It might have.  But I don’t remember thinking that I was a battered woman while it was going on.  I’ll bet that most women in the middle of it can’t see it clearly for what it is.

I spent several more years cycling in and out of really abusive relationships before I took a long enough break to learn how to love myself.  I survived.  I am in an amazing place in my life now.  It’s possible to change your stars.

Relationships don’t start out terrible.  People don’t typically lead with their fists.  If you think that you may have ended up in an abusive relationship there is help.  In many communities, including mine, A Woman’s Place is serving that purpose.  They have help for those suffering abuse of many kinds besides physical including verbal abuse and stalking, and they serve women, men, transgender, nongender conforming people and families who have experienced domestic abuse.  Find them here:

If you don’t need them perhaps you could help their mission.  On the website there is a link for cash donations as well as lists of items that are most needed in their shelters.

And don’t think that it can’t happen to you.  Or that these women are dumb.  Or that they want it if they don’t leave him.  It’s crazy to wake up one day and see the slow and lazy spiral that dragged you into a place you never thought you’d be.  It’s hard to seek help when you are ashamed and embarrassed.  It’s almost impossible to fathom that you might not make it out of this relationship alive.

Because it didn’t start out like that.  It never does.


Poet, Artist, Writer, Novelist, Photographer, Mommy, Domestic Partner, Tender of the Earth, and Conduit of Love and Abundance Come like me on Facebook

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Posted in Autobiographical, Writing
2 comments on “It didn’t start out like that.
  1. Alice Coaxum says:

    Extremely power! Fortunately you were able to overcome the situation and take back the power that was stolen from you. People can only deal with you from their own perception and how they feel about themself. Our own self love or lack of affects every relationship we have.

  2. Cat says:

    Thanks for writing this, and thanks for rejoicing in the present moment. I am now a strong advocate for EMDR for helping to heal trauma. And I, too, have been offered the opportunity to learn that if certain people are no longer in my life they need not be a “Facebook friend” either. Big hugs ~

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No Guts…No Story
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath
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