Three months after we met, he proposed and I said yes. I was a tomboyish 20 year old and he a handsome 29 year old, who reminded me of my late pa. I said yes. I thought our kids would look like my pa. Soon he proposed I wear abaya as I was his and his alone and I agreed. It seemed so romantic at that time.
We married, it was lovely or that’s what I thought it was.. He was short tempered and would snap at me for smallest of things. I started turning timid and very clumsy. The violence rushed in within weeks of marriage. For little or no reason he would lash at me and soon I started believing it was because of the way I do things. He made me believe I was wrong. And I believed it.
I kept changing but it did not stop. I had my twins, nothing changed. I stopped meeting friends and going out as he disliked it, nothing changed.
Soon I would tremble at the thought of him coming home. I’d clean the house multiple times, yet I went to bed physically or emotionally hurt.
His words made me cringe. The abuses soon felt like his way of forgiving my “mistake”. I started feeling i deserved it. The physical abuse hurt, but the words hurt the most.
6 years passed…..
I had no help, at home or otherwise. My parents lived in Africa and I did not want to bother them, I had no one to open up to. Friends had fazed out. Family, what can I say. I feared being labelled sad or weak. I hate gossips in general and did not want to be “THE” subject.
One October night, after the whole dinner, dishes and putting kids to sleep saga, I snuggled in and he was on his phone. As I was drifting into sleep, he asked me the meaning of some word in English, I was so tired I mumbled ‘Google it’.
Next minute I felt something warm on my shoulder, a buzzing began, numbness took over and I blacked out. I opened my eyes to see blood on my shoulder, it was coming out of my left ear. I got up to see him sleeping. I checked time to see 2 hours had passed. My whole night shirt was soaked in blood. The buzzing continued.
I stood by the bed watching him sleep for a few minutes. Scared to wake him. I was trying my best not to cry. But the pain was unbearable.
I walked out. I was on the road at 2:30 am, walked to the auto stand near home in my bloody state. I did not think about slipping into abaya. I just wanted to get out. I took an auto to the hospital near home. I walked into the emergency ward. They refused to treat me stating it’s a police case.
A nurse accompanied me to the cop posted near the hospital for a report.
After years of living behind an abaya, observing the world and never having been observed. I saw the way the constable looked at me. His gaze ran up and down my body. It filled me with shame. That feeling of helplessness and anxiety took over me.
He asked me things I couldn’t hear, the nurse had to write it down on a paper and I was glad I couldn’t hear.
He asked if the “client” had hit me, he asked if I did something to my client to be hit this way and so on. I bit my trembling lips but did not cry. Something inside me broke. That gaze did it all.
I refused to speak. So the Nurse said something to him, got a report done. She took me back in to the hospital. Started cleaning my wound, it hurt like hell but I did not cry. I caught a glimpse of self in the glass door, I felt sorry for the person looking back. It was not me.
After a night’s wait, x-rays and meeting the ENT doctor, I was told that the ear drum on my left ear was partially punctured. I won’t be able to hear properly henceforth. A surgery could help. But my mind was far from it.
I walked back home. The shirt now stiff with blood. I came home to see him getting ready for work as if nothing had changed. I knew then it was over.
A strange calmness took over me. I walked up to him and slapped him with all my might and told him to get out. Before he could get over his surprise I started packing his clothes. He threatened to take my children away with him, a threat that I dreaded normally, but it did nothing to me. I refused to reply. He called me names I’d rather not say out loud.
I told him to get out or I’m pressing charges. After a few hours he was gone with the kids, all his clothes and theirs and everything else.
I cried then. I curled up and cried for all those years, for the nobody I had become for him. For my children. For the struggles to come. I cried it all out. Promising I’ll never cry again. I promised my self I’ll never change for others. I promised to make up for all those lost years.
It’s been 5 years since that night. Things have changed, so have I.. I never broke my promise.
But why talk about it now?
It took me years to understand that it was me who had enslaved myself. I chose not to talk to anyone about it. I started believing I was wrong. Being abused became my penance for being “me”. I started to believe i was wrong. For the fear of being labelled, I kept mum.
But, the gaze undid me.
It’s tough to open up at times to friends and relatives. I know the feeling, I have lived it. Compressing emotions doesn’t help. Penting up your feelings and emotions, that’s the first defeat. What people talk behind you doesn’t matter. The labels don’t matter. Your happiness and peace is what matters.
Open up. Talk about it. It helps. To a friend or two or to me..
Shoot a mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S: I still do cry, but only when i watch sappy movies or when I’m reading a really good book..
Blessed that way.
I dared to gaze into the abyss and proud of what I have become.