content warning: domestic violence
It is Easter. I’ve risen late again, because I still have concussion symptoms including an ongoing propensity for sleeping about twelve hours in a row. I’m sitting on the end of the cot where I sleep, hearing my friend speaking in the other room. My hand is over my heart, my gaze fixed on my orange suitcase in the corner. A picture of myself at 15 peers out at me–grinning, holding my first racing medal. I’ve caught myself wishing Easter felt more like a potential new beginning than the same old slog through difficult emotions. I am attempting to soothe myself, but there’s something about that suitcase I’ve seen a thousand times. The muscles of my forearm are tight, my fingertips pressing hard into the spaces between my ribs.
I see my hands taking cables from my friend Ray and tucking them into the suitcase. I’m shaking so hard I can barely hold them and my husband lurks in the doorway of my office, video recording us with his iPhone. What do I need? What do I need, Ray? Ray hands me my computer, some papers. I take my pillow from the bed and we try to move to the next room. He’s too close as I try to pass. “You need to step away from me,” I bark out in a strained voice. I shouldn’t have told him we were coming. In the bedroom, I don’t know what I need either. I barely even see my clothes in my hands. Normally highly organized, I now indiscriminately grab running shirts by the handful and shove them into the suitcase.
I’m having flashbacks. I’m sitting in this room. My feet are in my slippers, but I’m struggling to draw breath and my chest is caved in, tight, rock solid with tension.
Ray stands by the door, silent. We have everything but Kira. I hold her carrier near the stairs. He’s holding my cat, my sick 14 year old baby girl–and I feel sick watching him with her. He’s left repeated notes and texts, apropos of nothing, angrily reminding me that he will no longer feed my cat, that my cat is my responsibility. That I should be in the house if I don’t want anything to happen to her. I think I’m going to throw up. He’s holding my cat, watch cap pulled low over his eyes, and he seems to be tearfully saying goodbye to her. I’m holding my breath, holding her carrier open. My jaw is clenched, that deep sick sinking feeling at my solar plexus. Now he’s too close to me again, but he’s setting Kira in her carrier so I allow it, every muscle in my body poised to fight or run. When he lets her go I finally exhale, zip her carrier closed and pull her to me. I deliberate for a moment, and then speak my last words to the person I married; “If you can talk calmly, I’ll still be here to discuss things.”
I’m crying again, hand still over my heart. I shake a little, drawing a deeper breath. There are birds chirping outside.
People get help with safety planning when they leave abusers. I didn’t have a safety plan; I just got scared and started running. Did I make it harder on myself, doing it wrong? I didn’t even fully grasp that I was afraid; I couldn’t let myself feel my fear.
I am at my friend’s house. I am safe here.