I get a square receipt by text message.  From my abuser’s account.  For parking.  Just down the street from where I teach.

The dread sinks into my gut, a deep pit of fear and horror, like being punched very hard in very slow motion.  It lodges there terrible and intractable, anchoring my diaphragm so I cannot have a full breath.  I draw my knees to my chest and sit, breathless, alone, and increasingly angry.

Hours later I lay in bed restless, exhausted.  As I wait for sleep I imagine myself swinging a baseball bat into his torso as he shoots me.  I dream that I am wearing my engagement ring and its prongs wrap themselves around my finger, metal tentacles clutching me persistently; I cannot remove it.

In the morning, I startle out of a dead sleep and feel immediate dread.  I arm myself before leaving with a pair of scissors.  He has guns, I have scissors.  Still, I hold them inverted, poised like a dagger, livid as I stalk across the parking lot.  I cry most of the way to the studio.  I greet my first student surreptitiously clutching my scissors-dagger under the desk.  After class I buy a hefty metal bat for $7 at a used sporting goods store.  I feel relieved to have something more menacing than scissors, should I need it.  Walking to the car, I swing my bat merrily.  Come at me motherfucker, I think, I’ll break both your legs. 

The next morning I’m not in such good spirits.  I attempt to meditate and break down sobbing, overwhelmed by the futility of my plight.  When I go to the parking lot I scan back and forth, surveying all the movement, bat hanging at my side.

“Hey, he won’t hurt you.”

My neighbors, walking their dog, look concerned.  I can feel the deep furrow in my brow, the tension behind my mouth, my chest collapsed.  They think I’m afraid of them.

“I know this guy,” I call out, “I got to pet him the other day.”

The man invites me to pet the dog again.  I scan the parking lot one more time as I walk to them; clear.  I drop my purse on the grass, hold out my free hand for the dog to sniff, and squat in front of him when he appears satisfied.  I prop the bat against my thigh to scratch both his floppy ears.

“Who’s a good puppy?”  I coo, “Who’s my buddy?”

I look back up at my neighbors, whose names I’ve forgotten.  She supports a pregnant belly.  His dreadlocks swing a little.

“You play softball?” he asks.

“No, I…” I look away and grimace.  “I need a restraining order.”

“Oh, yeah.  Girl, you do what you’ve gotta do.”

I cry over that conversation on the drive then wait for my students sitting behind the desk.  The bat is propped against my leg.  When I hear footsteps in the hall I grip it surreptitiously in my right hand, lifting it slightly from the floor, wary.  Kim appears in the doorway.  I feel relieved, and she comes to stand at my side.  I tuck the bat away and her eyes meet mine.

“You don’t have to teach today if you don’t want to,” she tells me.  But I do want to teach; I want to do it without needing to carry a bat.

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