Every moment is in slow motion. How the roughness of the chair feels against your shoulder blades. How the scissors pressed against your neck feel so cold. So cold. How you think, “Everyone will just blame me.” How he tells you they’ll laugh at you when you tell him you’re going to call the police.
You don’t call the cops, but later, always, wish you did. Even though you lived. You want him to be punished. Still. Even today.
To love this kind of person is to never forget. How even when you remember the good times, you think, “He tried to kill me. He threatened to kill me. He tried to kill my cat.”
You always thought that things would change. He never got this bad before. Or maybe he did, and there was a really good excuse. And he’s changed. He left that job that made him like this, or he started therapy (Really!) and is fine now, or he was just stressed then from quitting smoking, or he learned his lesson and he’s different now. You can trust him now. Really. You stop telling your friends and family as much, and anytime things are rough, you tell them little, make excuses, smooth things over.
You don’t want them to hate him, even though you secretly do.
It happens again, usually. Everyone knows these sorts of things always repeat themselves, but everyone who is in that moment thinks that they are different. (And sadly, we’re not.)
You just look into his eyes, and even though they were the beautiful eyes you fell in at the beginning, they’re really not. That person you loved is like…a monster. He is not someone you are in love with now. Could you ever be again? You tell yourself no, but you might be lying to yourself.
You are smarter than this. You always swore you’d never be with someone who was violent, leave at the first raised hand. But here you are, cowering, curled up, bawling. Why won’t the neighbors hear your HELP HELP HELP please? Looking out the window, you wonder why the woman walking her dog with a baby strapped to her chest didn’t seem to notice your cries, wishing she would. You press your face against the cold moisture of the glass as you are pulled away, yelled at to, “Listen to me, look at me!”
In public, you try to be calm. Even as he is cursing that he is going to kill you as he speeds recklessly ahead, as he slams ahead on the brakes throwing you forward, shouting how the two of you are going to die, you know after you both die, his family will blame you. You are the cause of this. He is telling you how you drove him to this.
Later, your friends will tell you, “No, that wasn’t your fault.”
And you didn’t even tell them the really bad stuff. Your friends told you to get the locks changed.
The lump in your throat of fear. How you didn’t even care how awful you look, snot dripping down your face, puffy eyes, the whine in your voice as you cried/begged/pleaded. You kept thinking, “How could someone who loves me do this to me? What did I do wrong? What happened? How did we get this far from those early days?”
When things are good, you block things out. Delete them. You think you’ve gotten past what you did.
But he returns to that way. Always.
You know he’ll never change. You think you’ll never leave.
But then somehow you do. You’ve gone back before – but then you stay away. You get over him. You heal.
Sometimes you think about the good times. And he still misses you – you know that. You think you could be married, maybe have a kid or two, started that café you always dreamed about together, or maybe backpacked around the world together.
But then you remember those nights. You remember your face pushed against the car window. You remember the threats. Thinking you would die.
And you don’t call him. You keep him blocked on Facebook. You keep your distance. Because even though you know how sweet and wonderful it can be, there is a dark side, and it almost always returns.
Cheryl Yanek is a librarian and writer living in Brooklyn. She regularly blogs at World of Cherie, freelance write for Greenpointers and Thought Catalog, and tweets at @cherylkathleen. She is an internationally-ranked ultrarunner, and Race Director of the Burning Man Ultramarathon.