It is with mixed emotions that I share this story with you all. I am equal parts ashamed and excited to reveal this part of my past. As you know, I am writing a book. My last post was titled “The Beginning” – and it is an account of the first abusive event in my relationship with my ex-husband. It seems fitting that I share “The End”. This event marks the ends of our relationship and the reason I got divorced. It’s also the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. It’s an important story to tell because it illustrates what happens to a relationship when it goes unchecked. Things escalated to this point over the course of four years. It got dangerous.
This is quite long, but a compelling read. Despite the horror, I have to admit, it makes for a good story. No car chases, unfortunately, but lots of tension. I found myself caught up in the moment during my last edit, heart racing, and no doubt you will be as well. I originally wrote this piece in December 2013, and have edited it several times. It’s written in the first person perspective because I wanted to capture the memory as if it were happening in real time. It’s more intense that way, and helped me remember more. I am remembering events that happened in June 2012, so this is as accurate as it can be. Also, as a warning, this is adult content. Discretion is advised.
My phone rings. It is my husband. I sigh, knowing I have been away from home too long. This is the annoyed phone call wondering where I am and what I am doing. I am with family. We are recovering from burying my uncle after months of watching cancer ravage his body. We are tired and taking comfort in one another.
I answer the phone and he asks me to come home. He knows I am with family. He apologizes, but I don’t believe it’s a genuine apology. My husband is far too selfish for genuine apologies. He sounds emotional and I know I need to go home. A crisis with my husband is not unusual, and I respond when he has them. I try to give him what he needs. Sometimes I react this way because I genuinely care. Most of the time, I respond because if I don’t, he’ll make me regret it.
I tell my family I have to go home because something is wrong with my husband. If they react, I pretend I don’t see it. I feel guilty for leaving, but nothing more can be done. It’s over. I must return to my regular life. That includes the duties of a wife: tend to your husband.
I am emotionally spent. I feel numb. I have nothing left in me – or so I think. I am wrong. I have one thing left: fear.
When I arrive home, my husband is standing outside waiting for me. It’s strange – he is in the yard and not on the deck, but I am too tired to wonder why. As I approach, I see he is smoking a cigarette. He looks upset and I wearily sit on the deck stairs. We don’t hug or kiss in greeting. The warmth between us has been absent for a long time.
He asks me how I am feeling. I feel tired, so that’s what I tell him. I give him a thirty-second rundown of the funeral (which he did not attend). I know he is only asking how I feel to be polite, as a formality. He has something on his mind, and that’s why I’m here.
He launches into a dramatic story. His stories are always the same. They are always dramatic and he is always the victim. I have only been half-listening, but when I hear about the almost-fight, I start paying close attention to him. I watch him pace uneasily, the glazed look to his eyes, the minute changes in his facial expressions, and the sound of his voice. My husband is drunk.
Whatever sympathy I have drains away. My husband is drunk – again. I ask him how he got home. His truck is parked in our driveway. He seems disoriented because I have interrupted him. He comments that he drove home and continues with his story. I am no longer listening. I am thinking about how he drove drunk, after already having a DUI, a suspended driver’s license, and after having been arrested and gone to jail; I think about the many times I have yelled at him for continuously driving drunk – and he drove drunk. Again. Today.
He is still talking, but I am thinking. I am thinking I simply cannot believe we are having this conversation again. The last time he drove drunk, he ran his brand-new truck into a telephone pole. I am too tired to deal with this.
I tell him I don’t want to hear about his drama because all I care about is that he drove drunk. That is the only thing that matters to me in this moment. I tell him I am angry and too tired to deal with him tonight. I tell him we will talk about it in the morning.
My husband is not pleased. He tells me he is not drunk and I laugh. He thinks he can hide it, but there isn’t much a husband can hide from his wife. I’ve seen him drunk as many times as I’ve seen him sober, and I tell him that. He tells me I’m crazy. He is angry because I want to end the conversation. He starts telling me how supportive he has been the past few months, with my uncle dying, and I laugh at him again. This time it is a bitter laugh. He refused to go to the funeral with me today because he doesn’t like funerals. No one likes funerals. He’s a terrible husband.
I repeat that I do not want to talk to him tonight and that we will talk in the morning. I have to repeat myself a lot in our relationship. I walk through the house and he follows me, trying to continue our conversation. I tell him I want to go to sleep. I tell him how long a day it has been and that I want to talk in the morning. I tell him I don’t have it in me to talk to him right now and he is being insensitive.
He is angry. I am surprised at how little I care. Normally, by this point in the argument, I stop resisting him. It’s easier than holding my ground and has fewer consequences. Normally, I would stay up all night listening. I would try to fix his problems or make him feel better. Tonight, I am different. I am done.
I change into pajamas and turn off the bedroom light to go to sleep. My husband tells me he is taking a shower. I know this is a bad idea. Every time he gets drunk he thinks a shower will help sober him up, but it only makes him drunker. He doesn’t listen to me. He thinks it will help. He always thinks that, and he is always wrong.
I lie in bed and think about how miserable I feel. I don’t want to have to deal with this. It seems like my entire relationship has been one husband-crisis after another. I don’t know what I am supposed to do. The last time he drove drunk I told him if he did it again, I would leave him. I was not proud to make a threat, but I had tried every other rational argument. A threat was the last resort. Now that he’s done it again, I have to do something about it. I don’t really want to.
I finally start to relax. I am on the edge of sleep when I hear my husband calling my name from the bathroom. I ignore him and he yells my name louder. He pleads for me to sit with him. So far, he is following the same routine he always does when he drinks. Next, I will probably half-carry and half-drag him to bed. Recently, I have let him sleep wherever he lies. The last time was on the bathroom floor.
I continue to ignore him, so he yells even louder. I can’t fall asleep at this point. I walk into the bathroom to see him sitting on the toilet, naked. His head is in his hands, and when he looks up, his eyes are bloodshot. I have seen him this way many times. It’s a bathroom floor kind of night. I wonder if I will feel generous enough to get him a pillow or blanket after he passes out. I will probably just leave him wherever he ends up and hope he wakes up sore and cold. The thought almost makes me smile.
I tell him I am trying to sleep. He pleads with me to talk. He is on the verge of tears, it seems, but I have no patience for it. I tell him this and he pleads even harder. He is almost begging me to talk to him. I tell him to knock it off before leaving the room. I need a cigarette and a new life.
While I am outside smoking, my friend Eden sends me a text message to see if everything is okay. I tell her my husband is drunk and being difficult. I also tell her I might stay the night at her house. She only lives a few miles down the road. I have spent the night with her before. At this point, it’s easier to spend the night at Eden’s when things get hard at home.
I finish my cigarette and go inside to gather my things for an overnight stay. I hope my husband has passed out on the bathroom floor. I am surprised to see him dressed. He looks different from the man in the bathroom a few minutes ago. He has regained his composure and is alert. His eyes are still bloodshot, but he has stopped stumbling. He looks angry. He wants to know why I won’t talk to him. He tells me it wouldn’t be very much trouble to have a conversation. He doesn’t think it’s fair that I get to walk away whenever I want. I am slightly disturbed by my husband’s perception of what is fair in our relationship.
I tell him I am staying the night at Eden’s house and walk past him to get my duffel bag from the dressing room closet. He follows close behind. I suddenly wish I were with my dad. Thinking of my dad makes me compare him to my husband. The difference is so dramatic it hurts my heart. I wish my husband were more like my father. I would be so much happier.
I grab my duffel bag from the dressing room closet. When I turn to leave, my husband is leaning in the doorway, blocking my exit. He is six feet tall and two hundred pounds of solid muscle. I don’t see a way out without him moving. He tells me I am not leaving.
I reinforce that I am leaving. I tell him where I am going. I tell him when I will be back. He wants to talk. I don’t understand how I can be clearer. We have repeated the same few sentences over and over again for nearly an hour, but he still doesn’t get it. I insist I am leaving, gesturing with the duffel bag. He rips the bag out of my hands and throws it across the room.
I look at the duffel bag and look at him. I feel nervous. I ask him to move. He doesn’t move. I ask him to move again. He crosses his arms. I raise my voice and tell him to get out of my way. He leans slightly and I awkwardly squeeze through the space he created in the doorway, trying not to touch him. I walk to the basement door. He follows close behind.
I walk downstairs to the laundry room. He asks me what I am doing. I tell him, again, that I am staying with Eden tonight and I am getting clean clothing. He tells me I am not leaving. Again. This is starting to get old.
I grab a change of clothing and make my way back to the stairs. He blocks the staircase. Suddenly, I am reminded of our first fight. It was four years ago. He made me angry and I wanted to leave his apartment, but he backed me into a corner instead. I had to scream for his roommates to help me. He didn’t seem to mean any harm, but I made him promise to never do it again. Apparently, the message didn’t sink in. I am frustrated and shocked he would resort to trapping me after the promise he made.
I remind him of what happened four years ago during our first fight. It is obvious he doesn’t care. I tell him to move. He doesn’t. I move toward the stairs. He makes a counter-move to block my path. I am anxious and yell at him. I tell him he is holding me hostage. I tell him he is being abusive and he can’t keep me trapped in a basement. I tell him he is removing my free will. I make him say these same words aloud, thinking maybe if he says it himself he will snap out of it. He says all of this while looking me in the eye. It doesn’t seem to have an effect. He has a blank expression on his face. It scares me. I am running out of ideas and this is new territory for our relationship.
I push past him and run up the stairs. He runs up the stairs faster than me and gets to the door first. We bump into each other – it is a narrow staircase – and I almost fall down. I am able to wrench the door open and I walk through the kitchen, heading toward our bedroom. I need my car keys and a pair of shoes to leave.
Suddenly, I feel hands on my arms.
Then, I am in a new place.
I blink, once. I am confused. I saw the living room a minute ago. How did I end up on the other side of the kitchen, several yards from where I was just standing? Why is my back against the counter? I am disoriented. I realize he moved me here. He is screaming at me.
My husband has never been so angry that he dragged me across a room. He’s never even touched me while angry. He has never yelled at me like this. He has raised his voice and called me terrible names, but never like this. His screaming is indescribable. I’ve never heard any human being yell this loud. I am shocked and alarmed. I am crying. Crying isn’t even the word for it. It’s a hysterical sob – half crying and half moaning. I am acutely aware that I have never cried like this. I can hear myself, and I know I sound desperate and pleading. I can’t think of anything other than how afraid I am. I have assumed a defensive position. My shoulders are hunched and my head is lowered as if bracing for a blow.
He stands so close to me that saliva flies out of his mouth and lands on my face. He gestures wildly and points at me for emphasis. Because he is so close, when he points, his finger hits my shoulder. The physical contact makes me sob even harder. He is out of control and getting angrier as he yells. He isn’t calming down. I worry he will hit me. He is so angry that I am convinced he will hit me once and won’t be able to stop. I am sure he will beat me to death.
I realize I am begging for him to calm down. I hear myself say please again and again. I don’t know how long I have been begging. Begging is helping a little, or maybe he is tiring himself out, because he starts to calm down. He has backed away a step. Although he is still yelling, he has stopped screaming like a maniac.
I wonder how to proceed. I don’t know what to do. He looks like a rabid animal, or maybe a deranged person with a gun, like in a bank robbery. There’s always one bystander in a bank robbery that tries the gentle approach with the perpetrator. The brave soul uses a few kind words, a gentle tone, all the while slowly walking towards the perpetrator in an attempt to grab the gun. I don’t know why I am thinking about bank robberies, but it seems like the best route.
I slowly start to talk to him. I speak in a soft voice, almost a whisper. I tell him exactly what he wants to hear. I tell him I would love to talk to him, I love him, and everything will be okay. I tell him to calm down and to stop worrying. We will be fine. This seems to help. I am lying through my teeth, of course, but I think it is working. I try to sound genuine. I don’t want him to figure out I am lying. I need to relax him enough to allow me to leave the house. I briefly consider dropping to my knees and servicing him. I am willing to try anything to calm him. Maybe if I pleasure him, he will not beat me to death. After a moment of debate, I decide not to. It would be too obvious and might make him angrier.
I suggest to my husband, gently, that maybe we need space tonight – just tonight – and first thing in the morning we can talk about this. We are both so tired and everything will look better in the morning. We both just need some sleep. He was starting to calm down, but this was the wrong thing to say. He starts to get angry again.
I am next to the front door, barefoot. My keys are in the bedroom. We live in the middle of nowhere and I can’t make a run for it. I would never make it. I sidestep him and run to our bedroom. He is close on my heels. I barely make it and lock the door. He pounds on the door and yells for me to open it.
My hands are shaking and I can barely think. I gather my things and try to figure out my next move. I grab my phone and text Eden that things are out of control. Just as I send the message, he picks the lock and rushes in. He closes the door and locks it behind him. He strides towards me and grabs my phone. He texts Eden, pretending to be me, and tells her everything is fine and not to worry. I am immediately panicked. She is the only person who knows what is going on. I feel isolated.
My husband assumes a position in front of the bedroom door. The room is very small. There’s not a lot of room to move around the furniture. I am stuck between my side of the bed and the wall. On my husband’s side of the bed is a window, but I would have to jump over the bed to get to it. I start yelling at him, telling him to let me go. He yells back that all I have to do is talk to him and I’m not leaving.
I decide to try the window. I jump across the bed to the other side of the room. He rushes toward me. I am thankful that our bedroom windows are open as I punch out the screen. It’s a six-foot drop, onto an uneven slope, but I don’t care that I will probably sprain my ankle. I don’t even care that I’m not wearing any shoes. I’ll run anywhere. I have to escape. I have a better chance barefoot in the dark than in this room with him.
I have one leg out the window and I am getting ready to pull the other one through when his arms wrap around my waist and drag me back in. I kick and scream. He shuts the window and locks it. I run toward the door, but he jumps on the bed and off again right in front of me. Now the window is closed and the door is locked. There is no way out.
I begin to feel a sensation I have never felt before: true panic. It dawns on me that I will be stuck here for hours. No one can hear my screams and he will not see reason. I am a rat in a cage. He has my cell phone and car keys. He blocks my only exit. I have a bed on one side and a dresser on the other. I have very little space to move. It is my worst nightmare. Adrenaline pumps through my system.
I tell my husband I am scared. He is half-amused and half-irritated. Why would I need to be scared of him? He seems insulted. He doesn’t understand what he has done to me. I tell him I feel trapped. It activates my fight or flight response. I tell him I can either fight him or try to run. His eyes flash at the idea of me trying to fight him. He almost looks interested. His eyes say I dare you. It’s a pathetic option. He would take me out with one hit.
I tell him if I can’t get out, I will have a mental breakdown. I am not exaggerating. I tell him I will completely unravel into a comatose state. I tell him they will have to admit me to a psychiatric ward. I will recede so far into my mind they won’t know where to find me. It seems melodramatic, but I know it’s true. I can feel the tendrils of fear and panic wrapping around my nerves. It poisons me. I feel like I am dying. My breath is shallow and I speak rapidly. I am on the verge of a panic attack.
My husband doesn’t seem convinced.
I plead with him to let me go. I beg again and again. I promise I will come back in the morning. He won’t budge.
I feel anxious and my head feels cold. Everything is vibrating. I wonder what time it is. It must be late – around midnight. I try to calculate how much time I will be stuck in this room with him. How I could possibly survive it. The idea of being trapped until he passes out is terrifying. I don’t know what to do or what will happen next. I have never felt so afraid. I am seriously considering assuming a fetal position.
Suddenly, I have a moment of inspiration. A plan. I clutch this new idea and I know it is my only hope. I take a deep breath and try to calm down. I need to calm down. I only have one chance to get this right. I am sure if I slip up, this plan will never work.
I look my husband in the eye and tell him, calmly, that what is he doing is abusive. I tell him it doesn’t matter how long he keeps me here. Eventually he will fall asleep, and as soon as he does, I will call the police. They will come and arrest him for domestic violence.
If he lets me go right now I will not call the police. We can talk about it in the morning. We can pretend this night never happened.
My husband has an expressionless face. I think he is trying to figure out if I am bluffing. He probably thinks I am because I let him walk all over me. If he doesn’t think I’m bluffing, my plan will never work.
After a moment of consideration, he takes out his cell phone and tosses it on the bed. He crosses his arms and tells me to do it. He has a guarded expression, but he is challenging me.
I reach for the phone, carefully, afraid he will snatch it away at the last minute. This is my only lifeline. I dial 911. Before I connect the call, I warn him this is his last chance to let me go. Otherwise, I am calling the police. I ask him if he is sure he wants me to do this. He tells me to do it. I don’t know why he encourages me. I don’t want to do this, even though it means I will be safe. I know this will change everything. It hurts me to connect the call.
I hold the phone to my ear and hear a ring. My heart is pounding. I do not know what will happen next. Will he rip the phone away from my ear before a dispatcher picks up? He does nothing, only stands by the door, watching me carefully. A dispatcher picks up. She has a pleasant voice would like to know what the emergency is.
I immediately start crying and beg the dispatcher to send the police. I tell her my husband is holding me hostage and I am terrified. She asks me a series of questions about the situation. I am afraid to say anything besides yes or no, because he is watching and listening. The dispatcher must suspect this, because she asks me if he is in the room. I tell her yes. I am terrified he will run over and rip the phone away, but I remember that once dispatch picked up the call, they started to trace my location. I relax a little. They will come now, no matter what, and he knows it. He knows he cannot hurt me now.
My husband removes my phone and keys from his pockets and tosses them on our bed before leaving the room. I am frozen in place and I stare at the open doorway, willing him to stay away. I talk to the dispatcher. I realize, finally, that I can shut and lock the door. After doing this, I feel a little better.
The dispatcher is still asking questions. Is anyone under the influence? I tell her my husband is drunk. Are there any weapons in the home? I laugh bitterly. I tell her my husband is a former marine. Everything is a weapon. He is weapon. The dispatcher clarifies – she wants to know if there are guns or knives. I tell her no, but it offers me little comfort.
I pick up my phone and text Eden. I tell her to get to my house ASAP – emergency. My hands are shaking so badly I can barely type. I am crying and tell the dispatcher I am embarrassed because I am a nice girl. I come from a nice home. I feel like white trash having the police come to my house. The dispatcher tells me this sort of thing happens to all kinds of people – rich or poor. This makes me cry even harder.
She has finished asking questions, but I tell her I want to stay on the phone until the police arrive because I am afraid. It feels safer to stay on the phone. I look out the bedroom window toward the road. Every distant set of head lights make my heart pound. I am anxious for the police to arrive. I do not know where my husband is or what he is doing, but I am more afraid he has stopped bothering me. I don’t know why he stopped. After ten minutes, I see three cars pulling in. It’s a long country driveway, almost a mile long, and I am anxious for them to get here.
I tell the dispatcher the police have arrived, but I still want to stay on the phone with her until I am outside and standing next to a police officer. I carefully open the bedroom door and look around. The hallway is empty. I tiptoe down the hall, slowly, and peek into the living room. No one is there. I slowly walk through the living room and into the kitchen, but he is nowhere to be found. I walk outside and see him leaning against the porch railing, smoking a cigarette. I skirt by him nervously and walk to the driveway to greet one of the officers, thanking the dispatcher before hanging up.
I see Eden’s car pulling in and she rolls to a stop by the time I get to the officer. I notice, now that I am closer to the cars, that they are County Sheriffs. One of the Sheriffs greets me and I am immediately comforted by his size. He reminds me of a bear and has a gentle voice. He asks me what is wrong, but I want to wait until Eden gets to me. I need her standing next to me for support.
Eden approaches and I can see she is confused and furious. She will tell me, later, that when she saw the three cruisers pull into my driveway her heart almost stopped beating. She asks if I am okay and I give a tense nod.
The Sherriff asks for my first and last name to begin the statement. I give him my first name and pause before giving him my last name. I giggle. It is a slightly hysterical giggle because I have just remembered that it is my husband who attacked me and I am giving my married surname to a Sherriff. I feel like I must be dreaming. How did I get here? When I giggle, I can feel Eden and the Sherriff look at me nervously. I take a deep breath and try to behave appropriately.
I slowly tell him everything I can remember. I take my time and carefully include every detail the first time around. I do not want to do this again. I do not look at Eden, but I can feel her presence next to me. She becomes more and more agitated as I speak. Suddenly, there is a commotion on the porch. We turn to see two Sheriffs roughly escorting my husband to a cruiser. He yells at them and struggles. Each Sherriff has an arm and they are half-walking and half-dragging him across my front lawn. I can’t believe what I am seeing. How is he still so angry? Why would he treat a Sherriff with such disrespect? He will never learn.
After I finish my story, the Sheriff looks at his notes. He sighs. He tells me he wants to arrest my husband and charge him with domestic violence, but he needs my permission to do so. I beg him not to. He does not look impressed. I know what this looks like and I explain to the Sheriff that he does not need to worry. I’m not one of those women. My marriage is over, as far as I am concerned. But, a charge like this will haunt my husband for the rest of his life. I just want to escape my life – but I don’t want to destroy his in the process.
I ask the Sherriff if it would be okay to leave with Eden. He says yes and assures me they will keep my husband in the cruiser until I am off the property. I go back inside and gather a few things, including shoes. I also take his car keys so he won’t be able to drive drunk. Eden and I walk to her car. We are silent. I cannot bring myself to look in the direction of the cruiser that my husband is sitting in. Tomorrow I will end my marriage, but tonight I must rest.