He looked down at his arms. They were covered in bruises. There was a long jagged cut running the length of his left arm, hidden behind fresh bandages. Thankfully, he didn't need stitches, but it was still going to hurt later when the pain meds wore off. His face hurt as well. New bruises covered the old ones. His nose hurt. His cheek hurt. His rib hurt. He was pretty well banged up. It was a bad night. He was exhausted and in pain. Not a good combination. He gingerly laid down on this back. If he was on his back, it didn't hurt too bad. He ran his hand through his uneven hair. He loved wearing his hair long, but now, it was cut in severe angles or pulled completely out. He would need to go to a hairstylist to see if it can be salvaged. He was happy once. How could he have not seen this? Why didn't he do anything earlier? Was he that stupid and blind? His eyes stung as tears started to flow. He turned over to his side and wept.
Five years ago, he was sitting at a cafe, drinking coffee and reading a book. He just started to grow out his hair. It wasn't long enough to be pulled back just yet. The day was beautiful. The sun was bright. The temperature was in the seventies and there was a slight breeze. It was perfect. Then she walked out of the cafe with a coffee in one hand and the same book he was reading in another. What were the odds? She noticed his book, then noticed him. She struck up a conversation about the book. A year later it turned into a relationship.
They were happy. Things progressed to a point where he fell in love and she asked him to move in with her. He agreed. At first, everything was perfect. The would go to work. Come home. One of them would cook dinner. They would hang out and watch TV together then go to bed. But then, things started to change.
It started out with small things. She had to have the bed a certain way. She had to have certain foods cooked in a certain way. She didn't like the way he wore his shirts or didn't like a color of a tie. Then the names started. She wanted new furniture. At the time, his furniture was in storage and hers was used to in their apartment. He wanted to move into a bigger place so they could stop paying for a storage unit. She refused. She wanted new furniture. She whined and cried, then raged, calling him stupid and mean for not getting her new furniture. He relented and they spent a couple of thousand dollars to get new furniture for every room. She then bullied him into getting rid of his furniture to recoup some of the money. Since that moment, every time she wanted something she bullied him into getting it for her. They didn't use her money. They used his.
Next was the paranoia. When he would work late, she would meet him at the door demanding to know who he was with and held out her hand for his phone. He wasn't allowed to have a passcode on his phone. He wasn't allowed to have any numbers of women unless she approved of them first. If he went out with his friends, she would call constantly to check in with him. If she went out, and he called her once, she accused him of being controlling. The arguments progressed to the point where she would blame him for her actions. She “wouldn't have called seven times if he had just picked up his phone the first time, the fight would have been avoided.” His clothes would go missing and replaced by outfits that she liked. She inspected his clothes when he came home to make sure he didn't “smell like other women”. She would always put him down, treat him like her own personal butler. If he said something about it, it would turn into a huge fight. He got to the point of staying silent. He didn't want to deal with the drama. He was miserable. This was not the woman he fell in love with. This was something else. He kept telling himself that maybe he was doing something wrong to make her unhappy but no matter what he did, it seemed to make things worse.
One day, it crossed the line. It was a rainy Saturday and she was already in a bad mood. It was the first of the month and all the bills needed to be paid. That left them with budgeted money until next payday. She wanted to go shopping for makeup, but there wasn't money for it. She cried. She screamed. She threw things. He moved closer to her to try to calm her. She punched him. In the face. He was so shocked he just stood there. She hit him again, this time in the abdomen, one punch after another. Then kicked him behind his knee, causing it to buckle. He fell hard, catching his ribs on the side of the coffee table. Later she came to him crying, asking him to forgive her. She promised it would never happen again—promised she would go to anger management. Swore up and down that she wasn't like that, just overwhelmed with work, bills, being an adult in general. She just let everything build up and she lost her temper. It would never happen again. But make sure to allot her spending money next time around.
It became a pattern. He knew it would never end, but he didn't know what to do. If he reported his girlfriend for abuse, the police would just laugh at him. Men don't get abused, women do. He tried to reach out to his friends, but they didn't believe him and called him weak. He was stuck. She became the “man” of the family, according to his friends. Eventually, he stopped asking. No one believed him. He was walking on eggshells with her every day. He never knew what mood he would come home to. Everything was on her schedule. He was at her beck-and-call. Even in the bedroom. She would, more often than not, force herself on him and make him do things that he was not comfortable doing. If he told her so, she would berate him then claim that he would do it if he loved her. It was a catch-22. If he did what she wanted, she was in a good mood and nice. If he didn't, all hell would break loose.
After four years, he accepted his role. He had tried to leave, but it didn't work. She found him and drug him back home. She reported him as a missing person who was mentally unstable and needed medication for paranoia. Spun a web of lies that made everyone think she was a saint for caring for him, never leaving his side through his sickness. When he was found, he tried to put up a fight, tried to explain what was going on, but it fell on deaf ears. She was far from it. She started staying after work later and later. She would come home drunk and smelling like a bar or smelling like sex. She was very protective of her phone. He suspected she was having an affair. When asked about it, she threw a fit and the abuse began. He needed to get out of there.
One day he came home from work to find her on the floor surrounded by wedding books and magazines. His stomach dropped. She was convinced that they were going to get married. She was starting to plan the wedding. This was enough. He couldn't deal with this type of psychosis. He pretended to be excited. She pointed out the ring that she wanted, at $15,000 investment from Tiffany's. The designer dress she wanted was another $5000. She wanted this and that, everything fairytale. He offered suggestions and colors and who to invite. He complimented on the style of bridesmaid dresses chose, even going so far and to tell her about heel coverings that are put onto the heel of a stiletto so the shoe doesn't sink in the grass causing the person to fall. He pretended to be invested in this idea. He even tossed around the idea of looking into buying a house. She was happy which meant she was not abusing him. But little did she know, a plan was put into place to quickly move him out of the apartment. He was in the bathroom at work, trying to clean a wound over top his fresh bruises, when one of his coworkers came out of a stall and gasped. He tried to quickly put down his shirt and make excuses about falling or some lame excuse. His coworker, Brad, placed a hand on his shoulder and asked if he was okay. Of course, he was okay. He was fine. Everything was fine. Brad didn't believe it. He explained that his brother was a victim of spousal abuse and he knew the signs.
“If you need to talk, you are safe with me. If you need to get out, I can help you. Male spousal abuse by their wives is a real thing. I believe you.”
He burst into tears. It was the first time anyone had believed him. He slid down the wall and made himself as small as possible. Brad told him it would be okay and that he would be right back. A few moments later, Brad came back with their boss, Rosette, who understood abuse all too well. They both sat down next to him. He couldn't hold it in any longer. Everything from the past four years came bubbling to the surface. He told them everything. It felt really good for someone to actually listen to him and actually believe him.
Two days later, they had a plan. A week later, he had a new apartment, new bank account, everything. His paychecks were rerouted to the new account. His name was taken off the lease, leaving her responsible for payments. His name was on all of the utilities. He worked with them to move them to his new place. He explained the situation and they were more than happy to help. He was completely cutting her off. Brad recommended that he contact a local lawyer to make sure she could not have him declared sick again. The lawyer suggested a psychological evaluation. He got one then filed it with the lawyer. He documented every bit of abuse and his coworkers confirmed that he, indeed, have bruising consistent with abuse. They also signed statements about her calling him constantly. They were able to pull the call logs on his office phone, the emails from their server, and even the call and text logs from his cell phone. It painted a very different picture of her.
Once he had all of his ducks in a row, he was ready to take everything to the police to press charges as well as filing and emergency protective order against her while he worked petitioning the court for a restraining order. Things were coming together. He was given information for counseling from Brad. He bought a burn phone for when it was time. He hid it in the bathroom. For the first time, he felt like he was treading water as opposed to drowning. Everything was ready.
She found out about the lease. The leasing office called her to confirm payment method and discovered what had happened. They weren't supposed to tell her until after he left the apartment. That was the rule. He needed to get to safety first, but the new hire didn't follow protocol. She burst through the door in a rage, demanding to know what was going on. He refused to speak to her. Violence ensued. By the time she calmed down, and began to apologize....again.... he was covered in cuts and bruises. She had grabbed a knife and started slashing about. She punched every spot she was able to reach. She swept his knee and grabbed handfuls of his hair, ripping it out or hacking it into uneven chunks. She managed to slice his arm.
She went to the bathroom and grabbed towels while begging him to forgive her, begging him not to leave. Threatening to kill herself if he did. He told her that he was going to go to the bathroom and to clean up. He promised her that the leasing agent made an error. He was asking about a bigger apartment until after the wedding when they can start looking at houses. They were going to need a bigger place because of all the stuff they would be getting from the wedding. Of course, he wasn't going to leave her. He loved her. He was even looking at fun places for a honeymoon to surprise her and was compiling a list. They could have a fun night looking up all the places to see where they wanted to go.
She believed it. He went to the bathroom and dug out the burn phone from behind the cabinet. He had hollowed out a small hole behind the actual cabinet. He turned it on and dialed the stored number.
“I am on my way,” said the voice, “call the other numbers. Don't say a word. Sniff your nose if she is there so we can prepare.”
He did as he was told.
“Alright, we will be there in a few minutes.”
He cleaned up the best he could. He wanted to leave some of it for the police to see. He left the bathroom and found her in the kitchen. She was making sandwiches for dinner. He grabbed a couple of glasses and napkins and put them on the dining room table. He wanted to appear as normal as possible. His heart was racing though. He was nervous and terrified. He was scared that he would accidentally give something away and she would go ballistic and seriously wound him. She brought the sandwiches over and they sat down to eat. He smiled and talked about honeymoon places.
Time seemed to stretch on. He was beginning to think they weren't coming. He knew better. This was part of the plan, but still....She was in the middle of explaining how she wanted a real diamond tiara to wear and how she found on for a good price when there was a knock at the door. She stood up to answer it. He took the opportunity to close the bedroom door and lock it. He just wanted to be safe.
The police were at the door. She told them it was a mistake. No one called the police. They stated they were here to arrest her for domestic violence. She laughed and called his name. He didn't answer. She called him again. It was then she noticed that he was not at the table. A police officer stepped between her and the bedroom door.
“Are you in there? It is okay to come out.”
He opened the door.
The officer gasped.
“Did she do that to you?”
She started to protest, denying the abuse. He nodded. She lunged at him, calling him horrible names, threatening to kill him and herself. She tried to grab him. She tried to hit him. She fought against the police. She managed to get free and tried to escape but met Brad and Rosette at the door. They managed to subdue her while the police slapped cuffs on her wrist. She screamed obscenities as she was carried to the police car.
He took a deep breath. It was over. It was like a large stone being lifted off his chest. If she tried to find him, she would be arrested. She kept at it, she would go to jail. He was free.
Two years later, he was sitting at a cafe, drinking a delicious coffee and reading a book. It was a beautiful day. Not too warm, sunny with a nice breeze. He looked up as another person sat down at the table. The guy took a sip of his drink, pulled out the same book, then looked up and smiled.
“Hey, that's a good book! What chapter are you on?”