The Moment

Winter 08/09

We were having seafood that night.

Sitting on the couch side by side, our TV trays meeting to combine into one, we were letting it blather on as background noise as we had yet another discussion about his parents.

Ethan: I can't believe that you would bring this up again. Haven't we talked about it enough? Maybe I'll eventually change my mind on my own, but you can't keep putting me in this position. You know how hard this would be for them, I don't think my mom could even take it! Why can't you just let it go?

Me: I'm sorry (with a guilty shrug). Don't you know - can't you see that every day that goes by, whether or not we actually talk about it, the fact that I know that you're hiding me from them hurts me? You're hurting me, every single day. You've said yourself that it's wrong for them to feel that way-

Ethan: Yes, it's wrong. Of course it is!

Me: -then why do you let them just get away with it? They think that after they made your life hell, or tried to, you just gave in and that we ended things. Knowing that I'm being hidden makes me feel dirty and like there's something wrong with me...

Ethan: Dammit! It's not about YOU! Why can't you see what a difficult position this puts me in?...

...and on and on, and back and forth. He wasn't going to give in. Neither was I. I couldn't! What was I supposed to do? Just be okay with never being accepted, and with my partner, the person who was supposed to be the one I turned to when in trouble, not even choosing to stick up for me to those who were dead-set against the relationship, more specifically against me as a person, for no reason other than this ridiculous one?

I sat and watched his face become more and more flushed as he continued to get angrier. I really, really wished that I could rise above this petty thing (at least, that's how I was being made to feel), but knowing that someone was ashamed to be with me, no matter
what the reason (of course he denied it), did a number on me. I couldn't take it. Sooner or later I brought it up and pleaded my case, always.

Soon the conversation turned into him yelling at me. I was still calm because I had a hotter boiling point than he did, but I was to reach it plenty of times throughout this fall and winter, just like I had when we were together before.

We kept arguing and it got more and more heated until he'd shoved his table out of the way and was doing his same triangular route through the apartment - to the window of the living room, into the dining room, down the short hall, back to the window. I was perched on the arm of the sofa next to the front door.

After staring at me with blazing eyes, all the while accusing me of being too hard on him, he picked up his shell cracker that we'd been using on the crab legs from the tray and hurled it across the room, where it hit the opposite wall, leaving a little dent in the tan surface, and bounced abruptly down to the carpet. He didn't miss a beat but kept pacing and yelling, occasionally towering over me and pointing into my face.

After the cracker hit the floor, I knew. I knew that this was that moment. My pain and anger was starting to turn into fear, and once that heavy piece of metal flew through the air, I knew. If it had me rather than the wall that had been hit, some real damage could have easily been done.

Everything started to move in slow motion.
Would he really hit me?
I don't think so.
I'm alone with him. Shouldn't I know that it won't happen?
....but I'm sure it won't.
But do I know that it won't?
I remembered when Dawn used to tell me about how it started with the children's father. First it was a sharp tone, then yelling, then moving around like this, throwing things, and after that was when the hitting started.

I had a firm belief that in any relationship that goes abusive, there's always that moment. The one where you can, with every woman's common sense, see what can happen, and see that it's likely to. Anger is one thing. Explosive and dangerous anger is on an entirely different level. From hearing others' stories over the years (not to mention by remembering my crazy experiences with the Emporia strangler), I knew that this turning point was always there, if you had the wherewithal to see it.

The knowledge broke over me like a wave that this was that moment. Maybe he wouldn't hit me. But if he did, I'd never be able to honestly say to myself later that I hadn't known it could happen.

Shouldn't that be enough? Shouldn't this knowledge alone make me just leave?
....but what if he doesn't ever do it...
But what if he does? Just go!

I didn't say a word. Honestly (I probably wouldn't have admitted it at the time), I was afraid to tell him of my fear. Telling him that I thought he might hurt me may have sent him right over the top, judging from how he'd acted before when I'd brought up the "a" word (abuse, that is).

I looked around (as he was still yelling in slow motion) and saw my black Reefs sitting by the door. I slid them on and unlocked the door.

Now everything was suddenly silent. I didn't look over my shoulder to see what he was doing, I just left.

I didn't want him to follow me so I walked the opposite direction from where we were both parked, and where I thought he'd assume I'd gone. I didn't have my truck keys so I couldn't go anywhere anyway, and if I had had my keys, I don't know that I would have left. I was still in that in-between stage where I wasn't strong enough to really GO, but I wasn't okay with fooling myself enough to stay.

It was 10:30 at night and the sky was dark. It was chilly outside and I was only wearing capris and a thin shirt. I knew that before long I'd be pretty cold. Even though it was Florida and sizzling during the day, the nights could get clammy and unpleasant, downright excruciating for me because of my natural nonexistent tolerance for cold.

I walked towards the other side of the complex. The complex was pretty big and I went back into a side parking lot, and sat on a tree stump for awhile.

Some time passed.

I heard the night sounds around me. We were far enough from the busy part of Gainesville to not hear traffic and the like, but not far enough to escape the light pollution. I wished I could see more stars.

More minutes ticked by.

I hunched over my legs and wrapped my hands around my toes under the flip flop straps. I was pretty cold. I could see a faint fog when I exhaled, and dew droplets were forming on my hair.

I expected to see him at any moment. After more time, I wished that I would see him. If a man loves you, if a man wouldn't hurt you, knows that you're alone outside in the dark and afraid, wouldn't he come to get you?

Surely he'll show up sooner or later.

20 more minutes passed.

I moved down to the curb.

After another half hour, I walked a bit to warm up and sat on a hill of a median in the center of my corner parking lot. A street light was shining above me and I could see a cloud of tiny insects around it.

I felt so alone. I was so cold.

I stood up and started to slowly walk back to the apartment.


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