I wonder how many other people ponder things like this when they should be sleeping. For me it makes sense. After all, I am a thinking woman, awake last night at 3 a.m. analyzing things so many people will never even spend a fraction of a second trying to reconcile. Last night’s consideration is not so abstract, however. For I found myself appreciating the set of circumstances that led me to leave that sunny and chilly December morning almost eight months ago.
At first, I was like a deer in the headlights: scared and having absolutely no idea what direction I should go. I just knew that I had to get out. There was no planning for what came after. I felt a shroud of loss, defeat, and finality wrap around me as I pulled the door closed behind me. As the key turned in the lock, I sighed heavily. What do I do now that I have nothing? Is this what I really have to do to escape this monster? Once I do this, I am not coming back — for anything.
I hesitated for a moment at the top of the stairs, and as my hand lifted off the banister and I walked down the stairs, I cut my losses and accepted the fact that everything I now owned on this earth was this androgynous outfit he forced me to wear, and the disheveled contents of my purse. When I stepped off the last tread on onto the creaky wooden floor, I turned and looked back, hoping he wasn’t watching. He was not there.
Still feeling tense and unsettled from the last ten hours of abuse I will ever have to suffer, I said a prayer and opened the entry door. The bright sun and birds singing in the tree in front of the porch made the chill in the air a surprise. It was a beautiful December morning, and the gargoyle standing in the living room window watching me with shifty eyes was unaware that he was about to see me walking away from the apartment house for the last time.
Saying that I had nothing at that point was true and untrue at the same time. By my estimation, I escaped with everything that I needed: my life and hope. And fortunately in my case, even with no possessions, I had my job. I do have to acknowledge the fact that this was only the case because, when faced with my unemployment soon to come to a close, Kevin pressed me to work. He wasn’t ready for the free money to end, nor did he want me out of his sight. His appetite for drugs won out over the control, and I was given an eight hour reprieve from him five days a week. Had he allowed me any breathing room, I would have brought my financial documents to work and locked them in the bottom drawer of my desk, but he had exclusive control over all aspects of finances. I was just expected to hand over the money, and when I resisted every time, I was duly punished.
I say my being allowed to work was fortunate, because for so many being abused, this is not the case. They are held hostage within the walls of their home and to be able to work is a lifeline they are denied. The abusers know that their victim will eventually seek to use this as a means of escape, as I did. I believe in my case that it was a blessing to be with an out-of-control addict at this point, because he was so desperate for more money to get high, he was willing to let me escape the confines of my prison to get it for him. Even with this escape, it was still incredibly difficult to get away from him. He had ridiculously focused radar to pick up any change in my thinking. Kevin knew when I was thinking about leaving him, and every time he tightened up the choke hold at just the right moment, all without me revealing nothing to him. But that morning I left, he was so unstable and focused in his actions, I believe I could have done just about anything and he would have been blind to it. His anger would get so out of control that he would “black out,” as he calls it. I remember stories he told me of the things he “woke up” to doing to the mother of his children. By the simple rule of logic, she should also be dead several times over. We were both saved all those times because something snapped him back to reality at just the right moment.
Despite the innumerable times I explained to people why I was okay to be broke, carless, staying with others, and pretty much owning nothing, so many of them chose to focus on the objects that I left behind, and they relentlessly pushed me and tried to bully me into going back to that place of torment to get it. I wanted no part of this. They were things. How could anyone view these to be so important? Did they already forget the danger I fled? How was my life debased to be equal with replaceable material possessions? I had to remind them that had Kevin killed me — and he would have killed me — that they could not resurrect me from the dead. But I could go to any store at any time and buy plenty more things.
Let us not forget that everything I had owned was tainted with violent memories of varying degree. Never again did I want to lie down to sleep at night and be reminded of all the times he dragged me across the bed by my hair, onto the floor, and across the room to a corner where he could pummel me with wanton abandon. Never again did I want to look at the drawers he had his clothes in, the same drawers that doubled as hiding spots for paraphernalia, and be reminded of all the punishments I received for throwing out his tools and flushing broken pieces of rock down the toilet. The knives he would threaten me with and ultimately almost used on me. The makeup I had to buy in an attempt to cover the black eyes. I wanted to wash my hands of it all and be done. I wanted to start from zero. My parents went back against my wishes and got what was left when Kevin was evicted in April. It still sits out in the storage barn. I have not looked at it since December 14th, and I will never set my eyes upon it again. It can rot there. They can burn it, bury it, sell it, use it for target practice, give it away. I will not mourn it. I will not miss it. It is just a pile of some things I used to own once.
So I walked away, owning nothing, and I had no money until the next week. While I was completely neurotic and scared for my life, there was a sense of relief on some levels, because from this point on, I could live without him hovering over me waiting to pounce. And it would take a while, but I would rebuild my life again. I could confront my faults and fix them, and I could work on beginning the tedious job of erasing his voice from my head. The complete and absolute freedom from him and the fact that I am alive is worth more than anything on this earth. There are no possessions in any amount that can compensate for that or be able to achieve the same peace of mind.
I may have atrocious credit, a mountain of debt, and a long road ahead of me before I can be completely self-sufficient, but I am alive. I am alive and well, I am baptized, I have friends, a social life. I can go into a store and buy whatever I please. I can leave the house wearing makeup, jewelry, and dress clothes with my hair done and not worry about what punishments will befall me later. But most importantly, I have my life, my freedom, and love. I spend most of my time smiling and laughing, not crying or pleading with an uncaring monster to spare my life. Not dodging punches and slaps or things being thrown at me.
And that sense of peace is not a thing you can put a price on. So starting over at zero is not a loss. It is a blessing and yet one more chapter in the story of a girl.