By the summer of 2010, thanks to the battering my legs had taken, conditions were ripe for one of the only abuser-sanctioned trips to the doctor I was allowed to make in connection with injuries he inflicted. It is important to note that this treatment was not being sought immediately after the damage was caused as a means to give me any type of comfort or lessen damage that would come as a result of improper healing. He allowed this only after all the swelling and bruises from the impacts of the board, his fists, feet, elbows, and his trademark metal bar had taken their toll. He did this, because he thought it was a way to get rid of the evidence on the outside that he had in fact done something to me that repeatedly caused me great pain and discomfort. It was to help him forget, a way for it to slip his mind so it did not have to acknowledged as being reality. It was done because he thought the resulting damage was unsightly, hideous, unattractive to set his eyes upon. Displeasing, grotesque, and abhorrent to see, trying to minimize the scarring of tissue, although convenient for him to point out when he wanted to let me know how truly flawed, ugly, and vile I was.
What prompted this visit to a doctor was the vein on my left leg that had become severely misshapen, vulgarly prominent, and extremely painful to tolerate on a good day. It wasn’t that he caused it to appear, because circulation issues are hereditary in my family and the vein had already gotten a start on its own, bolstered by my tenure in retail. Standing on your feet for long hours for so many days of so many years, especially when there is family history, pretty much means that varicose and spider veins are an inevitable part of life. I had a few small groups of spider veins here and there from injuries… like the cast iron cat (don’t ask) falling on my left shin at a job, an old car accident, etc… but it was not anything at this point in my life that was unsightly. All it takes is one disgustingly hateful person to change that. Just one person set on causing you great harm. And when they are this willful, they generally succeed.
Kevin had the mind-boggling ability to take all the energy pent-up in his body and send it in a focused path straight out his unusually large hands. He also was very adept at scrutinizing things and people for weak spots that he could later exploit to his liking, exclusively to the other’s detriment. Imagine his delight to see this issue he would end up writing off as the scapegoat every time he caused a hefty amount of damage. Before he got the idea to start using objects on me as weapons, he would simply aim his fist at the vein. The concentration overflowed in his eyes as seemingly every last ounce of physical energy came out full throttle as it impacted my leg, and he never failed to hit the same place every single time he hit it. Unfortunately, he soon discovered that if he hit me one too many times or sufficiently hard enough the first time, it also caused him discomfort. This was when he took up the weapon: his metal bar. He developed a liking for its efficiency at causing me physical pain and damage. It was a toy to him. My pain was an amusement.
Somewhere in the middle of his love affair with the metal bar, he decided to throw me into a glass table. He threw me so hard that I cannot tell you all the things I hit on my way down into the glass and metal. Somehow, my leg hitting the square end tables managed to break off the cherry veneer before bringing down the metal and glass set up with so much noise that everyone in the building (including those on the other side of the wall in the common kitchen area for the front of building) had to have heard it, if not also felt it. When I stood up, the stereo flying into the back of my head sent me toppling back over in the mangled heap of wood, glass, metal, and a pile of unknown objects.
As I have already discussed this a few times, I won’t go into much more detail other than to say that by the time this beating was over — a punishment for being in a store that he sent me to after work too long for his liking — the physical damage was not quite catastrophic, but close enough. I looked down at my leg as I hobbled away from him and saw an unknown piece of tubular metal jammed into the shin on my left leg. I vaguely remember pointing it out to him in between my bouts of dizziness and confusion, begging him to let me go to the hospital. I had only enough time before he came at me again to pull the metal out of my leg. As he slammed my head into the floor, he demanded to know my intentions. He thought I was going to out him, and he refused. He would just assume let me lie there and die than risk being exposed.
The months that followed were difficult for me to get through. My entire left leg was swollen and bruised for a long time after. This was the first time I showed an injury to someone. I pulled up my pant leg boldly at work and said, “Look what happened to my leg.” She winced as she looked and discovered that the bruise covered my entire shin and wrapped around the back like liquid falling over the edge of a table.
“It goes all the way up my leg.”
“Is that why you’re walking like that?”
“Yeah it kind of hurts. I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be walking on it, but I’m the only one working so, I don’t think I really have a choice”
“How did you do that?” I paused for a moment and looked her inquisitively. For a brief second, I considered telling her everything that happened. When she raised her eyebrow at me in mild impatience, I gave her a lie for an answer.
This wasn’t exactly a lie so much as I omitted the other 99.99% of the story. I neglected to tell her that was hurled into the tables the first time I fell and that the second time I was brought down by a stereo to the back of the head. I am pretty sure she would not have known how to react had I told her the truth. People usually get caught in a trance, like a deer in the headlights, when they hear something that horrifying. The first reaction is one of disbelief.
In the months that followed, I was unusually intolerable to Kevin. I was short with him, I snapped at him, I lectured him about the pain I was in and the lack of concern that he was stealing the money from my paychecks to run the streets while I went to work day in and day out, week after week, further busting up my legs for him to get some rock. The only thing it did was give him another excuse. When I nagged him about running around the streets, he blamed me, saying that if he didn’t have someone so terribly hideous at home, he wouldn’t have to.
As the months wore on, so did his increasingly proficiency at aiming at the worst spots on my leg that were left over from the beating several months before. After a few evictions, once he saw how bad the neurological trauma was on my legs, he said I should get it taken care of, but not really in such a kind way. It went more like this.
“That (in reference to the wildly bulging and freakishly contorted vein on my left leg) needs to go. It’s hideous. I don’t even want to look at it.”
Many people in my position would have learned by now that the way to sustain the least amount of pain is comply and keep otherwise silent. I have come to the conclusion that sometimes, I can be slow in this regard. Or maybe I had become tired of walking on eggshells in futility.
“It wouldn’t look like that if it wasn’t for you. Maybe you should just not look it. Make believe it never happened. Like you do with everything else, including your children.”
Ooops. What did Hatsumomo say to Sayuri (Chiyo) in “Memoirs of a Geisha,” when she made her debut as maiko? Ah, “Sometimes the smartest remark is silence.” As you may have guessed, I was feeling particularly gutsy that day. Maybe I no longer cared what I slipped and said, because when it came down to it, every thing I did and said eventually earned me a punishment. All he needed was a long enough period of time to scrutinize it, and he would come back with (sometimes up to a week later), “Hey the other day when you…” and then the ensuing argument turned into much more than words.
To get a consult with a specialist, I had to first go through my regular doctor. Of course, trying to appear to others as though he cared about the state of my health (even though I know he was babysitting), he insisted on going to the appointments with me. Which included going into the examination room. When the PA asked why I was there, I told her I had problems with my legs. I was used to keeping things non-specific, because otherwise I might say too much about what was really going on. (I always wondered what he would have done if I did that in front of him. Curious.) Then he opened his mouth and went into this long explanation about heredity, the job I worked, and it was just causing too much being up on my feet.
She looked up at me as if over glasses that did not exist. “I don’t like the way that looks. Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Yes, sometimes more than others.”
“We need to get that taken care of. It looks like if you hit it hard enough it could rupture.”
I looked at Kevin with one of those looks that could not be mistaken for anything else other than loathing. He immediately shot back a “you better watch it” look, and I shrugged. The PA was too busy scrawling something in her notes and missed the exchange. She was so concerned about the condition of the vein, in fact, that she actually went out, made a call to the vascular surgeon discussing how to make the referral notes say that my reason for coming was not elective (out of vanity) but at that point necessity.
It goes without saying that once my consultation appointment with the vascular surgeon came, Kevin immediately asserted himself and insisted upon going. Again, not out of concern for me, but for himself. As the doctor asked what seemed like a million questions, he began speaking for me. Annoyance splashed over the doctor’s face.
She looked straight at me after doing a brief inspection of my legs by eye and said, “Have you had any neurological trauma?”
“I work retail. That’s pretty much it.”
“Well your mom told me you would be coming. Heredity is one thing, but this is another. I will ask you again. Are you sure you have not had any neurological trauma recently? A bad fall, a sports injury?”
I blinked. “Do I look like I play sports?” The observant ones will notice I did not address “the bad fall.”
She wasn’t amused. “This is not normal.”
Kevin shifted in his seat. Out of the corner of my eye, as he watched my reactions intently, I saw her standing on the other side of the room, watching us. I immediately cracked a joke at him to hide the tension, and she turned away.
“We need to do an ultrasound of her legs. There will be several of us in here, so you will need to sit in the waiting room.”
She did the ultrasounds over several appointments, in additions to dozens upon dozens of pictures. Feeling comfortable enough that I wasn’t going to rat him out, he let me go to the appointments alone, but I was to call him when I got to the office from their phone and again when I was leaving. When they started doing the different treatments, he began showing up with me to the doctor’s again, because he didn’t believe that there was any reason I should be there so long for my appointments. Once he was witness to the endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) sessions and the amount of preparation it took to insert the straightening rods after using local anesthetics at the insertion points, he again backed off.
His first words each time I arrived home were, “That’s going to leave more scarring. Maybe she shouldn’t do that.” After being jabbed with needles, threaded with tubing and metal rods, having the laser inserted in the tubes and my veins zapped, I was not in the mood. Once they moved to the sclerotherapy, a treatment for spider veins where they inject liquid into the veins and it closes them off, minimizing their appearance, I was even more annoyed by his presence. They saved the vein stripping for last, because she was hoping that the laser treatments would help the varicose vein on my left leg, but it did not.
While doing the next round of ultrasounds and pictures on my legs, she discovered a walnut-sized lump in my right thigh. She pressed on it, and I winced.
“Yeah… hence the ‘ow!'”
Truthfully it had been bothering me for a long time, but I had just learned to tolerate it as best I could. It was just one more souvenir from him. She eyed me suspiciously when I told her that wasn’t the only one I had, but it was the one that gave me the most trouble. So like a lab rat, she had me point out all the places I knew they were: one on my right arm, the painful one on my right thigh, one a little higher on the same leg, two on the left leg, and two about three inches apart on my lower back where he had kicked me. They hurt as well, but I opted to not tell her this. By now I had my fill of being poked and prodded at, but it was far from over.
“We’re going to remove the one in your right thigh and send it in to be biopsied.”
“It’s fine.” I grunted, but she continued.
“Furthermore, I see you have a varicose vein wrapping around your right knee. We will be taking that out as well. So what we need to decide is how you want it done.”
“All at once. Why string it out? I’m tired of having my legs wrapped up like a mummy.”
“Well you do have someone to help you out around the house, so does it really matter?”
And here I almost spilled it. “That implies the person there is willing to help, right?”
She growled. “You can’t be up on your legs immediately after the treatments or it won’t work.”
“Tell him that. He has been having me do things as normal.”
“Like what?” She sat with her arms folded, glaring, but not at me.
“Oh, cooking, dishes, laundry (which I neglected to tell her that I had to stand at a sink for several hours at a time washing and rinsing and tearing my hands open trying my best to wring them out), vacuuming. You know, normal.”
As the situation worked out, he had come to that appointment but was waiting in the common waiting area outside. She had the nurse run out and lead him back in. He tried the best he could to sit and appear like he was listening intently.
Staring Kevin down, she said, “She cannot be up on her feet for at least a few days after I do this. This means no cooking, cleaning, laundry, and no stairs! Can you make sure she does this?”
“Of course, doctor! She gets stubborn sometimes, but I will set up a place on the couch.”
I rolled my eyes.
Because I had grown tired of being jabbed, stabbed, poked, prodded threaded with tubes and lasers, zapped, and cut into while I was awake, I put my foot down.
“Look, I’m not doing this all while I am awake. Knock me out.”
“That isn’t necessary.”
“I said…. I’m not doing this while I am awake. I am tired of being poked and jabbed, so you can do it while I am asleep.” “
Okay, we will have the nurses’ assistant get you scheduled at day surgery.”
When I came to in the recovery room, he was in there hovering with my mother, trying to act like he cared. But I knew what was going to happen when we left. I faked being too drowsy to leave for as long as I possibly could. I was not looking forward to being alone with him. When we got home, he immediately had me do the dishes and clean up the downstairs. With his butt propped on the notebook talking to whichever of his dozens of women online, I was left to set up my own space on the couch.
He came downstairs and looked at me laying back on the couch.
“Are you waiting for someone to come by? Get your fat a** up the stairs! I got someone coming over.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Don’t talk back. Just do what I tell you.”
As I dragged myself up the stairs one leg at a time, the wrapping began to come unraveled, and he protested when I asked to him re-do it so it was tight enough. He saw a glimpse of my leg without the protruding range of vein tainting its purity, and he laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“Well, you’re still fat and slobby, but at least I don’t have to look at that nasty thing on your leg anymore. It’s a shame when what I got at home isn’t enough to keep me out of the streets.”
I looked up at him, now visibly agitated.
“Just go and smoke yourself into oblivion. Go on, go have a stroke. I don’t really care anymore as long as you aren’t around.”
“You better watch it. Or you’re going to end up in a wheelchair one day. Think I’m going to stick around for that?”
Aside from the obvious pain and difficulty that I cannot catch on film, here are some pictures of what corrected trauma from metal bars can look like.