The room is dim with the sun just barely peeking through the curtains. My coffee is stale and cold, but I take a sip anyway. I quiver the moment my lips touch the edge of the cup, the cut burns on impact and I quickly pull away. You sit on the other side of the table, staring at my every move. What will I do next, where will I go, who will I call? I sit and stare into my coffee for any movement may erupt the volcano inside.
“I’m sorry,” you say with a flicker of pity in your voice, “I didn’t mean too.”
To what? Make me cry? Make me bleed? Make me bruise? What didn’t you mean? I scream on the inside. I look up to see your blood stained shirt and distempered eyes looking deep into my soul. You’re not sorry. If you were sorry you wouldn’t have hurt me. You wouldn’t have touched me. You wouldn’t have beaten me. If you were sorry you would have walked away.
I take another sip of my stale coffee. My mind is riddled with guilt. What if, plagues the deepest crevices of my soul, looking for a reason that this is my fault. That your fist on my face was truly my fault. But I can’t find the answer, it’s housed within you, a place I no longer want to belong.
“Please say something,” you say as you take a bite out of your breakfast. I look up and give a gentle smile, but the cuts tear a little deeper and the bruises throb a little harder. The sparkle in my eye is gone, the flame of love has been snuffed out and you sit there eating as if nothing has changed.
I analyze your movements, your body language doesn’t match the record your voice is playing. I can’t figure you out anymore. I take another sip of coffee as you scrape your plate clean. I wish you would choke, so you can feel the suffocation you have given me. You toss your fork onto your plate and I jump at the sound, you sit there staring at my uneasiness as if you don’t know how to react. I look at you, take a deep breath and stare back down into my emptying cup of coffee. I’ve become submissive to you, to your higher power.
“I love you,” you say as if your few choice words will fix the brokenness that is now my soul.
I take your plate and put it into the sink with my cup. I hold onto the sink as your glare burns into my back. I see my reflection in the stainless steel, the bloodstains that match your shirt plaster my hair. The water feels warm like the first squirt of red liquid from my face. I have to close my eyes to drift off into a different world, to do the mundane things I could do just yesterday.
“You don’t love me?” I hear as you wrap your arms around me. I freeze, am I to answer this or did I say it out loud? I replay the last few seconds, looking for my error, your trigger. I find hopelessness, pain and fear. You squeeze a little harder and I drop the plate. I wince at my mistake.
“I’m sorry,” you say as you feel my body shaking under your grasp. You let go, the burning of your eyes fade from my back. I can breathe as your soft footsteps leave the room. I let out a small cry for relief and sorrow. You’re not sorry, if you were sorry you wouldn’t have hurt me. You wouldn’t have made me cry. You wouldn’t have hit me.
How could I pass this off? To let someone else into the depth of the dynamics that are us. This isn’t the first, but this was the worst. I have to devise a plan, to make an excuse, to give you the power of my image. I boil inside thinking of how you have changed me. You changed me in front of friends, family, and even co-workers.
The door slams and I drop the plate you just ate off of. Your anger is building again. I should have answered you, I should have calmed you, but I can’t even calm myself. I would pay for this. Gingerly I pick the plate up, inspecting it with my soapy hands, one less piece of brokenness to repair. With a heavy sigh, I rinse it off, wishing the memories of last night could disappear down the drain just as easy.
I place the plate in the drying rack along with the mug and fork. I check the clock, I feel as though hours have passed since you woke, but it’s been only thirty minutes. Time has moved so slow and here I am in the exact same state I was last night. You slept in our bed, while I curled on the couch. My eyes wide awake, my ears listening for each hint of movement. I’m realizing that time is a funny thing, it is something that can be easily played with.
To leave this house, the place that hold he hurt is like freedom from all that is a disaster. I have time; time to remember, time to forget, time to come up with a cover up. My shame lingers, it would be like a bandage being ripped off with each lingering look. What will people think? What will people say? Could a shower simply just wash this all away? With each precise foot step, I walk past the abandoned space on the shelf where the vase once was, where the books are now back in their home, and up the stairs. The hole in the wall levels with my chest, the blood smeared across the wall. The door you slammed shut is now hanging by one hinge. The light bulb flickers as I make my way down the hall towards our bedroom.
Your bloodstained shirt lays on the floor next to the hamper, a warning for me. A statement you felt you would leave behind as if your marks were not enough. I bend down, scooping up your silent reminder and toss it into the hamper along with my own.
I can’t look in the mirror, my image changed too much. The water is hot as if it alone was trying to take away the strife that seeps from my soul. I watch as the water goes from red to clear, your marks won’t last this time. I could have fought you off. I could have hurt you too. I could have put you through the wall. But I was taught differently. I was taught to use my words, words you ignored. I was taught to treat you with respect, respect you diminished. I was taught to love unconditionally, something you like to test.
The water turned cold and I became numb. My emotions were nothing, my lessons were wasted, my love unwanted. I turned the shower off and stepped out into the cool air. My body ached as the cold air hit my skin. Goosebumps rippled my skin as I wrapped a towel around. I had to look, I had to see the damage. I had to come up with a reason. With my eyes closed, I made my way towards the mirror, I was starting new again, this time what would be the story?
With a heavy breath, I opened my eyes. A gash in my head, my lip split open, the chunk of skin missing above my eye. My skin was rough and tender like the piece of meat we were to have for dinner. This is what you have brought me to be. A person who has little dignity. There was no excuse, there was no story.
You took my masculinity.
Statistics show between about 1 in 6 men suffer from domestic violence. However, it’s rarely talked about. Here are some resources to help you learn more.