|PHOTO: Claire Magazine
I wanted the man gone by the time my husband got back. I wanted to get rid of him. I sat stiffly darting my eyes to the direction of gents. The man leaned forward, way too close, and grasped my hand. I pulled my hand away, but he was not giving up. He wanted to kiss me…
“Get your hands off her.” My husband stood behind me. “That is my wife you piece of sh*t.”
The man was shorter, smaller, lighter – an anorexic version of my husband in some other life, a lifetime ago. Simon is muscular, bigger than most men. His rage is off the rocker.
The two men faced each other, Simon’s eyes glinting murder. Oh God, don’t let this happen, I prayed. He took a step towards the man, and I shrank against the wall. No one had ever fought over me before, but when I saw Simon’s hand swing I was sickened instead of being flattered.
“Whore,” Simon screamed at me. “You let him touch you.”
Peace was anything I wanted at the moment, but I did not know the price.
“Asking for it,” he said. “Look at you. Dressed like a whore.” His eyes went up and down my entire body. I felt my short skirt that I had worn for our dinner night shrink even more.
I looked straight ahead but seeing nothing. I wondered whether he had fought for me or for his ego. I tried to smile, to lighten the moment. I knew this time. My safety hinged on how I handled him.
“Simon, you can’t possibly believe I let him…” He took a step closer and grabbed my arm.
For a moment I considered what might happen. He had promised he will never lay a hand on me again.
“No, because I’d kill you before I think of anything else.”
The air in the room grew heavy. I tried to breath but it came in slow gasps. I started backing away.
“Simon,” I started saying. “I love you. I love only you…”
“Love,” he exploded, his eyes darkening and face contorting to a mask of something I recognized as danger. “You keep on saying that yet your hands are all over other men. You are a whore…”
“For how long are you going to accuse me of whoring around before you realize it is only you whom I love…?” I was getting worked up too.
But I did not see it coming. I felt his hands on my shoulders shortly before he threw me heavily on the floor. Even as I rolled from him I could feel his shoes kicking at my sides and back, the fists he had swung not long ago on the man who had approached me at the restaurant pounding on me, striking me across the side of my head.
When it stopped, blood was running from my ears. I couldn’t hear well. My nose bled profusely, and I could feel hillocks on my face. My right eye was throbbing, slowly closing.
My whole body felt like it had been run over by a truck.
I stared at nothing in particular, frozen in time. Simon reached for me, what he always did afterwards, and I cringed. I pulled myself up and looked around: the floor was puddled with my blood. Did I bleed all that? But before I knew it I realized what had happened – I had lost another baby.
I did not know I was crying until I felt the cold tears trickle down my cheeks. I didn’t cry when it happened. At least not with Simon’s knowledge. I couldn’t give him the satisfaction, though he knew I cried all the same.
I hauled myself up. The blood running from between my legs made a trail down my legs. At that moment the truth that I had been avoiding smiled at me: that life for me would forever hang precariously on the cord of fear. That I would let Simon hurt me over and over and if I happen to get that kid he keeps on killing, the kid would watch him hurt me, and if it is a son he might grow to be just like his father.
When Simon tried to help me, I pushed him away. On shaky legs I stood up, walked across the room and opened the front door. I was not just leaving. I was going for my freedom.
As I closed the door behind me, I realized one thing: I had left before, but he came for me with tears in his bloodshot eyes. I could leave him and never be free. To truly make my leaving worth the while, I was going to make him suffer the way he had made me.
I never would have endured all that if there weren’t something else getting in the way – love. I used to believe he would keep his promises that it would never happen again. He promised, I would say, one more time and if he does it again I will go.
I tried not to think of it as leaving my husband, my marriage; instead I imagined I could change him, be there for him. I didn’t let myself think about it any more than that. It was my constant hope it wouldn’t happen again.
After I left, I blacked out just outside the house. When I came to, everything was white around me. The ceiling, the light. There were wires attached to my scalp at the central and occipital portions of the head. I had tubes inserted in my nose and mouth, and wires ran from my chin, chest, abdomen and other parts. I felt like a tiny fly caught up in a suffocating web, as though I had to be reminded I was alive in spite of it all.
When I tried to move I realized I couldn’t command any muscle to. My head felt heavy, as though I had a kaffiyeh tied round it like al-Haji. And that’s when I saw you. You were looking at me as though I was an apparition. Then you loomed over me to do your doctor thing.
I liked the way you looked at me. I knew you would do all you can to save me, even take me in. I knew it even before you smiled at me when I roused. So I just let you take care of me, let you do what had never been done to me in my whole adult life.
You could be always away doing what you love, saving other lives, but you have never been away from me. You wrap me in your arms, and tuck me in bed like a baby and when I curl under the sheets I feel protected.
I open the door for you before you have a chance to knock. There is nowhere else you’d rather be, it is as if you long all day long to be home. It feels as if you are a piece that had been missing to complete the puzzle, and when you run your hands gently over my back, my ribs, my hips, hesitating at the spots where I have been bruised, my temperature rises.
You look at me, and I stare back at you, my eyes asking what you have been telling me not to. In your embrace you give me the beat of your heart to measure time. Vengeance is an inferno in me. You think I shouldn’t.
“Lia,” you whisper into my hair. “I will help you.” Outside, an owl sobs. I’m all yours, I tell myself, when I’m done destroying Simon.