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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Black and Blue

Warning: Personal stuff ahead.

Well, more personal than usual. It's kind of dark, actually. So if you're looking to read something of a lighter sort of fare, you might want to wait for another post.

Just figured I'd put that out there.


I received a phone call today.

She had been beaten, severely.

By someone who told her he loved her.

Who told her he'd never do it again.

Until he did.

And this time he outdid himself.

She can't see out of her Right eye, it's swollen shut.

She says the stitches -- the ones holding the gashes in her face shut -- are itching.

The cops took him away, he's up on two felony assault charges.

And all those dreams that he would talk with such bravado about? They're toast. That plan of going back to school and finally doing something with his life? Done. Any hope of having a stable, loving family of his own? Gone. At least with her.

And she.

She didn't see the attack coming. She doesn't know what 'she did' to spark it.

She's utterly shattered. She still loves him.

And it breaks my heart.

One of the strongest women I've ever known. This boisterous, beautiful, brilliant woman... whispers to me over the line, her voice still in shock. Yet her first thoughts are not for her, or the safety of their 3 month old child. It's her stating that she has to get him out; Has to protect him and his dreams so he doesn't rot away in jail. So that he's not swallowed up by the system.

Her thoughts are disjointed, scattered -- and then, like that, she's aware. And echoes of that familiar strength peek through, her voice stiffens, she tries to play it off. She says that everything's okay now.

And it's so obviously not.

I hear those tiny cracks of anguish in her voice and I weep. At work. On my cellphone, hiding my face from my co-workers.

I try to remind her that his actions do not speak of a man who deserves her loyalty or her mercy. That people who love one another do not beat on each other. They don't tear each other down with words.

They don't isolate and insulate and crush underfoot.

Biting back my rage, I work to stay calm and remind this amazing woman of those who love her, who will make sure she and her child are safe. I pledge my support, whatever she needs.

She's embarrassed. She says she has to go.

And one by one the emails come. And then the phone calls.

We all know.

One by one we fall into step, all concepts of lost time or distance fall away. We're a team on a mission. A singular voice of love and support.

And we get to work.

Yet as I'm making calls I have to stop my hands from shaking, my voice from breaking. Fury courses through my finger-tips as keys clack and crunch. I find myself thinking of the times I've been truly enraged. Of the moments where I could've snapped. Where I could have lashed out.

I remember that tense, tingling sensation in my throat; That tunnel-vision, so keen and focused; That sizzling hiss in my ears as my baser emotions beg and plead to be let free. To have release. Or retribution.

And I think of all the times that I walked away. Or ran when I could not walk. Sometimes I was biting my tongue or cursing their name or clenching my fists -- muscles taut with urge to strike... but every time -- Every. Time. -- I walked.

And I poured that energy into something constructive. I made art. I wrote. I drew. I sang - badly. But I got it out of me. I let my pulse slow, my head clear. And no one was harmed. Ever.

Well, maybe those who heard me sing.

I remember that -- spun or justified or excused in whatever way one likes to try and make it right in their head:

It is a choice to harm others like this. Every time. To let down our guard, to let those emotions take control; To let our hands or our words lash out.

To allow ourselves to stay in a situation where we know we are tempted; where we know we are weak; where we feel our will slipping.

To allow another to face the wrath brought on by our own insecurities or embarrassments or fears.

It is a choice.

And strong people -- men or women -- choose to walk away.

Every time.


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