Trigger Warning: Physical and emotional abuse
Fresh blue hortensia, my favorite, filled the white ceramic vase alongside a bowl of rice porridge and a cup of lemon tea on the dining table. A lone handwritten note.
Sorry, I have to go to work. I already called your office to say that you won’t be coming because you are sick. Please, eat your breakfast and focus on getting better. How about we go on vacation this weekend? Love, Arga.
I ignored it for once and walked into an empty room. Once assigned a nursery, the space was echoing with silence. Even after many tries, we have not been blessed with a child. We were healthy — even the doctors could only assume the reasons. I used to cry every time I had my period, and he would be there to soothe me, “I’m so sorry. Maybe it just isn’t the time yet. We are together in this, okay? I’ll be with you every step of the way,”
Thank God, we didn’t have children, because if we did, what kind of hell would they be trapped in?
Every corner of this home held a memory that I would rather forget. Arga stood behind the kitchen counter cooking our dinner, the cute dimples accompany his smile. His eyes would crinkle with joy as he took a look at me, our laughters upon even the lamest jokes filled the house.
Anguish and anger wrenched my chest, sadness spilling out like a broken dam. Yes, I would rather forget him, because I also remembered when my world stopped.
I remembered the sting on my cheek as I touched it. It hurt, but not that bad. It was the surprise that threw off my balance.
I remembered Arga stared at me in horror, then at his hand, the one he just used to slap me. He looked back at me again, his mouth hung open, as if he couldn’t believe what happened. I couldn’t believe what happened. We had been arguing about our constantly clashing schedule, and the next thing I knew, his flying hand landed on my face. Technically I understood that Arga just slapped me, but it didn’t make sense.
Arga, the tender-hearted Arga I knew wouldn’t hurt me.
But he did.
The horrors etched on his face for days, his fingers slipped through mine whenever he was reminded of what he had done, the apologies that followed after, his nightly sobbing every night (“I don’t want to be my father”) — everything led me to believe that it was a mistake. Yes, my Arga who smiled so brightly, who took care of me whenever I was sick, who defended me even from his own family, who always surprised me in our anniversaries, who held me whenever I broke down, who loved me for who I was. He would never hurt me again.
Would he do it again? Not once such a question came into my mind, not even when he did it again and again, not even when he got worse.
Last night was the breaking point.
It was no longer a question that rang inside my head. It was a rude wake-up call as an intense burning pain flooded through my entire stomach. I heaved and gasped for air. I ended up vomiting all my dinner. I felt so weak that I might pass out any second right there on the bathroom floor. I didn’t know being punched and kicked in the stomach could be so painful. I thought that I might die.
Someday, he might really kill me.
Through my blurry sight I saw Arga kneeled beside me, “It’s okay. Shh, you’re okay,” He said as he took me into his arms gently and I sobbed, not only because of the pain, but because—
God, Arga, in what world is this okay?
Arga put me inside the bathtub and washed me as I sobbed. He did it so carefully, so tenderly, as if I was made of fragile porcelain. He rubbed ointment on my belly, dressed me in clean comfortable clothes, put me on the bed, and continued to comfort me.
“You’re alright, everything is alright,” He caressed my head and whispered so softly, “I’m sorry. I’ll get better, I promise.”
How could the moments when he said “sorry”, when he looked at me with watery eyes, when he kissed the wounds he had inflicted, make me feel like I had won? How could some momentary show of his vulnerability make me feel like I was the one in control, when I was always the one who ended up with wounds and bruises?
How could I feel so loved by the very same man who filled me with pain and fear?
I felt like I had gone crazy, constantly pulled back and forth between the dark abyss and the high skies.
God, I wanted to keep hoping that each hit was a mistake and that he would not hurt me anymore. I wanted to keep hoping that someday those short happy moments with him would last. I wanted to keep hoping that our marriage was built on top of love and respect for each other.
But I couldn’t do this anymore. Hope shouldn’t be this cruel. I couldn’t keep giving up on myself, just so I didn’t have to give up on him and on this marriage—
It was too suffocating.
He was wrong. Every thing was not alright and I was not okay.
I grabbed my suitcase, walked out of our home, and closed the door. I was still afraid of the repercussion: how our family would react, how our acquaintances would talk about us, if anyone would ever believe me, the terror he might bring to me and how my life would be dissected apart by the authorities under the name of law.
No matter what I chose, it would be a bloody fight and I would not come out of it unscathed. Just imagining the catastrophe and challenges I would have to face was enough to make me want to crawl and hide in a hole. But with my puffy eyes, red nose, blotchy cheeks, and the ache of my bruises, I held my head up high. The fire that smoldered within me, even while buried under his shadow, had awakened and burned. For each step I took away from him, I felt stronger, in a way I hadn’t felt for a long time.