Restraint

I wrote this three years ago and I’m glad that I did because it’s easy for me to forget what it was like. I wanted to post it when I first wrote it but now I’m glad I didn’t. If anyone wonders why I write, this is a prime example of what it does for me.

Anyway, thought I’d get this out there. It’s a personal one. Please don’t say anything “inspirational” in the comments. Seriously.
Edit: I want to make it clear that I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, still have any feelings toward this person whatsoever. I realize now that it was not love between us… Only control.


I wanted the judge to comfort me. There were other women there but they were older than me, in sweatshirts and ponytails and howling about the men that forced them into that courtroom—thriving on it. I waited for my name to be called, face colorless against the wooden pews.

I wanted the judge to tell me I was too smart for the things that were done to me. Too pretty, even. Anything. Validate me.

He read my statement. I wanted him to ask me why? Why does a girl like you let a man do this to her? Why, when you have so many good things ahead of you? But he didn’t say that. He asked me, “Do you still need this restraining order?” I nodded. “I’ll set it for a year. Come over and sign.” And he signed it and handed it to his clerk.

And then it was done. I walked down the three flights of stairs, shaking, and said goodbye to the policemen who had guided me through the metal detector.

Then the texts came in. How did it go? I told everyone the same thing. It was quick. He didn’t show up. I’m proud of you! They said. You’re such a strong woman! And I guessed they were right. I didn’t feel much like a woman in that moment. I was still scared. Scared of what he would do but also scared of how he would feel. I was ashamed; barely even an adult. It was my fault that things had gotten to the point that they had. That’s why I went to the hearing alone… it was my penance. An incessant cadence inside my head, mea culpa, mea culpa.

That night I had emails from him in my junk mail. His eighth email address because first seven were blocked. I marked them to be recognized as safe. Safe. “I lied when I said I found someone else. I’m sorry. Can’t we talk this through? We can’t end things like this, Allison.” I could turn him in now but we both knew I wouldn’t.

“I have never wanted to change so much in my life. I know I’m probably going to go to jail for this but I don’t even care anymore. I can sit in a jail cell for a few nights. That’s nothing to me.” I read both emails twice and my resolve started slipping. Weakness was my default now, so familiar that it calmed me.

The next day his words echoed and memories of him saturated me. It was too easy to remember his body with mine; I had outlined his face a thousand times. Our attraction to each other was instinctual. His presence dominated mine. A few months into our relationship, his mind began to dominate mine as well. My thoughts weren’t allowed to be private. My decisions, if they weren’t his decisions, were disregarded.

But still, I loved him. After the violence, after the threats, after allowing myself to break, I still love him. Two years of exhaustion led to halfhearted forgiveness. If I just let it go, we can go back to normal; I’m overreacting. He does love me. He is sorry. He wants to change. He wants to change. He wants to change.

And if I were better, this wouldn’t happen. He told me that and I knew he was right.

Every day was an internal struggle until I felt nothing. There was nothing left for me to feel. I had alienated everyone in my life and they were more exhausted than I was but they were able to walk away when I wasn’t. I was unsure of my worth. Why would he say those things if he didn’t mean it at least a little? The anguish that comes from someone you trust telling you that you’re nothing, that I’m lucky to have him because no one else would ever put up with me, is so much more damaging than my head being slammed against a wall. At least I knew that would heal.

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