Love is…

“I WISH YOU WOULD DIE”

Screams of hatred pour in through the paper-thin wall that separates my room from Chloe’s.

I lay on my mattress with my bare legs spread wide. They make a triangle with the end of my bed. My arms are by my sides. My palms are clammy despite their exposure to the cool air.

“YOU ARE A STUPID ‍BUT-HER‍-FACE BITCH…” Alex quiets down only a little before continuing, “no wonder your father doesn’t love you.” He emphasizes father and love. I picture Alex’s gritted teeth and fiery eyes glowing in the night and bile threatens to rise up in my throat. How could he love her and use her weaknesses against her?

I exhale the breath I had been holding in, holding tight. I exhale and exhale until my lungs hurt.‍ I roll over and search for security in the folds and presence of my blankets.

Separate and helpless, I am in a white darkness. Though my blankets, furniture, walls and accessories are a safe pure white, the night has made them black. I cover my ears and still hear a dull pounding followed by a high-pitched wail.

I knead my eyebrows. I wish Alex cared that the walls were thin. I wish Alex cared.

As many times as I have stormed out of my room and punched Chloe’s fake wooden door, as many times as I had screamed with all of my might: “Shut the FUCK up,” as many times as I had asked guy friends to cuddle with me while listening to make sure she would wake up the next morning, it never made a difference: my 5’7” frame was not intimidating in the least bit in my glasses, oversized t-shirt and boy shorts.

CRASH

The clatter reverberates through the otherwise still black night. I sprint out of bed and skid to a stop, my hands tremor above the door handle to my room.

In the movies, abuse is always embellished. There is punch after punch thrown by a drunken villain who says one bad thing after another to his beautiful and beaten wife. Hatred radiates through her eyes and you sense a foreshadowing of victory. Whiskey is swallowed and plates are thrown but there is hope: the stunning woman will get revenge.

But, nothing is like the movies. Abuse is silence. Silence is Chloe’s obedience: her acceptance of her fate. She never fights back anymore.

My hands shake as I grasp the chilly brass handle.

Once, Chloe had thrown Alex’s laptop on the ground, and had been rewarded with a monstrous slap. The mark his gleaming hand had left was raised and swollen on her face for two days.
As I held a wet cold rag to her crimson face, I remember asking: “When will it be too much?”

Her jade eyes were empty and her face carried an unaffected expression. She huffed and sighed like I was an overreacting and overprotective mother. She needed me to know that she was fine, that she had everything under control.

Yet just a few days later while I was sipping coffee and watching Friends reruns, I heard a key jiggle in our apartment lock. I watched the door struggle to be opened. Suddenly there was Chloe still wearing her outfit from the night before, decorated by a massive red stain. Her nose was puffy and dripping, eyes black from smudged makeup and blue from bruises.

“Oh” she said startled, then sprinted to her room.
I was stunned. My mouth was dry and my words felt stuck.

“Chloe-”

“Everything is fine, Sarah. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you would be here”

‘Who did this to you?”

“No one.”

Other mornings after were filled by tear-filled sessions and defenses of Alex: “We love each other. He hasn’t touched me since…” Yet, these still weren’t as bad as the ones in which she openly admitted her fear of him seconds before letting him back into the door with open and bruised arms.

My dialogue with the police didn’t go much better: “Sorry, ma’am, but unless you can get your friend to the station to fill out a report we can’t do anything to help you.” I threw my phone against the brick wall. How could that system possibly be effective?

I wanted this time to be different. Standing behind my door, I contemplated my next move. I turned the handle. I snuck quietly out into our apartment with the vigor of vengeance. In the kitchen I turned round and round. My bare feet lead me to the counter under the sink where we kept our pots and pans.

The week before my mother had given me a cast iron skillet as a gift. I wasn’t sure if this was what she had intended for me to do with it, but I wasn’t really sure of much at the moment.

My knees creaked as I bent down and opened the door. I felt around until I felt the promising touch of iron. Slowly, I worked the skillet out from between two other pots while grinding my teeth worried about the sound of metal on metal. Finally, I held the heavy skillet up in victory.

I turned on the spot and rushed to the outside of Chloe’s door. I passed by a picture of us after our high school graduation. We were in a hug so close that our faces touched, our skin congealed. We beamed at the camera with our white caps and tassels that framed our faces. We had the whole world at our grasp.

I thought of our friendship, our sisterhood.
The night I had found out that her parents were getting a divorce.
The day she had told me her father had sexually abused her.
They day I realized the cycle continued.

I whacked the pan on her door three times, leaving large dents. The racket echoed loudly in my blank mind and into Chloe’s now silent room; I wasn’t sure what I would do next.

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