“Woman! I am talking to you! Stop!” I had never heard his voice so deep, and angry before! I was immediately and utterly terrified but also somehow determined to stand my ground; prove my point. After all, he was only bluffing. Vitisho baridi. I shrugged it off, He had to be bluffing! What could he possibly do to me? He was head over heels in love that he would have licked the bottom of my feet if it meant seeing me one more time. But maybe that’s why I should’ve been afraid; maybe that’s why I should have walked away in that moment, HE WOULD’VE DONE ANYTHING! But I didn’t walk away as I should’ve, the huge gulps of whiskey I had taken at the party while we argued on the balcony were racing to my head. I needed to slow down; reevaluate, regroup. I wasn’t even exactly sure I knew why we were arguing, in public no less.
I took a deep breathe while he approached me. Even before I turned to meet his gaze I could feel the intensity of his rage increase with every step. Leave, the little voice in my head whispered.
“What?” I tried to sound as rude as well as composed as I could but my shaky and breathy voice must have given me away.
“What. The. Fuck was that!” The rage in his voice intensified, the nostrils flared with every pause.
“What?” I was oblivious at this point; more so than I had been all night.
“You’re embarrassing me! Throwing yourself around like a cheap piece of trash.”
“I was hugging my friends! You made me leave; the least I could do was say bye.” I was completely calm now, I thought. I took out my flask and took another huge swig of whiskey. He knocked it out of my hand before I was done.
“You’re such a fucking whore!” He sneered. “I’m dating the town whore!” He shouted so loud that ‘our friends’ stopped in their tracks a few meters ahead of us. They didn’t rush to us however, they just stood there and watched; ‘minding their own business’. I turned to walk away. I was not about to be insulted on the streets. He was used to doing it in private but in public I would not stand for it. I hadn’t completed my first two steps yet and he was suddenly in front of me. His eyes burned red with the effects of whiskey and rage. It was at this point, I began to realize that I would have been better off somewhere else, anywhere else than in this moment in this situation with him. He drew even closer to me. I flinched.
“Admit it! You’re fucking all of them!” I could feel his breath on my face, I could immediately tell that he had had much more than I had. None of us were in their rightest mind. I withdrew from the fumes, only for him to grab me by the shoulders and restore me to my original position; as close to his face as I could get.
“Let go of me!” My breath was labored, I was petrified, horrified. I could see his friends watching us from a far now, watching, doing nothing. I wanted to scream or wiggle till I broke free but I remained there locked in his embrace frozen, except he wasn’t embracing me but entrapping me for slaughter.
“Not until you stop playing me like a fool.” He tightened his grip and began to shake me. “Tell me which one you’re giving it to when I’m not around. Tell me which one you go visit when you leave me. Tell me.”
“I don’t…. There’s….. No one!” I stuttered, shouted and wiggled; trying to get myself free. He didn’t believe me. He had the answer already made up in his head; anything different just made him angrier.
“I swear……..” He breathed hard through his pause into my face, nostrils flaring, bloodshot eyes fixed on mine. “I’ll kill you! I will kill you right here in the middle of the street. In front of your new boyfriend’s fancy house. I don’t care!” It didn’t seem like he was bluffing anymore. The conviction in his eyes was unmistakable; he was going to kill me, in the middle of the street in front of his friends and mine if they cared enough to follow me out of that party.
Even now, I still do not understand my reaction to this particular threat. Maybe I was just fed up with being caged and controlled then accused falsely, maybe I just wanted to push his buttons or maybe I just have a death wish because even in my agony, horror and fear, I replied so brazenly, “All of them.”
“What?” His eyes narrowed as he stepped closer to me.
“You heard me! I’m fucking ALL. OF. THEM! ALL THE TIME. Each and every person in that room. The men, the women and if they had a dog, I’d fuck it too. I am that unsatisfied by you!” He said nothing. Feeling emboldened, I went on. “Why are you so quiet now? Are you surprised that the ‘town whore’ is an actual whore? You’re a …” I do not remember how I planned to end that sentence. All I remember is his hand going across my face so fast and so hard that everything went black for a second or two and I fell to the floor. When I came to, he wasn’t done. He kicked me hard in my stomach and leaned over to pick me up by my collar. I resisted forcing him to grab my braided hair and drag me towards him so that he could punch my face a little more before he picked me up by my collar and brought my face towards his.
My eyes had begun to swell up with pain and tears so I could not see if anyone was coming to help me. When he went across my face again, I was sure I was on my own so I began to scream. I don’t recall ever screaming that loudly; I do recall wailing and crying out “Kill me Coward! Kill me!” He held me up this time so I didn’t fall when he slapped me; and he didn’t stop. I tried to put my hands over my face to shield myself but instead he pushed me to the ground and began kicking me again. I could only protect my face at this point. I could feel him pounding my stomach, chest and knees. I was still relentlessly screaming when I looked up to see ‘our friends’ watching him beat the living daylights out of me. They looked shocked but did not even attempt to get him off me until I began to cough out large mounds of scarlet blood on to the pavement floor. As they dragged him off me, he hurled insults and affirmations of my worthlessness not forgetting to remind me that he could still find me and kill me if he pleased.
I wish that was the last time I saw him, but it was not. After his friends dragged him off to places unknown, I remember lying on the ground in fetal position for a while, wailing silently. I didn’t want to get up; I had essentially given up. If you’d have asked at that moment, I probably would’ve said I was waiting for him to come back and kill me. I must have lay there for about five minutes before a tall dark man came to me. The look on his face was both worried and full of disgust. He extended his hand to help me up then offered to walk me home; which I declined but he insisted just in case the perpetrator came back to finish me off. While we walked, he plied me with stories of his youth and of how his father would beat his poor mother almost daily. He offered me every domestic violence cliché in the book, which I took in heartily at the moment. If you asked me in that moment, just as he did, what I planned to do about my “woman-beating boyfriend”. I would have probably answered you like I answered him “I’m leaving him. In fact, we are not even together anymore. I do, I did. I am done. Finished. Finito. Yameisha. ”
When the young man saw that I was safe and sound in my own apartment, he left assuring me that I was strong enough to get past this. “I don’t know you, but I know you are a strong independent woman. You can get through this.” He said. And for a good second or three, I really felt like this strong woman this stranger thought me to be. However, eventually just like a cliché, It dawned on me that I was not going to leave him, just yet. I knew that I was too weak to do it, too scared, too pathetic. I knew the stranger who helped me home had good intentions but I didn’t owe him anything. To the man who battered me, I owed a lot including love and devotion and even though he had almost killed me in the streets in front of numerous witness, I felt indebted to him and his troubled soul. Because the man was basically nothing without me and he was painfully aware of it especially in public. He would be back and I would oblige because to leave him would mean to do to him far worse than he had done to me; it would be to take away his life’s purpose, his essence, his calling, his one and only. The man needed me and he was only insecure because he sensed that I did not need him quite as much, rather I wanted him. Wants fade, needs prevail.
It took him three days, almost exactly to return on his knees. His eyes bloodshot; he had been crying for a while, drinking for as long. The state of his dressing was dismal; he was wearing the same clothes as the last time I saw him; only now they were stained, torn, much like our relationship at that point. I have always been a sucker for a bugger in need; so when he fell on my door step, I did as any naïve woman who was still in love with her abuser would do, I dragged him to the apartment, bathed him, fed him and nursed him. At the time, it really felt like just what our relationship needed; a misfortune to remind us how important we were to each other and a change in power play, where he was humbled and I seemed to hold all the power.
I have always wanted to believe that he would stay that way; humbled, a little wounded, broken, as it was the only time I really felt deep affection between us. Maybe this was because he was an overly cruel man or because back then I craved the feeling of being needed rather than being wanted. But naivety is a shelter only the weak and the blind can hide under, and he reverted to normalcy soon enough; exactly three weeks since his return. It started with tiny seemingly meaningless disagreements; his temperament was off, suddenly he was always irritable and even the slightest of irregularities sent him into a full on shouting rage. At this point, I had learned to mutter my tongue, not to patronize him even with the truth. I would be silent most of the time. However, that would begin to patronize him too after a while and we would revert to past violent situations. He would punch me in the stomach or slap my face if I said something that he didn’t feel pleased him. The financial state we were in at the time didn’t do much to help the situation. He wouldn’t work and could not be compelled to do anything much less provide for the household, yet whenever we ran short on food and other household items he would blame me solely and discipline me accordingly. Yes, that is what he called it now, not battery or assault or violence, but discipline.
I did not know that one could be disciplined by one who laid no claim to her, until then. I felt like a child; an abused child. All shows of affections resembled rape to me. Conversations remained one sided. This man owned me; and all because I felt I owed him and his troubled soul some love and devotion.
At this point, it began to be evidently clear that I should have left when that young Good Samaritan told me to. How was I going to leave the man who had threatened severally and almost succeeded in killing me? He knew where I lived and worked, all my friends and family. There was no hiding. I had tried to fight before and lost badly. I had to stay with him, pathetic and unappealing as he had become or he would kill me, or so I thought
The night I left is one that will sit with me for years. A story I plan to pass on to generations of young women likely to be caught up like I was. He came home, wrecking of cheap brew as usual. I had had a particularly bad day. You see at the time, I had been forced to keep a kitchen garden and sell produce at the local market to provide for our household; some days were better than others. It was, of course, a far cry from my desk job and dream career but he had been getting in the way; asking me to quit jobs because he was jealous of my colleagues, keeping imprisoned in the house so much, that sometimes I lost my job for the absenteeism – I wasn’t going to admit that my psychotic boyfriend was too jealous to let me attend my day job. I felt that gardening would not present a similar problem in his eyes; so I took it up. It made significantly less but the disagreements subsided for a hot second. He then began to drink a lot; a lot more than I could afford. He would meet me on my way from the market in the evening and ask what I had made. I would subsequently pull whatever money I had on me at the time and give it to him; a verbal answer would get me slapped around in public. If I made too little, he would immediately conclude that I spent my day gossiping in the market and subsequently drag me home for a thorough beating. If I made too much, I had used my feminine assets to solicit it from the men at the market, marketing myself he called it, and drag me home for a beating. So naturally, every evening began with a beating and ended with him staggering in drunk after drinking away all my day’s earnings. This particular day, we had had the normal evening squabble on my way home from the market. We had gotten home and he had slapped me around until he was satisfied and walked out of the house with the normal array of insults in his mouth. He always called me the same thing; lazy, ugly, tired/old, prostitute and barren whore. He was creative with the order of the insults but not entirely the words themselves.
When he came back, I had fallen asleep on the old couch waiting for him as I usually did; not opening the door for your man is a punishable offense. He came in all hot and bothered, sweating from the brow, eyes red with rage. The discussion at the local bar must have been about children or something of the sort because he came in swinging immediately I opened the door. I was sprawling on the floor before he even stepped foot past the door. He came in after me, shouting “Today you leave so that I find a woman to bear me children. I will beat until you return to wherever you came from.” He had kicked me a few times before I saw fit to begin crawling to safety. Obviously, safety for me was not what he was aiming for as he pulled me back by my leg to lay a few more punches on my face every time I tried to get away. Seeing as there was no escape, I decided on defense of the vital organs; my face came to mind. Putting my arms over my face, he went in kicking me viciously in the stomach until I stopped squirming. He then decided that he had been going about it wrong; he should have just dragged me outside and beaten me from there, which he did eventually. Seeing as I was covering my face and no longer wincing at each kick to the stomach, he went for the back of my head, kicking with what felt like all the strength he could master. I eventually passed out in the kitchen garden outside my apartment, the only possession I really owned.
When I finally came to, he had gone into the house and locked himself in. He must have been sleeping off his drunken state. I sat up among my tomatoes and cabbages contemplating my next move. I would have sat there forever had it not been for the sharp pain in the abdomen. It came in what felt like long powerful waves of piercing pain. When I finally managed to get on my feet, I felt a dark thick strip of blood trickle down my leg. I didn’t feel like I had the capacity to address whatever was happening down there, so I began walking to safety. I had no relatives in the city and I had fallen out with most of my friends on account of my devotions to this man. I didn’t exactly know what a safe place was to me at this point, I only knew that as long as there was enough distance between me and him, I’d be fine. I can’t tell for certain how long I walked before I passed out again, from what I can only imagine was the blood loss and the result of the blunt force trauma to the back of my head.
When I came to again, the vicinity had changed, drastically. I saw a bright beaming light that reflected off great white surfaces. I thought I was in heaven finally. The IV tube in my hand confirmed otherwise. I was in a hospital. Now at the time, I was at such a low point in my life that the first thing that came to my mind was I can’t afford to be here. I immediately started to break free of the IV tube and the tightly tucked sheets. A friendly nurse was at my side soon, urging me to calm down. It took a few minutes of struggle and a threat of sedation to get me calm. The nurse then excused herself to get a doctor to brief me on my ‘situation’.
A few moments later, a short stern-looking man came in dressed in a white coat, which burned my eyes as it reflected the light in the room. He drew the curtains around us and sat at the foot of the bed. The look on his face was one of pity and remorse, one that affirmed that I was not doing great.
“Mama, what is your name? You came in with no identification.”
“My name is Vivian. “ My voice was low; I was still groggy from meds.
“Vivian, are you married?” I shook my head. “Well, you came in with severe injuries consistent with a violent altercation. Vivian, did you know that you were…,” He paused as if to process what he was about to say, “Did you know you were expectant?” My heart immediately sank, the thought of bringing a child into the life I was running from nauseated me.
“What? That cannot be. “
“Well, unfortunately, you sustained a lot of trauma to the womb. We…” He gauged my reaction. “We did all we could but we couldn’t save the child.”
“You mean the fetus?” He was confused. I showed no remorse for the death of this thing I was growing. Actually, I seemed relieved that the child had died; how couldn’t I be. This thing was about to tether me to an abusive man for the rest of its life and I could not resent it and it was illegal to kill it. I thanked my lucky stars that that night like many nights he had beat me for the very last time; for if he hadn’t, a few months down the line I’d be a heavily pregnant lady gardening and getting battered daily. I am actually thankful in thinking that I was barren he killed our child, for that only would have kept me caged and controlled for at least 21 years. As the short doctor walked away to ‘give me a moment to process’, I began to laugh out loud at my luck.