CONTENT WARNING: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS
4.1.2015. Day One.
I felt my body harden to charcoal in the dry California air as I clicked the door closed behind me with a quick and complete finality. I towed my heart away in a carry-on cat bag, knowing it was the last time we’d be in this apartment that used to be home. People sing in unison, “why doesn’t she leave?” And it’s because this is fucking scary and miserable and the concerned critics sure as shit aren’t lining up to help.
Last night, I left. I imagined I’d be brooding in dusty corners of airports, crying stoically through the clouds and making everyone near me supremely uncomfortable, but with every mile I put between me and the fire, I felt safer and calmer. I will say that it is inconsiderate, inappropriate, and entirely unnecessary to play Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” in an airport. I dangled from the dark hilarity of the moment. I’ll also note that traveling as a dead-eyed, bedraggled mess is not without its perks: khaki and cardigan parents imagined I was crashing from some kind of bender, carefully giving me plenty of space from their loud and joyful tots. Men didn’t even bother to tell me to smile, and I only wish I could deter unwelcome interactions with people so effectively on a regular day.
I sequestered myself with a book and made it through a page and a half before the words crumbled into one other. I stole some overpriced chocolate, made friends with the woman working the shoe shine station, and finally clawed my way to a window seat where I watched Jackie Brown as I waited for the edible to kick in. Izzlebee and I zoomed our way across the country into fresh, Spring air to press our paws into soft, nourishing earth, veined with rivers and creeks. We were fleeing the California floor: hard, parched, and cracked into arid capillaries wide and deep enough for “radical progressives” to bury their hypocrisies.
I want to cry from relief, but nothing feels better than lying still and feeling my heart beating slowly and soundly for the first time in months. Every morning since January I’ve jolted awake at sunrise, instantly hit with panic: my stomach churning and my heart pounding and adrenaline gnawing at my organs. Today I slept until noon, and woke up peaceful and calm, albeit still heavy and hollow. I haven’t been able to eat more than a few bites at a time for most of this year, and today I conquered half a pizza and held it down. Simply existing without constant and overwhelming anxiety is a luxury I’d profoundly missed.
Two days before I left Oakland, I sat inside my storage unit and called my mother.
You know this shit’s bad, and you won’t be able to see just how bad until you’re out.
This is Day One.
My mother used to tell me that the only way out is through. She stayed in her abusive marriage at least 8 years longer than she had to. Over the past 15 years, my father has initiated restorative justice, and has begun healing his relationships. He’s a retired psychoanalyst and it’s both strange and poignant that he, being the source of so much trauma, was so insightful in helping me to navigate the traumas I experienced in my mid-twenties. It was as I was scraping at my reserves for the strength to leave my own abusive relationship that he countered my mother’s old advice:
Sometimes, the only way out…is to get out.
They’re both right.
Important Note: usually, the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is the breakup. If you are trying to leave an abusive relationship, or if you are advising someone to leave an abusive relationship, please create a safety plan that empowers the self-determination of the victim. This is when survivors need more than pep talks: they need real-life backup.
For the heart:
Queer femme artist ANML has released a song and video, It’s Over, to lift the voices and spirits of those leaving abusive circumstances.