My Scars Are Not A Sign of Weakness

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic
When you hear Domestic Violence, who do you think of? A woman? A man? A child?

Everyone has a voice. Everyone should have a chance at having it heard. Domestic violence is not a 'Woman' thing. I can happen to anyone. Man, woman, gay, straight, bi, trans. Be strong. There are people out there to help you. You are not alone.

Submitted: April 19, 2015

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Submitted: April 19, 2015



?Scars are a sign of our strength. The simple fact that we’re scarred yet still standing is testament to that. That’s how I wear my bruises, like the scars achieved in battle. I didn’t always think this way, at first I thought they were the vibrant evidence of my incompetence. Proof that I wasn’t any good at anything, much less being a good boyfriend. Proof that it was all my fault. 

I met Ted at a Halloween party thrown by a couple of my friends from College. It was one of those upbeat, overhyped gatherings that I’d usually avoided unless I had no choice in the matter but this time my friends had insisted. I was too reclusive, too detached from the world. I needed to get out more they’d said, have fun, live a little. There’d been no way out of actually going, so I’d agreed. Besides, if I didn’t like the party, I could always bail halfway through. Hail a taxi down the street, hope no masked killer decided to pick me off like one of those idiots in horror films, and crash at home. I’d toss a frozen pizza in the oven, settle down with the gooey, saturated fat riddled pizza that was certain to clog my arteries someday and make going to the bathroom the rest of the week an odyssey all on its own and a couple of beers – playing Halo online without some amount of alcohol in your system was like getting your teeth removed without any anesthesia, painful and slow.

That had been my plan for that night, what I hadn’t counted on was Ted. 

You know that cheesy representation of The One that they do in Hollywood movies? Yeah, the time stopping, breath catching moment in which the lights move and align just right in order to better show off the perfection of the other person, then the background noise of the place the actors are in dims until there’s no sound around them, no matter where they are, or how loud the place they’re in is, then time speeds up at some moment or another as reality comes crashing in like the Kool-Aid man through the plywood wall. That’s exactly how it happened. Okay, it wasn’t as graceful as movie actors would have it appear,and I was more Kool-Aid man than Brad Pitt at that very second. The room didn’t disappear but for just a moment I could have sworn I was all alone in that crowded room, like that time you lost sight of your mom for just a second while at the supermarket and though there’s people around, shopping, minding their own business, you’re suddenly terribly alone. That’s how I felt at that moment although that only lasted until someone bumped my shoulder from behind so hard I stumbled into a wall. Smooth. Real smooth. Sound picked up again, the room roared with life, the lights had been dimmed to accentuate the scary atmosphere of the holiday although strategically placed lights were still in full swing, the strobe almost nauseating effective. The magic of the moment had broken, embarrassingly so. No one apologized for nearly knocking me over, nor did I expect it. I was often overlooked, knocked gently to the side and out of the way. I always made sure to be unobtrusive, I knew I wasn’t ambitious or motivated by any pressing goal. I was a drifter, content to go where the flow carried me. Yet, after a while, I started to feel like that annoying pebble in someone’s shoe, insistent, annoying almost to the point of being painful yet so easily discarded if someone took the time to do it. 

That’s why I never expected Ted to talk to me but for some reason he did. I was trying to find something to eat in the fridge that hadn’t been already touched by hundreds of grimy, sweaty hands when he came up to me. His voice alone was enough to startle me so bad I nearly knocked myself out on the edge of the freezer door as my head snapped up and the edge of it smacked me in the back of my neck. Wincing and feeling like an even bigger fool than before, I casually backed out of the fridge and turned to face the person who had spoken. For a moment I thought that I hadn’t been the one that he was talking to, I looked over my shoulder but saw no one looking or coming in my direction, plus Ted just stood there, waiting patiently with that amused smirk on his face that I’d loved since day one. We spent the rest of that night talking about video games because there was nothing I knew more about than video games. Although my Degree in Graphic Design was collecting dust hung on my wall, untouched and unused. Nearly six years of my life reduced to a piece of paper on a wall, it was depressing. 

We dated for three months after that day, moved in together after nearly six. I was the happiest that I’d ever been in my life. Yet, I never saw the signs. Well… To be honest I did, but I never thought my life would self-destruct in my face the way it did. 

It started one night that was like any other. I was trying to make dinner into something that was edible enough for the both of us. The cooking gene had passed over me and been granted to all of my siblings, leaving me the only male in the family capable of burning boiling water and ruining cereal. Still, I tried. I’d bought countless cook books and experimented frequently but nothing ever came out perfect. Ted had only laughed at my cooking, saying that it was cute how I kept trying besides being a failure at it. He was a brave soul, willing to taste test my food before I did. Usually when it was really bad, he’d hand me his cellphone and debit card the universal sign of ‘call for take-out’. Ted hadn’t come home for lunch as he usually did but he had been working late the past few nights to finish up a project at the advertising firm he worked at so I wasn’t that worried about him. When he stumbled in the front door half an hour before midnight, I knew something was wrong.

He reeked of alcohol, it permeated from his every pore. It poured off him like a chilling draft and enveloped me in the bitter cloud of spirits. The normally immaculate blonde hair stood on end, as if he’d constantly been running his fingers through them. His clothing was askew, one shirt tail untucked from his wrinkled gray trousers, his tie loosened to the point that it hung uselessly around his neck, oddly reminiscent of a noose. His walk was unstable and his eyes slightly glazed, but he seemed coherent enough to dump his things on the living room couch and stagger into the kitchen. I followed along, worse he’d knock something over or worse, burn himself on the stove. When I’d entered, he was using the ladle to examine the contents of the pots still boiling away on the stove. “What is this?”

It was a question I was used to hearing, sometimes my food looked like five year old had finger painted with it. “Stew,” I shrugged, “It’s not going so well, are you okay?” It was like he didn’t hear me. He was glaring at the lumpy contents of the stew, the badly chopped carrots, the rounded potatoes and the oily broth that sloshed off the ladle thickly before plopping back into the pot. I neared him, worried he was going to splash himself with the brew. Ruined or not, it was hot. “Look, I’ll order something instead if you don’t like it. You should go sit down – Ted?” My wrist was seized with the drunken strength of a toddler. It was the only excuse I could give for the force being exerted on my wrist. It was the grip of a toddler who didn’t know his own strength, strong but not painful. “You think we’re made of money or something? That we can order out everything you mess up dinner, huh? You think I’m rich or something?” His voice had risen, the bitterness of the alcohol on his breath made my stomach curl in revulsion. I’d always hated the smell of alcohol on someone’s breath and now Ted was close enough that I couldn’t smell anything else. “Ted, it’s alright. I’ll make you a sandwich or something. It’s not a problem.” The blow came so suddenly that I can’t exactly tell you what happened. One moment I was trying to calm him down and the next the side of my head was ringing. My vision sported dots that swam in front of my eyes and blink them away as I might, I couldn’t. All through that, he hadn’t let go of my wrist. When at first his grip had been tight but not painful, I could feel his fingers digging into my skin, cutting off circulation to my hand and surely marking his fingers onto the skin of my wrist. I was yanked forwards, back to a standing position that hadn’t realized I’d left. I must have curled over into myself, instinctive response to protect myself.

Something warm tickled down my temple; blood, if the sting there was any indication. I was dimly aware that the class ring he wore must have made contact with my flesh and torn it. My world shook on it’s axis as he grabbed both of my arms and shook me violently. I can’t even recall what it was he yelled, most of it was lost in the haze of pain and the uncomfortable sensation of something warm crawling swiftly down the side of my face. Ted released me with a suddenness that had me stumbling back. My elbow hit the pot on the stove, successfully flipping it over. Agony sliced through my arm then and I screamed. My first instinct was to run to the sink, but the flesh of my arm had started to blister angrily. I’m not sure if it was my screaming or the smell of the spilled stew, but Ted sobered up quickly. 

The stove was shut off, the stew left to crawl across the floor tiles at its own leisure and I was dragged out to the car. Normally I would be hesitant to get in a car with someone who was drunk behind the wheel. But pain makes me desperate and reckless. The drive to the hospital is punctured only by Ted’s curses and his ‘I’m sorry’’s. It’s a record I’m tired of hearing by the time we actually reach the emergency room. The nurses treat me as quickly as they can since the skin of my arm has already started to peel and I could feel the blisters dripping uncomfortably. It’s there as I’m getting the scratch on my forehead treated as well as my arm that I spring the first of many lies. I tell them that I’d tripped over my dog and hit my head on the stove, somehow knocking the pot over. One of the nurses gave me a narrow eyed look, I could she’d seen her share of battle scars that or she could smell the lie from a mile away. The others never batted an eye lash, I was prescribed pain medication and ointment and instructed to keep the burns bandaged. The ride back home was silent. Ted was sober by now, or at least as sober as he was going to get and didn’t feel the need to say anything more.

The next moment, groggy from sleep and pain medication I awoke to the scent of fresh flowers. It was a bouquet I recognized from the shop down the street. Lilacs, morning blossoms, a bunch of smaller whiter flowers I could name, some leaves. There was a note leaning against the vase and I reached for it with my good hand. 

???? ?I’m sorry. I love you.

Words had never held such power. I love you. It was why I was still there, because I loved him and he loved me. It was why I stayed, because I believed we could make it work, that all I needed was to be a little better. It was my fault anyway, I’d thought. I’d messed up the stew and cooked on the front of the stove instead of the back, a sobering lesson that accidents could happen at any time and you could be powerless to stop it. Those words were echoed back at me for several weeks after that. Every time we fought, or he fought with me to be exact, the words always made their appearance the next morning in some way or another. Scribbled on a card, coupled with a gift I would have enjoyed more if the reason I’d been given it hadn’t been so macabre, or from his own lips, often followed by an “If only you hadn’t…” Or “It’s your fault I…” Making his apologies see empty and automatic. What little friends I’d had told me that couples fought all the time, it was just up to us to change the outcomes. I believed that I could, that each bruise I got was just a pointer I needed to take. Being men, it was okay to fight. We were the rough and tumble half of the human species, women are softer, more fragile counterparts. A bruise or two was nothing. However, I knew I was deluding myself. I loved him so much but if he loved me a fraction of the amount that I did, he would never hurt me like he did nor as often as he did.

The final straw came a year later. It hadn’t taken him long to stop me from seeing my friends and family. His excuse were that they were only getting in the way of our relationship. They were responsible for my treatment and how bad I was behaving. Besides, I rarely went outside anyway, what did I need friends for? I had him, wasn’t he enough? He was always feeling so underappreciated. It was why he hit me, because I was always making him angry. It was always my fault. My fault. Now, I can’t really remember what exactly it was we argued about that day. The arguments were never consistent, it was either I was wasting too much money while buying things we needed like toilet paper or milk, being a bad cook, being a bad boyfriend, staying out too long and obviously cheating on him with the neighbors – untrue, but somehow he’d convinced himself otherwise, not ironing his shirts just right or something as simple as missing a spot on the floor while mopping. That day was no different, only he hadn’t waited until we were inside to start yelling. We stood outside our apartment door, him raving about something I barely heard over my own embarrassment. Some of the doors had opened on the floor, though some of them remained closed as most residents tended to mind their business. 

“Ted we shouldn’t— It was my attempt at calming him down. It was easier when we were alone in our apartment because what happened there remained behind closed doors. But out here, the flaw in our otherwise perfect relationship was being bared to the public. He grabbed my arm, a habit he had since he’d realized I didn’t like it. He was screaming, yelling, but I couldn’t hear him over the rush of blood in my own ears and the deafening murmurs from the neighbors as they whispered their comments to one another, blood thirsty wolves waiting for the slaughter. I don’t remember when I was that we started moving but somehow the rung of the stairs was at the back of my foot, I remember saying something, calm down or wait, but it went unheeded and almost in slow motion, an ironic replaying of our first fight, he shook me hard enough to rattle my teeth, I ended up biting my tongue and winced at the sharp pain. Then he released me. The world tilted dangerously to the side, everything moved in slow motion. I could gather the shocked expressions from the neighbors then there was pain, the world tumbled head over heels as I took the express way down the stairs. Then there was nothing.

?I woke up in the hospital a few hours later, ribs burning like fire, one eye swollen shut for one reason or another. There was a cast on my arm, probably broke when I landed on it wrong, as well as a brace on my neck, keeping it steady. The doctors hadsaid I hadn’t broken it, but it was safe to assume that moving around could be dangerous. It was like that first day, the glaring lights of the hospital, the ever changing faces of the nurses and doctors. Some gave me a sympathetic look, others seemed surprised. I guess none of them would have thought this could happen if they hadn’t seen it themselves. 

?I didn’t even believe that it had happened to me. I had become almost a shell of my former self. It had set in so subtly that I hadn’t noticed until that moment in the hospital when I had realized that this was not normal. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t what everyone did when they had arguments with their partners. I had pulled the wool over my own eyes, refusing to see what was there what I knew on the inside but couldn’t dare acknowledge for any reason what so ever. But now, battered and bruised to the point that I could have died from one wrong misstep, I realized this. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, male or female. It’s not specific to women, it’s not some isolated event. I know that now, I can see it, I experienced it. There was never anything to be ashamed of, there was nothing wrong with me. Ted was the one who needed help and although I loved him to the point of insanity, my love for him wasn’t the balm that he needed. It was surprising to wake up that day and not find a folded up note and flowers at my bedside. Every day after that I woke up to the same realization. The feeling gradually faded away and I can look back at it now and not cringe at my own weakness. I take refuge in my strength, in realizing that it had to end. I couldn’t keep living that cycle. Every day I look at my scars now and smile. I escaped, can you?

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