This one's title was/is Between the Folds.
*warning: this one contains domestic violence*
“Where in the hell have you been,” he spat in my face.
Most people got a ‘welcome home, honey’ or at least a smile of some sort. My mom used to drop everything and kiss my dad as soon as he got home from work. I got Rot Mouth in my face, daily accusing me of something—everything.
It was when I wasn’t greeted like this that I knew something was up.
Because when he was nice to me—that’s when you knew things were about to get bad.
A clump of his greasy hair broke out across his brow and I shut my mouth just in case a stray piece of dandruff decided to flutter my mouth’s direction.
“I went to work, Brent—you know that. You always do this.” I tried to shrug him off by rolling my eyes and moving around him. His enormous hand slammed into the wall beside me—I flinched. As it passed my face I felt the wind of its motion and my eyes burned with the beginnings of unshed tears.
“You’re deflecting little girl.” I somehow managed to subdue the gag that pulsed in my gorge. He always called me little girl and sometimes asked me to call him Daddy—it was vomit inducing.
How in the hell did it come to this?
And why did I put up with it?
I couldn’t even claim that he’d once been sweet. He hadn’t. He was stacked, muscles head to toe, but that’s because he spent all day in the garage pumping iron. And I could shallowly admit that his, built like a mutha, body was what I fell for. That’s where the attraction and interest ended. But I’d apparently read too many bad boy books where the guy is rude in the beginning until the girl breaks him and then he’s Romeo in tight jeans with a motorcycle.
Because I couldn’t break this motherfucker to save my life.
Maybe I just didn’t have a big enough wrecking ball.
Or maybe his head was made of marble.
Or maybe I’d confused fiction with bullshit psychology and now I was sitting in a heaping, steaming pile of it.
“Brent, please. I worked all day on my feet. I’m exhausted and the house still needs to be cleaned and I have to make dinner.”
His lip curled as he processed his options, “Fine. But don’t think I won’t know later. A man can feel when his woman is—not the same—when she’s been with someone else.”
He was off his rocker. I worked twelve hour shifts at a shady gas station that sold smoking paraphernalia and lubricants in the display counter. My feet ached and I always looked like crap.
Who would even want someone like me?
And let’s just be real here—I could give a rat’s ass about extracurricular activities when I was this tired with Brent or anyone else.
Forget a bird. God, please make me a sledgehammer so I can bust his paranoid balls.
“You know I wouldn’t do that. What do you want for dinner?”
He shrugged and moved back to his carved in place in the corner of our secondhand couch.
“Shit if I care. But make it quick, I’m starving.”
“Yeah, of course.”
I hung my purse on the hook by the door and dumped the empty Ziploc bags into the sink from my lunch’s sandwich. That was how poor we were—I had wash out the damned Ziploc bag that I used for my cheapest bologna sandwich on cardboard white bread. The sink was full. Brent ate tons of eggs. So he fried the eggs, which I didn’t understand since I thought all that butter was counterproductive, ate them in a clean plate, and then allowed the yolk to congeal, matting it to the plastic surface. We didn’t have real plates; we had the ones that the local superstore put out for summer. We had red, yellow and orange—all bought for one dollar for a five pack on the summer clearance aisle—‘cause we were just that high class.
Washing dishes gave me time to wrestle with myself. Brent had his dj looking headphones on, playing Xbox Live, while I washed, so it always gave me ample time to rewind and reflect on things.
Like who in the fuck had I become?
Like I was a detriment to the female species.
Like a little arsenic on his cookies would make them pretty and slowly make the giant fall.
I had become a professional at making spaghetti in thirty minutes. And spaghetti was cheap. I’d dropped out of school at seventeen for Brent Baxter, the part time crabber—I didn’t even like crab. And when I told people what he did, you could see the judgment written all over their face—um, yeah, he catches crabs—the crustacean, not the STD. My mother warned me, my friends warned me, but did I listen?
Well, take a look around big girl, no, you didn’t listen.
I guess I’d been attracted to his lawlessness—his rebellion. He didn’t need to work that clock in clock out mundane job for the man. No, he was above that. I convinced myself we could live on love. I figured out that was a crock of shit after I started my period one day and didn’t have a dime to my name to buy tampons. Love doesn’t really cover feminine hygiene—and mother nature doesn’t take credit.
“Oh God, spaghetti again? Shit, woman, can’t you cook anything else?” He spits a little on my bare shoulder and I can envision the amoebas crawling into my pores.
I wanted to spray myself down with hydrogen peroxide.
“It’s all we have until payday tomorrow, Brent. I’m sorry.”
See? It’s when those kinds of pathetic words spew from my mouth that I wonder if my uterus is marching downtown with a picket sign that reads, “Dismantle Patriarchy!’
I dished up two plates, mine in a salad plate. He closely monitored what I ate. He said he didn’t want me to become a fat slob. This was coming from the man who created golden splatters on our white plastic trailer walls and left masterpieces of skid marks in his white briefs.
I ate quickly, knowing that a houseful of work had its finger in its ears, singing ‘Na na na boo boo.”
“Get everything cleaned up by eight. My boys are coming over. And go grab some beer while you’re at it. We’re gonna have an Assassin’s Creed all nighter.”
I couldn’t help but secretly laugh at a stray centimeter of pasta that was stuck in his sideburn.
Seventeen year old me somehow found those chops appealing.
How does one get a noodle all the way over there?
I nodded and took his plate and put it in the sink.
“Great, another night of no sleep,”
I didn’t acknowledge the motion until I was slammed against the refrigerator, but he’d used my ponytail as a handle.
“What did you just say?”
I instantly crumpled into the pitiful, apologetic girl whose voice and demeanor sometimes got herself out of a beating—sometimes.
“Nothing Brent, I’m just really tired.”
“Why do you do this? You and your effing comments. Always with the comments. Do I care what you think about what I do? You think you’re better than me?”
Even after a full plate of spaghetti, all I could smell was sewage breath and that noodle hanging from his born and bred redneck side-hair.
“No, no, you and your friends just get loud sometimes—especially when you drink. I have to get up at four to work. That’s all. I’m sorry.”
He slammed my head back one more time against the cold metal of the fridge. A riptide of terror weaseled down through my skeleton knowing what was in store for me.
“Why do you do this? You always do this. Why? Why can’t you just shut up? That mouth should be used for one thing and one thing only. When are you gonna get it?
“Never,” I knew when I said it that I’d handed him the ticket and he was the carnie that would throw this deranged ride into gear.
It had been a full month since he’d beaten on me—he was right on schedule.
If he didn’t explode like this once a month, he couldn’t function properly.
Like it was his menstruation cycle or something.
His hand closed in on my neck, and my eyes felt like cartoon caricatures, bulging, ready to burst from the sockets. The skin on my face reddened—I could feel the blood scrambling to my cheeks, warning me of the impending impact. My hands fumbled desperately for something to make it stop, his shirt, a spatula, something. My feet hung down, his hand holding me inches from the floor. The other hand made a fist and it cracked into my mouth—the split of my lip grew a bloody cloud and then let it go. He was still yelling but now I couldn’t make out the words. I saw his mouth moving and I could spot a concave black hole in the back right of his mouth—the man never went to a dentist. And his lips, they were always chapped and peeling. I focused on a sliver of skin as he ground his methodologies into me—I didn’t hear a one of them, but I knew them all by heart.
He did this a lot. I had a plethora of infinity scarves and cover up to prove it. People who worked with me thought I was trying to dress like a celebrity or something.
He waved a little in my face and rolled his eyes like I’d disappointed him by caving so fast.
I felt my left leg twitch once— feeling unattached to my hip. I called it the twitch of death and I welcomed it because I knew it wouldn’t be long now before I blacked out completely. It was the only way he’d leave me alone.
Warm urine pooled in my bladder and then released the flow down the un-twitching leg.
And then the world went cold.
Hours or minutes later, I didn’t know which, my knee jumped, spasmed. I could feel the musty smelling air push against my face.
Was the heater on?
I opened up my eyes, only a splice to get a hold on my situation. Black folds of rippled plastic puffed out another wave of hot air in my face. I still didn’t know where I was. My hair was wet. It was plastered to the side of my face and it stunk—ammonia? Pee—it was pee. I heard one sound and I smirked a little at the sound of the clunky, cranky compressor—refrigerator, I was horizontal in front of the refrigerator. Then it all came back to me. I didn’t move yet. I had to assess the situation. I could hear the familiar clicks and toggles of the Xbox controllers. I flexed different muscles, still sprawled on the floor, testing out my ability to walk before I even lifted my head from the floor. All limbs seemed present and accounted for, but my neck was frozen in a vice of pain and as I realized my injury, the pain reared its head and made sure I knew it was there.
I used my arms to prop up my torso first. I was wet from head to toe—pee. And though the stinging pain in my neck almost blinded me, I kept my mouth shut. There was still a chance I could get to the shower and to bed without another incident—especially with his friends here. Yes, he choked me and left me on the floor while he and his friends went Xbox wild. It didn’t surprise me—there was the real sadness.
I slid first through the puddle and then crawled down the narrow, wood panel walled hallway until I reached the bathroom. There was no use in stopping to look at myself in the mirror. Give me some purple, black and blue crayons and I could draw it for you better than DaVinci himself. I lay flat on my back and pushed my hips upward, peeling my jeans from my legs and kicking them off as quietly as possible. Then I finagled the buttons on my shirt, and flailed around until I was naked. The side of the bathtub acts as my crutch so I can bend over it and start the hot water. I mounted the rim of the bathtub like getting on the saddle of a horse and then threw the other one over until I’m prostrate under the cleansing spray. I wash my hair with bar soap since I was still scared to stand and my shampoo was lazing in a plastic hammock hanging by the neck of the sprayer.
“You suck, shampoo,” I garbled at it.
I lathered everything that I can reach in that posture and managed to wrestle myself back out of the tub. I didn’t even bother the hamper with my nasty clothes; I just let the trashcan take care of the mess instead. My clenched hand and a sturdy vanity finally allowed me to stand and bundle myself in a towel. I cracked the door open just enough to reassess the dunderhead situation and hear more of the same ticking and grunting. My toes whispered down the rest of the hall to our bedroom and I slipped on an old pair of pajama pants and a tank top, downed some aspirin, and gently lowered myself into bed.
But there was something triggered in this attack. Some sense of ‘survival of the fittest’ attitude sprung from the rest of the complacent nature and kept me wide awake.
I’d had enough.
Homelessness was even better than this.
Death was better than this—at least it would afford me sleep.
Never ending sleep would be my heaven, met at the gates by a warm blanket and given the tour by a feather pillow.
I laid on the edge of the bed; bugs flew around the yellow light outside, right above the trailer next to us. A gold halo surrounded it—my mind swirled with more thoughts of the pearly gates and a fear lodged itself in my throat—I’d probably never get in.
I was losing it quickly.
I had around twenty seven dollars in my pocket. I didn’t have very many clothes, so I could grab those easy as pie. I had a few pieces of my grandmother’s jewelry in a deposit box at the bank, but I’d rather starve than to sell those.
An hour or so later, the trailer shook with his skunk-ape footprints coming down the hall and I commanded my body to act relaxed and play possum—or at least sleep.
He slammed into the door frame and I somehow kept the startle within me—he was drunk. He cursed the doorway to hell and then fell into the bed, mumbling still. I knew his breathing by heart—not the cutesy way some women know their men sound as they deepen in sleep. No, I had to know for my sanity. I was only free when he was jailed in slumber.
Shallow nose breathing turned into a chortling snore and I turned over to look at the beast and test the waters. I watched him, muscled and chiseled, such a Trojan Horse if I’d ever seen one. I lifted one of his hands and then let go and it flopped down on the bed, not disturbing its owner. This was my chance.
I got out of the bed, grabbed one of my discount store fake gym bags and stuffed jeans, shirts, underwear, socks, and the only two bras I owned into it. I grabbed my flip flops and carried them, afraid of the noise they’d cause. In hindsight, I should’ve done something horrible to him like superglued his balls to his thigh, but I didn’t have the will.
I only had the will to leave.
I couldn’t take the car. It was his, in his name, the insurance was in his name, the whole shebang. But I had two legs. I got to the main road outside of the trailer park and to my right was the city where I knew I could get somewhere with my twenty some odd dollars. And to my left was my mother’s house, at least a three hour drive and I had no car. But she’d kicked me out when I dropped out of school and then I married Brent because he claimed not to believe in sleeping with someone before marriage. It was all horse shit, of course, because I later found out I was one of many.
But he married the dumb one who would stick around and not defend herself.
So I went right that time, instead of wrong.