Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Chapter XIIIIX: the longest night

While many inconsequential details of my life during those early months of 1996 remain vibrantly clear in my head, others are fuzzy at best or only come in flashes or snippets focused on all the wrong details. While some people have photographic memories, I have a chronological memory, which made history an ideal undergraduate major. My brain thrives on dates and timelines. I envision my own life as a long horizontal line with the years branching off with specific dates and events filled in like those time lines in a history book with key events and milestones categorized into their proper year and age and grade with representative photos of key events. It wasn't until recently that I realized that when I meet people, I instinctively create a blank timeline in my head and begin filling in their significant dates in parallel with my own. It helps me point their world in perspective with my own. I even do this at work. If I'm reading a case that was decided in 1993, I line it up against my own timeline and think of graduating from high school and starting college. Perhaps that sounds self-centered. I think it is more about how I relate - by putting things in their proper context. Memorizing dates is more of a compulsion than an effort. If I ignore you on your birthday, it is never because I have forgotten - neglect is more likely due to procrastination than anything. To understand how I came to leave my husband on July 28, 1996, I simply trace my finger back along that timeline and other key dates and the images of the events fill themselves in.

For example, the apartment in Salt Lake I shared with Mitch was a split-entry in a four-plex with a dark tile entry and heavy brown-ish shag carpeting leading both up the stairs and into the two bedrooms and downstairs into our family room/dining area. The carpet also extended out atop the half wall that separated the two halves of the bent staircase which became a collector of keys, books, mail and the dog's leash. I liked our relatively spacious living room which was simply adorned with the salvaged brown, plaid, hide-a-bed couch and a brown striped overstuffed chair we inherited from my parents which I covered in a less clashing cover of blue-green with a mauve floral pattern. Our stereo (mine from before we met) was set up in waffle-block stacking cubes behind the couch and our tv (the one I received from my parents for Christmas as a freshman) was on the opposite wall in the entertainment center my aunt had donated to us. In the short end of the L-shaped room was the dining area which proudly held the white and pine table with 6 chairs my parents had given us (new!) shortly after we moved to Salt Lake as a belatedly delivered Christmas gift. The kitchen was dark despite the yellow linoleum and ill-planned doubling back on the living room but cut-off with a wall. There was also a half-bathroom at the bottom of the stairs with a washer and dryer and a spacious storage area under the stairs. Upstairs was simple. A linen closet with a dark slatted door of 70s-ish wood, a bathroom with sliding glass doors instead of a shower curtain and a tub that never drained properly leaving it perpetually dingy. The linoleum was probably originally white with a gold pattern but was faded to a dingy non-descript color. The smaller bedroom held my childhood twin bed and the desk Mitch "helped" me put together on our first date holding our computer (again, from my parents) where I spent a large number of hours stressing over our financial situation as I attempted, again and again to make Quiken tell me where our money kept slipping away to. Our bedroom contained the six-drawer yellow dresser I received when I was 2 or 3 years old and the queen bed my parents went to such efforts to deliver to us in Cedar City, only to have it dragged back up to Salt Lake a month later.

But when I think of the details of that apartment, I am really avoiding glimpsing the events that took place there. The events that do not neatly line up on my timeline because, for the most part, I do not know when they happened. Or what led up to them happening. Or, sometimes, if they really happened to me. Not that I doubt that these fuzzy memories happened, I am just shocked that I was ever that girl in the memory:

The girl, in an attempt to get rid of an aggressive spring in her back at night, flipped her marital mattress over only to discover a large number of magazines - pornographic magazines.

The girl who cried herself to sleep often on the very edge of the bed.

The girl who tried to inspect the red, welting hand print on her back in the bathroom.

The girl who endured days at a time of stoney silence from her husband.

The girl standing at the top of the landing crying to a police officer nodding as her husband is being handcuffed in the spare bedroom to her left and her father is being held back at the front door below her by two more policemen.

These episodes don't line up neatly. They are jumbled in with images of eerily bright sunlight shining in the bedroom window as I wearily sat on the askance mattress thumbing through the magazines that I concluded were the reason my husband no longer found me attractive - my heart stuck in my throat somewhere. There was also the still-nagging accusation that I provoked his violence with my questions and tears. I was poking the sleeping lion.

There is also the surreal off-the-chronology memory of playing raquetball at Mitch's friend's apartment complex and a broken racket and me cowering in the corner. On the floor. No other details. Did he hit me? Did he hit the wall and just yell at me? Was it winter or spring or maybe late fall?

I don't know.

I just know I don't like to play raquetball and there is one incident more vivid and awful than the others that took place in early to mid-March and I find it strange that I cannot recall the date more precisely.


We were fighting. Over what, I don't know. Maybe money. Maybe jobs. Maybe his lack of interest in me. Maybe I provoked an argument just to feel something other than numbness. It was passion, just the wrong sort.

I tried to leave.

He wouldn't give me the keys.

He hit my arm.
Or slapped it.
Or maybe grabbed it.

I told so many lies about that night I don't know the truth myself. I know it was hard.

I know it left a glaring red mark on my tricep, just below my shoulder.

I know I was on the floor at some point. Crying. Begging, pleading, asking him to calm down.

He was in the spare bedroom on the green phone sitting on the three-drawer blue cardboard stand in which I attempted to organize papers.

He was holding the car keys, unwilling to give them to me.

I just wanted to leave.

Or did I just want him to calm down?

I was scared.

He yelled into the phone "You better come get your daughter before I kill her." (I've removed the expletives because I don't know where they were originally placed, just that they were there.)

I only know what he said because my dad told me this later, he was on the other end of that one-sided conversation that ended with a slamming of the receiver. Why didn't I remember him saying that?

The dog was barking wildly. Where was he?

Someone was at the door.

The police.

Mitch dragged the dog - still barking and growling and snapping - downstairs into the bathroom and shut him in.

I probably answered the door.

Then, there I was standing in the hall at the top of the hallway with red eyes which, I am sure, made my eyes a vivrant green against the swollen, puffyness of my blotchy skin. I was wearing an over-sized white t-shirt. I struggled to calm myself with deep breaths but could not seem to get enough air.

The policeman continued to ask me the same question over and over while I looked warily to my left at my husband sitting on the single bed in handcuffs.
Another policeman was with him.
I didn't like that he was putting Mitch's shoes on without any socks and I may have said something about it, not comprehending what was happening.

I could only nod yes as I was asked: "Did he hit you?" As the cop demonstrated various fists or slapping with his hand, I went numb and sunk into a tiny little corner of myself and shut the door.

And locked it.

The policeman inspected my arm and Mitch was standing, they were about to escort him past me and down the stairs.

But my dad was at the door yelling. Angrier than I have ever seen him. Shouting accusations at Mitch.

I retreated a little further.

Now the police were restraining my dad on the dark porch, moving him away from my sight.

My mom was yelling his name behind him as he yelled up at me asking "did he hit you? did he hit you?" over and over.

Or at least it bounced around in my head over and over, just outside the locked door behind which I was cowering.

Then, Mitch was gone and I was left sitting at my desk trying to write a statement with my dad sitting on the bed in front of me. Maybe my mom too, but I only remember my dad.

I changed my story.

I denied being hit or slapped or punched or shoved. I felt very, very small.

I was in the eye of the storm. Briefly, the fury of hysterics and yelling and violence and uniforms and reports and flashing red lights was replaced with quiet and numbness.

I turned over my papers to the police and they handed me pamphlets and took my husband to jail.

The horror of what had just happened and the consequences shook me. The dawning started small but I knew I had to deny everything or the blame would be heaped on me later.

The hysteria returned. I begged my parents to bring Mitch back. I begged them. I swore he hadn't touched me - that we were just arguing loudly. I cried and struggled again for air as my chest tightened and panic set in at full tilt.

Somehow my neighbor was there, standing in the living room with my parents. We were good friends with him. I went to high school with his wife. Did he call the police? He claimed they had just returned from somewhere and saw the police and wanted to check on me.

I was calmer by then.

He and my dad gave me a blessing. I refused to go home with my mom. I wanted to be there when Mitch came home.

My parents consented to my pleas and followed the police to the jail.

I locked down all emotion.

I clutched the cordless phone to my chest, curled in the fetal position on top of my bed waiting for each call. My feet were pointed toward my pillow, my head close to where Mitch's feet usually were at this time of night . . . or morning.

With each call reality sunk in a little bit deeper.

I spoke with my parents several times.

I spoke with at least one police officer or police chief or someone of authority.

They kept telling me I could not talk to Mitch and that Mitch could not come home.

There would be a restraining order.

Mitch's family refused to help.

My parents paid his bail.

I don't remember sleeping.

I don't remember thinking much either.

I just remember being curled up on that bed with the phone clutched to my chest; waiting.


Tiffany said...

Stunning. In every way.

I'm sure this was very difficult to write and re-live. I hope there was some catharsis in getting it out.

I think it's very amazing, given the way you have recalled all the other details, dates, and images from this story, but this part is disjointed and blurry. I'm no psychologist, but I believe we depart from our consciousness when it is too difficult to cope with something. I imagine that was happening here.

Good grief, I'm so sorry. So sorry.

lizzie said...

i am heart broken...

DeAnn said...

Wow -- your writing is incredible - simply incredible. My niece is in a similar situation - it's so easy to be on the outside and look in and judge what you think they should or should not do. I don't wish this experience on anyone - but no doubt you will touch many other women simply because you are really able to understand them.

katie said...

Amazing, scary, and sad. Will be waiting for more.

autumn said...

Wow, fabulous writing. Really. Captivating. I'm sorry. I agree with Tiffany about the mind detaching itself. Yikes, what a scary spring.

Shannon said...

I love following your story. I think I've commented before that I would love to tell my divorce story like this--but I really can't put the truth out there because I have children I want to shelter as well as an agreement with my ex that we won't publicly "vex" each other. (Unfortunately his wife is free to vex me publicly all she wants.)

Anyway, I was wondering if your ex knows about your blog, and if so, are you at all concerned about the ramifications of telling your story in such a public way? Is he the type to try to get revenge? I have found that no matter how anonymous I may think I am, my ex's wife finds me online. I wouldn't be surprised if she finds my comment here and tries to use it against me.

Don't get me wrong--I think this is an outstanding thing you are doing. I think it's brave and probably pretty cathartic for you. I just worry because I've had some bad experiences with my internet communications that I thought were pretty benign.

michele said...

that made me cry.

Annie said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this story with us.

Anonymous said...

As a man, your story has made me reassess my own marriage. Am I doing my part? Am I letting her know frequently how much she means to me, how attracted I am to her, how important her happiness means to me? Does anything I do communicate a lack of caring, of genuine concern? Seeing the situation through your eyes has forced me to try to step into my wife's shoes and look at myself as the husband SHE sees rather than my own opinion of myself. Thank you.

Soul-Fusion said...

Wow, thank you for your comment anonymous. I am very touched, your wife is lucky to have you. I think all of our relationships would improve if we followed your example and stepped into the other person's shoes (spouse, friend, parent, child, sibling, etc.) to judge our own actions.

Terry said...

Hi Alyssa,
I have been reading your story over the past few days. A friend of my mine came across your blog and sent me the link. So much of your story reminds me of mine. I was 19 when I married a RM in the temple. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to and I couldn't understand why my new husband, who also was in a big hurry to marry me, so quickly lost interest in me. I know most people wouldn't understand why you would protect Mitch in this situation. It doesn't make sense. But I've been there too. I was so loyal and protective of my husband even though he treated me like trash and never would extend the same courtesy to me. I am 30 now and when I recall the memories with him it seems like it happened to someone else, not me. I was a happy, friendly, social teen before I knew him. While I was with him, I was so alone and while I desperately wanted friends, I couldn't be close to anyone because I was working to hide my problems with my husband. I became a different person. I look back at those times and feel sorry for that girl as if she were someone else. Not like I am feeling sorry for myself.

Oh and I can't stand Mitch's attitude towards your parents! He should be grateful to have any car from your parents! They didn't have to give you anything. Why does he feel so entitled?! Ugh!

There is SO much that I can relate to, too much to mention. Sorry, this comment is so long already. Thanks for sharing your story! You are a great story teller and talented writer!

Related Posts with Thumbnails