Flashback on Flashback
After the first slap, the ball dropped.
When Eric drank, he was a different person. He embraced the new angry, aggressive version of himself with open arms as if it was an extension of himself- an extension that he had a seemingly complex relationship with that I did not yet understand. Whenever he did something wrong, the “good Eric” was left apologizing for the “bad Eric” as if it were a completely different entity.
And honestly, I saw them as separate people as well. Without a word and before any motion, I could tell which one I was looking at- I could see it in his eyes.
It seems more figurative than literal to state someone’s eyes changed from personality type to personality type, but they truly did. They could change from cool blue to a darkened hue within an instant. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and I swear I could see the fire boiling up out of him when he was about to explode.
It’s hard to explain how someone could have multiple sides in such a way that doesn’t sound reminiscent of James McAvoy in Switch. He didn’t have a disorder- he just had a darker side. This isn’t a story book fable with one dimensional characters- he isn’t some stock character in a book filling the space of a needed archetype. Everyone has multiple sides that makes them into who they are, and one of his just happened to be… Well, bad.
If we got into even the smallest of tiffs I knew once we were alone I was going to catch some form of wrath, though, for some reason, in the sober light of morning, it was always justified. He was back to puppy dog eyes and apologies, and I always forgave him.
He continually promised it wouldn’t happen again, which, technically, was the truth as no instance was ever the same- each time it evolved becoming progressively worse. Each time it escalated, he apologized and I justified. Justifications had me easily overlooking bruises, cuts, and scrapes because, at least, I wasn’t coming out of it as an unidentifiable pulp.
Even with the justifications, I did attempt to end it several times. Each time I was met with threats that I believed to my core he would follow through on. Even with that fear, more than anything I just felt bad for him. At the time, I really did love him, and seeing him have this constant battle with himself hurt just as much as the physical hits.
He would always tell me that he needed my help, and I wanted more than anything to be able to help him. I looked at his environment, and I wanted to be more for him.
But, I couldn’t. No matter what I did, what advice I gave, how much I tried to help- things were deteriorating around me.
We ended up moving in together into a house with others. In a last ditch effort, I thought this was the fix… I was convinced if there were other people around, there was no way he would do anything to me. Somehow, in my head, this was some brilliant permanent fix for us and our relationship.
Not even a month after we moved in I found myself driving him to the ER after he had thrown me around and smashed his face into my full body mirror.
After shattering the glass and slicing his face open, I ran out of the house into the night. I didn’t have any thought in my head of where I could go, I just knew I needed to get a safe distance away. I ran down the gravel road and sat pressed up to the back of one of the neighbors matured trees. It had to have been around for at least a hundred years because the trunk was large enough to completely hide me- I sank down into the dirt at the mound of the trunk hoping to catch my breath and catch a moment to address, "what now?".
It was a quiet street- we were out in the (almost) middle of nowhere. It was the kind of place that didn’t have the light pollution bleaching out the star-scape sky, and it was quiet enough to hear the lullabies of each nocturnal creature. Because of this, it was fortunately very easy to hide away into the night, and even easier to hear Eric's cries as he wandered up and down the street begging for me to come out.
You have no idea how embarrassing it is to sit hiding from the guy you ‘love’ because you are genuinely was scared of what he might do. Then again, maybe you do.
In the beginning of our relationship, I would have come straight out of my hiding space when I heard his cries. I would have figured he had gone back to the ‘normal’ him, and I probably would have been right. But now, when he got to this point it wasn’t as easy for him to go back. This side of him was deceptive, and I never knew who I was really speaking to once he got to this point.
He called out to me saying he was bleeding so much he thought he was going to die. I didn’t budge. I felt the internal battle between the overly empathetic side of me pleading, “Are you really just going to let him bleed out?”, and me logical side sternly reminding me that while he might be in pain, he obviously wasn’t going to die.
Ultimately, after what seemed like a lifetime in itself, I came out from behind the tree and drove him to the ER. I had waited long enough to feel comfortable that the storm had passed, and I was starting to worry his loud pleading would lead the neighbors to come outside and find me tucked behind their trees.
The crazy thing is, even after what he had done to me, I still felt like I had to help him. Who else would? Clearly not himself.
And the reason all of this happened? He was upset that I had hung out with on my female friends that night, even though I walked on eggshells and was sure to be home too late.
We moved out of that house not too long after into an apartment with another friend. I was sure this time he wouldn’t do anything. It was a smaller space, and being closer friends with our new roommate, I was sure he wouldn't try anything.
The very first night in our new place, I woke up to him spewing random punches across my body along with his rationale reeking of alcohol. His rationale? He was convinced I didn’t love him anymore, and therefore, I must be in love with someone else.
I just remember feeling done. There was something about things getting so bad that I couldn’t go to sleep without getting attacked that made something in me snap.
For the first time ever, I tried to defend myself.
Now, I don’t mean fight back, because not only am I not physically strong enough, but I literally found it emotionally and mentally impossible. Even as he was hitting me, when I looked up at him I just didn’t have it in me to hit him back. I tried to block his hits, but he just grabbed my arm and used it against me. There was something about me actually trying to defend myself that seemed to make him try harder to hurt me. I had learned early on in our relationship that if I just took it, he would usually stop sooner rather than later, so that had always been what I had done up until this point.
I called for help. I had never done that before either, but I screamed for it. My roommate and another friend called for him to open the door, and he just kept hitting me and screaming, “Stop hitting yourself Emily!”, as if anyone actually believed he had locked me in the room with him so I could hit myself.
Eventually, I got out.
I cried on the couch to my roommate and admitted for the first time out loud what he had been doing to me. I’ll never forget him saying, “We all knew things were bad, but we didn’t know they were this bad”.
A week later my best friend flew into town to stay with me. I couldn’t hide the bruises on my face and body, or the random cuts and scrapes, so, as we sat on the balcony, she smoked her cigarettes and I cleared the smoke in my life by telling her everything.
Its funny how once you say it loud once,
it becomes impossible to lock back up