Today is a foggy day in Chicago. And whenever that happens, I can’t help but remember the day I’ll never forget. We all have that one day when something so magnificent, so marvelous, so mind-blowing happens that you know you will never forget it. Well, mine wasn’t the first two. Mine was awful. It was the day I thought I was going to die. But by the grace of God I survived. The bruises on the outside have faded, and my spirit continues the long and arduous journey of healing. But, after 20 plus years, I still have not forgotten.
You see, for years, I was a victim of domestic violence, but of course, I didn’t call it anything technical like that. I was just a young stupid teenage girl turned adult by pregnancy and then age. I had all the outward stats of being a “grown ass woman” but all the actions of a lost and lonely girl. But of course, at the time, I didn’t know that either. All I knew was I had a baby by the neighborhood drug dealer which gave me status amongst the neighborhood hoodlums.
Even as I write this I am amazed that this is me talking about the same person–a girl I really don’t know or understand. My parents had given me all the “right” things to be successful in life. I went to a small private school. I was the head of the class. I was smart. I was pretty. I was a talented dancer and gymnast. How on earth did I even get involved with neighborhood hoodlums and criminals? One consecutively wrong decision day after day would lead me into a life I was neither prepared or knowledgeable of, and I would eventually pay a huge price for my naiveté.
But again, at the time, I didn’t know all that. All I knew was me and my girls didn’t have to pay for weed. I didn’t know getting slapped by this young thug would turn into years of violence. When that first happened, I still lived at home with my parents, or shuffled between one of them or the other, but I wasn’t on my own.
Then, I just thought he loved me. I mean, my daddy hit my mother and he loved her so this was just something men did when they got angry. And then, they buy you things, you forgive them, and life goes on. That’s really what I thought and that just became normal. If we would be playing cards and he lost, well he’d just tear up all the cards and slap me or call me a dumb bitch. Now that, I thought was taking it too far, but not because of what he was saying about me, but because he was too dumb not to know when to hold or play his joker. Again, young and dumb.
And things just got worse and worse.
When I was 17, I had our first daughter. After that, I did try to get away from him. But he came to my mother’s house and held our first daughter out of her 25th floor window and said, “If you ever try to leave me, I will find you and kill you both.” I was so terrified. When I think about my little month old daughter in his hand out the window, I could just die right here and now. And again, out of amazement at my own self, I thought, “‘Wow. He must really love us.” It never occurred to me, at that time, that this m-f is crazy. I would later get there. But then, it was just teenage love.
More and more instances of that would escalate into him actually showing all of his cards–literally-and giving me no doubt that this was not normal, and that he would eventually attempt to kill us.
By this time, I had two daughters by him, and was living in my own apartment on the North side in walking distance from DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. Whenever we would pass by there, it would just look so magical and welcoming to me. I didn’t know how I was going to get in, or how I would afford it. I just knew I had to go. Mind you, at that time, I had gone from being a straight A student in grammar school to high school dropout living alone at 18 yrs old with a psycho-maniac and two little girls.
The abuse went on for years.
I have been beaten with hangers. Cut with knives. Strangled to the point of near death. And had so many black eyes it’s a wonder I can even see today. And out of all those beatings, and all the times I’ve been slapped, spit on, choked, and stomped, the day I remember more than any was the day he was determined to set me on fire.
By this time, I knew he was crazy. I knew I had to escape. The girls were six and four and we were celebrating our oldest daughter’s birthday. I had just gotten my $300 monthly aid check and had to do laundry, get the girls new shoes, and plan a birthday party for the next day. This was a Friday night. By this time, I had begun to hide money because I knew we had to get away. I just didn’t know how. I said I paid all the bills and didn’t have any money, which I had, but I had saved $50 to get the girls new shoes and a birthday gift for my oldest daughter. He wasn’t going for that. He knew that I had some money somewhere, so he just started talking to himself out loud over and over about how he was going to have to “kill this bitch” if I didn’t give him that money.
Well, I started talking out loud too, but I was talking to God. I was saying, “This is bad. I NEED you. Please rescue us. He is going to kill us. Do you hear him? He is going to kill us!” And he told me, “Yeah, you better talk to God cuz he ’bout the only one who can save your ass.” And so I told God that too. “You hear him? He says You’re the only one who can save us.” And on and on that went for hours, until finally, he left. When he did, somehow, sitting side by side was a fifth of Vodka and the Bible.
I knew if I started drinking I would be no good for the girls in the morning and my mother, sister, and niece were coming for the party, so instead I picked up the Bible. And I prayed, God show me what you want me to know. And I flipped to the Psalms and read how those who dig a ditch for others shall themselves fall into it. And read how a mother can never forget a baby nursing at her breast and God can never forget about me. I read how He would rescue me and save me from evildoers. And I felt comforted. I was still scared. But somehow I knew I would make it through.
That feeling of peace didn’t last long because for the hour or two while he’d been gone he came back high off crack cocaine, determined to get that money from me. He demanded that I tell him where it was. He asked me if I really wanted him to kill me. And just kept saying that “All I had to do was give him that money.” He told me what a stupid bitch I was for trying to have a party. We were broke and poor and not worth a damn anyway and ranted on and on, “JUST GIVE ME THE MONEY.”
I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I call for help? I couldn’t. My phone had long been turned off which is why the only person I could call on for help was the Lord.
And that’s exactly what I did.
But he’d had about enough of that.
Before I knew it, he went into the closet and pulled out a can of charcoal lighter fluid and poured it all over me while I ran through my 2-bedroom apartment. Because I was doing laundry, I had pulled all of the clothes out of the hallway linen closet and so I ran in there, which was probably the worst place I could have gone because it was enclosed and small. I stood there in the corner, whimpering, helpless, begging and pleading, “Don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.”
But he told me, “Bitch, you asked for this. You could have just given me the money.” And, with lighter fluid dripping off my eyelids and all over and through my hair, he began to strike the matches. One after the other, he lit them, and as if someone were standing there next to me, air would appear and blow the matches out. He must have lit 10 matches, and each of them were blown out. Until finally, he got frustrated and frazzled and just left me alone, crying and terrified in the closet.
That was the last Friday I ever spent with him.
The next day my family did come for the party and I told them I had to get out of there. That following day, my mother came back and told me my father had a stroke, although he hadn’t actually had one at that time, and that I had to leave. I spent the weekend packing bags and stashing them in the closet so that when she came we’d be ready.
Remember, we didn’t have a phone and he wouldn’t dare fight me in front of my mother, so I had to make the transition look normal, but happen quickly. And it did. I loaded those bags in my mom’s car, stayed at her house for two weeks to try to figure out what I would do and how I’d get him out, but turns out I didn’t have to figure out anything. Just as the Good Book had promised, he was staying in my apartment illegally, and so when my landlord went in there to do a surprise walk through (this was subsidized housing where they could do that), he got scared, ran out, and locked himself out.
He actually had the audacity to call me at my mother’s and tell me that God created the world in seven days and he could change in a week to a better man too. By that time I wasn’t as young and dumb as I had been, and I knew for a fact that he was no God. So I didn’t go back and I didn’t let him in and the management team changed the locks, secured the doors, until eventually, I would return home.
And in that same two-bedroom apartment where I’d used drugs, gotten beaten, battered, and bruised, I actually did go on to get accepted into DePaul, much to me and my public aid caseworker’s amazement. I’d walked past the same people who laughed at me for being with that guy in the first place. And I went on to have many more beautiful parties for my daughters in our peaceful place, and to earn, not one, but two degrees from DePaul University.
Sometimes though, when the fog rolls in, I wonder if they remember.
I never have to question if I do though.
It was a day, and a time in my life, that I’ll never forget.
About Me: Today I’m a happily married wife of six daughters who enjoys writing, teaching fitness classes, and helping others know of the love of God and the power they possess within. Please join my IFAIH community on Facebook and and “Like” my page. Plus, you don’t have to miss any of my latest blogs. Just click the “Subscribe by Email” tab above and they’ll be sent directly to your email. It’s free and there’s no spam.
Also, if you, or anyone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse, while it is good to know that God does see, hear, and deliver, don’t leave them alone without support or help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or you can visit their website for more information by clicking here.
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