Of Masks and Impressions

It always amazes me how people from all walks of life and inclinations gather at a funeral. Tall people, short people, fat people, thin people, rich people, poor people, the young, the old…sure, some of them are related to the deceased and others known to him, but they mostly get together because of some macabre appreciation of death. It is like they have to see the dead body being buried in the ground with their own eyes to believe.

I can almost hear them from up here. Remembering the good times,talking about how nice Mark was, such a saint. No one seems to remember what a monster he was. I can’t help but wonder why it is that when a person dies the living automatically forget all the bad things he ever did.

*
When you are young and in love, the world is your oyster. You can do anything, be invincible. It is easy to ignore the imperfect, the small things that don’t fit into your perfect life. He has a hair trigger temper, ignore. He treats you like a paid hooker, ignore. He is too possessive, ignore.

I had a hard time in group therapy accepting that he had taken advantage of me and none of it was my fault. I kept thinking that if I had paid attention more maybe I could have gotten out sooner. Saved myself.

Once upon a time, a young village girl was charmed and swept off her feet by a dashing city boy. The romance lasted for six months, and then we got married. It was a fairytale wedding, a dream come true.

I didn’t have much to do. Mark was the only child of a very well off family. He was mostly a figurehead in his father’s company. He didn’t see the value of work when he was going to inherit it all one day. My role in his life was that of a wife. I spent my days cooking for my husband, puttering around in the garden, and getting well versed on all that reality television had to offer.

It was so boring I wanted to punch something.It was a day like any other. I was tired of my own company by this time and I decided to leave the house and look for something to do. I was not allowed to leave, ostensibly for my safety, but I knew this was just another part of Mark’s possessiveness. I had had just about enough of that.

My wanderings took longer than I expected and I found that Mark had gotten to the house before me. He was just seated on the couch, staring off into space. I remember thinking that was weird, because the lights were off and even the television was silent. I could see his silhouette illuminated by the moonlight coming through the windows. The curtains hadn’t been drawn yet. I thought that was mighty lazy and irresponsible of him. He should have done these things because he got home before me.

I went to kiss him hello, as was our custom. He moved away. I was quite puzzled by his behavior. In a quiet tone I had never heard him use before, he asked me where I had been. I started to tell him, at the same time thinking of what I could quickly prepare for dinner. I went to move but he grabbed my arm in a bruising grip. I let out a small gasp of pain. It seemed that Mark did not even hear it. In his eyes I could see the familiar anger I was used to along with something that sent a shiver down my spine. When the first slap landed on my cheek, my head jerked back with the force. I didn’t even
cry out this time. I could feel the pain radiating from the point of contact but my mind was still grappling with this new reality. In all my years I had never been slapped. For it to happen now,when I was a grownup and by my husband’s hand, it felt like someone else nightmare.

As he continued to beat me, even as I cried out in pain and cowered in fear from him, I felt like I was on the outside looking in. As if I were watching a movie of someone else life or as if this was a nightmare I would wake up from any second now.

I don’t know how long it lasted, I must have blacked out for a few minutes. At one point, I thought I heard the phone ring. The next thing I knew, Mark was back and he was picking me up off the floor. I instinctively made myself as small as possible, wanting no part of him to touch me. Mark started sobbing and saying how sorry he was. He took me to the bathroom and gently cleaned my wounds.He was extra sweet to me for the next two weeks. He bought me presents, stayed at the house and took care of me, and when the bruising faded, he took me out to dinner most nights.

He tried, but it just wasn’t the same. He had broken a part of me. I went through the motions as a wife, as a lover, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

I gave some thought to telling someone, but I chickened out. Apart from my husband’s family and friends, I knew no one else in the city. He was the golden boy, loved by everyone. If I claimed he was a wife beater, who would believe me?

Keeping silent was the worst mistake I ever made.

It wasn’t long before it happened again. I don’t remember the excuse he used this time, but I had to go to the hospital. I was bleeding profusely from the waist down. When he realized that he had hurt me seriously, he panicked and called his parents. They called their personal doctor to the house.

He told them some story of how I fell down the stairs. It sounded implausible. I could see it in their eyes that they didn’t believe that, but they let it go.

In a couple of hours, the bleeding had been stopped. The evidence had been successfully swept under the rag and life went back to my new
normal.

*
I have to go down there soon. I have used my grieving widow privilege for an hour now and locked myself in my room. I know that someone will be coming up the stairs to look for me soon but I am not yet ready to face everyone and pretend to feel sad that that monster is dead.

I wish I could remove all the funeral garb and wear my brightest colors to show how happy I am. Instead, I have to wear a black long sleeved dress to hide the marks he left on my arms, my body. Mark never did care if I lived or died after his beatings. Now, I just made sure he died first.

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