He loves to tell people I hit him.
Well, I did.
It was one of those abuse cycle explosions. I knew he’d been angry for weeks. I had seen the signs and his isolating actions unfolding more and more each day. I had tried everything I could think of to keep him happy and stop it. I had shrunk down so small that I could barely breathe and every step was tentative as if it would be the one to blow it all up. I had racked my brain as to what I had possibly done this time and come up empty handed. And so I braced myself.
It came in the form of a late-night circular conversation. One in which I had been sitting upstairs on the couch with our boys while our daughter read a book in her room. He barreled in glassy eyed from the alcohol and his eyes were filled with rage. He was itching for a fight. I asked him to go. “Not now”, I said, “our children are awake.” But he wouldn’t relent. I remember begging him quietly to stop. To go downstairs and sleep it off. To leave us be. I remember standing up to gently nudge him away from our oblivious boys. And then being pulled to the top of the stairs. To being forced down one at a time. Consciously doing everything within my power to remain calm and quiet and not alert the kids while trying to stop the inevitable. I did not want to go down those stairs. But it was a step. And then another step. And another. I tried tightening my body to make it unmovable. I tried holding on to the bannister. I tried to push around him. Another step and another. I wasn’t going to win this one.
It seemed like hours and at the same time only minutes but for whatever stretch of time it was, I once again found myself seated in the corner of the basement. The lights dimmed. And him standing above me. The fight had begun.
I remember nothing of it. Not a single word. Not the reasoning. Not what I had supposedly done wrong this time. Not what he said. Not what I said. It is all gone.
But I do remember the moment we heard something that alerted us to the fact that our two little boys were still awake and watching TV on the couch upstairs. I saw the crazy in his eyes and his face twitch. I tried to distract him. To pull his attention back to torturing me. I saw his shoulders began to rotate. I remember throwing my body toward him in an effort to grab him and keep him from going up those stairs. I missed. And he was gone. Bounding up the stairs two or three at time. And I ran after him. I have no idea what I feared but fear is all I felt.
They were sitting at the end of the couch curled up together. A cartoon on the TV. Innocent. And I’ll never forget the look on their faces as they looked up at their father. Standing above them with menace on his face. How they shrunk down into each other. How their eyes got so big. How he growled at them to go to bed. They were 3 and 4, I think. Too little to put themselves to bed. Too little to understand what was happening. And accustomed to Momma tucking them in nightly and reading them bedtime stories and saying their prayers and holding them until they nodded off. I tried to intervene and he bellowed out, “NO! They will go to bed this moment!” They wrapped their arms around each other and tears sprang to their eyes. I tried stepping between them and him but he pushed me back. They reached for me and I reached for them. Burning hot tears rushed to my eyes. I begged him to stop and to leave and let me put them to bed. He screamed at them to go and reached for them himself. They only curled deeper into each other and the couch. They did not want to be touched by him and so I leapt for them but he once again knocked me back. They began crying and yelling, “Momma!” and my whole entire being went wild. I came at him from behind and tried to move him. I tried to push around him. I clawed at his arms to release them. I pulled and pushed and yanked and found him unmovable. Ad so I hit him. One time. I smacked him on the rear end. Distraught. Crazed. Needing to get to my boys. I didn’t know what else to do.
And he spun around, releasing the boys and grabbed me. He shook me and roared and his arms became like vises and he lifted me up and threw me with all his might. He threw me across the room and away from him. He threw me away from my children. He threw me as if I was nothing but a rag doll. I landed halfway on the couch and saw him standing above me. I could hear my children screaming. I could see my little boys running towards me. And then nothing.
And I don’t recall another thing after that.
I do not know how that night ended. I do not know what more my children did or did not witness. I do not have a clue where my daughter was or what she heard. It’s all lost to me. But I do remember that I hit him. And he makes sure everyone knows that. And I wish that it had been worth it. That I had landed a solid punch square in his nose or jaw or somewhere it mattered or hurt. Somewhere that bruised. Anything that wasn’t just a desperate slap on the ass.
I hit him.