My little Tokyo apartment might have been home, but it was rarely a refuge, hardly ever the safest place I could be. A few times he would be sent off for a few days, a week even, to China, or some other part of Japan, somewhere else, to do business with people in some important way. Those occasions were a party, a festival, a total happiness, a joy. He would storm out the door in silence and barely contained fury, my having had to chase and nag and persuade: “__Chan, __Chan, darling, please can you leave some money, please? Me and the kids will need to eat while you are gone, please? You can’t just go to China and leave us with no money.” He didn’t argue, he never discussed or argued, he just hit. Sometimes there was no choice but to push things with him, otherwise we all would have starved to death, or never got to a doctor, or a dentist, or anything that you need to do to live. Sometimes I’d beg. Sometimes I’d be told darkly if I wanted money for food, diapers for babies, formula to top up feeds then I would have to “be nice.” Iko, da na! Be a good girl. I can’t tell you when in the marriage this started, this kind of abuse, but early on, while I was pregnant with the first, I suppose. Be a good girl, doesn’t matter if you have just had a baby, doesn’t matter if you are heavily pregnant, or bleeding or hurting, or just don’t want to. You better do as I ask and do it with enthusiasm, or No Money. Yes, I thought as I headed to the shower again to wash the dirt and the pain and the smell of him on me off me, yes, I am once again the whore, and this time what have I done to get myself here? Clean, sober, devoted to my babies, I cooked and cleaned, I cared for and doted on. He never had to do a feed, he never once changed a diaper, he never got up at night for them, he didn’t do anything, and nor did I ask in the end. In the end I was afraid that because he didn’t want to he would hurt them as an excuse for me never to ask again. That was exactly something he would do. I guarded them like a faithful old dog, or a Japanese spirit guardian with a mission to protect the innocent. I would never put myself in that category – the Innocent. I was a poster-child for innocence lost. The nagging voices in my head would tell me that I was nothing, I was dirt, I was deserving of this. I would fight back against the self doubt, indignant, furious. Cheated.
This was my grand play for redemption. This was my hard fought for, hard won ticket to be someone I wanted to be. This was my try at being a decent human being. No one that knew me would ever let me forget what I had been, what I had done, but I was in Tokyo, who would know? My husband certainly did not. I never told him, I just became someone else, someone who hadn’t taken those wrong paths. I had no intention and no ability to relapse, and so felt that I deserved to have my privacy, to draw a line under the past, to move on. I was allowed to move on, alright…out of the frying pan, right into the fire.
Children grow up, and the days divided themselves into days he was home, and days he worked. He worked the typical long hours of the Japanese salaryman intent on “karoshi” or death by overwork, leaving at 7am, and never back before seven at night, and regularly worked past midnight. This was our saving grace. The mornings would start early, I’d make breakfast for him, put the coffee on. The kids were trained to be quiet. They would sit in front of the television, the Disney channel clamoring on in the background in English. He refused to teach them Japanese. My older girl fidgeting and fussing and darting around after me, until I plonked her back down, glass of calpis in her hand, with a firm NO. She knew it meant not until he had gone. Slam! Crash! Bang! Sometimes shoving me, sometimes backhanding me if I had to ask for the kid’s medical cards, which he kept in his wallet, sometimes grabbing at my boobs or ass or whatever he wanted, humiliating me, hurting me. But he would go, and go he did. The front door slamming, I’d put the inner security latch on, so we could not be surprised by him opening the door again, and the kids would shout as soon as they had given him enough time to go…”Pig’s GONE!” pigsgonepigsgonepigsgone! They would caper around me, kissing me, hugging me. Their mother had survived another day.
We would put music on as loud as we wanted, we would dance and make little origami animals, and read books. We would make crafts and laugh and talk. We came alive.
Pig’s Back. That would be the end of the day. Sometimes he would be back too late for the kids to notice. If they were awake we would listen out for his feet outside, his key in the lock, I’d open the inner latch and that would be that. My day was not finished. I’d give him his supper, invariably not the same as me and the children, he would insist on steaks and pork katsu, the best koshihikari rice and little side dishes of kinpira and salads. He ate and ate and ate. As time went on, he ballooned into a huge eating machine, eating eating eating, devouring me as well as the food. The tiny amount of money he left every morning on the sideboard was never enough for me and the children to ate the same food he did. Instead we lived on lentils and cheap vegetables, I’d make riceballs stuffed with tuna if we had it, if not cheap packets you mix into the rice to give it flavor.
That was life. Enjoy the time he was away, survive the time he was home. Survive the abuses, the blows the indignities, the hunger. I would go without to feed my children, I’d go without day in day out, not questioning, not complaining, accepting how it was but not quite accepting it was the way it would always be. I always had bruises and cuts, various injuries, as he would ragdoll beat me, the kids running to their bedroom, barricading the door and never ever coming out until I told them it was safe, and collected them, knocking on the door in our special pattern of dots and dashes. It was safe, it is safe now, Ma is here, and I’ve got you both. Once, he stormed back in, my daughter trapped behind me as he beat the heck out of me, me begging no no no, stop stop stop, please stop, the Girl, the Girl is behind me, please stop, please please please. He roared. He roared like an animal, spat on me, and I braced myself so as not to fall back on her while she cowered terrified, ma ma ma ma ma ma….I tried to leave. I tried to. Bounced back time and time again by the fucking Hague and their stupidity, parental child abduction my ass. They were good as killing me. After the glass shatter incident, I promised, we would run and we would run so far, so very far he would never ever find us again. We would be free.
Truly he earnt the title Pig.
Later on, heading down some road or other in the USA, all singing along to Dylan singing about answers and winds, looking back at their faces, I thought I had won.
Dumbass. You never win. Won’t you ever learn….