On Survival and Abuse: Coming Alive

I came alive again once I met Billy. I was living dead. In that room in Tokyo that looked out to concrete and glass and quiet desperation, trapped within four walls with a man who was beating and raping and depriving me of the essentials of life for years on end, I became reduced. I used to be something else. I used to be someone else. I used to be fun. I used to have fun. I used to be the kind of person that lived and lived fully, and then I met him.

I try to remain quietly appreciative of everything I have nowadays. Some official laughing at my dead serious assertation that if my husband found me she likely would be coming to my funeral made me silently saddened. Is it really that way? Would people have laughed if he had killed me? Would they laugh if he finds me and takes me out finally? Would people find this ridiculous? Amusing? Would they giggle as they dragged my body out of the apartment? Would they laugh in my son’s face as he cried for his mother? I am serious. I need to know. I need to know if that is the general reaction of people to my fucking life.

I am not very happy today. I don’t feel very safe. I don’t trust the world not to turn on me and rip my throat out. Before Billy drifted back into my life things had got very bad indeed. You know those movies where the killer and the potential victim play cat and mouse? They hide in corners, escape clutches, they run for help but all the phone lines are cut. Eventually someone or other wins. Generally only one survives. The classic movie trope has the woman finally taking out her stalker. I watched one of these movies on netflix a few days ago. It sickened me, but I could not look away. This was never something I wanted or considered. I wanted everyone out of the situation safely. I have no desire for revenge. I just want my freedom. I am not that kind of freak.

My husband played these cat and mouse games with me. I never stood and fought, knowing if I did, one of us would die, and whether it was him, or I found it in myself to defend myself to the bitter end, which to be frank, is unlikely. I know I am not a nice person. Heck I am not even particularly ‘good’, but I detest violence. I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt someone else. Not even him. Every time I even resisted he amped up his attacks making them more and more deadly. I have dodged death many times simply by sheer pure luck.

My head fell missing the corner of the table as he slammed me to the floor with his fist or foot. The window shattered around me, cutting my arm, but missing my neck. He failed time and time again to kill me, not through care or lack of intent, but my determination to survive and my ability to run and think out of the box, and dodge his attacks and get to that door with my babies in my arms and run shoeless down Tokyo streets, bloodied and battered but alive. I am an escape artist. I am a survivalist. I am the kind of person who proved herself prepared to walk shoeless if it meant her life. I am the kind of person that hides with babies behind stacks of tires. I am the kind of person who throws stones up to convent windows and begs the nuns for shelter. I am the kind of person that accepts not having enough food for myself as long as I can give my babies three meals a day. I am the kind of person that charges past my attacker, shielding my children and runs, runs runs, even when I have unhealed c section scars and wounds and bruises and broken things. I am the kind of person that hauls things that are heavier than herself, just to get away and live and let live. I guess I am not that kind of monster, but I am not wholly normal either.

So when someone who should know better laughs at my concerns I get antsy. I get upset. I get hurt. Make no mistake, I am beyond hurt. I thought that the rest of the world, whilst mostly not into helping me escape or recover, would at least not laugh at the thought of my demise. I suppose I was wrong. This has not put me in a good mood, and the more I think about it, the more upset I get. I have feelings. I guess they are just not that important to other people.

By the time I refound my Billy I was on my last legs. I am not the suicidal kind, yet I could not see a future where I would continue to get lucky. My mind was pushed so far under, buried under babies and survival and 60 inch tv sets and Tokyo desperation that I was no longer myself. I did not create. I did not play my guitar. I did not write. I did not really live. I existed only to care for those babies, and however honorable that is, for a woman such as me that is a slow and certain soul death. I do not regret a minute of it and would do it all over again. I would do it all over again and try and do it better, despite half starving, despite being battered, despite it all I would try and laugh and smile and be present even more than I managed at the time.

Every time my son, now towering over me, pats me on the head and ruffles my hair affectionately, or hugs me telling me how much he loves me and appreciates me and is glad to be with me, I look back and feel intense shame it was not all better for him, yet at the time I did my best. I did more than I was capable of. No one can run at 200 percent effort, whilst being drained totally for year upon year with no respite. Sometimes I sit here and feel stunned. I draw the curtains and make sure the door is locked and find a safe corner to sit in and turn up the radio, and I still don’t feel safe. Make no mistake, I am beyond grateful to the State of California for saving our lives. I am full of love for America for giving me shelter and a bit of life. I see that Stars and Stripes and I get tears in my eyes, because for all our difficulties and faults this is still the freest place on earth, and the best place too. We are essentially a place of compassion and tenets of good, even if we have done things wrong in the past, and those past evils make present dangers and cruelties, this was the only place on this planet that I could find happiness, safety and freedom. I am eternally grateful.

Because you know what, I deserve happiness, freedom and what remains of my family after surviving so much. I deserve if not others to be glad I am alive, for them at least to leave me be to scour whatever joy I can out of life for what I have left of it, and that brave and kind boy deserves a chance at life.

When I finally escaped, almost 7 years ago, and went on the road it might have been tough. It might have been dirty and a different kind of dangerous, but it was free and nobody was beating me or raping me or hurting me. I was brought back to life, resuscitated. I picked up that guitar once again and played my songs and sang freely. I picked up my pen and notebook and started to write. I started to laugh and talk and find where I had buried myself in order to survive. I came back to life. Ok, so part of my coming back entailed going under again, unable to cope with the stress of living a life on the borders of loss, I tried to numb it all out once again, and fell back into who I was before the babies, before Tokyo, before Him, but I pulled myself out of it.

I remember standing on the shore of a lake in Washington State, watching the water glitter and the sky turn all kinds of intense blue and the greens so green and finding myself laughing. Laughing so hard and so high and so wildly I scared the birds away that had settled down to peck at the ground next to me. It was a coming alive, a new birthday, a rebirth of sorts in that emerald green campground, wishing I had a good blue clapboard house with maroon stars cut out and stuck on the side of a pretty barn, and a strong pony and a good cow and a few chickens and a garden full of mushrooms and weed. I was not who I was before the beatings and the regular brushes with death, no. I was not that girl and could never be. I was hardened, changed, altered. I was the new me, and it felt so good to be alive. It still does. I love life, even if the lack of humanity of others irritates me now and again.

Sometimes if I shut my eyes I am back in Tokyo for a moment, pushing down the me that I am in order to survive the then that was. No matter how hard I try, I still can’t find any of it funny. At least my little indoor garden looks nice. Some things keep growing no matter what.

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