Escape Rarely Comes With A Carefully Packed Suitcase

Escape rarely comes with a carefully packed suitcase. When I finally managed to escape for good it was with three backpacks, one of which was full to the brim with beloved teddy bears owned by a little girl and her brother. We escaped with the clothes on our backs. I couldn’t take a single photo album with me because I could not give the game away that we were not returning. I do not have a single baby photo of my children. Not one. My past lives in my memories only.

Escape never comes without danger: that is the nature of escape. I have made planned escapes, and desperate hurried rushing running escapes. I have made escapes amid shattered glass. I have made escapes that took years to plan and execute. I have escaped for minutes and escaped all night long on street corners with two tiny children. I have escaped for days, sitting with my money running out of the door in hotel rooms and no way forward except right back where I started. I have failed not to leave, but I have failed to escape, and eventually I succeeded. I escaped. I managed to save one of them, but not both. I both succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and any realistic possibility, and I also failed beyond bearing.

This is what has made me unwell, my failure, my shame, my loss, my uselessness. What made me so unwell was the fact sometimes I broke and remained broken for a while before I managed to stick the pieces together with sticky tape and glue, papering over the cracks in my psyche with willpower, love, devotion and self sacrifice. Here is some bad knowledge that I wish no-one to ever prove for themselves: sometimes, everything is not enough, my friends. Sorry. I wish it was, how I need it to have been enough, yet here I sit with tears running down my face knowing that life is not that simple, not that easy, not that kind. At least, not to me.

My healing is coming partly from examining this ‘everything is not enough’ and partly coming from knowing that impossibly it was the absolute best I could do. There was no replay, no rewind button, no way of doing it again, and doing it better. Sometimes I rolled them bones, I threw those dice, I played out my hand and I came up deuces, I came up empty handed, I rolled garbage. Lady Luck both smiled on me, as my husband walked past the pile of abandoned tires with a knife in his hand, where his wife and two babies hid, her hand over the tiny one’s mouth, to try and stop him making a sound and giving them away. It was the kindest thing I ever did for my husband, stopping him that night he lost all control of himself, and tried to kill us. Hiding so he didn’t find us, spending hours crouching, evading, fleeing without our shoes on, carrying the little one without a stroller, ending up in a diner on some late night deserted Tokyo street and looking at their two little faces and realizing I was going to have to do something big, something impossible, something terrifyingly huge to save our lives.

It was not as easy as walking out a door and into a shelter. I was a foreigner in a land where I was not welcome in women’s shelters because I was not Japanese, and in one case because it was for Asian women only. There was no provision for me and my mixed race babies. Leaving meant being charged with international parental child abduction. Staying in Tokyo apart from him meant losing my visa and right to remain in the country with my children, this also meant I had no money and no childcare and no family and no way of doing it apart but in Japan. In short, I was stuck between that proverbial rock and a very hard place. In the end, after that bad night with the broken floor to ceiling windows, and the hiding behind tires and the fleeing with our shoes in my hand out the door, running for our lives, making fast decisions like not taking the elevator and going down the stairs to try and escape the man who was trying to kill us, I chose this. I chose to be illegal. I chose to not fight back physically. I chose instead to go on the road in this beautiful country which saved my soul and my life, and be homeless with a friend of mine who was American, but could barely take care of himself, let alone me and two children, but who was the only one to offer help. My debts are paid on that score.

I shudder when I think about what if that glass has broken differently. Let’s rewind. I am standing in front of the floor to ceiling glass at the back of my apartment in Tokyo. He smashes the windows around me with a chair. The glass breaks and cuts me, but no big shards hit me. What if one of those larger pieces flew and hit me in the neck. I had already stashed the children in their bedroom towards the front door and got them to barricade the door and not come out until I came and got them. I know someone reading this will want to know WHY he did this and that person should know I am laughing in response. No reason in particular. I had asked him for the children’s medical cards, I needed to take one of them to the doctors, he didn’t want to let me have the insurance cards. I never once hit him, attacked him, hurt him, or did anything to ask or justify his extreme violence towards me and the children. Never. So. Sit down. Be quiet. Go away. No. No reason. Don’t you dare make out that he was triggered or justified in his actions towards me, especially that most dangerous of all dangerous nights. Perhaps he is mentally ill. Maybe he is evil. I don’t even care any more. I am just happy I am safe and so is the Boy.

My first escape was when my first baby was tiny. She was just out of the hospital having been beaten out of me by her own father, and was premature and tiny. He lost his temper because she cried. He lost his temper because I tried to push him off me when he raped me just after having a traumatic birth. I held her in my arms by those damned windows and he punched me while I held this tiny precious baby, sending the two of us flying over backwards towards the glass and onto my back. She, thankfully, was ok. Not that he cared. I was not. I waited until he went out to work, I packed a backpack with diapers and wipes and other maternal detritus, put the baby into a sling across my chest and I took myself out of the country with her. The Hague Convention sent us back, but he calmed down and I went with her.

My second escape was soon after I had been returned from the first. My third, a year or so after that. One more precious child followed then there was three of us, trying to escape a man who was bent on destroying us and being helped to do so by patriarchal systems which enabled his abuse. I wrestled with being meaningless as far as any ‘help’ went. The children perhaps mattered, I did not. My broken bones, my cuts, my head injuries, my deaf ear, my messed up eye, none of it mattered. I ceased to matter. I was a golem that only existed to protect the children. I have no idea how I made it out of those days with any of me intact. I longed for days out, I longed for love. I longed to have a life, to create, to be. Instead I became a soldier deserted by their own army, a lone wolf with cubs. A wraith winding her way out of television sets and radios and a hundred impossible things before breakfast.

I wanted to live so badly. I wanted to be happy, and I honestly, idiotically, thought I had a future if I could only work out how to get there. I fought towards freedom, and when yesterday, I walked with the Boy along the Embarcadero in San Francisco, I realized how far I have come. We tried to escape towards my American friend one time before we actually made. We went to San Francisco, the three of us, and walked along that Pier and the children ate Boudin Bakery grilled cheese sandwiches that pooled grease on the plate, soaking into nasty stale bread. They rode the merry go round. We gawped at the sea lions. My friend failed to meet us. We had to return to Tokyo. And now, instead of returning to Tokyo we returned to our sweet little apartment in the bad part of town and I made vegetable curry and grilled apricots and I sat there and stared at the young man, who was just a little Boy, as he smiled at me through eyes that are so alive they sparkle and glitter.

I have vertigo. Time has made me dizzy. It feels as if it were two minutes ago that I had them both there, in that shitty motel room near the Presidio. I feel as if I could just walk through the door and see them both, her all long hair in bunches and that sweet goofy look she had on her face when she was happy. Him, this small intelligent calm being who loved her so dearly, but it is gone, all gone never to return. Gone. Lost.

I look in the mirror in shock. I am not 27 any longer. I am not even 31. My hair is going white. I walk with a limp. My hands are gnarled from disease. I am dying in front of my own eyes, and only managing to slow it down somewhat. I am racing towards The End trying to find the brakes. I want to live, just like I always have wanted to live, but my body says I have done enough. In fact. I have done too much already and it is allergic to itself, the antibodies to my own DNA dragging me to heaven to hell. Who knows? I am already partly in both anyway.

I don’t talk about this, choosing to focus on the before and after, but maybe I should. The thing is talking about it and not being believed, or else being threatened for speaking my truth is dangerous to what is left of this ragged soul of mine. I have to protect the little bit of inner peace I have left. Without it I am sunk.

I did not leave my husband, I escaped him and it took many attempts and a plan so wild it actually worked, to actually get free and make the escape stick. You see you leave someone you simply do not love any longer. You say your reasons, you do it kindly or not, and you simply break contact. You escape a man who repeatedly tries to kill you, tortures you, scars you, threatens you, beats you, breaks you, attacks your children and leaves you bruised so badly, shattered so absolutely, injured permanently, leaving will never be allowed.

In fact I am still married, refused the divorce and he sits smugly in his big house knowing I can never truly be free of him, and I sit proudly in my sweet little apartment with my son so alive knowing he could not beat me in the end. It is a glorious impasse, and to be frank, my friends, I think I won a little more than I lost, but really…weighing it up these broken arthritic painful hands that have held too much, most of the time the loss and the victory weighs about the same. In one pan there are flowers of the memory of love and its continued existence…and in the other is all the hurt and pain and torture and loss. I ask myself, how can they weigh the same, yet they mostly do, more or less, at least most of the time and that is miraculous.

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