The bedroom closet is a walk-in with clothes hanging along both sides, deadening sound. Pitch black silence, it envelops, provides scant comfort. I huddle in the corner, pulling my knees tight to my chest, trying to become as small as I can.
She will return soon with a car full of useless things purchased with yet another credit card she opened in my name. It's legal because we live in a "mutual property" state.
The gash on my scalp has quit bleeding, at least, although my bathrobe is ruined. A long rivulet of blood runs down the side of my face and onto the terry cloth, leaving a hard ridge of crust in its wake.
She'd hit me over the head with the garden hose when I was sitting on the back porch. The hose had a heavy metal spray nozzle, thus the laceration.
I had retreated to the porch to escape our latest fight. The details differ, but the framework is always the same. Disagreement. She attacks me verbally. I defend myself. She attacks me physically. I retreat. Years ago I used to try to resolve problems but always failed. Now we merely see who can hurt the other worse. She wins every time.
This was one of the worst. We fought, argued, and yelled at each other. I made one last snipe and went outside to smoke and calm down. After a minute, she followed and grabbed the hose. I thought she was only threatening me with it until the final swing.
Go ahead and call the cops, she said. I'll tell them it was self-defense.
My mind goes back to the time I called them after she hit me across the face with a stick and left a mark. One cop talked to me outside; the other went inside. I told the truth. The cop saw the mark. His partner came outside, and they conferred. I was told they couldn't do anything because they didn't see it happen. I was told to get it on video if I wanted to prove anything.
The police won't help me.
An old friend of hers had come to visit and saw how we constantly sniped at each other. She laughed and said we were a real-life version of "Married with Children."
Witnesses won't help me.
My mother was a controlling bitch who would blame me for things that weren't my fault, like the behavior of my friends. My wife consistently reminded me that mother didn't care and only wanted to control my life.
My family won't help me.
I am alone, in pitch black silence. The hopelessness crashes over me, and the screaming sobs begin. I grab a towel to press against my face, trying to muffle the sounds so I don't wake my little baby girl in the next room. Thank god she's been asleep this whole time.
It's all my fault, she says. She can't get a job and it's all my fault. She's miserable every day and it's all my fault. She can't lose weight and it's all my fault. Something goes wrong and it's all my fault. She hits me with a garden hose and it's all my fault. She spends every dime I make and it's all my fault. I'm in the grips of suicidal depression and it's all my fault. No one will help me and it's all my fault.
I'm a worthless, incompetent moron, she says. I should kill myself so I quit sucking air away from those more deserving of it, she says. No one will even notice if I'm dead, she says. And it's all my fault.
The sobs have melted together into a long, wailing moan. I can barely pause to take a breath. My body shudders from the effort. I rock back and forth, clutching my knees. My skull wants to burst out of my face. My eyes are swollen shut. The snot and tears soak the towel, smearing slime everywhere. I turn it over to start on a clean spot.
She likes to follow the example of Leo, the abuser from "Twin Peaks," using a bar of soap in a sock to hit me. She believes another character from that show who says such a weapon causes internal damage but leaves no bruises. She, however, bruises if you sneeze too hard next to her. If I bat her fist away, it leaves a mark, which she then shows to the police, and I am kicked out of my own house that I alone work to pay for.
I installed the picket fence around the newly-landscaped front yard. I assemble any new furniture. I installed the kitchen floor. I painted every room. I ran the wires for the surround-sound speakers through the walls so the living room would look nice. I installed the dog door in the back room. I taught her how to use a computer. And I am an incompetent, worthless moron who doesn't deserve to live.
If only I could do better. If only I could remember every word she says, even when it was months ago. If only I could anticipate her every whim. If only I could never disagree with her. Then she would finally relent. It's all my fault, you see, because I don't do better. I could, but I don't. Because I'm worthless. According to her.
Her car pulls in the driveway. The switch flips, cutting off the sobs. I climb out of the closet, splash water on my face, and prepare to meet her. I must do this, for the consequences of not are far worse. The key turns in the lock. I steel myself and hope I can make it through the next round.
Death would be a blessing. One I don't deserve. So, it continues.