I began my nightly ritual a little early because I was totally exhausted. Gathered up my towel, underwear, pj’s, and book. I laid everything out in the bathroom; towel close enough to reach from the tub, clothes on top of the cabinet beside the toilet, book on the edge of the tub. I rinsed the tub and pulled up the lever to pop the plug into place. Running the water as hot as possible, I added my favorite Sweet Pea and Violet bubble bath and stood mesmerized for a moment watching the bubbles form. I shook myself, shuffled to the kitchen in my beat-up fluffy slippers and plugged in the tea kettle. Putting a tea bag and two teaspoons of sugar into my mug, I once again caught myself drifting off somewhere else, anywhere else.
Total exhaustion. That’s what I felt. If someone would blow on me, I’d split into a hundred pieces and drift off in the wind like dandelion seeds. The constant battle of trying to stay sane while dealing with an abusive husband was just about more than I could take. I was just too tired, emotionally, mentally and physically to endure it much longer. I stared, unseeing, at my reflection in the tea kettle.
The whistle of the kettle brought me back to the present. I poured my tea, carried it to the bathroom and set it on the side of the tub. I turned off the running water, undressed and sunk down into the steaming tub. It was way too hot, but at least I could feel the pain of the hot water. I was becoming so numb, even pain was a welcome feeling, as long as it was self-inflicted. Plus, it was getting to the place I felt that I needed this hot cleansing bubbly to rid myself of the creepiness that my husband had brought into our home. Lately things were getting so bad. I closed my eyes, sunk into the bubbles up to my neck, and soaked in the peace and solitude. This was the only place I was safe. The only place I could have twenty minutes every day of calm and quiet and safety. I wish I could stay here forever. I reached for my book…
The knob turned on the door and it swung open. What the…? I sat up quickly and watched in horror as my husband, drunk as usual, stumbled into our tiny bathroom. It was crowded with one person and now there were two. He was definitely NOT welcome. I opened my mouth to tell him so, but the dumb drunk look in his eyes made me hold my tongue. This could get bad. His mood right at this second was not confrontational, but that could change in a blink.
“Did you need something?” I asked quietly. I wanted instead to scream, “Get out of here!”
“Just to spend time with you!” He smiled a drunken smile, his eyes not even able to focus on me. He sat down on the toilet lid, folded his arms across his chest and made himself comfortable, staring at me, a sick twisted grin on his face. He knew exactly what he was doing!
I was furious! How dare he steal the only time I had to myself! This was so like him. He would take anything that I valued and ruin it. This time, just a few stolen moments alone, was all I had that was truly mine and he took it away from me. I couldn’t lock the door, he would just break it down, like he did the front door. It was just another way for him to control me and ruin the only good thing I had to look forward to in my day. I was so angry I wanted to cry. I wanted to point to the door and scream at him to GET OUT! But that would only make things worse. It was totally uncomfortable washing and shaving while he watched, a sick grin on this face. I felt humiliated, which is exactly what he wanted.
There’s not a night that goes by that I don’t think about this incident when I’m doing my nightly ritual…towel within reach, clothes on the cabinet beside the toilet, book on the edge of the tub, Peter White playing softly and a few candles burning.
But instead of the memory bringing a feeling of being violated and exposed, it brings a feeling of triumph and empowerment. The man that tried to steal my dignity from me, just made me more dignified. I survived his twisted games, escaped his oppression and got the last laugh because the pressure he put on me, instead of crushing me, made me a stronger, wiser, more compassionate person.
This, my friends, is what I wish for all victims. Keep your dignity. You will get through this, and not just survive, but you will thrive because you have gone through it; you’ve learned, you’ve grown and you can be thankful with every breath you take you are free…as I am, to take a bubbly in the peace, privacy and safety of your own home.