That New York Minute

Posted on May 19, 2009

Let’s see. I said there was another story – did I not? Not ever being one to disappoint, I think I’ll tell it now. This is not a story for everyone. If you are too sensitive – or if you think bad things can’t happen to you – or if you wonder why women put up with abuse by men – perhaps you should stop here.

This is a story of ten years of systematic, calculated, unmitigated and well executed torture. I know because I was the subject – the one to whom the lessons were taught.

I’d been married before for a whopping six months. I just checked outta that as easily as you do express check-out from your room in a hotel. I never even went to court – he went to Vegas and spared me.

I suppose I should have known that you don’t just get back on the proverbial horse without some more riding lessons – but you know how impetuous I am. Along comes this big – very big and seemingly really nice fellow. I actually met him at a protest type thing I was covering for the news and he was a cop. I guess I trusted him right off, because you know how they used to teach kids to trust the pO-lice? I was one of those trusting ones. He never, ever was harsh or bad to me in any way while we were unattached. I suppose he was wooing me, spinning his sticky web all about me like a spider does to entrap its prey. I never felt those silken threads at all – not even when they began to tighten.

He was older than me – I knew that upset some folks, but I was always determined to do it ‘my way’ and I married him. It seemed like a fine idea at the time. I quit everything else to focus on him – he wanted it that way. I figured since I was under 21 and already had a divorce under my belt and he was older and a cop and all that he knew best. So I went along. Well – that was an almost fatal error. Where was that persistent little microsoft sound “fatal error “, “fatal error ” ? Why didn’t it go off in my head – why weren’t there warning signs?

I was like his little kept pet. He didn’t much like me to go out with my friends – even when he was working and I was at home alone. His rationale was that we should leave our past behind and have ‘our friends’ now. Only trouble was – ‘our friends’ were really ‘his friends’ and we only did things with them when he was available and wanted to. He was in charge of the detective division, so when there were big cases – I might not see him for a few days. I was to serve by only watching and waiting – at home and alone. Step 1: Isolation

Okay, I never professed to be a great cook – I’d grown up with hired help in our home and when they weren’t there – my mom did not let me do much – she figured she knew better and did better. Hmmmm ..seems like a recurring theme, eh?

He got mad about that – a lot. Finally – he just forbid me to cook. We would eat out. Okay – that’s fine by me. Then, he did not like the way I kept house, or washed clothes or ironed his shirts. Damn, all of sudden, I am really becoming a mess here. Where did all of this come from? I need to get myself together – I am fucking up bad and I don’t want to do that. I never was a flop at anything I did before and I was not about to start now.
Step 2: Constant criticism

As time wore on, if I dressed nicely or made an effort to fix my hair and make up really nicely – dress in a new outfit – thinking that would please him – he got angry. What was I trying to do – attract men to myself behind his back? Why did I put perfume on to go to the grocery store? To seduce the produce manager? Well, this was really mystifying. I had never imagined myself as any ‘seductress’ or ‘adultress’.Why was he thinking this? What had I done? I was getting more and more confused and feeling more and more depressed and hopeless. What was I going to do?
Step 3: Verbal abuse

I felt so blue – no matter how hard I tried or what I did to make an effort to be a good wife, all I did was fail and he was getting more and more angry and upset with me. Now, I cried a lot. After he berated me I cried. He said he was doing it for my own good…and then he would comfort and pet me. This really confused me. Little did I know that the real fun and games had yet to begin.

Finally, one day – I cannot remember what he claims I did, but he got tired of just yelling at me.


Damn, what was that? I have this horrible pain across my cheek, but I never saw a thing – what happened?


There it goes again – now I’m on the ground. Was there an earthquake? What did I . .


Again, this time across my back. Was that someone’s foot? Had I been kicked?

I wanted to try and get up and to figure out what happened, but I was so dizzy. I tried to focus my eyes – to see and get my bearings. Oh, look he’s trying to help me up. Maybe he can tell me what happened.
I take his hand – relieved that someone is helping me and then


Damn – this is no earthquake, he hit me! I saw that one coming full face. It was him hitting me all along. What the hell is going on? Why? Why is he beating on me?

And thus began my initiation – my lessons. I knew nothing about domestic abuse or domestic violence. Nothing. Men did not hit women in the world I grew up in. It just wasn’t done.

After each lesson – each beating, I tried to buck up. He’d say I provoked him to it because I was so ‘no account’, not good at doing anything. I had no one left to talk to but him. I was too ashamed to tell the few friends who still talked to me. I surely was not confessing this to my family. So, more and more, I took his word for it. I was no good – I was wrong – I asked for it. And more and more I tried to be better – I tried to do right and I tried not to ‘ask for it’.

Those lessons take on such perverse twists. As it turns out – he likes to drink too much. He likes pills, too. Where was all this before, I wonder? He also likes to do things to me that make him feel like a big strong man and me his ‘little girl’. He likes to knock me around when he is high or drunk and then he wants me to do what he wants me to do.His cruelty is unbelievable. No quarter. As if everything else wasn’t enough, this fiend demands that I tell him how I long for him and what only he can give me. And I better be convincing – or else. He gets on top of me and I feel sick and I don’t want to be here. I want to hurt him so badly that pain echoes in caverns of his hollow soul. I want to be gone. Stop. Oh God, I can’t breathe – I want to be dead. Please, I don’t want this anymore. I want to be – I want to be gone.

Now, he even talks about killing me with one of his guns. One.
He could pick, you see. He has a collection of them. On the bedside table each night – his revolver, a shotgun and and AR 15. Each gun has rounds and rounds of ammunition. Some are even armor piercing bullets. He makes of point of telling me what they do to you. One day, when I tell him I don’t want to go out because I have a sore throat, he feigns concern and tells me to open my mouth so he can see if I have strep throat – blisters in my throat. Okay – I do that and tilt my head back. Then I feel something cold and hard between my lips and I start to pull back from it, but he grabs my head with his other hand so that I cannot move – not backwards, not sidewards – not any way. My eyes had kinda closed when I opened my mouth – always the stupid, trusting one. They shoot open to see- he’s holding that revolver in my mouth and he cocks the hammer ever so slowly and then…I think – okay – it probably won’t hurt – just a second and then be over. He looks in my eyes and when he knows I know, he pulls the trigger. Now he’s holding me up with one hand around my neck because my knees start to buckle. He’s laughing and laughing and laughing. Then, he tells me that since I don’t want to go out to go into the bedroom, get undressed and get into bed. That – it always ends like that.

He never left marks on me in the open – he had a black belt in martial arts and attributed it to his ‘expert’ knowledge – he bragged about it. Also bragged about how he and his friends could torture suspects into confessing and never leave a mark on them. I could give witness to that ability.

After a while – I don’t now when exactly, I started getting up at night. Not that I was sleeping – just laying there after he was through and went to sleep all drunk or full of pills. I would imagine at first, that I got up, went around to his side of the bed where the guns lay on a bedside table and pick one up and then –
well, I would end my misery.
After I had imagined it enough times, I got a little bolder. I would get up – and actually walk around the bed and put my hand on the gun. I held my breath. What if he wakes up – can I undo the safety and pull the trigger quickly enough to get him before he gets me? I pulled my hand back. Walked into another room so I could breathe.

Still – it was exhilarating. Just for a second – no matter I could not breathe – for one second to dream of being free of him beating me, cursing me – being on top of me.

I practiced it so many times and took it to the point that I pulled the hammer back on the revolver – quietly, slowly – so it made no noise. The only thing left was to kill him. Now, I could, in my mind say that word. Kill. I knew it was going to be him or me eventually. I didn’t want to die, not really. I did not want to do murder, either. But, I did not want to keep going like this.
I start thinking – will they electrocute me or hang me or something for killing him? Well – still I would be free of his torture.

After this went on for long enough, one day I think I just broke. I had become someone alien to who I really was. I didn’t know nor like myself too much anymore. I wasn’t sure who I was – but a dam in me just broke – something in me broke. I told. I told my friend that I worked with – I told him over the phone what my dear and caring husband had been doing to me. I was crying, I was scared and I was so, so ashamed. Right away, he said it wasn’t my fault. What’s that? How do you mean that? Please tell me you aren’t gonna tell anyone else. I couldn’t take that. He tells me he won’t tell – for a second I don’t trust him even — why did I say anything anyway? Now, he is tells me I got to trust someone enough to get help and get outta there before something worse happens to me. I am incredulous that someone believes me – they think he will kill me, too. My mind was reeling. I still could not do anything that day. It was soooo weird to go home that night. I was terrified he could read my mind. I wanted so badly for him to eat some pills or get drunk real fast so I didn’t have to think of him touching me or beating me or worse yet – worrying he could read my mind….and know what was in it.

I never slept a wink all night. This made three or four nights now with no sleep. Things are getting mixed up in my mind. My heart is beating outta my chest. My skin in burning. Finally, morning is there. He goes to work. I go to work – woodenly, one foot tenuously in front of the other. I know I have to do something – to get away. I’m not going to make it if I don’t. Okay, Okay. I called my Pa and told him – just spit it all out in a rush. He said he knew already – he just didn’t want to hurt me by asking and making me feel smaller. He said he would call a lawyer for me. He did and called me back. The lawyer said to call the police to go with me to my house for my things.

Wait – I can’t call them – they will tell him. Jeeesus. This is not a plan. Yes – call them. No charges, just ask them to preserve the peace. I had visions of them coming with him and watching while he executed me – the errant, offending wife who crossed the thin blue line. I just could not go on, though – so I called. They come. They take all the guns and put them in a cop car. I throw my things into black trash bags and into my car. I flee from this place of torture and terror and nightmares – out of the dark and into the light and a new life.

Do you know what it is like to have no sleep for a week? Every beat of your heart sounds like something outside the door coming for you. No matter that hired cops were now watching over me! If they moved, I jumped and fled to a closet. When a cat knocked over the trash can outside and the cop went out with his gun drawn – I crouched into the fetal position in the corner. I don’t remember anything after that for a while.

Do you know what it takes to suck the will to live from you? Even the will to fight back – to defend yourself?

Months later – therapy three times a week – pills – learning, relearning little teeny tiny steps at a time how to live again – I started to come alive. I could feel the sun on my face again. I didn’t assume the position every time a cat knocked over a trash can. I started to do things – to go out again like I had before. I was making friends. I got a better job. I went to graduate school. I quit thinking of myself as a ‘victim’.

But I’m not who I was. In a New York minute, everything can change. And its true – you can never go home again. For a long while, he sort of ‘stalked’ me. He would watch me, you know – like a cat toys with a mouse before it kills it.

Sometimes, when I am backed into a corner – if I feel helpless or smothered – I react the same. Once in a great while, it may be just a smell or a sensation or something that you’d never think could evoke that response – but it does. That’s PTSD – his life-long gift to me. If you threaten me, you will, I assure you be shocked. I have no starting or middle ground – I go from zero degrees to ‘on fire’ in 2 seconds flat.

I have to remind myself that was then and this is now. I have to ground myself in the present -in reality.

That’s the way I came to know that you have to lose your fear of death – or anything just as horrible to be able to truly live. You can’t stand outside the fire – you have to jump in and hope that you either burn or get purified.
And you cannot do it just once, you have to keep doing it over and over again for as long as you want to live.

Last edited by katie on October 2, 2010, 8:36 pm

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2 responses to “That New York Minute”

  1. Gripping story. Powerful. One of the best I’ve seen for a while.
    I think you would have no problem interesting some magazines in it. Very well written, with what I would call "the clear ring of sincerity and truth".

    I think there are a lot of women out there, and, of course, some men too, who would be encouraged, inspired, warned, CAUTIONED…
    by your story.

    Some small, small stuff. Suggestions.
    * Give the story a title above the text – in bold
    * Step 2: Constant criticism
    these various steps should have a line separating them from the passage above, to which they do NOT belong. Consider using bold, and/or italics?
    * sign the story with your pen name, and underneath it, put "(c)"
    (copy right)
    * experiment with the use of italics. For emphasis.
    "Now, he even talks about killing me with one of his guns. One."
    * Right away, he said it wasn’t my fault.
    (And by the way: How true….)

    A few typos:
    *Now, he is tells me….
    *….though – so I called. They come.

    A little bit of polish here and there, and this is a story worthy of very high praise indeed. I’m impressed.
    Oh, I forgot.You don’t handle praise too well. Okay then:

    "not bad for an amateur!"

    How’s that?

  2. Wow. This was so emotionally absorbing, I thought a few times I would have to stop and take a break, but I couldn’t. This story has so much truth for so many people, it hits a mark close to the heart. Calling the beatings "lessons," had such a perverse truth to it, that I could feel my stomach turn. I have so many…people I love in similar situations, I see it and it makes me feel hopeless. Reading your story has changed that for me. Thank you.

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