I plucked up the courage to escape him, but social media was one aspect I hadn’t factored in.
I remember it vividly. The pre-morning air rippled my skin, sharpening my already heightened senses. The kitchen was cold, dark. Absent was the usual familiarity, replaced with a coarseness of danger. It would be hard to talk my way out of it. I was already dressed, it would be obvious that I was leaving, but I couldn’t do it in daylight hours to his face. This was the only way. I’d be taking our kids from him, away from the fists, the feet, and the face of him.
The floorboards betrayed my step, it was as if the house wanted me caught, to stay, or worse. I stirred the children awake, fed them excuses, and shepherded them into the car. Later, there would be time to explain, later. It was the idea that powered this decision. There were few who knew the extent of how bad it got and, as they weren’t directly involved, they’d be told later, when we were safe. Besides, there was a nagging feeling about who to trust.
Pre-dawn morning streets turned to midday highway turned to nighttime unfamiliar back roads, each new suburb punctuated by a cursory look in the rearview mirror, fully expecting to see that familiar combination of letters and numbers looming behind us.
The evening at the ramshackle Motor Inn was highlighted by the suspicious eyes of the desk clerk, half-watching a cartoon whilst half-watching the door.
We repeated this rural odyssey twice more. More highways, more questions, more paranoia. By day three, questions were also being raised on social media. The two people who knew, my mother and the distant cousin I was vaguely winding myself towards, were not on social media. I had long ditched my phone, as I assumed it was now overflowing with messages of worry and control.
This was the only way. I’d be taking our kids from him, away from the fists, the feet, and the face of him.
The negativity washed over me, poking my way through the sea of baked beans and waves of paranoia. I pictured the aghast, gray faces of my friends, the rolled eyes of the mother’s group, the gnawed fingers of the teachers at school. Had I just been selfish?
Curiosity, for want of a better term, got the better of me. Huddled over the solitary beige computer, my jaw hit the floor. Looking back at me, was me. A status shared tens of times over asked for my whereabouts, words dripping with worry, desperately seeking any information. In the comment box, familiar names tagged yet more familiar names, and much was discussed about the next step.
He didn’t comment, or share, but I knew he’d be watching. Undoubtedly, he’d have made the rounds and placed everyone on his side as the “crazy spouse” story would have been solidified. “She took my kids away. I don’t know what to do.”
The brutality was predictable as it was logical. I made my choice to run and, thusly, gave up any hope of being understood.
We were back home that evening.
I had no choice. Because the violence was kept in-house, the only public moment was me “stealing” the kids. The problem became me. My husband, the martyr. For staying, for putting up with her, for being man enough to forgive her for that betrayal.
I wish I could say that things improved. I wish that I could say that I had the confidence to try again. Sadly, neither of those things are true. I suppose my point is this: sometimes people go missing on purpose.