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Warning: This poem is about domestic abuse.

She stands in front of the mirror, looking down at her arm. The one with welts on it, the shape of his fingers. She shouldn’t have pulled away. Stupid. She admonishes herself. This is her fault again. She is glad they are red marks, not bruises. Maybe they will fade more quickly. Maybe she won’t have to wear long sleeves for so long. It is summer, and each time summer rolls around, she worries about having to hide the marks in the heat.

How could she have been so idiotic to anger him? She knows how he gets when she does or says the wrong thing. He was tired. He works so hard. He loves her. It is obviously her fault. Stupid.

She slips off her dress, off her shoulder, and lets it fall to he floor. She can see the bruises, purple and black, seemingly appearing and growing as she looks. Tears well up in her eyes, and roll down her cheeks. She examines what she can see of her body, turning to each side, her arms raised. She tries to see as much of her back as she can. She is marked in multiple places along her ribs. Her left breast is throbbing from where he grabbed and squeezed hard. She let out an alarmed cry when that happened. Stupid. It just drove his temper higher. He let her know with a punch to her eye. She gently touches it, and thankfully there is no broken socket. She can tell from feeling the bone beneath. She broke the bone under her other eye last year. She broke it, not he. Stupid. She can’t remember why he was angry that time. She knows it was her fault though. It always is. Stupid.

She moves down her body and sees that both shins are bruised. She didn’t feel the pain until now. Doesn’t remember him kicking her legs because she took a step back. Why did she do that? She should have known better. Stupid.

She’ll have to wear long sleeves and pants for a couple of weeks. What will she do about her face? Last year she made excuses  – I fell and hit my face off the counter. Everyone was sympathetic. This time will not be so easy. Two black eyes in a year is too much. She shouldn’t have made him mad. Stupid.

She has had some time to examine her body. He stormed out of the house after it was over. He usually does. He’s drinking, she knows, to calm himself down. She hopes he only has a few drinks. That will mean he’s home sooner, but she will be less likely to be hit again. Sometimes he is out for hours, and comes home stumbling and roaring as he bursts through the door. Whichever it is, she know it will be her doing. He is so busy at work. He needs his dinner ready when he gets home. He doesn’t want to hear her nagging: “How was your day?” “Is this a fucking interrogation?” Slam. Why did she??? Stupid.

She goes to the bathroom and turns on the shower, unsure whether to turn it way down to shock herself out of this haze, or right up, to forget about the pain, with the pain of the scalding water. Either way she needs to suffer. She needs to teach herself a lesson. To remind herself what she did and what it led to. Stupid.

When she is done, she goes to her dresser and pulls out a pair of sweatpants, and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Bending down to put the pants on is near agony. She lies down but is afraid to sleep. She needs to be on her guard. Hearing his keys in the door, she gets out of bed as quickly as she can without inflicting too much pain on herself. She’s not supposed to sleep during the day. He’s told her time and time again. Stupid.

She throws the cover over the bed, as he barges in the front door, slamming it behind him. “Bitch,” he screams. “Get the fuck down here!” Oh God. She knows she’s going to get it again. Please don’t let it be too bad. Most of the time she doesn’t get hit again until the previous bruises have healed. Sometimes, however, she needs multiple lessons in one day. She can’t remember what she did wrong today, but it must have been bad to make him so angry. Stupid.

She moves to the top of the stairs, knowing that hiding would just make it worse. She tentatively takes the steps one by one. “Hurry up, whore.” She reaches the last step and he drags her by the hair. She trip and flies to the floor, feeling an agonizing pull of her hair as a chunk is pulled out from her head. She tries not to scream, but the pain is excruciating. He pulls her up by the hair, as she grabs his hand and holds on, to stop it hurting so much. “Get up. Get the fuck up, you stupid bitch,” he screams in her face, spittle flying in all directions. Oh my God. She needs to figure out how not to make him so mad. She should know after three years of marriage. Stupid.

He proceeds to pummel her, all over her body. Face. Chest. Stomach. Back. Ribs. Legs. He uses his fists, his elbows, and his feet. It seems to go on forever, until she is lying face-up on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. Her head is swimming. Her body aching from what seems like every nerve-ending. Tears form in her eyes and roll down to the carpet. He is standing above her, panting, out of breath, still red-faced, and eyes bulging with anger. This is worse than ever before. She doesn’t care. She has given up. Maybe it is not her fault. Is that possible? Could it be his fault? His fault alone? Does it matter? She feels stuck regardless. No way out. She should have left him long ago. Stupid.

Her vision becomes blurry, and stars shoot in front of her like fireworks. They are almost beautiful. Blackness creeps in from all sides. Her vision is fading. And as it completely envelops her, she ponders once more, “Maybe this isn’t my fault.” “Maybe I didn’t deserve this.” “Maybe I can leave.” But it is too late. Her light fades out. She is no more. He has broken her, and she is dead. Stupid.

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