October is Domestic Awareness Month
Today I traveled to a galaxy far far away. It was an hour north actually, but it is a parallel universe to my present life. A friend needed help to renovate an apartment as his renter left, chased away by the neighbors. His crew was not available and the apartment was needed urgently. A young family had lived there, the wife and child left suddenly, and the husband stayed on for several months alone.
The bathroom mirror wore a huge sticker of two hearts entwined, perhaps placed there by the bride or groom.
There were many nails in the ceiling where streamers and feathers had been hung. Tiny remnants that declared celebrations had occurred in these rooms.
The woman’s underwear, long since dry was still hanging as if drying on an ad hoc drying line, her shoes, and her daughter’s shoes were in the closet. Neither the mother or the daughter been there for months. Did they assure the groom that she would come to her sense and come home?
Pictures were placed on odd positions on the walls, high, low. Happy pictures, mostly of faraway places, or religious pictures of the Lord. Behind them were holes, fist or foot sized holes. Did she cover the pictures so her mother would not see, or to hide the ever present danger from herself and her daughter?
In the purple room Tinker bell stickers and tiny hangers in the closet indicate it was the child’s room. A plug of toilet paper was stuffed into a hole in the bedroom. The hole the tissue plugged was connected to a punched hole in the living room wall, giving whomever wanted it an unseen view straight into the child’s room. Did the child fight for her own privacy or did her mother do it for her?
In the closet of the back bedroom was a broken stool, and a religious candle. Someone could seek refuge there while praying for safety. The door to that room had been forced, the door jamb was split and had been ripped out.
Plates were stacked in the cupboards. Some were expensive, beautifully decorated; they looked like they could have been a wedding gift. Others were from cheaper sets. No set was complete. Empty alcohol containers, bottles and cans and roach clips were scattered in plain view.
Stabbed holes and slash marks decorated the walls to the front bedroom. Above the doorway to that room had been written the names of the bride and groom, surrounded by hearts. A Christian cross had been taped to the wall over where the bed would have gone.
Neighbors said the fighting was horrendous, keeping all who lived there awake long into the night. One neighbor, a good natured Mexican American wanted to talk. The shattered beer bottles, the cigarette butts, the smashed front window all originated with the groom. The situation had clearly traumatized him. As happens with the traumatized the neighbor talked too freely to a stranger. He described a night when the bride was screaming and running. She fled from the man who loved her. He had a knife. The neighbor said he knocked the groom down, wrestling the knife from him, he called the law.
I have not been there for several hours but I am still affected by the violence and fear embedded in its walls. I scrubbed, bleached, replastered and painted, but it seeped through.
I know the woman’s name from the carefully filed correspondence left behind. I will call her Crystal. Crystal, I fixed the broken walls, has your broken heart been fixed? I pray you and your little Tinker Bell are safe, and loved. Did you see this in your family home? Were you raised to expect this from men who love their women? Was it because you were raised in a loving home that you knew life could be different and found the strength to leave? Will Tinker Bell expect this from her Prince Charming? Did your faith empower you, protect you, give you wings? I can only guess the answers, but I add my prayers to yours. My childhood ears heard the fighting long into the night. I remember the fear under the covers worrying that one would kill the other before the morning light. And I know that I know that you do not have to live like this.
No one should live like that, not the groom, not the bride, not the child.