An Evening in May

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Ms. Blog will be publishing a series of posts detailing the impact of domestic violence, including personal essays and more, throughout the month.

In the midst of an argument, I see the glass fly through the air at 24 frames a second. While sitting on our bed, my vision slows, and I calmly watch the violence escalate. He wraps his hand around the glass, the grooves smooth around his fingers, the grip of a hall-of-fame pitcher. As he winds up, I can see the muscles of his shoulder flex, the shadows produced in pockets below his collarbone, lapping like waves against his rotator cuff, gathering heat and energy.

Blinking feels as though it takes years. My lids close and open, lashes dusting against one another, exchanging tears, then sliding back to their respective sides. I see him point his elbow in a 90-degree edge, as if measured with a compass. His fingers are sweating; I can see the oil smudged across the glass. All of a sudden, I am so incredibly sad for this object, a helpless victim in the middle of our standoff. He tightens and throws the glass, and when it rotates through the air, it is so beautiful.

I can’t see it shatter, but I can imagine the severity from the sound it makes on our limestone tiles. The light in our bathroom is terrible, but in the small halo, I can make out a dust in the air, the shock of elements. I imagine a spider or ants crossing by the trash can, a quick trip through the linoleum minefield on its way outside, being caught in this mess. To an ant, this demolition is Hiroshima, the tiny daggers of glass napalm. A tragedy not just for my lover and I, but for the small lives as well. The locals are never regarded in a war. They are replaceable as bullets.

He turns with his finger pointed, ready to verbally flog me within an inch of my life. I’m still caught in a slow-motion movie, not ready to look away but still internalizing the entire process. My ears are stopped up and I look through him rather than at him, his eyes are too hateful. I see his mouth moving, but my brain is calm, the receptors have shut down and I can only make out the movement of his mouth.

He is so angry. When he approaches me I can see the pink of his tongue as he yells. The skin of his face is tight and his normally sweet dimples have disappeared into rigid spikes. The sweat from his head catches the light, and each time he jabs his finger at me the droplets break in midair, shining like gems before disappearing into the ground.

I’m not afraid. My anger has dissipated into something sadder. I see his stiff stance and can hear his vertebrate cracking as he looms over me, hurtling his words to the sky. I want to take his face in my hands and touch his mouth; it has got to be so sore from the stress. I can already feel the heat from his lips and the way they would feel against my palms. I can feel his sweat, his spit, his body shaking, and I want nothing more than to open my arms and absorb him like an amoeba, slowly moving over his body until his anger separates from his frame and he is quiet once again.

He does quiet, once his temper has boiled away, and once he has a chance to slam a door. He will block me from him for the rest of the night, making me sit alone with my sadness, as he does with his anger. Looking at the pieces of glass, as shattered as I feel, I long for the chance to escape this endless cycle of verbal violence.

And eventually, I did. It was the most frightening thing I have done thus far. For a year I felt as though I was moving through quicksand, struggling to make it through the door. But it took me that long to realize it wasn’t my fault.

He is missing something in himself. He is missing something that fulfills him as a person.

In trying to love him, I forgot how to love myself. And this is something I have done more than once. Women are fiercely loyal to the men who occupy their hearts.

But I deserve a love that is rich and kind. I deserve a love that will carry me through the dark parts of my life, through the canyons and the shadows that threaten to block the light. We all do.

So I left. With the help of my best friend, I packed up the few things I had and changed the course of my life. It was terrifying, emotional and riveting. And I haven’t looked back.

Where I used to feel tightness and fear, I now feel hope. I feel a constant hope for my future. There is no man on earth who can take the place of this feeling.

Support the Ms. Magazine Prison and Domestic Violence Shelter Program today and show women fleeing domestic violence that they’re not alone.

Photo via Shutterstock


Jessica Clem is a freelance writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. She holds a B.A. in English, and an M.S. in urban studies, and enjoys traveling, marathon running and the smell of a real book. When she is not eating, enjoying craft beer or running, she works as a producer and account executive for Omaha Video Solutions.She received a Bachelor's of Arts in English and Journalism from Nebraska Wesleyan University, as well as a Master's of Science in Urban Studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her interests include marathon running, international travel and reading. A long enthusiast of the magazine, she is thrilled to write for Ms. online.