physical emotional abuse intimate partner violence

A Testimony of Silence

Trigger Warning: Physical and emotional abuse, violence, forced sex

After they break you…

How long does it take to get back up and gather your pieces and give them a meaning, a name? How do you define the ‘breaking’? Your hands and feet and nose and head are intact. Your vagina has not been forced. You did not say ‘no’. You froze. You tried to rationalize.

Sandpaper between your legs. Bone around your wrist. Fire running up your oesophagus. And stones, stones everywhere. In your throat, in your windpipe, in your guts, in your heart. Your head is lolling out of the bed as you struggle for breath and you cannot get up. You know the face that is swooping down on you now, it is a face that you love, that you have agreed to marry a few months ago, or is it? It is hard to say in the dark. You don’t say ‘no’. You are nineteen and you do not yet know how to deny a man you have agreed to marry a few months ago.

Afterwards, he walks you down to the station. You smile, nod at his jokes. He buys you pickled fruits from a store outside the station. He tells you the story of an accident he witnessed there, a man mauled to death by a speeding train. He describes the blood and flesh and brain stuck to the rails. There was no shape left on the tracks that could be identified definitively as that of a man. You go home with a stone stuck in your heart. There was something you should have done, there was something you should have said, but what was it? You do not know.

After they break you…

How long does it take to pick out memories of feelings that are no longer available to your mind? You remember the things you did or did not, but you no longer remember how it felt like, what it was that prompted you to do, or not do those things. The snapshots feel strange in your mind, like they are from other people’s lives and yet it was you and no one else.

It has rained in Birbhum and the streets are topsy-turvy. Red mud clings at your feet and sucks them in as you try to walk straight, but it’s getting hard at the moment because he is weighing down your shoulders now. He is drunk, his steps are unstable, and you are walking a long dark road you do not recognize. You have always had a lousy sense of direction anyway.

He is angry, you can sense, and you start to feel anxious. You have been dating him for a couple of months now, it all feels so new. He is over a decade older. How do you reprimand someone a decade older for needlessly offensive things he keeps saying to you and other people? How do you stop someone a decade older from accosting another because of a perceived slight? And yet it is somehow your responsibility, to keep him from drinking and misbehaving. You think you can read it in the accusatory glances of your friends. You are drained by the time you reach the guest house. Every inch of your body screams sleep, screams ‘away!’. Away from that towering drunk albatross hanging from your neck. Away from the pain, and the fear, the constant threat of violence. You are angry too, and tired, so tired. You tell him so. He slaps you hard.

You are facing him, on a balcony, it is dark. You don’t remember where the thin streak of light that formed the silhouette was coming from. All you remember is a long shadow looming over you and five bony fingers and a palm coming down on your cheeks, once to the right, once to the left. You remember the shock, the shame. The shame.

After they break you…

You are alone and your throat is dry all the time. You avoid looking into the eyes of your university friends. One of them is a slut, another is a manipulative bitch, and the other a pathological liar. Your parents are conceited, rotten with middle-class morality, regressive under their liberal yolk. None of them understands your tortured artist, who is your only friend. You are alone as you walk alongside your friends knowing they are not your friends. They told you he is misbehaving and how dare you believe them? How dare you question him on their prompting? You are alone and you shiver all the time.

You are walking away from his home. The night lamps dance before your eyes. You haven’t slept a wink in the past 48 hours. You came here to safely see him home after the weekend at a music fest where he drank for two straight days and freaked everyone else out. He won’t let you go home. He is boring down on you, cutting off your every excuse. You don’t have the strength left to fight it out, even though all you want is home right now. You call up your parents and lie about having to stay over at a friend’s house. They catch the lie. He instantly breaks up with you. You have nowhere to go.

You are walking away from his home after 48 hours of no sleep and making a thousand excuses for a man a decade older. You are walking home ashamed of facing your irate parents who do not understand the necessity of destroying yourself for the sake of a drunken artist. You are swallowing your father’s one-month sleeping pill supply so you can avoid the necessity of waking up. You are waking up because your father is crying hysterically with the empty pillboxes in hand. You are in a hospital bed and they are thrusting a metal pipe down your throat. You throw up.

After they break you…

You wish you could sleep but now you are on call with him as tells you how he is cutting open his torso with a blade. Your head is swimming still as you run up the steps of his home. His torso is marked with tiny, shallow cuts, already healing. You tell him how sorry you are to lead him to this. You cry, and he cries. The bright winter sun stings your eyes, the room is out of focus and there’s a buzz in your ears that doesn’t go away. You are a fly, trapped in a light bulb.

After they break you…

You survive. You limit your focus to a day, an hour, a moment. Raise your leg, take the step, now raise the other, and so on. You no longer have an idea why you’re doing this, or if you’re doing anything at all. Your words don’t matter, your silences matter even less.

You are sprawled upon a heap of stone chips because he has pushed you there. You are in Shantiniketan again, and you can’t find your way to the place you are to stay. Every turn you take throws you into deeper unfamiliarity. The sun burns down as you look up at his face. You’ve been circling these lanes for an hour now with him at your side. He is raging drunk, throwing obscenities and pushing you around. You fall, and rise, and fall again.

You don’t remember what time it was when your friend rescues you and brings you home. They are in the adjacent room talking and laughing. You sit before him as he orders you to call his ex-girlfriend. You call, once, twice. Then you refuse.

He has bolted the next room, they still don’t know. He throws the phone first, and then throws himself at you. His fist clutches your hair as your head beats down against the wall, once, twice, thrice. His body is a cage engulfing you and you are too shocked to move. He wobbles a bit, and you break free, out in the balcony. In the neighbouring house, three women are talking at the door. It looks so peaceful, so normal. Like you have forgotten how it was before they broke you.

You were looking at them so you don’t realize when he came out. Your head against the grille, slaps raining down on your cheeks. You crumple on the step. The women look at you curiously. They have stopped talking.

After they break you….

It’s silent. Your feelings don’t speak. Your head is oddly clear and your ears have a strange clarity. You remember the strokes but not the pain, not what you felt. The pain is gone. It’s all blue now, your heart, your mind, the network of nerves that carry sensations along your body. They are all blue, like stone and sea and moon.

After all these years it is the normalcy of it all that bothers you the most, the casual cruelty, the practised nonchalance, the everydayness of it. The ease with which you carry this history inside you, with which you can smile and laugh and agree or disagree without feeling anything at all. Your face is a blue mask, your mind is a blue tapestry of forgotten pain.

The blue grows, does it not?

The accompanying painting is Sloe, by Henric Simonsen, painted in 2014. Sourced from the FaceBook page A Way to Blue.

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