“My eyes quickly scan the store, a safety precaution I’ve obsessively adopted. As we pass the coffee bar my eyes pass over a man dressed in black, just another character among the many seen in this neighborhood. Nothing significant about him stands out, yet my eyes feel compelled to turn back. Our eyes lock for a few long seconds before I pull my gaze away from his empty darkness.
As I turn back to where my daughter is selecting a snack, my heart begins to race and I begin to tremble. Realization slaps me in the face, hard. My “mama bear” instinct kicks in, and I quickly usher my daughter around and up a different aisle. We wind up behind him, as she considers the options behind the cooler door.
I quickly risk another peek at him, taking in his disheveled appearance: baggy track pants, and a heavy jacket over who knows how many layers, despite the warm temperature outside. His body is hunched over, and he moves stiffly, as though injured. My assessment reaches the back of his neck, hair more grey than it had been. Recognition lays any doubt instantly to rest. Panic kicks in, and in that instant, before I nudge my daughter towards the cashier, he turns to me.
In that brief moment, I realize three things:
First. His face, almost unrecognizable, beneath the puffiness, in addition to how he carried himself, led me to think he must have been released from hospital after receiving, an undoubtedly deserved, ass kicking.
Second. His dark, hollow eyes didn’t reflect anything I recognized, there wasn’t even a spark of familiarity from a man I’d been with, and married, for 13 years. He was a stranger to me.
Third. With a strong sense of relief and satisfaction, I see that he really and truly can never again control me or hurt me in any way. I can now feel confident in the safety of my daughter and myself.
It’s finally time to take our power back and let go of the dead weight. We are safe. We are free.”
| Laurinda | Image is of painting done by this survivor |
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