photography by Kenny Klein
The Amazon of Mercy
Robin M. Powers
My face explodes with pain as I crumble to the ground. Why is it that a man knows just where to hit a woman? They somehow know how to shatter the will with the back of the hand as it meets flesh over bone. Do they learn it in school? A subject taught on the playground along with baseball and sex? The lines from Pretty Woman drift through my mind as I fall. Cinderella had her bad days too. I duck my head under my arm and curl into a fetal position expecting the next blow, the next kick.
Not to be disappointed, the final blow arrives in the form of a kick to the kidneys. I know from experience I will be peeing blood for a week.
"Get up!" my dearly beloved screams in that special way of his.
I can barely move. I get up anyway. Done with me, he bolts through the kitchen door and stomps up the stairs. My back digs into the wall searching for strength and the ability to stay standing.
Somehow my three year old has slept through it all: The glorious oblivion of a small child. I am grateful. How did I end up this way? I can no longer remember a time when we were happy: A time when he didn't beat me for the way his world had collapsed. Or a time when he didn't use his fists to blame me for his loss of job, his loss of pride and his loss of hope.
Taking a deep breath against the pain, I push away from the wall. Noises of his stumbling in our bedroom penetrate the dull ache that has settled into my head and low back. He seems to be tearing up the room looking for something or other. Better not go up there.
Thank God he has never hurt my baby! What am I thinking? I collapse back against the wall one more time. This has got to end. And it sinks in for the first time ever that it will end. It will end with my death. Something about this beating penetrates the fog that I have lived in for 3 years. This is never going to stop until I am dead.
I push away from the wall one more time. I take the 2 steps to the stove and place my hands on either side, leaning in. My breath comes quickly against the renewed vigor of pain that responds to my movement. This is a bad one.
What was I thinking? Oh yes, 'thank God he has never hurt my baby.' What about that thought? It seemed important when I was leaning against the wall.
The banging and stomping have stopped. He has passed out at last. Peace descends as I realize that this beating really is over. Back to that thought. What was it? Oh yes, I remember. Why is it important?
I stand up straight and grab for the teakettle. If I move quickly I bet I can get a pot of water on the stove before my raging head and back force me to sit. The kettle fills with water and makes its way back to the burner. My body finds the chair just where it always is.
Before the throbbing can settle down to a dull ache the teakettle starts its whistle. I move out of habit and fear to quiet the noise, once again breathing deeply and quickly against the assault. Somehow tea is steaming in a cup in front of me. My pain has subsided to a manageable level and I am once again returning to that thought.
Thank God he has never hurt my baby. What is it about that?
Some people believe in angels. I did at one time. I believed in God until the beatings started. Now three years later I am sitting in my kitchen drinking tea in response. And God never did show up. God never brought an end to this dark insanity that is my life. And if I don't do something, my dearly beloved will do the honors.
In a brief and surprising moment of clarity I see the deeper meaning behind the thought. If I don't do something, I will die. My daughter will die. That is the totality of truth here and now.
If I leave, I will die. If I stay, I will die. If I phone someone, I will die another day, perhaps in another way. The phone is a million miles away on the other side of the kitchen. It sits on the counter daring me to make the call. If I call the police, I die another day. There is no doubt that the monster sleeping in our bed will kill me.
All I need to do to change the course of my life is get up and walk across the kitchen. Why am I still sitting here with my hands around a coffee mug filled with tea? This tea won't change the certainty of my death. Only that phone can do that.
The pain renews its pleasure in assaulting me. A wave of dizziness threatens to take me down to blissful darkness. I slump on the table and black out.
The tea is still warm in my hand. It must have been only a few moments of freedom. I raise my head and stare again at the phone. That damn thing will not come to me no matter how much I wish it so.
I take my pain into my hands and use it. Thrusting myself out of the chair with nothing but pure will and instinct, I make it across the chasm of kitchen floor to the phone. Grabbing it, I find my way back to the safety of my chair and the comfort of my tea.
This time when I awaken I am staring at the phone inches from my nose. How did this get here? The pain sears through my being one more time in sharp reminder of what has happened. Following closely on its heels is the moment of clarity and decision that brought me and this phone together.
I dial 9-1-1. A woman's voice answers. The throbbing in my head has pushed away any hope of hearing her, so I just start speaking. My beating, my daughter, the monster, all come out of my mouth in a rush. Somewhere along the conversation I remember saying that I want someone who will make the beatings stop forever.
I must have passed out again. A woman's hand rests on my shoulder startling me and I open my eyes to see her face next to mine. My focus pulls back to take in the scene. Two Police officers are standing on either side of this Amazon of Mercy. Her steel grey hair is pulled back from her face revealing the most amazing blue eyes. A stab of pain strikes another blow and I collapse onto the table.
She leans in and whispers in my ear "You are safe now". I open my eyes again, in time to see her pushed aside by two paramedics. 'Just like on TV' I think to myself before another descent into darkness.
Later, in the hospital I learn the name of my angel. Sophia sits in a chair pulled up next to my bed. She is the first thing I see when I fight my way back to consciousness. The pain has retreated to a dull ache; pushed back by the drugs.
Her gentle questions recreate the last beating I will ever experience. My daughter is safe and my dearly beloved is in jail. It's not a simple thing leaving a monster. Already the journey is long and uncertain. I shiver as she talks. Her instructions confuse me, but I don't mind. I will ask again later. Sophia knows the path out of hell, and I will follow her.
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