Snow Much Fun
In my twenties, I lived with a violent man who towered over me at 6’4”. I was a slight 4’11”. When I say that I lived with this man, I mean that I was his prisoner. I was allowed to work and give him my paycheck. I was allowed to go grocery shopping with him and to bars or restaurants he chose to visit.
I was not, however, allowed to go anywhere without him. He worked as a maintenance man at our apartment complex, so he was always around. Even if I stayed awake all night to ensure he didn’t ambush me with an accusation or attack, I couldn’t even nap during the daytime. If he found me sleeping while he was working, there would be hell to pay, and if I chain-locked the door to our apartment to warn me that he was home, he would be offended, and I would also pay dearly for that.
There was never any real rest or ability to relax during that long year and a half. Even if I followed his instructions to the ‘t,’ there were no guarantees he wouldn’t find a reason to abuse me. A few weeks before Christmas, the apartment complex had a party in the recreation center. He was expected to attend, and, by extension, I also had to attend with him, even though I knew for a fact it would not end well. A room full of women he had been conducting affairs with, their spouses, and me. What could possibly go wrong?
The beginning of the evening was uncomfortable but bearable. I had to stand elbow to elbow at the buffet table with the women my boyfriend had been cheating with, pretending I was not aware of what had been going on. I passed that test with grace. Even when I was regaled with tales about how surprising it was that someone as small as I could terrorize a grown man twice my size, I laughed it off casually. Apparently, when people questioned him about the ruckus coming from our apartment regularly, my boyfriend, Paul, told them I was abusive and destructive, and he was always in danger from my bad temper and drunken rages.
We made it through the dinner and the cocktails, but when the music and dancing began, all bets were off. The first thing Paul did was invite one of his lovers to dance with him. I was expected to sit quietly and let him humiliate me by practically making out with the married woman on the dance floor. I was not the only one feeling the humiliation, as her husband asked me to dance shortly after Paul grasped the woman’s ass. For some unbelievable reason, Paul did not expect me to agree and was infuriated when I commenced slow dancing with his rival.
I ignored Paul, for the most part, my stomach twisting because I knew this bill would be settled after we went home. By the song's end, I was dragged out of the party by the hair, caveman style. As he hauled me across the snow-packed parking lot to our apartment building, the party spilled out onto the complex's grounds. Dinner and a show. Free.
No one intervened. No one said a word or did a thing. They were no doubt afraid of my bad temper and drunken rages. Not one peep from the crowd. Paul could drag me, unmolested, across the parking lot to our apartment building and up two flights of stairs on my back.
When we were inside the apartment the real beating began, with our new puppy yelping and running around in circles, unsure of what to do for Mommy. Paul grabbed up the furry ball of love and threw her into the bathtub, then commenced to attempt stomping the life out of her, while I fought him and got thrown up against a wall mirror. I finally got her out of the tub and ran, with her under my arm, out of the apartment and back down the stairs he had just dragged me up.
I ran to the nearest apartment house where a friend lived and pounded on his door. “Please, Pat. Please open up. Let us in!”
“Oh, God, Oh, my God. I thought he was going to kill you. You can’t stay here. He’ll come and find you. You have to leave,” his worried friend apologized as he watched out the door of the building for Paul.
“Please, Pat, just take Binky for me. I can’t run with her in my arms. He tried to kill her,” I pleaded.
Pat agreed and I took off again, trying to remember my way around the neighborhood we lived in, that I rarely got a chance to explore. I remembered a donut shop that was open twenty-four hours up the road, about three miles. I weaved my way through the apartment buildings between the driveways and cut through a wooded area to stay away from the roads because I could hear Paul’s old Buick rumbling through the complex, while he looked for me.
To keep off the road and out of sight, I had to run through people’s backyards, watching for unchained dogs and fences too high to climb in my party heels and pantyhose. I still have nightmares about being caught in someone’s backyard and trying to explain what I’m doing there.
Eventually, the sound of Paul’s old rattle trap car faded, and I ventured out to the road, finally spying the donut shop in the distance. My feet were numb, as were my hands and face. The snow continued falling, and the temperatures were well below freezing as I made my way to the little shop, still in my party attire, shaking from fear and cold.
Once inside the warm, steamy building, full of baked goods and hot coffee smells, I collapsed on a stool at the counter, unable to speak or catch my breath. A kind waitress poured a hot coffee and set it in front of me, never asking if I could pay. She took a kitchen rag and soaked it in warm water, then offered it to me to wipe the blood and ice crystals off my face.
“Hun, do you want I should call the cops for you?” she asked with a quiet whisper.
“No. He’ll get madder at me, and it will be worse next time,” I admitted glumly, although I couldn’t imagine how much worse it could possibly get.
I sat in silence, letting the warm mug of coffee bring the feeling back to my fingers. Then, I asked if I could use the restaurant’s phone for a local call. She pulled it from the nook behind the cash register and set it before me. My trembling fingers dialed my agent’s phone number without weighing the consequences.
“Rick’s exotic dance agency, please leave a message.”
“Rick? It’s Tina. I need a place to stay and a booking out of town for a while. I’m at the Tasty-T Donut Shop in Liverpool, trying to avoid Paul. Call me back, please.”
After a long wait, Rick finally did call me back. By then, I had made friends with the waitress, who offered to let me stay with her until I could get out of town. Doris was a single mom who had been through a tough time with an abusive husband herself. All she asked in return for lodging and meals was someone to watch her five-year-old twins while she worked double shifts—a match made in heaven.
I stayed with my new friend and her twins for a week while my agent got me booked me out of town. One afternoon, I returned to the apartment complex, and my friend Pat, who had taken in Binky, helped me get my belongings out of the apartment.
Just like that, my life had taken a turn for the better. But it had to hit rock bottom first to push me into the cold, where I found my freedom.