There She was. Again. Crying. Sniveling into her sleeves. Though I could have very well slept on, I did not. I wondered what, or rather who, caused it this time. It had been Rob- her husband- the last time. Also him the last to last time. It was always Rob every single time. The first time i had seen her, she had been a bride- a beautiful, dazzlingly happy bride. But that happiness had not lasted, not even for days. A week later i had seen the first bruise- blue black with tinges of green and red. But then she had been smiling. She had laughingly brushed it off, saying she had bumped into something. Soon she had ran out of excuses, though never out of bruises. Even today. She was blue. And black. And bruised a lot. So much so that I could not help not looking at her. Without making a sound she started to strip for me. Layer by layer. Her shirt first. And then in a slow mock-erotic dance, the rest. I felt such intense pain. And anger. And betrayal! How could a human treat another human thus? I shuddered at the cruelty and at the lack of humanity, of any kind of feeling!! Her body, so full of bruises! Her beautiful skin, discolored and uneven!! Some bruises were already healing and some were yet to heal.. But i wondered if some of these would fester forever, long long after they had totally healed…
My husband was stirring. I mouthed at her to leave. But she did not even move! What was wrong with her today? Desperate, I glared and frowned at her as i repeated my request, my command. I did not want my husband to know about her, about her presence in our bedroom. Which husband would like or even tolerate it? There was a time for everything, and this late into the night-why it was almost dawn!- was no time for a visit! Moreover, he cared a lot for me. He knew that i was a big softie and thus hated to see me worrying. Hated to see me being taken advantage of.
“Honey, switch off the lights, will you?”
She was starting to tremble. I was surprised. Just because her Rob was violent and abusive did not mean that all men- especially my husband, my Bobby- was! After all, my Bobby was the sweetest, kindest soul. He would not even raise his voice at me, much less his hands!
“Come back to bed, Lisa. You will catch a cold.”
She was shuddering all the more now, with her eyes crazed with fright, lips trembling violently. She looked so pale that her bruises were all the more vivid. I pitied her. Again i thanked my lucky stars for the gift of Bobby. For the gift of his love. Sure, he was not perfect- but then who was? I felt so blessed because my Bobby was nothing at all like her Rob. She was still there, standing. Looking at me. Staring at me with her crazed scared eyes. Suddenly i was tired. It was high time she went. It was late and it was night. And my husband was looking for me, he wanted me. It used to surprise me at first how much he wanted me. He would reach for me in the middle of the night. I used to wake up to him in me. Oh how he liked it! He would then call me his Sleeping Beauty, whom he alone could bring to life with his lovemaking. But after a while i started to dislike it… I could never manage to sleep. All of our nights were spent making love and nothing else. My days would be spent in a drugged state, hardly awake. At first people understood. They would give me sly looks and tease me with talks loaded with innuendos. But soon just like me, even they got weary. Tired. But now i know. It is just that he loves me so very much. Because he wants me so very much. As if no matter how much of me he has had, no matter how many times he has held me, he could never be satiated, his thirst never quenched. He loved me so very very much.
The woman was starting to cry again. Her breathing was labored and her face was contorted in fear. Her panicky eyes were darting here and there. Yet she did not move. As if transfixed, she continued to stand there, rooted to the spot, looking at me. Pleading with her eyes, she was begging me to set her free. To protect her from getting hurt. But really, what did she think I could do? After all, it was she who was to speak up. To stand up. To fight back! What could i do? I was not her. She was she. And I was I. Different people, with different partners, leading such different lives!
I heard the bed creaking. Bobby was getting up and coming towards me. The woman- yes she was still there!- got unbelievably still more pale. I wondered if she was going to faint and fall!
“What’s keeping you? I am too lonely without you, love…”
I shivered with longing.
“I was just coming, Bobby….”
What else could i say? I could not dare alert him to her presence! I could not tell him that she had come again. That even now, she was looking at me, at us, totally scared! Bobby just would not understand! And he had been so angry the last time i had talked about her that I let myself be teased back to bed, to him. But something made me pause. Maybe it was her pain, her misery. Suddenly I was torn. A part of me wanted to respond to his cuddling. The other part just wanted him to go so that i could talk to her in peace. But Bobby was Bobby. I had never ever said no to him before. So the cuddling continued, despite my hesitancy, my lack of response. I could feel him already. He was ready. But was i? How many times had it been tonight? I was just so tired, so sleepy. And maybe because of her, no longer in the mood, no longer interested.
“You are what?”
Had i said it out loud? Bobby’s voice changed. It was as if a stranger was speaking in his voice, from his body. His eyes, till now tender and loving, were suddenly harsh and unyielding. His usually calm, sweet, patient voice had now an edge to it. The woman started to convulse shudderingly, with her teeth rattling, as if possessed.
“I am sorry, Bobby. I did not mean it that way. It is just that i am really tired and i don’t feel like-“
His embracing arms suddenly started to choke me. I was breathless, this time out of pain rather than pleasure.
“You don’t feel like? But what to do, love? I just want you so very much…!!”
Though his words were dripping honey, their tone was malicious, cruel. The woman had stopped shaking, stopped breathing, almost as if dead. I wanted to tell her that my Bobby was different. That he was not violent like her Rob. That he loved me so! But Bobby, in the grip of one of his moods, wasn’t helping at all. His arms closed around me, tighter still. I could not breathe at all. My ribs, my lungs, were getting crushed. I started to hit at his arms, begging him with my eyes to loosen up. But he wasn’t listening. I was so scared. So very scared! I was slowly getting light headed, almost as if i was going to faint. Or die? In a panic, I turned to the woman, asking for her help. My eyes pleaded with her to stop standing there, mute and dumb, but rather to help me! To save me! To do something! Anything! But yet she stood there, rooted to the spot, just like i had been before. Maybe she too was asking herself how she could help me, when it was i who should be fighting my own battles. After all she was she and I was I. I promised myself then and there that i would stop making excuses. If this was what she went through everyday, i had to help her. I swore that i would do whatever was in my power to help her. To help women like her- if i survived this!
Bobby loosened his arms and caressed my bruised body- his demonic embrace had left behind angry welts as their legacy. In a husky voice he was telling me how sorry he was. How his great love for me made it hard for him to take my rejections- they hurt him dreadfully! So dreadfully that he felt as if he would die of the pain! Just like i had been feeling a few moments back… I despairingly forgive him. Like i always do. Because i know how much he loves me. Because i know, unlike Rob, my Bobby wasn’t a violent soul. It was just that he was hurting and moody. All because i had turned him down. It was because he loved me. Because he loves me.
But then when his ardour increased and he pulled me to bed, I just could not take it. I could not stand it anymore. I could not fathom why my precious sweet Bobby was behaving like that obnoxious Rob. So I stopped. I refused to move towards the bed. Bobby stopped too.
“Why? What’s wrong?”
Not today, I tell him. Not now.
A fist. His fist. Bob-Rob’s fist. In my face. I was stunned. I tasted blood. Acrid fumes of fear and pain paralyzed me even as I went flying backwards, smashing into my vanity. The mirror shattered, the pieces piercing my skin.
In the broken pieces, I saw her. I had thought she would have escaped by now, running for her life. But no. She was still there. I saw her looking back at me. She was disfigured. Mute. Numb. Broken. Trembling. I could see her scars. Her wounds. Her bruises. I saw her bleeding.
I saw- me.