Standing in the middle of my kitchen, the images of all that I’ve experienced in this house of horrors swirled around me. My five dogs were sitting there with their heads cocked to one side. I looked into each of their beautiful faces and wondered how I could possibly live without them. I’ve spent years with these guys. The youngest was two, the oldest was nine. I trained some of them as puppies and frequently retrained them all as they grew older. Each one is precious with their own quirks and their unique position within the pack. My husband knew that every pup he brought home would be like an emotional anchor around my neck. Surely I would not abandon them. He counted on that. But my day of departure was drawing near and the probability of being able to bring them with me didn’t exist. For one thing my husband would use that as an excuse to hunt me down. One more excuse, that is. The other reason being that these dogs needed all of the space they had become accustomed to. The yard was huge and fenced in. They loved playing out there for hours each day. They weren’t tiny dogs either. The lightest one weighed 70 pounds. The heaviest was 115 pounds. They were happy here. Taking them to a tiny apartment just to satisfy my guilt and maintain my attachment would only amount to a self-serving gesture. I needed to let them go.
As I continued to develop my plan for leaving I was amazed at how this was all going undetected by the monster. For someone who put so much energy into breaking my spirit he sure as shit didn’t have a bit of mental access to radar. I’m not complaining, mind you. Throughout this termination process I was still fighting off sexual assaults like a boss. My demand for my own well-being was strong. He grew tired of the immense struggle it took for him just to get off. During the last two weeks of my stay he found himself a new target. For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit, I couldn’t believe my luck. Could it really be this easy to slip out of here while he’s preoccupied with his new obsession? As it turns out, no. He felt entitled to us both. A repulsive yet real truth. I wrestled with the idea of leaving my dogs as well as my responsibility to this woman. I knew way more than she did about him. I knew what he was capable of. As I witnessed their quasi-courtship I felt intensely conflicted about where my ethical obligations rested. I was focused on the details of my escape plan and that served as a convenient, although temporary, distraction from these outrageous choices as they merged with his torment of me. I was being fucked in every way I could have ever imagined possible. Regardless, this was no time for a ‘woe is me’ meditation. So I walked forward.
The last few days in that house felt as though I was training to compete in a cliff diving competition. One minute I would be rational and practical, the next I would be shaking from head to toe with a swell of nausea that left me weak. It didn’t matter. I knew that pushing through this wasn’t going to kill me. Armed with that reality I stepped into my final phase of victimhood. My friend who had sent me the money for the apartment called frequently now. I still felt rather removed from others emotionally but I chose to roll with it despite my lack of trust in any human being. It was also during this last phase that my youngest sister reemerged into my periphery. I had decided to take the risk of rejection and call her. She did not hesitate to respond with warmth and compassion as I let her in on the life I had been living for the last few years. She thought I was the one that had rejected her all along. Now she knew and not only did she accept this information she began calling frequently as well. Now I had two women, very strong women, applauding my efforts from the sidelines on a daily basis. Everything felt so close to being over. I could see the finish line and I wanted so badly to bust through that ribbon. I just didn’t feel as though I deserved the peace on the other side. I would be leaving behind creatures that I loved with all my heart as well as a woman who had no idea what she was facing. I had choices to make. Crazy, ball-breaking, heart wrenching choices.
Two days out until takeoff and I was washing the dishes when I heard a knock on the door. It was the jerk-off’s girlfriend. I opened the door and welcomed her inside. She explained that she thought he would be there, I told her he wasn’t but that I’d like to speak with her. She pulled up a stool as did I, around the island in the kitchen. She was quite nervous and her vulnerability pulled a level of empathy from me that left me feeling somewhat satisfied about the nature of my character. I began telling her what has gone on over the years and that I felt she was heading for a disaster that she may not be able to survive. I was careful not to be overly dramatic in my speech and maintained a matter of fact tone. It was imperative that she believe me. She was so smitten with him, understandably so. He was stunningly handsome, had a substantial income and knew how to weave a great web. She was the new fly. As I revealed my experiences she began shaking her head from side to side. She was unable to hear me at all. They had only been together for a brief time but whatever was missing in her she was sure she had found in him. There was no way she was going to let me take that away from her. I didn’t reveal my plans to leave. I could see that she had already formed an allegiance to him. I tried more gentle persuasion but she wasn’t having any of it. I had to move on. I wasn’t about to go down that rabbit hole ever again. She would have to go it alone. I gave her my best effort. I risked too much in doing so. My best needs to be enough.
Although my choices were made I continued to feel a sense of dread and the anticipation of utter regret. I’m grateful to this day that my ability to adhere to logic was stronger than my creeping remorse. I worked my first day of my new job and came home ready to push myself through this strangulating birth canal. I quickly gathered some clothes and toiletries placing them in a small canvas bag. I was going to have to make do with what I could grab and make a run for it. The symptoms of acute anxiety nearly swallowed me whole. I kept walking. Heading toward the door as fast as I could knowing he would be home soon, I stopped dead in my tracks. My dogs had been following my every step. Curious, as is their nature. I hadn’t really noticed it in all my scurrying but here we were. Standing face to face at the door to the outside. A door that became a symbol of all my choices and my passage to freedom. I loved and hated that door at once. I knelt down and took each sweet face into my hands, one at a time. I spoke with them gently and deliberately. I knew intellectually that I was doing this for myself but still, I’d like to believe they understood somehow. “I love you so much. Thank you for loving me through all of this. I’m sorry. Be good to each other. Goodbye”.
I stood up, turned toward the door and rotated the handle. Stepping outside I drew my keys from my pocket. As I locked the mechanism behind me I took a long, deep breath. Then, for the last time, I walked away.
This had been a most difficult and challenging period for me. When we call on ourselves to reach a higher level of awareness we sometimes can’t see the impending consequences. For every action we take, every choice we make, there are chips falling. Where they land can be perceived as one more opportunity to understand ourselves that much more. In taking risks that demanded a leap of faith I am satisfied, finally, with my outcome.