A woman's conversation with herself and her legacy after surviving domestic abuse.
I relapsed on my husband again, she thought,
as if he were the drug and she, the junkie.
“A woman leaves or quits seven times, maybe nine,
before they get the point… or die trying.”
A pamphlet in the lobby of the women’s shelter proclaimed.
Not much different that drug addiction, she thought,
but at least drugs are illegal, which is more than you can say
about hitting a wife or sucking the oxygen from her soul.
Is it any wonder they keep going back?
In retrospect, she should have listened to that lady at the shelter.
But instead, she went home again, with broken dreams, a face full of shame,
and a tiny seed she fed when she had enough energy to spare.
Back home, she sat with his mother in that cramped kitchen
watching cigarette smoke curl around the light fixture,
while she listened to his momma defending her baby boy.
Next time, I’ll leave for good, she promised herself.
Meanwhile, his mother went on and on, “You know he doesn’t mean it.”
But deep inside that old woman, a little voice was crying,
“What will he do to me if you leave?”
Self preservation a little too late, she thought. Too late for that baby boy.
“What you're doing is the same thing,” a little voice in her head whispered.
“What if you have a kid with him, what then? Resistance rose within her
and that seed sprouted a little. Hard to keep it underground.
It was a long weekend, not one to be repeated.
She packed a bag that night for round two….or was it three?
Then she thanked the Lord for infertility.
Back home …again…she nursed her husband’s tears as he vowed,
“Never again” for the umpteenth time. A week later, she thought,
So much for the tears. His promises lasted about as long
as the fresh cut roses he brought home.
She preferred flowers she could grow from seed.
“It was the sixth time I relapsed on my husband before I refused to go
back home again,” she said to a roomful of ladies at the shelter.
She looked at the hopeful faces, heard them clap with praise and respect.
They had freedom in their voices, but she could see the ones with itchy feet,
already halfway home again, if only in their minds.
But still, she knew she had planted a seed inside them,
in a safe place no man could touch.
She hoped it would grow and feed them when their choices
have them running for their lives, once again. Seeds made her smile.
She was even willing to plant her feet deep in the Earth
and travel home again whenever she was asked.
But only through her words and stories, her tales of comings and goings.
Each journey home, each conversation, reminds her of that smoke filled kitchen
with the mother-in-law who never had a seed planted in her soul,
and for the girls in the audience with itchy feet and nowhere to turn.
And for the women who knew better, but still had to come to the decision
on their own to make it stick for good. She knew the type...too well.
The memories floated just below the surface but that was okay.
Her eyes welled up often, but it was worth it ... always.
With every seed she planted, she could feel her own flower grow.
So it is with gardeners and listeners of battered souls.
Dedicated to PK, a friend and listener of battered souls, and written for a
certain client (and those I've never met) still taking her time to decide on her own.
And thanks to all the women willing to work at or with domestic abuse
shelters who openly help us social workers understand what these women are facing,
what choices they must make to keep themselves and their children safe until they can leave the situation.
It doesn't take a masters degree to listen, just a willingness to step in someone else's shoes for a while
and plant a seed if you are willing.
National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)