I want to tell you an important story, and here’s why: not a lot of people will share their versions.
It’s scary. Too scary, for many.
Like for my hairdresser, whose husband was “the sweetest guy she ever met” at first, yet ended up nearly choking her to death against the kitchen wall. He didn’t spare her—she would have died if her 11-year-old son hadn’t come into the room.
Like for a friend of a friend who wasn’t able to leave her abuser until the day he popped a blood vessel in her eye.
Like for another friend of a friend whose boyfriend, for years, would threaten to kill himself with the nearby gun if she tried to leave him.
Like for my colleague whose sister died at the hand of her abuser, though he is still walking around free.
Like for the millions of women, men and children who don’t speak up every day because they are exhausted, don’t want to be reminded of the situation, or simply can’t say anything because doing so would risk their lives.
I’m doing my small part by sharing my story because violence of any kind, but especially domestic violence, is perpetuated by silence. The more we talk, the more we know, the faster we learn and demand better.
I love my bike more than almost anything in the world.
I think there’s a disease for that–object sexuality, anyone? But really, I do. There’s nothing that compares to riding, whether or not I have a destination, I’m exhausted or energized, my music’s blasting or I’m just enjoying the silence of my surroundings.
This time last year I met a boy who loved bikes, too. So we loved bikes together.
We rode our bikes everywhere and then pretty soon we did everything else together, too. All. The. Time. Every minute together.
But I was always unsettled with all this togetherness, that went from zero to 60 in just a few weeks time. I blew off the discomfort as me just learning how to be less independent and self-sufficient, as if those traits could actually adversely affect my future.
So we kept riding. Boy told me some things that were massive red flags, akin to those at Running of the Bulls, waving in my face, yet I was still charging right at them.
“Don’t judge,” I said.
“He’s changing,” I convinced myself.
“I won’t be like the rest,” I lied.
Every time I said these things my standards dropped lower and lower, and I perpetuated my own lie that everything was okay. I knew that if my family even knew the half of it they would douse me in a bucket of ice water until I cycled away as fast as I could (which is pretty damn fast).
But I kept riding.
The fights got worse, the anger more explosive, the jealously and put-downs and blatant hypocrisy so intense, only to be appeased by a shoulder shrug or guttural laughter that didn’t even sound like my own voice.
My brain felt like putty so often that all I wanted to do was sleep forever.
“It’s normal,” I assured myself, “It’s the dead of winter, who would have the energy to get out of bed?”
But I never stopped riding, and one day I rode so fast that even my bike said enough.
Though I love him to death, sometimes that carbon-fiber bastard has the weirdest ways of looking out for me.
Wake up, he said, or I’m gonna make you wake up and see it.
So he did.
My chin hit the pavement and that was it.
Well, it was more like, where the f*ck is all this blood coming from?! plus five days of hospitalization, six weeks of a wired jaw accompanied by a liquid-only diet, zero bike rides, dozens of nauseating painkillers, and two weeks of the most unimaginably inhumane response to my trauma from the “man” who was supposed to be there for me.
He took my weakened state and used it as an opportunity to yell, control, blame, punish, flee and cheat.
The cheating after my major surgery was the moment that finally allowed me to leave my abuser in the physical sense, yet it was the compounding layers of intense emotional abuse that will keep me away from him forever, along with anyone who possesses the same traits.