Glory walked down Fifth Avenue with earphones filling her head with her favorite music. Her mind was caught in the gray area of indeciveness that kept her eyes down but her head high. A sadness came over her whenever she thought about Vince and how they were now. It always felt like she fell short in every effort and gesture. It got to the space inside her and now she second guessed herself whenever she wanted to hold him or kiss him. There she would be with heartfelt honesty (finally) and he would turn to stone in her arms. Some days, she was strong against the sting of unresponsiveness and other days it would knock her out for the day.
Vince worked as a Porter in an upscale building in Manhattan and she would stay at home and stew in her hurt and anger. In their small apartment in the Bronx with the kids playing in the background, she would be in the bathroom smoking her hidden stash of cigarettes out the small window, talking to family members that she also kept secret. It seemed like the right thing to do, in order to get out her frustration about the whole relationship without sacrificing them to make him happy and comfortable. She was aware that she wasn’t bringing nothing much to the table as far as building a relationship with them. She knew she wouldn’t be able to accept any invites to gatherings and it always made her feel guilty about possibly ruining their day with her daily drama, so she was always willing to be the ear when in need. She would keep many things from them just so she could listen and hope that that would be enough.
They knew how she felt, they would always say, but did they? Did they know how it felt when the silence got too much? Did they know how it felt to be unable to be an indivdual because it would cause a rip in the very thin fabric that was holding the relationship together? It all comes down to a choice between herself ( as little as she felt about herself, there was something that she kept needing to defend.) and surrendering all until she became a mindless and soulless creature that resembled a human woman. Like a Stepford wife without the bells and whistles.
Then again, who would really know the difference besides him? She would know, of course and she had started to realize that something wasn’t right in the way they had shifted into a place that was perilous and dark.
One afternoon that summer, she and Vince were having a rough week with frequent arguments that went from sarcasm and pettyness to peaks of hysterical anger. They had hit a point where Glory was ready to head out the door with both kids in tow.
“I wasted my youth on you.” he growled at her and when she didn’t respond, he went after her. He pulled her back into their bedroom from behind and slammed the door shut. He dropped her to the floor and started to choke her. His powerful hands squeezed out her breath and she felt a terrific shooting pain from her foot. She struggled through but felt the oncoming darkness coming up fast and surrounding her for the last time. She suddenly heard David’s voice through the haze.
“Mommy?” he called out. His echo pierced through the violence that was going on behind the door. Vince moved and she scrambled into a corner. He picked up a folding chair and held it over his head, ready to do damage. He was wild. Glory covered her head and tried in vain to force down her sobs so that David wouldn’t hear her.
“Mom?” her brave boy called out, a little closer and she could see Vince jolted out of his fury for a moment. He put down the chair and left the apartment. David was standing in the hallway when he opened the door and Glory tried to press herself against the wall, and against her shame.
For the next few days, the pain didn’t stop and she had to tell Vince that she needed to go the hospital. He said nothing and handed her a twenty dollar bill for the taxi.
She learned that she had a hairline fracture and would need to wear a cast. Glory thought about the amount of time she would have to spend explaining that to family and friends. She made an excuse to leave and never went back. They never spoke of it and to Glory, it was like watching him kill something fragile and having no remorse. Not even enough to apologize, or change.
They moved into a two bedroom duplex on Fifth Avenue and 115th street in September of 2008. It was a dream to snag one of the smart looking renovated townhouses with gothic inspired iron fencing. Near the stairs that lead to the front door was a small gated porch and rear driveway that was deep enough to have daydreams about barbeques during the summer.
The rooms were enormous and it had two bathrooms, one on each floor. It was a good balance of tile and wood with a double door refrigerator. The kitchen was cleverly marked off by a wall that served as a bar with stools that tucked under. The large area had two wide windows and a back door that lead to the driveway. A dining set and side table fit perfectly in the space and Glory thought the tall palm plants created a nice peaceful feeling. They could use it. It was supposed to be a new start since getting out of the hospital a year ago, but he didn’t look very pleased. The only thing that he found to his liking was a room in the finished basement, which soon became his office.
A week later, they were having yet another conversation about how she had failed and how it pained him to be the bearer of bad news.
“Everytime I think good things about you, you end up doing something stupid to ruin it. Isn’t that disappointing? Isn’t it sad that as hard as I work and all that I do for my family, I can’t have one pleasant thought about my wife?” he had told her often enough for her to dream him saying it. She was yet again the reason for his bad day and sleepless night. For both of them, since he took to turning on the light and demanding that they talk. Most of the time, he would sit in the dark muttering and chuckling to himself until she got impatient enough to have it out. Usually, it would end with her being chased around the room and away from his powerful hands. How could she forget the fear of being caught in them again? How could she forget his empty black eyes staring at her, ready to pounce and kill?
The most recent time was when he had found a cigarette butt in her jeans. She cursed herself and the curious avoidence to littering. Now he was holding a bent butt in her face and scowling. Vince’s whole face and demeanor changed when he was like this. She felt her gut tighten.
“What the hell is this? You’re smoking? Is this what you do with the money I give you? See, this is why I treat you the way I treat you. You’re supposed to be working on BUILDING trust, not TEARING it down, you stupid CUNT!” he screamed at her. He quickly grabbed her hair in his fist and brought her closer to him. He was six feet three to her five feet two and he leaned down with the butt in his fingers.
“If this is your sick game to make me this way so that you act like the victim, fuck you and get the fuck out of my house and away from my kids. If you are the woman you say you are, you better start acting like it before you turn me into someone so bad, I’ll have you running for your life.” he told her and for the first time in their relationship, she knew that man she fell in love with, had chidren with and slept with had gone to parts unknown and didn’t leave a note.
That was a hard night.
Sometimes her memories were so vivid that they invaded almost every moment. No matter what she was doing, past footage would flip on in her mind and she would be there again. Compounded by the acute tension, the disappointment and the wariness of sudden affection, she had started to envision violent attacks in her mind every time she looked at him. The oncoming hate pulsed in her head with his every word. Even when it was hidden away on certain days and occasions, she could still feel the slight vibration. It always seemed to be trembling, except when she slept. Sleep had once been her solace and recharger, now it was a tactic to avoid him on any level.
Glory moved on toward David’s school on Third Avenue and found that she had fifteen minutes to spare. She walked further up the block and came to a sliver of a building tucked between the brownstones.
Manhattan Church of Christ was in bronze above the glass doors and when she peered inside, she could see the inviting open wooden doors that led to the pews and the altar. Shadows were all around except for a single light that was shining onto the simple bare wood cross that had a white fabric draped around it, symbolizing Jesus’s resurrection.
It was that sight that drew her to buzz the bell in hopes that someone was inside.
After quickly explaining that she was looking for a church to attend, she was let inside the cool vestibule. She peeked further into the large room that held the cross and stood at the doorway in awe of the safety and the peace that came over her. Glory crossed herself before stepping inside the room and walked slowly toward the cross. She stood there for a moment before looking up at it with tears in her eyes. Something released inside of her and she went to her knees and started to pray. Her words mixed with the tears that would not stop coming, even when a voice in her head reminded her of how Vince would react if he saw she had been crying and walking the streets. It would be a week of the silent treatment for somehow trying to pick a fight, but at least she didn’t have to worry about him asking her questions about it. He didn’t care THAT much. Still, it took a lot to pull herself back enough to notice the time before rushing out to pick up David.
He ran to her when he saw her. She caught him in her arms and couldn’t help but smile at him. He was a rumpled cherub cheeked four feet of life and a miniture version of Vince with reddish brown hair and chestnut brown eyes that were clear and bright. In David’s eyes, she saw the Vince she loved and was reminded that their love made these two angels. It was at that moment that she recognized the true blessing and was thankful. She loved the short walk to and from school with him. They sang songs and played I Spy as they giggled and walked hand in hand. She enjoyed the bond that she shared with her children. She didn’t spank them, it was much more effective to take away a privilage until it was corrected or a time out. Vince would use yelling and swearing until the kids told him what he wanted to hear so that he would give the punishment then move on. David held up a sparkly stick figure in his fist.
“Look what I did in Art today, mom. I named him Tony. He’s cool, right?”
Tony was made out of a popsicle stick, four sparkly purple pipe cleaners for his arms and legs and he had a bright red pom pom for a head. A sticker of six googly eyes completed the original silliness. She stifled a laugh, knowing David was very sensitive about his creations and she wanted him to be confident in himself.
“Wow, Davey. I love it! You’re so good at making these.” she told him proudly. He smiled up at her and hugged her tight.
“Awww, thanks mom. I love you.” She squeezed him close and laughed at the fearless love and affection he showed her. He didn’t care where they were or who they were with, when David wanted to show someone he cared, he showed it without restraint. She always prayed that he never lose that fearlessness and become angry and distant like his father. As they were entering the apartment, Jason peeked out of the kitchen with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his hand. He was taller and leaner than David, but with the same mop of reddish brown hair that hung too long for her liking and she made a mental note to take him for a cut. Whether he liked it or not.
“Hey mom. Hey Davey.” he called out with his mouth full. David rushed to drop his bag in the corner and into the kitchen for a snack. Glory followed him and gave Jason a disapproving glare.
“Jay, I don’t want to see the food you’re chewing. Keep your mouth closed, please.”
“Ewww, chewed up food.” David said as he pulled out a spoon for the chocalate pudding that waited on the counter.
Glory looked through the refrigerator for choices for dinner and suddenly felt faint. She didn’t want to risk passing out in front of the kids, so she quickly went to the couch and laid down. Her skull vibrated with each beat of her heart and the nausea had her by the throat, literally. She breathed deeply through her nose and started to feel the lightheadedness fade after a few minutes. When she felt it stop, she got up and continued making dinner. Without those frequent trips to the couch, she wouldn’t have made it.
The rush was in vain because Vince decided to go out after work with some friends. She fell asleep after putting the kids to bed feeling unloved and woke up at two in the morning to a quiet home and an empty space beside her.
It wasn’t the first time he had done it, so shamelessly. He didn’t apologize without some hanging piece of excuse. She responded in various ways during their relationship, none amounting to a hill of beans. Now, she was at the point where she hoped that he wouldn’t stroll in when the kids were awake getting ready for school wearing the same clothes and hungover and that he wouldn’t leave a vomit residue mess to clean up later.
He was giving her another example of his selfishness and disrespect for her as his wife. She certainly didn’t feel he was much of a husband and yet, she didn’t disrespect him. When he had done this in the past, she never locked him out like other women would’ve done. In fact, she nursed him back to health without a word about it. Those self sacrifices meant nothing to him, only to her.
When she tried calling him several times, he didn’t pick up his phone and she refused to lower herself with a frantic and crazy message after the beep, so she didn’t call again. He was leaving her no choice but to wait. Wait for his call, wait for a little money, wait to go out as a family, wait.
Before she tucked herself into their bed again, she prayed for the strength to get through this time in her relationship with dignity and that she needed help in knowing what to do next. She dozed off and into the same old recurring nightmares that made an appearance during her most vulnerable times.
Dreams of stormy nights, being followed and struggle usually woke her up in a sweat.
Vince still wasn’t home when the room started to get light with morning and she had to force herself not to look at the clock. She turned over and started to cry, she cried all the time now. Sometimes she thought she had a hold on it, but there would always be a tear or two that would seep out. She fell into a troubled sleep.
He still wasn’t home when it was time to get the kids off to school and for that, she was glad. They wouldn’t have to see their father looking a mess and she took her time coming home. She even considered getting herself some breakfast in a diner, but she knew that that would not be wise. Especially since they were not talking. By his reasoning, it would be disrespectful of his feelings about her being trusted to act like a lady in public without his watchful eye.
She sped up her pace anxiously and the pain started to speak through the images that blocked her view. She prayed that he wasn’t home, that he wasn’t pacing around and furious that she wasn’t there. She felt the fear ball up in her stomach as she entered the living room and it’s stillness. He was nowhere to be seen. She quietly went to the bedroom and found it as she had left it. She fought off her disappointment and decided that he was a man, old enough to know better and make wiser choices. She was not his mother, no one to tell him how to act in a relationship. When she tried to suggest anything new, he would dismiss it. Nothing changed because he didn’t want change.
The problem was that she wanted change. She had changed after leaving the hospital, but the circumstances were the same.
It was like walking back into a snare willingly, but there was a point when she had to ask herself why she would allow that to happen? What was the gain?
She promised herself that she would pray about it and wait for the answer. In the meantime, she knew that God would be happy if she were strong enough to resist saying or doing petty things. This reminded her of the odious task of basically asking Vince if they could attend church every Sunday. Glory expected him to object, but she always hoped that he would find some understanding. Of course these days, that would be like saying it would be cold in Hell.