Living in the same apartment as/witnessing domestic violence from an outsider’s perspective.
From the perspective of a cynical girl fighting her own mental illness whilst living downstairs in the same apartment building as a domestically violent couple. The story begins with an introduction to Mickey’s daily habit of sitting in her bath and observing the couple upstairs. The rest of this story will continue to bounce between P.O.Vs of the two women through Esther’s religious journey and Mickey’s journey through affair, her downward spiral into mental illness and eventually rehabilitation.
The theme of control is conveyed through the couple that our protagonist observes. The husband is an alcoholic, thus why most of their fight occur at night after he’s been out drinking. A theme of control is also evident in our protagonist, how she attempts to control her own mental illness when in reality it has complete control over her.
Creative writing 3.4
You’re often told at parenting classes and AA meetings; If your man is treating you poorly if he ever lays an ill finger on you, you just leave him, you don’t stand for that… right?
Well no, not for me anyway, for me it’s different. The mental well-being of myself and our child depends on him. Although not our physical well-being… gosh no.
Every Sunday I attend church with a new excuse to avoid the sly looks of disapproval and pity from the cautious congregation. I tripped and fell down the stairs, black eye. I slipped and hit my head on the corner of the kitchen table, three stitches to my jaw. ‘I am wearing a turtleneck to avoid the cold and the rest is none of your business father’, colourful bruises etched in finger marks decorating my neck.
He doesn’t mean to do it, it’s the alcohol, that’s all. I know he loves me and I know he cares, it’s just that damn bottle. That stupid habit.
But I couldn’t leave him. How could I? We are ordained by God for a lifelong relationship of love and good-will. In sickness and in health.
He is sick and I will fix him, I know I can, I will love the abuse out of him,
Because even after the scars, after the bruises and before the apologies, he loves me. And I pray to God in heaven that a day will come when the bruises stop.
An alarm wakes me up, the third one I’ve set this morning. It’s a Monday, and I’m tired.
I sit up for a moment absorbing my familiar surroundings, it’s as if every morning I expect something to change and I guess sometimes it does, but not today, today I’m seeing grey.
The voices were at it again all night, not the voices from upstairs although I think I do recall hearing something smashing, a mug or a plate, a skull perhaps.. but no, the other voices, my voices.
Carol from the office says they’re cooling off, says that if I don’t give them anything to feed on they’ll leave me alone. But I mean what does Carol know, she hasn’t stepped into the mind-numbing torrent of my brain, hasn’t explored the tangled electrical box of my mind, hasn’t found the wires and if she had, she has no idea whether to cut the red or the blue one. She hasn’t tried to defuse this bomb.
Miss Carol Clearbrooke took a degree in ‘fucked up people’ and BOOM landed a job in the Office.
But it’s not really an Office, not like the TV show anyway, I guess I just call it that to make my life sound more on-track, when really the tracks disappeared ages ago, I’ve been off roading on this godforsaken path for months now. The name ‘Office’ is a mask, an important sounding facade so when people ask where I went for 11 months I just reply, ‘I was in Michigan, at the office’. Sounds important huh, makes me sound like someone with aspirations and dreams and money and a home and someone to call ‘Honey Bear’ and wheatgrass smoothies and all that other bullshit.
Not a scrawny little girl with sunken eyes and skin-head of hair, who lives in the New York apartment that daddy bought for her as a granted reward for ‘completing rehabilitation’, for the certificate printed SANE that is stuffed under the canopy bed, somewhere between empty foil and the empty lighters and teaspoons and take-out cartons I suppose.
Granola, oatmeal, corn flakes or toast. No sugar because it messes with the meds and no coffee because I can’t afford another come-down. Figuratively and literally. Money is tight here but not as tight as Daddy’s wallet, I mean I wouldn’t say divorcing my mother left him many perks in the way of alimony, but I prefer to not think of that adulterated shit-show. Cornflakes it is, again. I pour the dry flakes into a bowl and toss them back with an array of pretty red and white pills. Ugh, Monday.
My plans for the day are minimal.
I meander down the hallway, barely acknowledging the giant canvas painted obnoxiously in splatters and smears of iridescent blue.Apparently daddy bought it from a prestigious artist in France and had it shipped here just in time for my one-man housewarming. Just so I could ‘always be reminded of how much he loves me’ of course. Ha. Too bad the appeal of the painting disappeared almost as fast as he did, haven’t actually seen the man since I learned how to squeak the words ‘planned parenthood’. Although let’s be honest how can I complain? I have a house, a stupid piece of French artwork, a man who pays for my pharmacy tab who, by the way just happens to be my ghosted father, all tied up into one big pretty-pink fucking bow.
I need a bath.
Surprisingly the bathroom that came with this stupidly new and shiny New York apartment is my favourite place.
Installed against the wall beneath the mirrored medicine cabinet stands a baby blue vanity, paint peeling from it’s poorly renovated wooden draws, a pink and orange bath-mat hideously graces the floor front and centre, and a dated shower head adorns the lilac wall adjacent to the tub. The tub, my absolute favourite, big and curvy and white, this tub is essential. This particular tub is directly beneath the living room of the apartment upstairs, this tub is where I listen.
Shirts and underwear litter the floor of the fun-sized bathroom, from myself and old accomplices. They lay scattered in amongst empty bottles of shampoo and… other things. Look I don’t have a habit, it’s more of a boredom thing. It’s like, some people like to bring popcorn to the theatre to watch a movie right? Yeah well, I like to pop a couple of Xanax,
sit in my tub,
I strip. I sip. I swallow. I sit.
Small pockets of air escape in tiny bubbles as I lower my graceless body into the lukewarm water. I tilt my head to the ceiling and allow my eyelids to flutter closed. The silver screen is set, the theatre is quiet, the countdown will begin shortly.
I wasn’t before long until I heard the first slam. The door. It’s 7 in the morning, he’s probably back from a long night of boozing and blacking out on the sidewalk. He obviously decided that hunger is most definitely worse than hypothermia, and dragging his sorry ass back to his cowering wife might be a better idea.
Second slam, footsteps and some yelling. She’s awake, so is the child, it is almost a beautiful thing the sound of an infant crying, although i am still astonished as to how a wail so piercing can come out of a creature so small. I picture the poor thing, face bright red and snivelling sitting in its crib, or maybe she left him on the couch whilst her cross-faded mind lead her to a sleepless slumber. More yelling, an argument it seems. It’s money this time, bills, what to pay, who, how much, deadlines. Dead lines.. Almost ironic because last night I’m sure she wouldn’t be caught DEAD doing LINES from the bag of blow she keeps hidden beneath the tiny mattress of the bassinet while her toddler cries for food, or comfort, or warmth. Probably all of the above.
It’s getting heated.
My mind begins to wander, i’m slipping out of reality’s loose grasp, into the murky world of my mind. The sounds merge together, creating an aching symphony of white noise.
Water runs in curling currents over my bare thighs. I remember the water, the river, the picnics, the laughter, the family… the love, the bullshit. The delusion of childhood happiness that is now buried beneath a mixture of medicinal haze and empty bottles.
De ja vu. I believe in it, no, i hear it upstairs. But I can’t afford to focus, I set my mind free, let it slip and dodge through feelings and noise, let it careen through my brain, passing memories and moments like The Magic School Bus. Again, memories.
It’s too much.
The water’s too hot. It’s time to go, i want to get ou-
Something collapses. A body hits the floor. She collapses. A bottle drops, tinkling onto the battered lino of the living room floor, the first pleasant noise in an orchestra of horror. The front door slams in the apartment upstairs. A baby coughs.
And it’s back to the loudest silence i have ever heard.