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Part Two

March 31, 2010

So I moved into the guest room, and an uneasy couple of months ensued. My ex-husband refused to leave the house. I’d have moved out happily–I had no attachment to the house per se, but he wouldn’t let me take the kids, and moving out without them was unfathomable. How would we even explain it? As I told my mother, I couldn’t get past the visceral feeling that there was a big difference between “My parents separated, and my dad moved nearby,” and “My mom moved out when I was five.” Our older son was almost twelve; his brother was in kindergarten. I wanted to leave their father, but if it came down to leaving the children as well? I couldn’t stomach it.

But what in god’s name was I to do? The divorces I knew, the divorces I’d been through as a kid, were no help at all. In the old days, it seemed, the dad automatically moved out. I felt like a cad for even contemplating such a blatantly sexist proposition, and yet…and yet? I’d taken care of the kids since they were born. They were mine. I’m sorry, third-wave-feminists. I’d put in the time. The kids belonged to both of us, but they belonged WITH me. My ex-husband worked full time. I never had. I was their mother. I kept trying to figure something out, but I wasn’t legally permitted to remove the children from the house, and I couldn’t move out without the children.

Sensing he had me, my ex-husband dug in his heels. He was willing to forgive everything, he crooned–we could start over, just as if nothing had happened. He stopped by the guest room door every night. Sometimes he knocked, sometimes he just came in. He’d sit at the foot of my bed and beg me to come back to him. Once I locked the door, and he broke the knob trying to get in. I was terrified he’d wake the children, banging on the door, twisting the handle, beseeching me. I didn’t answer, tried to make no sound at all. Again, I’d have left–I’d have easily swung right down out the window–but I didn’t want to leave the children inside. He was drunk, or he wouldn’t have acted that way. I waited, and waited. Eventually, he went upstairs and went to sleep.

In the morning, the doorknob was broken. I couldn’t open it from the inside. It was kind of humiliating, banging on the door to be let out. A hard twist of the knob from the outside did it. That day I dismantled the entire doorknob, leaving only a hole where the apparatus had been. I thought, for a long time, that he must not have remembered what happened, because it was never mentioned. A few months ago, however, in some context having to do with selling the house, he sent me an email making a joke of the broken doorknob. He must, therefore, remember something–and here I’d been making excuses in my head for him, all this time.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2010 5:55 pm

    Brrrrrrr.
    That, as usual, is a post that will ring around my head for days.
    Situations like that can slide into violence surprisingly gently.

  2. Kate permalink
    March 31, 2010 6:40 pm

    Yep. I went through the guest room scenario. I lost my job just before and couldn’t afford to move out until I had another (it took six weeks of hell). And of course he wouldn’t leave the house. So night after night he would make an apperance at the door either sobbing, berating, begging or abusing. It was exhausting and I never want to go through that again. Finally my 2 kids and I moved into a small unit whilst he rattled around alone in the big house. Freedom at last!

  3. April 1, 2010 9:29 am

    Thanks for writing, as always. I shivered while reading about him banging on your door… remembering some truly ugly nights with my ex. Nothing I want to relive, but remembering is important.

  4. Ms V. permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:11 pm

    i LOVE this. Because it was when I was starting to feel crazy, that he was convincing me I was crazy…that I really had to leave.

    And, I will NEVER EVER not trust my instincts again.

    Please. Please write a book.

  5. MEP permalink
    April 2, 2010 8:11 am

    You did the right thing by not leaving your kids. Ladies, if you are thinking about leaving, NEVER LEAVE YOUR KIDS, unless you are willing to give full custody to your ex.

    The police could have been called to forcibly remove your ex from the house, since what had happened was, he had LOCKED YOU IN A ROOM. It is amazing the abuse we will endure in order to protect our kids from the ugly truth.

  6. Annie permalink
    April 6, 2010 4:07 pm

    My mom fled, when my dad started hallucinating and threatening her life.

    So I sat, 11 years old, at the top of the stairs, and listened to him call her friends and describe how sorry he was that he had scared her, and when that didn’t work, how he intended to eviscerate me, the eldest, the one who looked the most like her, while he slow danced alone around the living room to Willie Nelson’s Stardust.

    He left when I made my way downstairs and asked him to, but it took me nearly 9 hours to get my courage up, and I threw up all over the stairs and the living room.

    This was in New Jersey, many years ago, and despite the criminal complaints and all the gory miserable humiliating rest of it, she couldn’t take us out of state or deprive him of access to us without either his written, revocable at any time, consent, or a court order. He consented as a birthday present to me when I turned 12 and we were on a plane that night. We were enrolled in school under other names, and lived apart from our mother for 8 months.

    It was a good call you made, staying home.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      April 6, 2010 7:01 pm

      Jesus. That’s one of the most terrifying stories I’ve ever heard. I’m so unbelievably sorry you had to go through that. Poor you. Poor your mom. You were one amazingly brave 11 year old, that’s certain. I imagine you’re magnificent now.

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