I sprinted as fast and far away from that dreadful house as I could. The blind race I ran was a blur. By the time my feet gave out, I had no idea where I was or how I got there. I gasped for oxygen as I surveyed my surroundings.
I concluded that I in a park, an old, vacant park. The swing set and slide looked as if the Greeks themselves constructed them. A crooked sign to my right read “McAllister Park.” I was surprised; I had ended up on the other side of town. I looked to my left and saw a beaten down bench.
The bench reminded me of myself. We both were seasoned and tried from the trials life bombarded us with, yet we both were still standing, barely.
With a weak soul and a weary body, I gently seated myself on the bench, my only friend. I thought about weeping, but my tears were locked away in the deepest, darkest part of my being. I could scream. No. That would be idiotic. Maybe I should kick something! Maybe I was going crazy!
I bent over and buried my face in my sweaty hands. In my mind, I replayed what had happened over and over. I thought about the fight, his anger, my responses, and how a person can be so beautiful even when you’re infuriated with them.
Suddenly, a sound like a cross between a cry and a hiccup aroused me back to reality. I quickly sat up and saw a young woman, about my age, sitting beside me. Floods of salty rain poured down her makeup-less face.
For a minute, I stared at her; I studied her. She did not notice me. I think she was too focused on whatever caused her to cry. Despite her tears and naked face, she was stunning. Tall and thin, she looked like a Miss America contestant. She had long, curly blond hair that rested perfectly on her defined shoulders. Her light blue eyes told me that she had been happy once before this miserable moment. Those precious, heartbroken eyes killed me.
I had to say something. “Um….Are you okay?”
As I mentally punched myself for asking such a stupid question, she turned to me and somberly replied, “No.”
“They say that talking about it helps,” I finally said after a lengthy lull of silence.
With a sad smile, the woman exclaimed, “And who are these ‘they’ people? What the hell do ‘they’ even know?”
We made eye contact. We felt it, an unexplainable understanding. Have you ever met someone where you just know in another life you were them or they were you? No, I’m the only one? Well, so be it.
“I got into a fight with my boyfriend,” she quietly began. “We’ve been fighting a lot recently.”
I was amazed. “I had a fight with my husband tonight, a really bad one.”
She shook her head in what appeared to be disgust. “Has your husband ever hit you?”
“No, never. He would never do that.”
The woman pulled up the sleeve of her shirt to reveal a plethora of bruises. Some were red; some were purple, but they all told the tale of abuse. My eyes widened in shock. My heart filled with compassion and sorrow, while my brain produced unanswerable questions.
“It’s not the first time he’s done it,” she continued, “I will never forget the first time. We were celebrating our three month anniversary, and we went back to his place to watch a movie, but he had something else in mind….He wanted to have sex. I didn’t want to. I wasn’t ready. We got into a huge argument about how I didn’t love him as much as he loved me. He…became so…angry. He slapped my cheek. It didn’t hurt that much. The fact that he did it hurt more than anything. Of course, he apologized the next day and promised to never do that again. I believed him. I still believe him after every single empty apology.”
“How long have you been with him?” I asked as I lightly put my arm around her shaking shoulders.
“Three years.” More tears escaped her eyes.
“Why? I don’t understand?”
She looked at me with pleading eyes, “Do you still love your husband even after fighting and being angry with him?”
Even though I had not forgiven Justin for the words he had said, I had to nod. Despite everything, I still loved him.
“Well, I feel the same way.”
I shook my head refusing to believe her logic. “My situation is different. My husband doesn’t beat me. You are being abused for crying out loud! How can you love someone who hurts you like that?”
Her face broke my heart; it was the face of confusion and conviction. “I don’t know why. He’s just…so beautiful, you know? When we first started dating, he was so kind and chivalrous. He was everything I wanted in a boyfriend. Maybe at some point he became more than my boyfriend…..Maybe I unknowingly allowed him to become my entire life. I have tried to leave and end things with him several times, but…I just can’t. When he hurts me, I hate him. Then he smiles and says he’s sorry in that quiet, angelic voice, and I fall in love with him all over again.”
I understood exactly what she was talking about. Well, not exactly, but I could certainly relate to the general concept.
I felt it was time for me to share my story of the night. “The fight began over something silly. I forgot to wash his work clothes. It honestly should have only been a little spat, but then it just turned into this ginormous eruption of anger and frustration on his part. He accused me of never putting him first. He said I always put myself first and I never think of others. He then brought up kids. I don’t want kids. I’ve never wanted them, but he thinks he can convince me otherwise. Well, we’ve been married for seven years, and there are still no children. He kept going on and on about how selfish I was to not want kids. I eventually could no longer take his harsh remarks. So, I left and ended up here in this park…with you.”
“What did you say?”
I narrowed my eyes,” What do you mean?”
“Come on,” she scoffed as she rolled her eyes. “He wasn’t the only one who said hurtful things.”
I felt my heart soften a little towards Justin. This woman was right. I also had said some cruel things as well.
With a sigh, I confessed, “I think I called him lazy in a really mean way. We both work, but I do most of the housework. So, I kind of feel like I have two jobs. When he comes home, he’s off work. When I come home, I have to clean the house, wash dishes, make dinner, and all this other stuff. I said that if he wanted kids so badly he should have married someone else. I may have also said that he loved his job more than he ever loved me. That probably cut him the worst. His father was a workaholic and rarely paid any attention to his family. Justin, my husband, swore he would never become his father, and he isn’t. He does love his job, maybe a little too much, but I know I come first in his life….Wow….I was really unfair to him.”
This time she put her arm around my shoulder. “Fix it.”
No other words needed to be said. I heard it all in that two word sentence. She wasn’t just asking me to fix it for me; she was asking me to fix it for her.
I finally stood to leave. I wanted to go home. I wanted to make things right with Justin. I had to; I needed to.
As I began to walk away, I looked back one last time. I wanted to thank her for changing my perspective and making me more grateful. I wished to inform her that she reminded me how much I loved Justin and how priceless and rare that love actually was. I longed to tell her to run far away from her boyfriend and find someone who would treat her with all the kindness in the world. But, I said nothing. There was nothing I could have told her that she had not already heard.
I simply memorized her lovely, tear-stained face, and vowed to never forget her or the invaluable things she helped me realize. Then I finally turned away. Before I knew it, I was running back home with an apology in my hand and a change in my heart.