The Real John

The Real John

I lived in the suburbs. It was a quiet town by the sea. There were deer, foxes, wild turkeys and bald eagles in my back yard. I expected that this would be where I’d live out the rest of my life, in this beautiful New England town where I had the comfort of familiarity. John was a monster, but I was still in my comfort zone. My house was my sanctuary. I was trapped there with my little dog, but Angus showered me with unconditional love and I felt secure.

For three years, I had no car and I was dependent on John for transportation to doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping or even helping to care for my dying father. My brothers and sisters expected me to pitch in and get to my parents’ house 45 minutes away, despite the fact that I had no transportation. When I asked John if I could go help out, he’d rage at me that he had to go to work and “fuck” my siblings for not understanding. My dad was dying of cancer and I was feeling guilty for upsetting my abuser and my family.

On Christmas morning, my children would ask why Santa forgot to fill my stocking and John would laugh and just say “oops.” On Mother’s Day when my young kids didn’t have as much as a card, John would say “You’re not MY mother!” and he’d laugh. He taught my 2-year-old baby girl to call the police “pigs”. He taught my little boy to be verbally abusive. He put a shock collar on my other dog because she barked too much. He’d also squeeze her snout closed until she’d yelp in pain. John was a cruel, rage-filled bully.

Throughout our marriage, John hated my family, my neighbors, my friends and my co-workers. He didn’t hide his disdain, yet no one ever said a word about his behavior. They enabled it. I enabled it. I wanted to look as perfect as everyone else looked, at family celebrations, holiday parties and on Facebook. I was supposed to be as perfect as everyone else despite the fact that I was a “bitch” and a “cunt”. I was supposed to work full-time, keep a fine house, raise my children and be his personal porn star.

When we went to parties, he’d drag me out every single time if it looked like I was having fun with my friends. He physically dragged me from a high school reunion because I was dancing with one of our closest friends. He threw me in the car, raged at me on the way home for “gyrating” and threatened me. In the morning, he was still pissed off because I had been acting like a “slut” the night before, so he threw a hot cup of coffee at my head, just missing me and exploding onto the wall. I had to clean up the mess.

When I accidentally jammed our garbage disposal, he went into such a fit of rage that he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed it into the counter, just missing my hand. For years, I kept that spot by the sink covered with a dish towel because it shamed me.

Did they know? Did they see the misery in my eyes? Did I know? This had always been my normal, but it wasn’t theirs. Did they know? Was I wrong to pretend things were fine? Was I wrong to try and keep things stable for my children even though they weren’t stable for me?

They’d known John as long as I had. Did they know? And if they did know, why didn’t they protect me?

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