I worked hard in my little store, trying to pay the rent to my uncles and the rent I had to pay to the bartender. I refused to ask him for any money. Every day I would walk home enjoying the sights of that beautiful city – the old buildings, the train underpass I had to use twice a day, the memories of my youth here. When I climbed all those stairs I would invariably find that supper had not been made nor had any housework been done. I would find the bartender on the couch with the remote in one hand and his cigarette in the other. He never asked me how my day went but would launch into the world’s problems and then add his own rants and ravings. I didn’t have time to pay attention to what went on outside my own little space and I was dubbed a ‘dummy’ – or someone ‘he just couldn’t talk to’. Of course it was then up to me to do the ‘little woman’ stuff and I would spend my evenings cooking then cleaning.
As I look back through my journals I see the beatings continued regularly. All I had to do was look at him the wrong way – or get that ‘look’ on my face – and he would beat me. I also note that as that year progressed I started to use the word ‘hate’ when I wrote about him. The love words were fewer and farther inbetween. Yet still I stayed and wished for romance and love. I wrote the following –
“Go away. Leave me to float in these feelings. Waves of pain crash in amid the shoals of unhappiness. Somewhere in the debris along the bottom, my love tries desperately to swim to the top. Gasping for air, the weeds of insecurity trap my love and drag it under the surface again. Oh to break free of all that entangles and suffocates, and float in the sunshine of trust, sharing, happiness and your smile. Give me the breath of life and love with your lips. Fill my lungs and body with the warmth of you. Pump the stale waters of uncertainty out of my body and take my hand and walk with me into a land of peace. Forever.”
One day, as I climbed those last 18 steps, I could hear him screaming and stomping about the apartment. I opened the door and he threw the newspaper at me and turned his face to the ceiling and let out a scream of anguish.
“He’s spending my inheritance!” he screamed as he stomped from one end of the apartment to the other. “It’s mine! He has no right to spend it. Especially without talking to me first! I had to find out through the damn newspaper!”
I was shaken and scared that his anger would suddenly focus on me, but he seemed oblivious to my presence. While he stomped and raged back and forth, I put down my purse and sat at the kitchen table and read the ‘offending’ article. His father had sold some of his shares of the company to pay his gambling debts and to build an aviary for his second wife who was going to begin breeding parrots. The sale of the shares totaled about three million dollars.
I spent the entire night watching him rave and storm around, pulling at his hair and beating his thighs as he cursed his father. I was relieved when the sun rose and I could escape to my store, unbeaten.
He spent five months at the cottage that year while I worked happily away in my little store. When his birthday rolled around in September, his father gave him a check for $50,000. Immediately following that, he told me that he didn’t want to spend another 5 years in this kind of relationship. Everything that was wrong with it was my fault. The wrinkles and gray hair he was getting were my fault. His inability to write was my fault.
When he lost nearly all of the money in the stock market crash on October 19th – that was all my fault too. Never mind the fact that he knew nothing about the stock market.
On the other hand, my store was beginning to do well and I decided to move it to a strip-mall. It was located just three blocks from the apartment – so easily within walking distance as well. It took us a month to build and again we got on well. My mother came to help me set up the new store and my father lent me some money to help buy left-over stock from a wool store that was going out of business in Toronto. My mother wasn’t too keen on the bartender, but my father thought he was wonderful. He even offered him the hand of friendship should our relationship not succeed. This was the one and only man he had ever approved of – and I should have paid attention to that.
I spent twelve and sixteen hour days trying to grow my business which took away from my time spent with the bartender. It helped me get back some of the self-esteem he had destroyed and I felt like a real person again. However it caused things to disintegrate on the home front. He no longer had his slave to do all the cooking and cleaning and to baby him through all his troubles. His anger and resentment became almost daily beatings for me. One evening I came home and found that he had set up a futon in the spare room. He claimed he could no longer share a bed with me and that he needed ‘space’. When I questioned it he beat me so badly that I bled from my vagina. This scared me so badly that I went to the doctor to see what kind of damage had been done. While he examined me he asked what I had been doing that had caused this. I told him the bartender and I had been playing soccer and he had kicked me in the stomach by accident. With my feet in the stirrups, he raised his head from between my legs and looked in my face and raised his eyebrows. I looked away. Fortunately no serious damage was done and the bleeding eventually stopped and the bruises faded.