The one question people ask is “why don’t you leave?” Some who are bold just ask “why do you choose to stay?” But why is the ultimate kick in the gut and it hurts more than the ones you receive from the one you love when no one is watching.
Why is always followed by a good defense starting with because…and what follows are a cloud of thoughts, he didn’t mean it, he’s a good man, he loves me, he loves the kids, he cares and maybe I pushed him too far, I know he did wrong but no one’s perfect, he won’t do it again, he said he was sorry. These thoughts comfort you when your ribs are too painful for you to turn. They soothe you when it hurts to smile. They are the ones that cloak you with warmth when your heart starts to freeze. They stay with you through every kick, toss, slap and blackout. On the kitchen floor, in the living room, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in bed. They stay until someone’s gut feeling is brave enough to condemn you why don’t you leave? Before their courage, they saw you and saw a vision. You had the sweetest man. He bought you flowers, took you to dinner, bought you fine dresses, held you close in public gatherings, kept his eyes on you wherever you went, called you every day,sent you text messages. They saw a vision. A blurred vision.
When one why turns into two and three and suddenly the whole world, you hide in your hole. It hurts to lift your head up. It wounds to admit that love maimed you. It hurts worse than the punches and kicks and you hide not because you are scared but because the dark is familiar. You are at home with your demons. What they see is a woman too weak to fight back. They see a woman who is stupid enough to die at the hands of a pathetic excuse of a man. They hate the man for hitting you but are disgusted that you’d stay. They look at you and say I wish you would just get up and leave but they do not give you a doze of the courage they seem to have. You scream in your head for it is not the punches that hurt but that they were preceded by love. They came after paradise, but you know better. You know nothing will ever change him or his ways, and you know that if you stay even one more day you’d be six feet under. You think of all this and smile because a part of you knows that death would be a relief. What of the kids? Who will look after them? Suddenly an alarm goes off and you are in Kenyatta Hospital screaming your head off ready to deliver Henry into this world. He is four. He will soon know better, and stand up to his father and then what? You think and think until your hole becomes too small and you have to step into the light.
Somewhere along the line, he comes and he’s fuming, it’s worse than last week and he’s just gotten a call from your Aunt Millicent. The one who can smell a pest a mile away. She sends you her love and you know he is not happy. He says the house smells damp. Did you clean? Yes. Did you have lunch with your cousins in town? Yes. At what time because I called you and you said you’d be home? At two. What did you talk about? Cindy’s wedding, she wanted to know if I could be a bridesmaid. What did you say? Yes. And he smiles and turns just as his smile fades to hit you across the cheek. You take it but this time you don’t scream or plead. He grabs your braids and pushes you to the floor. You land on your butt and he kicks your knees and waist, just above your hips and he kicks until you stop moving. You lie there swimming in a cloud of darkness and it feels like home. What does the world know? What do they know about death or tragedy or humiliation? What do they know about grief? You swim your way to another day and it hurts everywhere. You suddenly want someone to ask how does it make you feel? You would say hell doesn’t even come close. You have to get up. You have to get up. It is time. You have to get up, lift your head up, get your children and walk out that door.
You have to get up. You can get up.
You can take one step, two steps, three steps and walk out.
You can and it’s all you think about whenever you think of all the times they asked why.