I drove her to the hospital once.
A brick had fallen on her head. Funny how those bricks do that. One minute you’re fighting with your husband, and he’s sick and tired of your bitching and then suddenly you’re over at your neighbor’s house, explaining to her how (funny thing!) a brick just fell down and hit you.
“Of course,” I’d agreed, “a brick. Looks like it did a job on you, too. We oughta get you to a hospital, ‘cause that thing’s bleeding.”
So off in the car we went, leaving her kids with the other neighbor, who agreed those bricks could really do something.
Drove to the hospital. No, sped to the hospital. We got stopped for speeding I remember, by a city cop. I was half incoherent from anger and shock and could barely explain to him what had happened. No mind. He took a look in the car, saw my neighbor’s bleeding head, and dismissed us with a taut hand-motion toward the hospital, and the one word imperative, “Go!”
We went. We went to the emergency room where they sewed her up, and heard about the brick, and told her she could tell them what had really happened and if she wanted it to stop she had to leave and here is the number of the battered women’s shelter.
And I drove her home because she had to get the kids. And when we were there he talked to her, and he promised her that this would Never, Ever happen again, and he Really Meant It. And things were calm for a while.
And a few weeks later, the kids came running over to my house at night. At night. Explaining how the dad was hitting the mom, and he’d been raging and she’d been screaming, and they hated him and they didn’t like her, and they’d climbed out the daughter’s bedroom window so they wouldn’t have to go through the living room, where the fighting was. And the little boy screwed up his five year old face and bellowed, “Make Them Stop! Please Make Them Stop!”
So I called the police.
And sat with the kids and waited for the patrol car to arrive.
And watched as the eight year old paced, stiff with fury, across my living room floor. She paused occasionally to stare out the window and mutter, “I hate them. I hate him,” to no one in particular. Or maybe to herself.
And the little boy, age five, told me how he wanted to be a policeman when he grew up and did I know why? No, I told him, I didn’t. Why do you want to be a policeman? “So I can have a gun and kill people, “he told me, ominously.
And I thought, he’s five. This is five.
Five for him is seeing mommy get hit. Having no fear of monsters under the bed, because you already know where they are. Monsters are screaming in the living room. And the next morning mommy has stitches, and your sister goes off to catch the school bus and you’re alone, all day, with the sometimes monsters and the sometimes mommy and daddy.
Five. He’s five.
And eight? The girl is eight. The girl came home with a note saying she had fallen asleep in school, and had trouble paying attention, and someone should make sure she gets to bed at a reasonable hour. She wouldn’t have shown it to her mom and dad, except that it needed a signature, and she couldn’t forge cursive yet.
And the mother came over and said, “What am I to do? They tell me my daughter’s disruptive, and I yell at her and yell at her, but it just doesn’t do any good.”
And I look at her with an answer in my mouth, but my lips won’t do it. They just won’t move. So I stare at her, mutely, and give a “what came you do” shrug.
Eventually I moved. I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Like a textbook. This is the way it will go, over and over and over: They will fight. He will beat her up. She will get the injuries treated. He will promise never to do it again. She loves him. He loves her. They will fight. He will beat her…
Part of me wanted to stay. Part of me said, “Help these kids. They need an anchor. They need a house to go to when daddy beats up mommy. They need a place to giggle. With no monsters. With no-”
He beat her up badly this time. There was a small story in the paper: Man breaks wife’s wrist, cracks rib. Wife had concussion. Treated at hospital, and released.
Something in me knows that fifteen years from now the boy will be a young man. With a woman he loves. Who is part of him. Who needs a lesson once in a while. He will promise never to do it again. He doesn’t understand why he does do it.
Like a book, it is. The same plot which gets read over and over and over.
Everybody plays their part. Step in, say your lines, purse your lips at the injustice of it all, and get to the end of your page. If you’re lucky, you can leave. If you’re not lucky, if you’re five or eight years old, you stay for the next wearying chapter.
And when you finish the book, when you get to the end of the chapters, and you give a great sigh to yourself and say, “Thank God!”, you read the last line: Return to page one.
What we need around here is an author. Someone who can take the ink of inevitably and form it into the right words: And Then They Stopped.
Please, someone, anyone, show up with the pen.
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