I was walking, staring straight ahead when I turned for no apparent reason, unprepared for the smack that his hand made hitting her face and her head swinging back. Still stunned, I took two more steps forward, stopping finally, and turning back. I had been carrying my bags heading to catch the train to Casablanca and without warning I saw him hit her in plain sight, making me jump similarly to how she did into the wall. It’s a snapshot with no before and no after, since my eyes threw themselves to the ground, shamed by what I saw.
They were two young college students dressed fashionably, high heeled and notebooked, with all the trappings of looking like something liberated and free. I looked up at them. He wasn’t speaking, she was pleading, he squeezing her hands in his lap, hard enough to make her scream out. He didn’t stop but I stopped walking and pulled up beside them with my belief that he was inhumane and she was helpless.
His face had no empathy for her, it was stoic like his back that was erect, pin straight, without curves, with no bending. He was cruel and she was pining for him, kissing his cheek, begging for something, laying her head on his shoulder. She spoke with words that were full of the contradiction of enunciating voice and the lack thereof. When I looked up again, her face was somewhere obliterated in his shoulder, she was crying, he was smiling. And his smile went unseen to her.
I wanted to hate him like I wanted to save her but it wasn’t that easy. Even though she was being hit and she was being wronged, she didn’t seem helpless. She was present and capable in her words and in her beseeching and in the way she chose to stay, even though I wished that she would make other speeches and actions. She was capable and I couldn’t mistake her for being completely helpless (just yet). She still had enough self to desire him, to choose him (the shit). She wasn’t yet what we think of when we speak about battered women/men who are trapped psychologically, financially, and legally, but in a few years or in a few more months of this, who knows what the two of them will look like…or if she will still even reflect enough spirit to feel a desire to choose him or talk back.
The only thing I could do was rationalize/intellectualize, since I couldn’t stop him, or rather, stop them. I couldn’t because she wasn’t less (powerful) than I. And I couldn’t because she wouldn’t have let me.
She was a victim of warped-ness, of fucked-upness, of cruelty and a perversion (an inversion) of love–but of helplessness, no, I wouldn’t say that. For whatever reason, she wanted to be here with him even though perhaps hoping to be with him not like this. Maybe thinking that things would get better, that she deserved this “punishment”, that his violence was another manifestation of repressed love. She was asking him to take her (back). It was ugly but who to blame, looked at first clear, but was so complicated perhaps because it is so familiar. Familiar and I wondered where I had seen these positions before.
I couldn’t demonize even as he was becoming a coward, unable to be near her without putting her on a shelf below. I couldn’t vilify him because he looked like someone I once knew. And I can’t simplify her because I see myself. All I could do as they stood and walked past me was pray for her, who looked like me, and for him, who looked like a girl I once knew.
It’s like the ram and Rabat and our kitchen a few weeks earlier.
The ram has an oral fixation no longer. I named him Roberto for the last few days of his life and although it was short we had a pretty tight relationship. When I’d sing to him he’d sing back, and when he got lonely and howl I’d come in the kitchen and stand around for awhile pretending like I had things to do in there until he’d curl up and go to sleep. He was huge, but the sweetest little (huge) thing you could ever ask for. He was smelly but sweet and my sisters were afraid of him as was my little brother. I wondered why they would get so violent with him as they would pass between the tight space of the kitchen and the backroom. I thought they were just being cruel when they’d threaten to hit him or swing something in his face until I noticed that they were terrified of him.
They never stroked his face like our mother did, even though she also knew he, it, would all come to an end, and even though she could also see that he was strong yet messy and very different from the rest of us, like she also saw that he’d leave long before we could ever really understand him.
Staring at these violent interruptions in the kitchen with him brought a thought…this is how we must look when we’re terrified. When we feel small and afraid we could love or we could remain terrified.
There’s nothing wrong with being terrified and afraid. What makes us cowards isn’t being scared because I think we’re all afraid. What turns us from just being afraid to being cruel is when we act out in order to be safe, trying to out smart getting hurt, always striking before someone strikes you, always creating rules that count me out, always punishing, making a bottom to be on top, uprooting the happiness that could sink in, pulling up and leaving what might actually make us happy.
So I prayed that his terrified body didn’t destroy hers too, didn’t grow terror in hers to mirror his own, I prayed that he didn’t murder her soul while he killed his own, and I prayed that he didn’t murder her life while adding and subtracting love, measuring out mercy, privileging pride, becoming a coward.
Making me wonder where we can go when we’re her…and how can we transform when we’re him. Where do we go when we’re lost…what can we lean on and who will understand that it’s more then being him or her because it’s me and you. It’s me and you and not supposed to be like this. It’s me and you, a little bedroom, a prayer, our dreams and salvation.
There are so many faces, without answers but many at the same time. You see, I watch your face and it looks pleased that I’m losing my base, getting ground up, and being spit back out. You almost make me believe you if only I could forget your other faces that give you away. There are too many faces, too different kinds of victims and what to believe, what to remember, what to forget.
Who knows what faces you keep invisible from me, that keep you in agony, that turn you away from the god you could be, that have made us ugly.
You lay your hands down without love. You grind me in the ground and spit me back out again…but if only you knew how I wanted you to do the same thing, differently, which could have expelled my spirit out face down in the oblivion of this little bed. You bruise me, wanting to leave a mark, wanting to live forever, wanting to mean something, wanting to see yourself manifest on me…but if only you could have bruised me with a kiss like this, this hickey growing on my neck. You could have been the master of my heart. I would have let you harvest me with your eyes, but…if only you could see. You could have left a mark better than this. Your hands and these marks sink in either in love or in violence. We could have been free by now. You could have marked us with love. The kind of love that is sinking into me deeply, deeper in this moment then all the other hands left before.
Your love marks me making me gorgeous. And this Love binds me to you lady.