[Trigger Warning: domestic violence]
Imagine, you are in a foreign country when a global pandemic hits… and the person you are in isolation with is increasingly abusive, verbally, emotionally.
Perhaps even physically.
You want to get home and out of the situation but the accommodations are in your name and he refuses to leave early. Wants to stick to the plan despite all plans changing.
You are worried about the damage he will do if you don’t stay… you begin to countdown the minutes until you are safe.
Thousands as the days drag on.
He tells you constantly how stupid you are; you spend most of your time hiding in the bedroom, the only room with a door though it doesn’t close properly – unless barricaded.
You smirk as you realize you are building barricades in a 7 storey walk-up in Europe during a military lockdown to keep out the person with whom you’ve been sharing your bed.
The irony of it all: the nightmare that is the person you took to support you, the person you’ve trusted, should not be lost.
Middle of the night phone call to tell your parents if something happens to you, it was him, while he pounds on the bedroom door threatening to throw you off the balcony.
You pack your bags. Again.
Your parents remind you it’s your responsibility for any damage; they call and ask him to please just keep the peace until we can repatriate; he says we are friends, we shouldn’t travel right now, let’s stay, why don’t you pick a movie?
You countdown the minutes.
He says let’s stick to the plan but doesn’t fulfil his end of the deal, he terrorizes you instead of supporting you; what he means is he still plans to take more from you.
He tells you, repeatedly, he cant decide which he’d prefer… slicing through your skin and watching the blood pool or seeing your body broken on the street, seven flights below; every time he feels his control loosening, he reminds you; you are only alive because he allows it.
You countdown the minutes, and hide sharp objects.
No one would ever accuse you of being a neat freak, nor would they call you dirty… messy perhaps. Yet you spend every day cooking and cleaning up the tiny space in which you are quarantined (what else is there to do?); you never once see him clean up after himself nor think to take his endless empties out; he leaves the toilet seat up and laughs when you fall in because the light in the WC doesn’t work.
You countdown the minutes and try not to see yourself as this moment.
You clean the shower which quickly clogs so you can have one moment to yourself; he watches you scrub the titles and wash the curtain while awaiting drain-o… then gets in when you go to undress.
He tells you people are following you and creates insane “exit plans” when you are out together; he pulls you down random alleys while eyeing people he perceives as threats; zigzagging through his paranoia, he reminds you this is your fault.
You countdown the minutes and try to remember this too will end.
You feel trapped, held hostage; in a city which has not always been kind to you, you feel powerless and silenced; you don’t feel safe; your PTSD dreams return.
The seemingly unending cruelty he is capable of should shock you…. It doesn’t; not much that does anymore.
Your friends offer you a safe space to escape him while others offer to cover your plane ticket home while he watches yet another 4 hour Russian live action war video on your laptop; you don’t trust police and he threats to call them and say you assaulted him if you leave.
You keep your bag packed, choosing to live out of the suitcase- its quarantine, who is getting dressed anyway?
You go to the grocery store on the corner and encounter military armed with assault rifles; at this point you are too numb to be triggered.
You countdown the minutes until you will be safe.
He says it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we cant get home, this despite his having contributed a sum total of zero dollars.
You start going on a daily walk to a grocery store further away so you can have one hour without be degraded; while you don’t loiter, you are risking a fine for nonessential travel but fuck if it wouldn’t be worth every euro for the moments of peace.
As you countdown the minutes, you are grateful there is an end date to the insanity.
230 in the morning, and he starts moving every piece of furniture in the apartment, going through your bags, asking what you’ve brought into the apartment which could have negative energy attached; he opens the ancient fireplace grates, flips the bed upside down, rants to himself and his social media.
He sketches on the inside of the beer box cardboard and tells you each is a story only you will ever know, our memories captured in lines of charcoal; he tells you that you aren’t deserving of his art, you aren’t deserving of him.
You countdown the minutes until you can again breathe.
He screams, he throws things; childish temper tantrums; you try to close a door between you, he puts his hand in the frame, the fury in his eyes palpable; you decide you’d like to watch a movie in bed and take your laptop from the living room, he whips a lighter, from less than 2 meters away, shattering the screen with a bull eye hit.
3 weeks; 21 days; 30,240 minutes you countdown…
And as you step into your room, finally away from him, joyful at complete isolation, you are reminded of all those who are at home, with their abuser, with no end in sight.