My husband and I have just arrived at the babysitter’s to drop off our one-and-a-half year old son. It is an early December morning and we still are fighting from the day before. We are going to “talk” and “start over.” We are always “starting over.” But talks escalate to shouts, and shouts to blows then blows to defeat. I was finally too tired to talk anymore. I had given up.
As soon as my husband is inside, I open the car door and start walking. I am so tired, I don’t care where I go. I walk to a playground nearby and the ground under the hollow playhouse seems so soft, maybe I could just lie down and go to sleep forever, out here in the cold and I wish it would snow but it never snows in Portland, only rains. Then I remember I have a baby growing inside of me and it’s okay for me to die but she deserves to be born so if I could just call somebody, get to the nearest phone and call somebody, anybody and then I start to cry – the uncontrollable kind of crying that just sweeps over you like an avalanche and you don’t care how you look or who sees you. You just stumble along like a pregnant corpse, sobbing.
I come to a main road. I’ve seen depressed people walking around one week before Christmas, just like I was doing. Their faces look as cold and lifeless as empty storefronts. Their eyes are frozen and they have forgotten to comb their hair.
There is a 7-11 with a pay phone on the corner. I thumb through the phone book with my stiff, red fingers. “Abused Women’s Hotline: Battered Woman’s Shelter.” All I see is the word “shelter.”
I call four different numbers, leave messages. I pace back and forth, waiting for someone to answer. My fingers feel numb. I try to keep my ski parka closed but my belly is too fat to zip it up. Finally someone calls me back. Was I alone, they ask. Did I have any money, any clothes, a car? I’ll have to take a bus to the other side of town and someone will meet me on a street corner but they couldn’t tell me where the shelter is for the safety of the women. And I’d be living in a room with seven or eight women and children. By the way, can you get your son? Is he in any danger? They’ll sign me up for Public Assistance after I get a legal separation from my husband so I can get on Medicare in time to have my baby. How soon can I get there?
I never did get to the shelter. It was too intimidating for me to take the first step. But my doctor was shrewd enough to have me admitted early into the hospital to rest and get help. In the hospital, I received counseling and found the strength to leave my husband and the cult. Other women can free themselves of abusive relationships if they are tired enough to let go and open enough to ask for help. Sometimes letting go is the only way to hold on.