May 19, 2017
She tries to remember a time she didn't awaken at 3 am wondering if the door would be knocked down and she would be handcuffed—taken to the policestation. Another round of questions, taunts and accusations of things she hasn't done.
What is it about waking at that time that sends her whole body into sweats—later, the chills that make her want the warmth of covers. So long ago she never would have thought any of this possible. Why has it become her reality now. A long, dark nightmare that doesn't seem to let her awaken. She sleeps in increments now. Small portions of time she can relax and be calm—other times restless, pacing. Still trying to piece things together, like a puzzle that still needs completion, but pieces became missing—ones left on the table don't seem to fit.
Jail is like that. Long streches of time punctuated by short, restless periods waiting. Panic rising if you can leave or if you will be forced to stay another day. Some days go easy in the slow movement of time and other days are awful—time drags, a demonic will of its own. Taunting you, harassing you slowly you understand freedom is gone and you must urrender to the rhythms imposed upon you.
Being in a marriage that was so controlling was in many ways like jail. The constant quard like measuring up that had to be done. Each day having to meet some arbitrary approval from some unseen force that watched your every move. When did you become use to living that way. The slow decent of anothers will until you don't remember your own. The questions that are implied demands rather than exchanges of information. They call it coercive control—steady erosion of your liberty.
The slow stalking of your soul. The quiet vice grip that strips you of your automony until it feels like a walking death. Because it happens over time and by someone you trust and love its hard to quite see it from the outside. Only after being out and away from the web of control, can you finally see how severly you were controlled.
Some things are like that. Takes time to view them from the summit. My marriage was like that. I adored my husband in the beginning. Restless nights, now spent wondering how he could have played this deadly game for so long, pretending his love and yet so much more in love with his own ability to control everying in my life.
Why was I the one being arrested while he was able to do whatever he wanted. Why was so much in my life destroyed while he continued to control so much of it. The questions kept piling up as the time in jail. "You've been here before," the quard said. I cringed wondering when I become a person that was known at jail. Not really, I mumbled. It had become routine though. The stalking, the violence, the inflicted wounds on the inside, the arrests that made me the villian and him the victim. He was always so good at these games. He would laugh and tell me how people just didn't get it. He knew them in ways they didn't even know themselves.
Each day I was getting stronger. Being inside and outside became somewhat the same—spiritual madness. The bars on jail, mimicking the same invisible bars that surrounded me in life on the outside. They say you learn to do time. Zen—you learn no time. Time can morph into something else if you let it be. An hour can be a week, a day can last forever. Seeing physical bars on my room grounded me in a reality that mimicked how I was living. It had become so similiar. In the same way, the ongoing control was mirroring a violence that I felt whenever I was arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail. Somehow I had to survive it all, pieces of my life coming back to life—sometimes in a very violent way. Jail would seem a fitting place to see that sort of close-up.
Night becomes day and day becomes night. We were often awake at 3 am, he worked second shift for years. I learned newly married that dark and light could be exchanged. Reversed and flipped in different directions. In the same way finding my freedom again by having it physically taken away.
The invisible web of control far more obvious by the real bars on my window. The noxious smells, the restricted routine, the loss of movement—the language of physicality.
How precious my freedom was becoming once again. I had been made to forget. Over time slowly stolen. Now the stark realization of that loss was poignant. The spiritual madness was taking shape into something that I could see. A broken bird released from the cage ready to fly once again.
She turns to the window, sunlight streams through. Is it the end of the day or just the beginning.
Posted by Rhonda Flanagan