‘So, this is what my life has come to. I am an unpaid babysitter for a grown man. Here, let me pull you further into the apartment so you can lay on the plush carpet of the living room, rather than the cold tile of the kitchen. What a good girlfriend I am. I mean fiancé.’ I guess there was a ring, and a conversation about marriage and I did say yes. But that seemed so long ago. When I was so in love and thought my fairy-tale had manifested. My prince charming had finally arrived. Except for in my fairy tale, the beast did not turn into a prince. The prince turned into a beast.
As I looked down at Bryant, I began to think about all that had transpired over the 2 years we had been together. This was not at all where I thought we would be. I thought we would be planning our wedding, or newly married and talking about starting a family. I thought we would be happy together, forever. But here we were instead. We could have been on an episode of Intervention. I could see that I was holding on to something that was slipping away, had been slipping away all along. We met when I was in my early 20’s. We had a few false starts before we finally got together and got serious when I was 28. The first six months were beautiful. We were falling in love. We talked about everything, had inside jokes and laughed all the time. We had fun together. It all seemed so easy and breezy and I was certain that he was the one. THE ONE. So when he gave me the ring and asked me to marry him, of course I said yes!
Then we moved in together and it all went downhill from there. There had been a few red flags. But now those red flags were like little snowballs that were quickly turning into an avalanche. And I was directly, squarely, in that avalanche’s path. When we weren’t living together, Bryant could control his image. He could be mostly charming, kind, and sweet, with just a few dark spots that weren’t difficult to wipe away. But when we moved in together, there was nowhere for Bryant to hide his demons. They took up residence with us and it wasn’t long before it got way too crowded. I started suffocating from the abuse and accusations that he hurled at me daily.
Images flashed in my mind:
“You’re a dirty whore,” he sneered at me one night at a party. Apparently, making casual conversation with your friend’s boyfriend makes you a dirty whore.
Him berating me in the back of a taxi about who knows what, grabbing and squeezing my face while tears streamed down.
Him pushing me while I was talking on the phone to my boss about a new client. Because obviously, if I am talking to my boss in the evening, we must be sleeping together.
“You’re so lazy, all you do is sit around and eat all day.” Umm sorry I work hard and I happen to have a day off and I’m going to enjoy it, thank you very much.
Him yelling at me relentlessly, to the point that I locked myself in the closet just to get away from him.
Me expressing my feelings and him laughing in my face, as if I was sharing a comedy routine rather than my deepest emotions.
Threats of suicide, threats of leaving me, saying things didn’t happen the way I remembered them, mind games.
If only this was a movie, but no, this was my life.
I started walking on eggshells, careful not to say this or that, or anything that could possibly set him off. We talked about the drinking and he said he would stop. Then I started finding bottles of vodka hidden throughout the apartment. Bryant wanted to spend less and less time with my friends and family. I started having to make up excuses for why he didn’t show up to various events and gatherings. I was getting tired of the charade. And I was feeling lonelier and lonelier in the relationship by the day. It all came to a head one morning when I woke up and found Bryant frantically searching for something.
“What are you doing?” I asked groggily.
“I’m looking for my camera,” he replied with an edge to his voice.
“You need it right now?” I mean, it was like 5:30 in the morning.
“I took some pictures on it for work,” he said. “I need to bring them in today. They’re important.”
“Here, let me get up and help you look,” I offered.
“No,” he replied quickly. “It’s okay. I’m going to be late. I’ll just look for them later.”
“Okay then. Have a good day,” I said, as I relaxed back into bed.
He kissed me goodbye and then left. I still had some time before I needed to be up for work, but I didn’t feel like I would be able to go back to sleep. I was thinking about the camera. Honestly, I thought nothing of it other than wanting to be helpful and find the camera for Bryant. ‘Maybe it’s in one of his drawers.’ I got up to look and sure enough, I found it hidden between some of his sweatpants. I was really intrigued to know what pictures were so important for his job, so I turned the camera on to check it out. I was completely blindsided by what I saw.
First a picture of a foot, with a blue and green striped sock. The foot was propped on Bryant’s thigh. The second picture was of the same foot minus the striped sock. Just a foot with manicured toes. Possibly harmless unless your guy had a foot fetish like mine did. As soon as I saw that foot, I knew. I knew he was cheating. But just to be sure I clicked to the third picture. And there he was locking lips with some lady.
No wonder he was frantically looking for this camera. He needed to erase the evidence before I could find it. ‘Well too late buddy. You’re busted. All those times you accused me of cheating and it was you all along.’ I confronted him about the pictures.
“That’s my ex, Sandy. She’s having problems with her boyfriend and she wanted me to help her make him jealous,” he pleaded. “It was just a peck. It was all staged. It was nothing, I promise!”
‘Yawn. This was the best he could do?’ I found out it was not his ex, Sandy. It was his coworker Margaret. Not that it really mattered who it was, it wasn’t me he was kissing after all. But the lie made it that much worse. Finding the pictures on the camera was the final straw for me. I had already taken so much- the abuse, jealous accusations, withdrawing from my family and friends, the alcoholism. I had stood by him through all of that and now this! Him stepping out with some old lady at his job.
That’s when I knew I had to walk away. Up until that point, only one of my friends knew everything that was going on in my relationship. Other people in my life probably had their suspicions, but no one knew what was really going on or the extent of how bad it was. I was too embarrassed and ashamed to tell them. I had to muster up all my courage to call my dad and tell him what was happening. I knew the moment I made that call, it would all be over.
“Lani, pack up your stuff because you are coming home. You are not going to stay there one day longer,” my dad told me.
That was exactly what I expected and wanted him to say. I was finally ready to go.
As I was leaving, I thought about how It took a lot of courage for me to walk away from that relationship, after all I had invested in it. But my bravest moment in life won’t be walking away from an abusive relationship, it will be opening up my heart and loving again despite it.