Me/Her: The Unknown Reality of the Unseen Woman
By Laura Rinas
The kids burst into the room, much louder than any noise should be at this hour of the morning. I groggily look at the clock. Six AM. I groan inwardly, pull the down comforter over my head, and see if I can pretend to sleep convincingly enough that they would go away. It does not work. I give in, scooting the cover slowly down the bed, and roll in between their jumping bodies, which are happily taking advantage of my pre-coffee state. I make my way to the bathroom, and then head downstairs, where the sweet nectar that is the coffee pot is already hot and full, thanks to my husband’s early departure this morning. I fill my cup, breathe in that beautiful smell, place it down on the counter and quietly murmur, “I’ll see you when you’re cold.” And so the day begins.
He bursts into the room, which is still dark. As he makes his way to my bed, I take note that the other bodies strewn across the floor and other mismatched furniture barely move, despite his lack of concern for the quiet that filled this room before he came in. I pull my blanket up, the wool scratching at my chin and the dank smell filling my nose. This scratch and that smell have become a comfort to me, because when they are there, he is not. He shakes me briskly, assuming I was still asleep, and tells me it’s time. He walks out the door without looking to make sure I get up. He knows I will. I always will. I stop in the bathroom, and do my best to make myself look consumable, trying not to touch the dirty sink in the process. When I have done the best I can, I head downstairs, the smell of beer and cigarettes wafting around me like a welcoming committee. He takes my hand and leads me to the front, which is much cleaner than our side of the house. He puts my hand in the hand of a stranger. I smile. I know the drill. The beatings have made sure of that. He leads me into one of the bedrooms, and so the day begins.
I finally am done. The kids are in bed, my feet are up, and my wine glass is full. My husband sits quietly next to me, looking at something obviously incredibly interesting on his phone. I don’t mind. I am in my happy place. The kids have been pawing at me all day. There’s no chance of any more pawing happening tonight. I am pawed out. I think back to my day and wonder why I feel like I am exhausted enough to have run a marathon, when really all I did was all of the normal Mom jobs. So much laundry. So many dishes. So many fights to break up. I look at the pile of toys scattered on the floor in front of the TV and shrug. I can get that tomorrow. I choose to be done. I take a sip of wine, click play on Netflix, and settle in. My day is done.
I am finally done. He is in bed, and I am back in my bed. I tear pieces off of the sandwich I have been given, and wash it down with the questionable glass of tap water. I am not sure if the water or the glass is dirtier, but it doesn’t matter. I gulp it down in a matter of seconds. I wrap my scratchy blanket around me and pull it as tightly as I can, hoping to erase the feel of the dozens of hands that pawed at me all day. I close my eyes, trying not to think of it, but still the recap comes. Him on top, me underneath, squirming with apparent delight, knowing that if I don’t endure this pain happily, a greater pain will come after. Man after man, all different but all the same. My body feels as if I have run a marathon, stretched and pulled and twisted. I think of the life that came before this one, the one where I sat next to him on a couch, my hand in his, listening to his promises. I’m not sure if he loves me anymore, though. And I’m not sure if I love him anymore either. But this seems to be it. This seems to be just how it will be. I close my eyes, and settle in. My day is done.
It’s easy to forget that she exists in my day-to-day. It’s easy to only see appointments and school drop-offs and that small argument I had with my husband about me spending too much at Target. It’s easy to forget the incredible privilege I have to have avoided the awful people that she happened to cross paths with. It’s so easy to forget.
But she doesn’t forget. She is reminded countless times a day, each time her body becomes a vessel for someone else’s pleasure. She is reminded as pain and shame are wrapped around her like clothing.
What do we do then? We remember. And we talk. Because though she can remember, she cannot talk. We learn, we see.