We weren't going to discuss this, not when he was this angry. I too was angry, very angry at myself for staying the first time he hit me. It was a month after I had ended up at his apartment after nine straight months of his persistent calls, SMSs, showing up at my office at knock off time, and then eventually four months agreeing to hop into his car to be taken home, more out of irritation than out of expectation of anything from it. He drove to my gated community and parked in front of my flat, managing to lay my jaw flat on the ground; how did he know where I stayed? I invited him in and shared my warmed last night's dinner with him. He turned out to be great company, with humor I didn't expect out of what he looked like, he wore the same pants, maybe in different shades but were always the same, and yes I'm judging. I would be buying him those same chinos years on, yes I added other shades but they stayed. He would say "Thandi, I don't wear jeans, I'm not those boys you went to university with" and I stopped trying to sneak ideas into his wardrobe. Seven months later we were dating, and laughing loudly every evening after he would pick me from work and we would end up at his place or mine. He was smart and an auto mechanic and tight on anything that would let me know who he was. I should have probed more; he was broken, from a broken dark home. But he wouldn't let me in to see who he was early on, tight! Imagine a cookie jar closed from a three-year-old by his gym going uncle, you get the idea too right?
Of the laugher and easy going self I noticed his temper early on. He once almost was beating up a worker at a car wash when his friend dropped us there to get the car and it was still being washed, he flipped. I didn't understand; the car wash had a busy day and we didn't have anywhere pressing to go and we were offered drinks and snacks at the waiting lobby so his almost-kill-you temper puzzled me. Like many things I shouldn’t have let it slide, I did.
I had a work function a lil out of town and it was for a week. We spoke on the phone daily each night and all day like we always do, but his coming to where we were and sit and watch me 'flirt with colleagues' one evening should have been one of the biggest red flags. He knew which room I was staying in and a minute after we'd all dispersed from a merry evening to our rooms after a long day, and hearing a knock thinking it was one of my colleagues to ask me something and finding him at my door. "Uhu Thobo" I said puzzled, startled and happy all at the same time. He stormed past me and I locked the room and turned to ask why he was here and I saw something in his eyes that instant that I had never seen the past seven months, and it scared me. "Who is he?" "Huh?" "The one in the blue shirt?" Confused beyond comprehension, I opened my mouth to "huh" again and it met his hot slap that was landing somewhere near my mouth. I looked up in amazement more than in the horror and shock I should have felt and another one came landing close to where he had hit me the first time and they started raining on me as I retreated to the bed backwards and he followed me with more slaps. I was too shocked to cry and as he pinned me in the bed and started hitting my ribs and back and thighs I just whimpered, quietly, my colleague was in the next room and he could hear me and come and I was thinking if it was because I didn't want him knowing and seeing this or if it was out of protection for him, but I worried about it the following morning when I was taking a shower and feeling the pain of his blows and thinking "is this what battered women do, they don't scream for help" He left very early in the morning to go back to town for work after apologising all night about how he loves me very much, and that seeing that guy laugh with me and pour me a drink made him lose his mind, and how he will never do it again. I didn't say a word all night, I slept where I had been beaten hours after crying silently, and woke to him saying he's leaving and apologising again and realised he had covered me in a throw that was in a chair when I left my room last evening to go have dinner with my colleagues. "That guy" was my colleague that I shared an open plan office with and sat across from the last three years at my bank job in the sales department and we had grown to be like family. He was getting married the following month. He had never shown any interest in me even as I joined the team and got all sorts of proposals and marriage promises from all the other male colleagues. He had always been the one in fact fending them off my shirt. I was saved by the winter season; I hid all the bruises, luckily the face had only taken the slaps and even though it still felt hot from them there was no evidence. But clearly I wasn't able to hide my sad mood, I got a many "are you okay" all day the following day and I would smile and lie and tell them I was just feeling a lil tired. I didn't have dinner that night with the group and the last day after that was a short programme and I excused myself from the trip back to town and took the bus in a different direction and went to my mother's house, all weekend with my phone off, all weekend. I found him in the car park at my flat on Sunday evening when I returned. I let him in and he looked miserable, and like he hadn't bathed in days. I let him in and by Wednesday we were laughing and eating with our hands from the same plate. He promised he would never lay a hand on me, I believed him. It was a lie. Nineteen months later he beat me like he was possessed and I woke up in hospital and was told about a pregnancy I had not known about but had lost. He wanted to die when he found out but that didn't stop him, even though he promised he would never do it again. I left the hospital and went to my brother's house. He couldn't get me there, my brother had promised him he'd kill him and we both believed him. The pain I saw in both my brother's and parents' faces when I came two days later should have been enough to make me stay put in my brother's house. I didn't. I married him thirteen months later. I loved him. I loved him to death, and maybe I shouldn't say this but this is how much I loved him and when I said this to my friend she said "yes you do, you will love him to your death because child Thobo will kill you" when I told him we were getting married and she added "you are stupid to marry him, but hey what do I know I'm not dating; not married myself but this I would never do!" Some days when he is bashing me against stuff in our house I think about her words and my parents faces. My cousin says that's what killed my father. The other incident that I ended in my brother's house again he came to see me and just cried silent tears, I had never seen my father cry, and he became quiet, eerily quiet and died quietly in his sleep six weeks later. I have lied about the bruises I have come to protect a grown man.
I have learnt how to hide the bruises; I have learnt to throw bubbly over the pain underneath I have come to expect the gifts; I forgive, way more than I should; I look at my six year old and three year old and see hurt in their eyes, they know, they hear it, even if they don't see it. I protect them from seeing it; I have tried to heal and mend a man I cannot heal; I have grown an elephant skin where I should grow sense; I have stayed.
Who is this person I have turned into? Is this what battered women do? To all the sisters out there; the first time he touches you, walk! He won’t stop amidst the promises and apologies. WALK!