One Blow #DVAM17

When your world is held up by rickety stilts, one blow is all it takes for it to break. My world fell apart when my father dealt the blow and the vessels that broke were on my mother’s face.

My sister would later tell me the screams that escaped my mother’s throat sounded like glass breaking into shards and I would spend an eternity imagining how anguish sounded like in her soft, sweet voice, trying to forgive myself for not being able to help her. I couldn’t have, I’d tell myself over and over. I’d been out that night enjoying the bites of the evening wind with a lover holding my hand. He’d felt safe and I’d felt infinite. I couldn’t have known.

When I did, it was through a phone call. My sister never called me up because there’d never been a reason to, but that night, she found one. I could hear her tears wet the static over the line, blurring her usually sharp voice into a meek sob. It poured in waves. “Come home,” she was crying, “Something’s happened.”

It was enough to send my lungs into hyperventilation. My lover knew enough something was wrong and rushed to send me home, holding onto my hand tight and trying to calm the shaking cries that had begun to erupt within me. I could not get a word out.

When we reached my front gate, I stayed seated, muted. I did not know what to expect when I walked through the door. “It’s going to be okay, May. It’s going to be okay,” he said, still gripping my hand. He made me promise to call him if there was anything he could do before letting me out of the car.

Nearing the front door, I could hear the sounds of objects being thrown about and a voice shouting. It was not my mother’s. I scrambled for my keys and flung the door open. There were broken ceramic, broom sticks broken in two, baskets turned over, knives on the floor – and then there was my mother. She was sitting on a chair, her already tiny frame looking fragile in a torn shirt, her face resigned and bruised, slumped as if there were boulders on her shoulders. Her eyes were closed as a figure loomed before her, a hand held high.

I stepped into the house, wanting to do something and he looked at me.

In that moment, I knew I would forever detest the blood that ran in my veins, knew I would never let his name come out of my lips ever again and when forced to would only spit it out with disgust.

I refused to look back.

My presence seemed to set something in motion. He flung his hand away and stormed upstairs, letting the door slam behind him. As it did so, my mother let herself fall to the ground and my sister emerged from her room, eyes red and swollen, holding her phone to her chest.

We left the lights off that night and it was a disconcerting dream sequence to walk from one room to another. My mother and sister had let their bodies lay lifelessly on sofas and chairs, their faces hollow and lips pale. It was as if they were counting down the days to when the roof and walls around them would crumble into dust. Perhaps then would their bodies show traces of life again.

I did not sleep. Could not sleep. There was not a bone in my body that wasn’t screaming for the release of this splintered living. They cried for my mother’s body and my mother’s heart and my mother’s life, half wasted to a man who ended up putting her in a cage. I sat awake looking at the black and blue that had pooled on her skin, the gaping wound on her mouth. She was so, so strong. I knew she was. But this broken body – the world had battered her and I hated the man who had controlled hers with a brewing wrath.

My hands itched to grab the butcher knife I knew lay waiting in the kitchen drawers, yearned to destroy the bloody chains that have kept us bound to misery, hungered for the weight to be lifted and for the scent of fresh, free air. I felt something awaken inside me, writhing and coiling. I decided something as it settled; I do not have a father – I am my mother’s daughter through and through.

Before dawn broke, I woke them up. We packed our bags and left the house, leaving behind our souls that had died with what little family we had been that night.


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you know anyone who is a victim or if you are a victim of domestic violence, I hope the following resources will be of help:

Learn how to support survivors with No More.
Learn the signs of domestic abuse and understand victims's situation with NCADV.
Find the National (America) Hotline for Domestic Abuse at The Hotline.

If you are a victim based in Brunei and are looking for help, contact Majlis Kesejahteraan Masyarakat (MKM) at 7146680, JAPEM at 141 or the police at 993.



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