By Nancy, 80. Adelaide, SA
A chilly winter’s afternoon. I was sitting by a warm fire reading. I heard a door slam. It sounded ominous. Seconds later, my husband burst into the room, eyes blazing, face twisted with rage.
“You f*****g lazy fat pig, all you ever do is sit and get fat and read.”
I stared at him in horror and wondered what had set him off this time. He came towards me with hands outstretched as if he would like to throttle the very life out of me. I froze.
“You can’t even wash a bit of bird poo off the car you’re so f*****g lazy.”
He then used every expletive he could think of in English and Italian, including that I was nothing but a whore. I remained motionless, fear running through every fibre of my body. Finally, he dropped his hands and stomped off outdoors with a final “You’re nothing but a f*****g bitch.”
I sat stunned for a while. I felt like I had to get away. The only place to go for sanctuary was my bedroom. We had not shared a bed or room for many years now, so I knew he would not come there. I lay on the bed and watched the afternoon sun filter weakly through the curtains. My mind was a jumble of thoughts. How many times I had endured his abuse, which was getting more frequent and more violent? I didn’t know what to do anymore. It was in this state that my two daughters found me later that afternoon. They were not surprised, as they had seen it all many times before. All they wanted to know was what had sent him off this time. When I told them, they went off to confront their father. He dismissed it as nothing, as I knew he would. My youngest daughter, seeing how distressed I was, asked me if I would like to spend a few days at her home. I refused out of fear as to what he would say. My oldest daughter exploded in anger.
“For God’s sake, mum, pack a bag and go now!”
But I said no. There was nothing more they could do for me and they had to get home to families of their own. So they left.
Afternoon turned into evening, and evening into night, and still I lay motionless, thinking as I did in these despairing moments of ending my own life. I didn’t really want that. I just wanted the nightmare to go away. The pain became too much so I undressed, got into bed, reached over and took two powerful sleeping pills, and finally slipped into blissful oblivion.
I awoke with a start. The house was dark and quiet. The clock read 3.30. The events of the previous day crowded back and I knew more sleep was impossible. What was I going to do? Soon, a very powerful calm came over me and I seemed to know exactly what I needed to do. I got up, dressed quickly — even made the bed. I pulled down two large suitcases from on top of the wardrobe and with a strength I didn’t even know I had, started to pack. I folded every item of clothing neatly and carefully, all the while wondering if I really knew what I was doing, but spurred on almost by an invisible force. Shoes, jumpers, slacks, toiletries — everything I would need as if is going on a holiday. When I had finished, I looked at my summer clothes and before I knew it, I had packed some of those, too. I didn’t quite know why, as summer was a long way off and I would surely be back by then.
Then it was time for a much-needed cup of tea, so I headed for the kitchen. I passed my husband’s bedroom door and heard him snoring and knew he would not wake, as he was a heavy sleeper. A cup of tea and a cigarette later, I tried to think of anything I had forgotten. Of course, some of my precious books. They had been my lovers, my lifeline for so many years. I could not go without some of them, at least. Back to the bedroom and another case and my beloved books packed.
Then it was a wait until I could ring my daughter to come and pick me up. I did not want to take our car for fear of enraging him further. At seven o’clock, after I had rung my daughter, she arrived. As I packed the car, she went and woke her father to tell him I was going to stay with her for short time. We settled in the car and backed out the driveway, I didn’t know it then on that cold July morning that I had just walked out of my home, my life, and all my precious possessions. I never looked back and I never went back.
It was a sunny day six weeks later and I was home alone at my daughter’s house when I decided to pick up the washing on the line. I was pulling the pegs off some jumpers when I heard a sound. I turned around and to my horror, spotted my husband. He had seen me, and his face showed his rage and hatred towards me.
“So I’ve found you, you f*****g bitch.”
I was riveted to the spot in absolute fear, wondering what he would do. I soon found out when he picked up a big steel wrench off the back verandah and came towards me, yelling at me that I had ruined his life and was going to kill me. Somehow, my legs began to move backwards and I started screaming at him not to do it. He kept raising the wrench time and time again and I kept moving backwards and screaming as loudly as I could. Finally, I crashed into a garden bush and fell heavily to the ground. He stood over me and we outstared each other until something seemed to snap in him and he lowered his arm and dropped the wrench. He stormed off, saying, “I will find you wherever you go.”
Two years have passed since these events happened in my life. Today, supported all along by my special friends, the love and support of my two loving sisters, my children, and grandchildren, I have survived. I live in peace and have made a life for myself by taking up all the things I was never able to do before. My life is full and maybe, sometime in the future, I might learn to love again.
Painting by Raffaele Iachetti