I’m Dani Ward,

and I do lots of things.

Never.

Two years ago this month, I left my husband, shortly before telling him he had 2 weeks to get out of the house for good.

It’s been a very long two years, full of pain and struggle and freedom and confusion and finding myself.

And finding words.

 


he never hit me,
you know. in fact,
he was always so
protective
seeing betrayal
and manipulation
in everyone i loved.
“i don’t want you to get hurt!”
he’d swear, as
he planted seeds of doubt
about the love of my friends
the support of my family
my ability to choose
my own loved ones.

i guess our marriage
was kind of like
fight club.
the first rule was
i could never talk about it
well, unless i was praising him
because otherwise i would be
airing “dirty laundry”
and that wasn’t fair,
now, was it?

you see, he wanted what
was best for me,
tenderly allowing me
to spend some of the money
i had earned
on makeup
or clothes
…or medicine.
he kept track
of every dollar i
spent on me
as a yardstick of
what he could spend
on himself:
video games
cameras
a mountain bike
a kayak
a gun…
you know.
things he needed.

he never hit me,
you know. in fact,
he was so mature
and understanding.
during fights,
i was the coward
who tried to escape
while he merely
blocked my exit
with his body.
“talk this out
like an adult,”
he would tell me
with commanding voice
and towering frame.

he was always
so understanding
of my depression
anxiety
ptsd
chronic migraines
suicidal fantasies.
in fact,
he’d remind me
how much he understood
every time i asked him to do
almost anything
around the house
or for our pets
or for me.

he had anxiety, too, you know
he had depression, too, you know
he was suicidal, too, you know
how could i expect
so much from him?

he never hit me,
you know. in fact,
i was the one who
hit him,
body-slamming my way
past him on the stairs.
what choice did he have
but to follow me?

never once did he hit me.
he only caught up to me
and hit the wall
with my head.

…or did he? maybe
i just fell,
body spinning 90 degrees
the moment he touched me,
losing my balance,
denting the wall with
my elbow as i
sank to the floor.

i saw stars…

and, thoughtless me,
i dialed 911.
he threw my phone
across the room
reminding me that
domestic violence records
would hinder his
employability.

he was right.
how could i threaten
our livelihood
by telling anyone
what just happened?
by threatening to break
the first rule
of our marriage?

he was always so
protective. like
the day he told me
no matter what i thought
he was buying a gun.
i was afraid
to have a gun so near
when i wanted to die
…or my head went through walls
but he was afraid
to be weaponless
in the face of intruders.

wasn’t that so brave?
he wanted to protect me
with something
that could kill me
that i never wanted
and lived in fear of finding.

why is it that,
for people to care,
i have to tell them
about the gun
about my head
still throbbing these years later
from where it hit the wall
by accident or by force?

why is it that
the first question they ask
is if he ever hit me?
how can i explain that
no, he never hit me.
he just hit a wall with my head.
but the real problem is found
in the times he told me
he never hurt me
at all.

because he was so
understanding
protective
considerate
controlling
loving
and looming
and to this day
i’m afraid to ask
to watch a movie
or play a game
or see my friends
or talk to family
or believe in kindness
-without an angle
-without agenda
-without strings attached
-without payment expected.

i wish he had hit me
because maybe then
people might take my trauma
a little more
seriously.

  • OutsideLookingIn

    This poem is very powerful. I’m so sorry that all that happened to you and I wish for you continued healing.

  • Marie

    I am so sorry you were abused and am glad you are safe now.

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