I first wrote this for the alternative newspaper Grapevine in the early 1990s, and it has gone through several slight revisions since then. This last, written in 2002, was prompted by what I saw and heard one morning on the square in Fayetteville, Arkansas, not ordinarily a place where one might see such an attitude on display.
Not in the very heart of the “Athens of the Ozarks.”
But then, that’s the dark magic of abuse, isn’t it? It exists in all sorts of places you never suspect it might be.
All the Bones of her Soul
As I was walking near the Fayetteville square this past week, I heard the angry yell, “Hurry up, bitch! You’re always making me late!” I hurried my pace so that I might see who was yelling, and at whom. I saw no man (obviously not - no one I would consider to be a man would address a woman like that), but perhaps fifty feet away, I saw the hurrying, scurrying form of a woman, her head down, and her shoulders hunched over. By the time I had reached the spot where I had seen her, there was no one to be seen.
As I stood rooted to the ground, I realized that I knew that walk, from ten years and a thousand experiences, ago. I knew her from my days working at Mexican Original, when she would do her job, speaking little, her eyes looking at the floor as she walked, shoulders hunched over. Well, now I knew why.
A rage that can only be described as impotent swept through me. I wanted to find that man and hurt him, badly. But he was gone, taking his foulness and his wife/prisoner with him. All that was left in his wake was me, standing in air no longer fresh and pleasant, but dank, dark and dangerous.
Noted British comics writer Alan Moore once wrote a haunting story for the Swamp Thing series about domestic abuse. He described a man who, piece by piece, demolished a woman he professed to love. He ripped apart her self-respect, he abused her body, shattered her heart, and he made her afraid. In the end, as Moore put it, “He had broken all the bones of her soul.”
I have nothing pithy, or wise to add at this point. I am just thinking of that woman hurrying to catch up with her companion, afraid of things I can only guess at. And I think of the other women I’ve met in the same situation, or worse.
And I think of all the ones I haven’t met, but that I know are out there.
Quote of the Day
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. - Pablo Picasso