Smiling

This year marks eight years since I’ve been divorced. I’m 30 years old and have been divorced for eight whole years. What the what?

I left everything at my husband’s home when we separated and that included my wedding pictures. I hadn’t seen those pictures since February 13, 2007. For some reason, I wanted to see them so I asked my sister if she had some.  She sent me a few and I almost cried.

Not because I missed my husband. Not because I felt any remorse.

But because I am smiling but I look absolutely miserable.

I’m unrecognizable to myself. And I don’t have any eyebrows.

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Right before the formal ceremony, my husband and I had gotten into a fight. A physical one. But you would never know it by looking at the picture.

Opening up about  domestic violence is not an easy thing to do. It comes with a lot of judgement. Comes with a lot of victim blaming.

“I would never let a man hit me”

“You’re dumb for staying”

“Any woman that lets a man hit on them is dumb and deserves what they get”

“Why didn’t you just leave?”

I don’t know how many times I had to grin through people saying these things while I was in an abusive marriage. Didn’t have the courage to say that that was my current situation.

I’ve been more open over the years about my marriage because you never know who you can help with your story. Opening up always comes with judgment and criticism and what you should have done. But if it helps get someone through, I can deal.

I married very young, 21 to be exact. I didn’t love myself very much and was in a bad place mentally.  I was soooo in love with my husband and I can’t even tell you why. He wasn’t a nice person. He wasn’t nice to me. He was very mean spirited. He was ugly. God he was ugly but I loved his uglass. He had green eyes though, that has to count for something.

But there was another side of him. He was funny. He was charming. He bought me gifts. He was very persistent about marrying me. He proposed to me three times. Three. The last time he proposed, I said yes.

A week after the proposal, we went to the courthouse on my lunch break and got married. I wore a brown skirt, bedazzled mules (it was 2006), and a white button down. Nothing fancy. Just couldn’t wait to marry this man. My sister, brother in law and their two youngest children stood as witnesses. A 15 minute ceremony changed my life.

As soon as we walked out of the courthouse, I knew I had made a mistake. I didn’t tell my parents I got married until after I did it.  And now I know I didn’t tell them because I was ashamed and knew that I shouldn’t have gone through with it. Neither of them talked to me for weeks.

We had been married about a month and one day, his friend stopped by the house. I opened the door and told him that my husband was not at home and to just give him a call. He said he didn’t have his phone but to let him know that he had stopped by. I said ok and shut the door. About 15 minutes later, my husband came home and I told him that his friend had come by looking for him.

Remember that scene out of Purple Rain when The Kid slapped Appollonia so hard that she spun around? Yeah.

He accused me of sleeping with his friend (in the 15 minutes that he was gone) . I just laid on the floor. Confused. Face throbbing. Wondering how did this just happen to me. My mother, father and grandfather told me if a man ever put his hands on me to kill him dead.

But I just layed there. Stunned. Hurt. Disoriented. Spaced out. He left out the house and took my car keys to make sure I didn’t leave while he was gone.

I called my Mom but I just couldn’t bring myself to tell her what happened. I was literally shaking but I dried my tears and had a normal conversation with her. I heard him pull up to the house and I rushed her off the phone.

He came in the house with dinner. He kissed me on the cheek like he hadn’t just slapped fire out of me less than an hour ago. “Baby, can you get plates so we can eat?”

Am I in the twilight zone? Is he really acting like he nothing happened? What the what?

I just sat there and ate dinner with him in silence. I didn’t know what would happen next.

I hid the abuse from everyone. I became distant from friends and family so they wouldn’t ask me or suspect that anything was going on. I lost contact with so many good people trying to protect the image of my marriage and my husband.

Why did you stay?

I to this day cannot tell you why I stayed. I can tell you that I loved this dude. I loved him so much. We had good times. Some really good times and I would just try to forget about the bad stuff. I was also young and impressionable. He had alienated me from some family and a lot of my friends so I really didn’t have anywhere to go. But I kept smiling. “Tiora, how’s your husband? How’s married life?” I would just smile and say it was great. *internally shakes head no*

Why didn’t you just leave?

You know. I tried to leave quite a few times. As I would be headed to the front door, he would grab me. By my arm, my hair, my waist, my shirt, whatever he could grab a hold of. I would run, but he was bigger and faster than me and would catch me. I would just say to myself, “If I could just get to the front door, If I can just get to the front door, I’ll be free”. But he would beat me to a point that I couldn’t, I would just give up. I was fighting him but I would become exhausted. I would just beg for him to stop. Please. Just stop. I’m done fighting with you. “You can’t go to your Mom’s house looking like that. How are you going to explain to her what happened? What are you going to say?”

I would clean myself up and lock myself into the bathroom until he fell asleep.  This was a regular thing with us. I was in a toxic situation and didn’t know how to get out.

My mother and I made amends and she wanted to throw me a wedding reception since I got married at the courthouse. I told her no, but she was adamant about it, so I let her. I’m 21, I don’t really have a backbone. At this point, I had already checked out of my marriage mentally but I let my Mom and my sister plan this beautiful ceremony that I didn’t want.

But I was too scared to tell them that I didn’t want it and to scared to tell them what was really going on in my home. So once again, I smiled through it.

So, we have this reception. My family and his family come from out of town. It’s beautiful.

I’m miserable.

He showed up drunk and high. He was being unruly and I was just so embarrassed. But I smiled through it. No one had any idea that I was on the verge of tears because I just wanted to run away from the entire situation. We had so many beautiful pictures and we looked so happy but I was going off on him about 90% of the ceremony and people were oblivious to it. Because. Smiling.

The toxic cycle continued after the ceremony. I would never know what would set him off. I would walk on eggshells around him. Some days he would start with me and I would talk cash shit back and be like one of us is going to die today, but it won’t be me. It was  awful.

I was disgusted by the sight of him and by the sight of what I had become. I was not myself. I was miserable. Miserable. MISERABLE. MISERABLE WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE.  Many days I thought that death would be better than the situation I was in. But no one knew I was suicidal because. SMILING.

The day I left, he pulled a gun on me. I saw the red dot that was pointed at my head gleaming on the wall. The wall that I had painted a beautiful Ecru because I wanted to make his house our home. I saw that red dot and him smirking at me. He thought he won. I closed my eyes and prayed and told him I would rather be dead than to be with him one more day of my life.

The smirk left his face and I ran. I left everything that couldn’t fit into my car and I ran. I never went back.

I smiled through the pain of a divorce, I smiled while I was partying to get over my divorce, I smiled the day my divorce was final. I smiled and joked and laughed and cried and dusted my issues under the table.

I had a slight breakdown in 2010. A whole three years after my divorce, I couldn’t smile anymore. I had to face my shit. I was dying on the inside and no one knew. Because you guessed it. SMILING.

I am healed now. I have truly healed. You never get over something like that. You never forget something like that.

I chose to own it. I chose to face it. I chose to heal. I chose to live life. I chose to not ever lose myself in a man again.

I haven’t stopped looking at my wedding picture since my sister sent it to me. I’m thankful for the girl in that picture because without her, I wouldn’t be who I am now. But I’m glad she’s gone. I’m glad I’m a different person now. Glad that I’m happy instead of just smiling.

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4 thoughts on “Smiling

  1. Zoë says:

    Wow. I love you. You are so brave. Brave to free yourself from that situation and brave to speak about it now. You are so strong. Strong to make it through that and grow in a positive way from it. You are so blessed. Blessed to have made it out. And I am so thankful. Thankful that you are all of these things I have described, thankful that you made it out and thankful that you are my friend! 💝💝

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