In memoir class, our most recent prompt was Anticipation. Besides Carly Simon and Tim Curry, anticipation is one of those ill-defined things or maybe it’s too much of a word to be definable in a real linear way. I do know that anticipation is a good thing. It is a thing, or event, or something that is expected with bated breath, fun or happiness are just around the corner, and it’s I can’t quite touch it, but it’s almost here, and the closer it gets, the more the heart races and the breath quickens, and it could be as simple as the bloom of a lilac tree or something as monumental as a wedding day or the birth of a child. Or a great vacation.
This week was full of those expectations, anticipations of special days and family fun. Memoir class, Ascension Mass, Cinco de Mayo, May the Fourth, Captain America: Civil War movie, Free Comic Book Day, Mother’s Day, even a sleepover and meeting my son’s girlfriend.
The other side of the coin of anticipation is that waiting, that expectation of, the bad, the b-side of anticipation that we assign a different moniker to: Dread.
Dread. The anticipation of something not so good. Still heart racing, breath quickening, but in all the bad ways. Waiting for test results, the waiting room of the dentist’s office, this year’s election (although I’m happy with my choice), and Saturday, May 7th for myself and a few people close to me and a few I will never meet.
Five years ago, May the 7th was also the first Saturday in May. It was also Free Comic Book Day. It was also the day before Mother’s Day. We were out going from comic book store to comic book store. That year, we went all the way to Greenfield Center to a comic store that is now on Broadway in Saratoga Springs just to see the Batmobile. My kids sat in it, and pretended to drive. This was especially thrilling to my middle son who is a real Batman aficionado.
We pulled into our driveway (sans Batmobile) for a moment to regroup and set our dinner plans when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but instead of ignoring the call and letting it go to voicemail, I got the feeling that I needed to answer this one. We all have those moments, that little moment of knowing but not knowing, that moment of dread. An unfamiliar tone of a familiar voice. A full name instead of a nickname. The serious voice that told me instinctively not to lead with where the hell have you been, I’ve been trying to reach you all day, and the sound of a hitched breath, of dread.
Not nearly as much as others, but my life changed in that moment. In that moment, I learned what domestic violence was. I had said only a few weeks before that they should not have moved into the woman’s house because her ex lived there, and I thought it was a bad idea, but there were no I told you so’s. We live in a world where a woman does not own her property or her money or her anything, but at the time, I had spent the months before this day in classic victim blaming mode. I was part of the problem that I hadn’t known existed except in the abstract.
At the end of the day, my friend on the phone had been shot in the ankle, two other roommates were dead and the gunman, the murderer, the ex was also dead. I try not to think of him.
This was the last picture of Brittany, only a few days before, and now that I think of the timing, it was probably Cinco de Mayo. California. Probably one of the best places in the country for Mexican food. She was 27.
Domestic violence affects us all.
Get on your congressman’s case to make VAWA permanent. Volunteer at a women’s shelter. Donate clothes and items to the shelters. Ask before you drop off a bag of unneeded things. Find out what is of the most use to them.
If anyone you know is in an abusive relationship, please be there and support them. Encourage and help them to get out. If you are in that relationship, get out. I know it’s not as simple as walking away. There are so many factors that keep women (and some men) in those situations, one of the worst is that feeling of being alone. You are not alone. There are many resources to help you.
National Domestic Abuse Hotline – 1-800-799-7233