By Davide Risso
The first time my husband hit me was on a Sunday night. I remember it clearly because it was one of our “Woody Allen night,” a pleasant routine we started back in 2014. It started in such a funny way that it always makes me smile when I think back on it. We were at a restaurant in Vancouver, BC, and I recall mentioning the famous director’s name and staring at his confused expression: he had no idea who I was talking about. I started laughing and then explained who Woody Allen is. Doubting me and that Allen is such a famous person, he asked the waitress for her opinion.
“Excuse me,” he said, “do you happen to know Woody Allen?”
The young woman started laughing. “You mean, in person?” was all she said.
We all laughed together. Me, the waitress and my husband. Soon after, we started sharing Sunday nights with Woody and, at first, it was great fun. We probably watched Annie Hall ten times, sipping Cabernet Sauvignon and cuddling on the couch. The most beautiful part of our routine was falling asleep in his arms, feeling perfectly safe. I was the happiest person, and it didn’t take much: just me and him in those four walls.
Now I’m here lying on the floor, and I don’t feel like laughing anymore. He just did it again, carrying on our new Sunday night routine. It usually starts with him pushing me and ends with a punch in the stomach, if I’m lucky. Tonight, I am not. I guess he had too many IPAs. Bloodied, my memories go back to the night he first hit me. I didn’t see it coming. I was so absorbed watching Annie Hall that a glass dropped from my hand, shattering into a thousand pieces and spilling wine everywhere. It drove him mad. Next, I was the one shattering into a thousand pieces. Sobbing, I look down at my white shirt and notice that it isn’t white anymore. I can see some red spots here and there and one of my teeth floating in blood. And he just stands there, staring at me with lifeless eyes. I realize that I barely recognize the man I married three years ago. Without saying anything, he leaves, slamming the door behind him and locking me within these four exposed brick walls. I know he’s not going far: just right outside our apartment, down the sidewalk to smoke one or two cigarettes. That usually calms him down and helps him forget about what happened. But he’s coming back: I can’t escape this prison, it’s maximum security. If walls could talk, they would tell me to “Get the fuck out! You don’t deserve this. Leave as soon as possible!” But they remain silent. I’ve been hoping he would change. That someday this would only be a bad memory and that he would morph back into the beautiful person I met four years ago during a solo backpacking trip in Scotland. One tooth is enough. I don’t want to lose anything else. I want to start living my life again. I get up and I look out the window: he is indeed standing on the sidewalk, smoking. I pick up the phone and dial three numbers.
“911, what’s your emergency?” the dispatcher says.
I try to speak, but I can’t form the words with my swollen mouth. I hang up the phone.
I remember what Woody said in my favorite movie, and it hits me harder than my husband’s punch.
“A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”
I pick up the phone again.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
I take a long breath, and start speaking.
“My husband just hit me.” I then whisper, “Again.”
“Is your husband still with you?” he asks.
“No, he just left. I hope he won’t ever come back,” I respond.
“Can you state your name, sir?”
“Yes, my name is Gordon. Gordon Freeman.”