March 24th, 2012

I arrived late at night, maybe around 10 or 11, and checked myself into the E.R. I remember it was cold outside, or maybe it was cold inside the waiting room, or maybe it was just cold inside of me. Whatever it was, the small leather jacket I was wearing did little to keep the chill out of the air. I stared down at my ballet flats as the intake nurse checked my blood pressure and other vitals. “What brings you here tonight, hon?”, she asked absentmindedly–head down,pen poised above her chart. “I…um…I got into a fight with my boyfriend.” Her eyes jumped up, forcing mine to stop playing double-dutch with everything in the room and focus on her. “What exactly do you mean by fighting?”, she asked evenly. I sighed, fidgeting with the zipper on the jacket that refused to keep out the cold and answered, “We were just wrestling. It’s really no big deal.” She stared at me for a second, holding my gaze while I tried to hold onto my sanity. “Do you want me to call the police?” You would have thought she’d just offered to set my hair on fire the way I reacted. “No. No! Please. I’m fine.” She closed her chart, smiling for the sake of saying she did it, and walked me to an empty room. “The doctor will be with you shortly…”, she says as she quietly closes the door between her pity and my shame. I sat in the empty room; alternating between the bed and the only chair in the room, when a knock interrupted the silence. A police officer walked in, assessing me like the last crime scene he’d laid his patience down for. The sharp pain in my ribs was suddenly diluted by the pain of my humiliation and fear. “I need a name”, he said tersely. “I can’t do that”, I countered. He let out an exasperated breath, rubbing his temples with his left hand. His wedding ring catching the fluorescent lighting in the too cold room. “Yes, you can. This… this will just get worse”. I stubbornly shook my head and told him I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do it. He asked me why I wouldn’t leave, why I believed I deserved to be treated this way. I felt my fear jump double-dutch with his frustrations and my broken heart, yet still believed it was easier than facing the unknown. “Because, Officer…I have nowhere else to go. When I leave here I have to go back there.”

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