THEY spoke of a time, a place, voices in language of love gone wrong. Of frightful things that manifest itself in various ways of secrets, deceptions, obsession and violence, swathed in a twilight of every color — blue, yellow, purple, a spectacular sunset just before midnight — on split lips, swollen misshapen faces, with some of the bruises fading into a yellow green.
I’ve seen faces worked on in emergency rooms. Her lipstick uneven, bangs badly chopped, an apple-sized bruise on her cheek that sets you thinking, of bones that had not broken— areas that had not blossomed with more bruises.
They are victims of spousal abuse and assault.
Recorded on her chart as “POSS DA” or “Possible domestic abuse.” There would be always an “again” — and there always was. What provokes the complex mix of combustion, attraction and destruction are connected in ways they will never understand. This is a story of three women, and the names I’ll call them are not their own.
They related to me as a cry of help and on a personal level, I was hoping to help these hapless souls; for them to share terrible secrets, wrapped in shame and silence of strangle sobs and still be respected and have a career, as your Moonlighter has.
For Agnes, the first time her husband hit her, she was only 18. She couldn’t wear a sundress or frolic in the beach the whole summer. The marks of his beatings were like a tattoo. The next night he kissed each spot with his tears, wet the spots like it would wash away the black on her tan skin. He was so sorry, he cried. His sorrow and regret seemed so palpable. She wept with his sorrow more than hers. Next morning, they were holding hands, gazing at each other’s eyes, acting like nothing had happened. Put in togetherness of eight years, according to the police blotter.
Rosa had a 10-year-old daughter who kept her secret. The child had to have heard the countless sound of the slaps, thumps of the punches, the birdcall of her mother’s sobs, and the sharp intakes of breath in pain. In the morning, her mother would tape herself up, swabbed herself off — as she tried to put her pieces back together again.
It was a repetitive scenario.
She had seen her mother’s bruises, remembers all those countless mornings after the horrible sounds and screams. Over at the breakfast table, her father calmly sits, drinking coffee from his favorite mug, her mother coming in, with a breakfast tray filled with garlic fried rice, eggs and longanisaas though, everything was just as it should be.
I had carried this child as an infant on the baptismal front of Our Lady of Angeles church on Spring Street, where after feasting at Mayflower Restaurant, the father went on duty as a cop. Years after, one weekend at their Heliotrope apartment, the wild light in her 10-year-old eyes flared, flickered and died. She added, “Alam mo po ninang, naaksidente na naman po si Mommy.”
Because that was what Rosa said, year after year — an accident. She had an accident. When the accident was when she met her husband, fell crazy in love with him, and after that, fell further and further. Every year, he held her in a thrall, made her wonder about things she was sure about, tolerate things she’d never thought she’d allow; frozen in a relationship of pain and abuse.
On the outside, Angelita looked fine. She was a registered nurse, had a beautiful home, three kids, a husband and a smile. Nobody got to see the hitting, which was really the humiliation, which turned into hatred for her husband and the life she had lost.
Her cringing self was afraid to leave. Besides, divorce was a dislocation. She stayed because she thought things would get better, or at least not worse. Because she wanted her kids to have a father and she wanted a home. But even more is that fact that she stayed because she loved her husband and no one had ever gotten to her the way he did. And he knew that — that is why he made her an accomplice in all the abuses he inflicted.
Three women and their sad stories. If they told their children they’ve broken noses, collarbones, blacked their eyes, and split their lips by walking into the dining room, in the dark; they would have gone past some point of no return. They would have killed the child in every kid, the woman in what was left of them.
These are women who only knew to love viscerally from the gut, with no regards to events, oblivious to the damaging things that happened and are kept in silence. The shame that surrounds that silence infecting that already wounded past is also locked in a landscape of longing.
Many years ago, I have been in that distant place, where no lights illuminate dreams and fairy tales. But I learned in the process called redemption is that your children make it impossible to regret your past.
And when you made your choice and everyone tells you, that you did the right thing — maybe they are right.
E-mail Mylah at [email protected]