Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: NOISE (05/03/18)
- TITLE: Escape
By Robin West
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He jumps from his armchair to get another beer. His boot bumps the coffee table leg with a crack that causes seismic turbulence in the caverns of my soul.
He stomps into the kitchen, and a sudden crash jolts my nerves. It’s just an empty bottle hitting the trashcan. He can’t hit me from the other room, yet the inner rooms of my belly hear fearful rumbling. My jaws clench, my nails dig into my palms. I know what’s coming.
From deep tunnels, a beehive hum needles me for not leaving after the last time.
Between forefinger and thumb, I rub the card in my pocket. I picked it up at the clinic, Hotline 4 Help. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened …” Those distant words ring with hope.
Hotline 4 Help has safe houses for women like me. I’ve memorized the number. Six weeks have passed since the last time, and I still haven’t called. Now it’s too late, I’ll have to ride out another one.
He’s aware of my every move. He already pocketed my phone, so I can’t call anyone. If I get up, he’ll follow my steps, always standing between any exits and me. I’ve been through this often enough to know resistance only accelerates the onset of his aggression. The stuff he’s doing now is the tuning of the band before this performance. The earlier the show starts, the longer it last. In fact, my only hope is that he’ll prolong his warm-up long enough for the alcohol to knock him out before he gets a physical.
His friends say, “She must like it, otherwise she’d leave.”
Of course, I don’t like it. It’s terrifying to watch fireworks on my eyelids while he slams my head against the wall. It’s torture when the man who tenderly held me last night wants to kill me tonight. I don’t stay because I like it.
Turbulent noise holds me here. Incessant tap-tap-tapping says, You’re overreacting. A gong clangs. You’ve tried before and failed. It’s no use. A hiss rises from a subterranean snake hole. You deserve this.
The scariest noise of all is the silence I hear when I try to imagine life after leaving. No map exist that can show me the way. I’m on the edge of an ancient chart that says, “Beyond this point there be monsters.” Unknown monsters seem scarier than the monster I know.
He returns from the kitchen, beer foam on his beard, eyes on me. I’m on the edge of the couch cushion, arms across my chest. Even though it’s 80 degrees out, I’m trembling.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asks. “You’re shivering like a nervous poodle.” His hand flips toward my face and I flinch. He laughs. On the floor, I spy the bottle cap he’d thrown at me, and I feel stupid for letting a scrap of aluminum scare me.
He heads for his armchair, but instead of sitting, he paces the floor, peering around looking for something. He finds it hanging on the hook by the door, my purse. He grabs it and skips through the kitchen and out the back door, probably to smoke a cigarette. He already took my cell phone, now he has my car keys and money.
Come to me …
He’s not watching me. He isn’t standing between me and the front door. I could find someone with a phone.
My choice: sneak away into the noiseless unknown, or stick around for a long night of familiar clamor.
In a split second, I decide. I slip out the front door, carrying shoes in my hand. I run across the grass hearing imaginary sirens, certain he’ll hear them too and come chasing after me. I run down the block, not daring to look back for fear I’ll lose speed. I don’t stop running until my lungs burn. Bent over, gasping for breath, I look behind me and see only quiet.
Today’s the day I escape.
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