I think it registered in my unconscious mind first before the rest of me began to wake.
I couldn’t tell if it was a television or a baby crying, but the hysterical edge to the muffled sound resonated with me in a way that made me remember. I heard the expletives and the “are you serious?” carry from the ceiling above me. The frantic feeling of distress carried far better than her words. Then came the murmuring of the male voice accompanied by the female screaming. She was yelling with every fiber in her being like increasing pitch and volume would suddenly make her heard. It was as if her own feeling of voicelessness could be resolved by becoming more frenetic and distraught and providing the onslaught that could not be ignored.
There I was in the stillness of my own bedroom bearing witness to the emotional storm going on above my head. Silently, I projected the thought: “He can’t hear you,” even as I heard her through my ceiling. My own heart clenched as I re-lived some of my own experiences of being in a relationship unheard, on the edge or falling into my own level of hysterics.
It was a place I had been. Looking at the golden light of the man I knew he could be. Trying so hard to make it work, and completely drained because he knew how to activate my self-doubt. I began to trust his words more than I trusted my own intuition and feelings. I drank from his dark well, thinking that I could purify it at the same time he poured more poison into the water. I thought I could help. Instead I got sick and my voice got weaker.
There was one night he made another “joke” about my weight and insinuated I looked ridiculous for dancing and I was only making him look like a fool by trying to dance with him. It was in the moment, I shut down and decided I was just going to leave the music and the party and go back to my bed. I said nothing and just left.
Hours later, he appeared completely intoxicated and turned on all the lights. Accusing me of being unreasonable. I told him I didn’t appreciate how he always made fun of me and that I felt he was almost ashamed to be with me. He started to explain that I was being too emotional. I was the one overreacting. He would show me how to be rational. It was the same sticky script of manipulation that minimized my feelings and put him in control. I told him it was too late to talk about it. I wanted to go back to sleep. I wanted him to leave.
He wouldn’t leave. He kept barraging me with words, logic, and feelings of shame. I sat up in my bed and started to yell, “Get out, get out, get out.” He looked like he was about to start another tirade of why he was a good guy and I was wrong. I reached up and grabbed large swaths of hair in my fists and pulled. My screams reached the edge of hysterical, “GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT!” as if by the sheer force of my actions I could drive him away. He fled without another word and I was left sitting in the awkward silence of the bright room with chunks of my own brown hair resting on my palms.
In some ways, I was a pass-through for his darkness. I used his poison as a distraction from my own. Thinking if I helped him, it would help me emerge from the sadness and damage my past had inflicted upon me. All I was doing was creating an unending loop. Instead of glowing like the sun, I had turned in on myself. In my desperation to reach out and help I created an inescapable hole that ate and encouraged darkness. This is what an imbalanced relationship does. No one feels heard and the emotion can explode in a physical way.
I thought of the chunks of hair in my hands that day and remembered my childhood. The holes in the wall or punched through the door, the claw marks raked across my calf, the bruised fingerprints on my arm, or the reddened skin from the belt that made it impossible to sit down. No, I suppose that wasn’t normal.
As I lay there with my heart seized and reliving these triggered, emotional memories, I had to stop myself from going upstairs and knocking on the door with an offer to help. Instead, I confronted the child in me that felt trapped and unheard with nowhere to go. I held her and I whispered, “I hear you now. I trust you and I hear you.”