Today I entered a galaxy far far away. It was an hour north actually, but it is a parallel universe to my present life. A friend needed help to renovate an apartment as his renter left. It was an odd situation, the former resident had been chased away by the neighbors. The usual work crew was not available and the apartment was needed urgently. My friend was able to rally his friends to the cause. A young family had lived there, the wife and child left suddenly. The husband stayed on for several months alone.
The bathroom mirror wore a huge sticker of two hearts entwined, perhaps placed there by the bride or groom.There were many pins in the ceiling attached to tiny remnants of streamers and feathers, declaring that celebrations had occurred in these rooms. The woman’s underwear, long since dry was still hanging as if drying on an ad hoc drying line. Her shoes and her daughter’s shoes were in the closet. Neither mother nor child had been there for months. Did they assure the groom that she would come to her sense and come home?
Pictures were placed on odd positions on the walls, high, low. Happy pictures, mostly of faraway places, or religious pictures of the Lord. Behind them were holes, fist or foot sized holes. Did she cover the pictures so her mother would not see, or to hide the ever present danger from herself and her daughter? Did he cover them hoping for a better day, a better place?
In the purple room Tinker bell stickers and tiny hangers in the closet indicated it was the child’s room. A plug of toilet paper was stuffed into a hole in the bedroom. The hole the tissue plugged backed up to a punched out hole in the living room wall, giving whomever wanted it an unseen view straight into the child’s room. Did the child fight for her own privacy or did her mother do it for her?
In the closet of the back bedroom was a broken stool, and a religious candle. Perhaps someone sought refuge there while praying for safety. The door to that room had been forced, the door jamb was split and had been ripped out.
Plates were stacked in the cupboards. Some were expensive, beautifully decorated; they looked like they could have been a wedding gift. Others were from cheaper sets. No set was complete. Empty alcohol containers, bottles and cans and roach clips were scattered in plain view.
Stabbed holes and slash marks ripped at the walls to the front bedroom. Above the doorway to that room had been written the names of the bride and groom, surrounded by hearts. A Christian cross has been taped to the wall over where the bed would have been. The same two names were handwritten in that cross.Neighbors said the fighting was horrendous, keeping all who lived there awake long into the night. One neighbor, a good natured Mexican American wanted to talk. The shattered beer bottles, the cigarette butts, the smashed front window all originated with the groom. The situation had clearly traumatized him. As happens with the traumatized the neighbor talked too freely to a stranger. He described a night when the bride was screaming and running. She fled from the man who loved her. He had a knife. The neighbor said his military training kicked in and he knocked the groom down, disarming him. He called the law.
It’s been several days since I was at the apartment but I am still affected by the violence and fear embedded in its walls. My hands still sting from my overuse of bleach. I scrubbed and over bleached and replastered and painted, but it seeped through.The bride’s name was on the carefully filed correspondence left behind in recycled envelopes. I will call her Crystal. Crystal, I fixed the broken walls, has your broken heart been fixed? I pray you and your little Tinker Bell are safe, and loved. Did you see this in your family home?
Were you raised to expect this from men who love their women? Was it because you were raised in a loving home that you knew life could be different and found the strength to leave? Will Tinker Bell expect this from her Prince Charming? Did your faith empower you, protect you, give you wings? I do not know the answer to those questions but I know that I know that you do not have to live like this. No one should live like that, not the groom, not the bride, not the child.