I spent several days unable to sleep or eat, several days back in a place I hoped never to occupy again.
Memories of all the dreams I once had with this man, visions of all the life events that were manipulated and the pain inflicted on me. I remembered how much I had wished he no longer existed, and found myself plagued with guilt, as if I had bought it all about.
Then I remembered how ill he became whenever I tried to leave him, whenever he felt his grasp on me loosening, and how little he cared when I became ill, the disappearances that occurred in those times, leaving me alone with the children. So grateful when he returned, vowing to not make such a fuss again.
It did not take long to find my focus, to see how the children would feel if they were exposed to what was to come. He asked to see them, started saying we all had to do counselling together, it was what the Macmillan people has insisted had to happen, the very thing the courts had agreed, the domestic violence groups had advised against - was the thing he was now trying to put in place. Getting me into a room, a situation similar to the marriage counselling we underwent for him to work on me, the counsellor, and create a new set of patterns.
It took several conversations with coercive control experts before I went breathing deeply and slowly across town, with a bag full of chocolates and drawings from our youngest to the hospital he stated he was at. Preparing my self to deal with any eventuality, to speak with the medical team and gauge how safe this was for the mental well being of the children. I cannot remember much of the journey, the people and places I passed by blurred by the noise in my head. The closer I drew to the hospital the heavier the air around me became. On entering the hospital I could not fathom why there were not more windows, the air had the quality of wet sand.
Arriving on the ward it took little time to locate the ward nurse who was confused as to why I was under the impression that he was seriously unwell. "He has surgery tomorrow, but he is fine" she snapped when I quietly told her I did not want to see him, I was there to purely decipher if this was a situation that would be emotionally manipulative for the children. Unfortunately the nurse was impatient and unable to spend the time to comprehend what was being asked, she strode off calling my ex/abuser to notify him I was there to see him.
The heat of the room, the stifling nature of the air around me increased as slowly, I made my way to his bed, aware I could not walk away from the situation. I found him eagerly tidying things away, pushing things into a cupboard and a tray of food away, exclaiming he had not been eating there was no good food to be had. As he limped towards me for a hug I stepped back suggesting he should not be up and about. He sat down exclaiming how happy he was to see me, how thankful he was I came. The entire time every inch of my body felt as though it was on fire. If there were other patients in the ward I cannot recall, I was aware of the man in front of me who was due for surgery, who accused me of abusing him, who put me and our children through years of pain. The man who had put little thought into the lives of the children since he walked out with a bin bag telling me I was an awful ugly being. Who now sat smiling, chattering away about the room he was in before, how useless the nurses were, how he was so happy I was there.
Emotional abuse creates a cognitive dissonance, a situation where you cannot trust your instincts, a situation where the person who tried to break you then behaves as though you are the center of their universe. Leaving you to feel at odds with the reality of what happened, and if it had happened at all.
There we were, the same pattern unfolding, the same manipulative game being played. A coy smile on his face, softly spoken words, a sudden concern for what I must be going through.
I stood holding myself, a distance away, the whole time watching as though I were above us both looking down as it all unfolded. As I asked for the details, the prognosis so far, the medical words used he began to look around the room, "I haven't been able to get any air today can you walk with me? We can grab a coffee and discuss it all". I did not want to break bread with this man, I could not imagine sitting at a table with him anywhere, my stomach churned as we walked, becoming aware of the people around watching.
Entering the lift a panic set in, I had to remind myself we are in a hospital, cameras all around, witnesses everywhere, and he is not as mobile as usual. Slowly the periphery of my vision cleared and came into focus, in time to see the coffee shop behind us. "I would like some air, the hospital one is awful" he laughed as he caught the expression on my face. Crossing the road outside the hospital, I expressed concern about him being away from medical staff,he assured me he had his phone and they were used to it. Which became obvious as soon as we entered the cafe as he was on first name basis with the women in their. Of course, why would I assume anything different? "You know what I am like" he said finishing of his exchange with them.
Sitting down at a table with him was probably something I thought I would never do again, I am clear it was something I wished to never do again. Looking at him I saw a shell, a thief, someone who took who I was, who stole my dreams and moulded a life around it all, reflecting it back to convince me he was someone when all he was, all he is is a shell.
I looked across the road at the hospital sign unable to look back at the mask across from me. "I am so glad this has bought us back together like this, sad it took this though" he sighed smiling, bending forward to hold my gaze.