Jumping In
Bev Vines-Haines

Kevin crept up behind me.  I heard him coming, of course.  Every cell in my body is trained like a ninja to know where he is at every moment.  He isn’t creeping up to surprise me or playfully scare me.  Oh no. He expects to catch me texting some mystery lover or to be viewing photos of rugged, manly men.

“What do you need, Kevin?” I ask.

I hear him exhale and can feel his disappointment.

“When’s dinner?”

Kevin has the rare gift of expressing whole paragraphs in two or three words.  His tone suggests I am being scolded, called to task, condescended to and dismissed.  He doesn’t actually want dinner.  It’s four P.M. 

He wants a reason.  Even Kevin realizes absurdity should grow out of an organic or logical source. He likes it when I am afraid.  He likes to jab, to swing at me so suddenly I jerk. He loves it when I cower.  I no longer give him that satisfaction.

“You’re hungry?”

He looks at the clock and feigns surprise.  “Wow.  Thought it was later.  Are you almost finished?”

I meet his eyes.  “I have a final tomorrow.  I need to study.  Go eat a cracker.  Dinner’s at six.”

He goes away.  Not enough motivation.  Yet.  But he will be back.

I don’t care.  He has blacked my eyes, broken my nose and knocked me out.  Many times.  I know I am driving him crazy.  He realizes I am close to escape. My pending college degree, my bravado, my refusal to tremble at his threats are challenging him.  Could he kill me?  Absolutely. 

He returned.  “What do you do all day while I work?”

“I work too, remember?  And I go to school.  And I do homework.”

I had turned and could see his fists were clenching, the muscles not yet vibrating.  He itched to strike.

I allow myself to imagine what will happen to him if he does kill me.  I see the burly cops arresting him.  I see the scorn, the headlines and finally the scenes in court. The thing he hides, the thing he dreads is just about to happen.  He will be emasculated!  They’ll tell the world he wet the bed until he was seventeen, that his mother rejected him and loved his brothers best.

And then he will go to prison for a long time.  Prisoners read papers.  They’ll know everything.

I imagine he will be bullied and beaten.  That he won’t be able to draw a safe or secure breath.

It is a difficult choice I face.  I stare at him and say, “You are an asshole.”

With that the choice is made.

First published: February 2018
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