He’d wait until everyone was asleep before starting. I’d lie still and feign unconsciousness, but his voice would persist, weakly howling in terrible desperation, as he pleaded with me. Begged me. Implored me to help him take his life.
In the garish brightness of daylight, I’d talk to my loved ones about our sleepless nights. The pity on their faces was obvious; so too was the resigned helplessness. They knew there was nothing they could do. All the suffering had to be endured by him, and, by association, me. I was his confidant; the only other person he felt comfortable speaking to. Sobbing to. Screaming to.
There was no mistaking the effects the stress had wrought on me. I’d gained weight; I’d gone on disability; I’d grown depressed. Our doctors knew he had problems. They knew something – that was the word they used: something – was wrong with him. They just couldn’t pinpoint what it was. That meant they couldn’t do anything.
Last night, we reached a breaking point. For hours, he screamed with impossible, earsplitting power. He regaled me with detailed descriptions about the pain he was enduring. Pain that my inaction was forcing upon him. The screams grew quiet as his energy evaporated. Just like every other night. But rather than sobbing pathetically and begging, his tone grew sinister. His words became violent.
“I’ll kill you,” he whispered. “I’ll tear you in half.”
My breath caught in my throat. He’d never said anything like that to me before. All the venomous contents of his words had always been directed toward himself. This was new. Terrifying.
“You’re going to bleed to death,” he informed me around a series of wracking sobs. “Do you know how you’ll feel knowing you could’ve ended this but didn’t? Knowing you left the girls alone?”
The mention of the twins caused me to jump out of bed with rage and indignation. He knew what he was doing. He’d finally figured out what it would take for me to acquiesce. The thought of Dominique and Shonda in foster care because of his hatefulness and my cowardice was too much to bear. Too much for any mother to bear.
I started to cry while making the preparations I’d dreaded since the first night he began begging me to take his life. I didn’t say a word to him as I got ready. Every so often, he’d call out and ask what I was doing. I didn’t reply. He was too weak to scream. Too exhausted. All he spoke were pathetic words and phrases like, “please…” and, “it hurts so much.” Words I’d heard over and over and over, but with them now was a sinister element of “or else.”
I knew if I did what he wanted, I could be thrown in jail. The twins would be without their mom, just like he’d threatened. But this way, at least I’d be alive. Also, if I was careful, I could get my close friends to help me hide his body. They’d all but said they would in the past – in the darkest moments when I sought their comfort after months of restless nights.
By the time everything was set up, he’d realized what was happening. He’d won. I felt sick. Part of me knew I was doing the right thing – that the suffering he’d endured was too much for anyone to have to experience. But another part – a larger part – was doing it for another reason. I wanted him dead. I wanted him out of my life and out of my daughter’s lives and out of the periphery of my friends and extended family. I wanted my autonomy back.
We went into the bathroom where everything could be scrubbed clean. Some time later, our eight months of sleepless agony were over. The screaming had stopped. The pleading had stopped. The agony had stopped. Nothing remained but me and his corpse and the blood. Blood in the tub. Blood on my hands. Blood on my thighs. Blood on the coat hanger.