One morning he decided that he wanted to take the family out to breakfast at a local restaurant. We all obliged and we loaded the kids into the car. As we began driving, I noticed that we were not driving in the direction of the restaurant. I asked him where we were going. “We are going to pay a visit to your friend.” I knew exactly who he meant. He wanted to go find “Golden”. 8 o’clock in the morning with a minivan full of kids was not the way that I wanted to see this confrontation happen. When Tony demanded that I tell him where “Golden” lived, I lied. I picked some random house on a busy street. I didn’t want to get out of the car, but he dragged me from the passenger seat, to the ground and to the porch of the house. When the homeowner opened the door and Tony realized that I had not told him the correct house, he forced me back into the van and finally drove to the restaurant. I had no appetite. The children were crying. Tony was just fine. He had that look on his face that I can only imagine that if Lucifer was real, that’s what he would look like. After breakfast, he drove us out to a suburban park where he continued to call me a slut and a terrible mother. He grabbed my arm as I tried to get out of the car to walk away and twisted it so hard that it brought tears to my eyes. I whipped out my pepper spray, sprayed Tony in the face and yelled for the kids to stay in the car. When he let go, I ran to a person in the park who let me use their cell phone to call the police. When the police arrived, he was arrested and they took him away. We were apart for two weeks; he could not return to our home so he stayed with a friend. But he stayed on my mind. I loved him. Those feelings were coming back for some reason. I wanted him back and I wanted to make it work. He was ordered to one year of probation and one year of anger management again. We attempted marriage counseling, but the victim playing on his part because of the affair was so intense that the marriage counselor told us to never come back again. He could not see past the affair. Regardless of all of the things he had done to me, kicking in the car windshield, choking me into unconsciousness, the shaming, the embarrassment, the punching, the neglect… all he could see was that I had had an affair.
Things got so bad that I resorted to an old teenage past time: cutting. I locked myself in the bathroom one night and just cut away at my thighs with a sharpened steak knife. The pain inside hurt so bad that I wanted to feel the pain on the outside. My husband banged on the door, “What are you doing?!?!” I told him to go away and he broke down the door. When he saw the blood he called 911. When the EMTs arrived, they asked me if I had done it to myself. I told them yes and they took me to a local hospital… where I was promptly chained to a hospital bed. Apparently, superficial self harm to deal with stress is taboo but smoking cancer sticks is ok. I should have taken up smoking. I then spent the next two days in a psychiatric facility. I was asked what triggered me to do such a thing to myself. I told them that I hated my husband. That I was tired of the abuse. That I was tired of constantly being unhappy. Lowkey, the nurse told me that there was nothing wrong with me. That I just needed to get out of my situation. When I was released, my distrust of my husband was reinforced. Not only was I not allowed to be unhappy, I was not allowed to express it, I was not allowed to act on my unhappiness, nothing. I continued to try to rely on weakening faith in god.
We attempted to rekindle our relationship with the Kingdom Hall. After all of the drama the affair and his arrest and consequential probation, we thought that we needed to “go to god again”. This time we were paired up with a young couple that had recently moved to Michigan from California. They were nice enough, but full of zeal. Again, I was deeper into the study of the sect than my husband. He was only there so that he could ensure that I felt the gravity of the guilt that I should have felt for the affair. He wanted me to KNOW that Jehovah did not approve of what I did. The wife of our bible study leaders encouraged (see: pressured) me out into field service. ….That was an experience. Nothing like having door slammed in your face at 9am on a Saturday out in the cold winter of Michigan. Though I figured that logically the next step was to get baptized into the group, but I realized that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t lie to myself. I wasn’t sure that I believed in god.
I used to be an avid nightly news watcher. One night a story came across the television that completely screwed my world up. A one year old baby girl was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. I INSTANTLY broke into tears. And I hated what I knew to be god. How could he let that happen? What in the hell purpose could this serve? As I was crying, my husband asked me what was wrong. I told him about the news story and he told me that I was wrong for being mad at god; that I would be punished for ever doubting god. Duh, why didn’t I remember that I can’t tell him anything? I spoke with the wife of our bible study leads and the only thing she had to tell me in my despondent state was that god gave us free will. Fucking free will. “So the free will of the rapist was more important than the free will of the baby girl to NOT have this happen to her?”, I questioned. The woman just told me that those who are faithful in Jehovah will be restored in the new system and that I should just concentrate on my personal relationship with Jehovah.
None of this was right to me. It just didn’t sit well with me. There could not be a god. So I began looking up what people said about the JW’s and how they were a cult. I read up on the founder of the sect, Charles Taze Russell and his successor. I read about all of the property that they owned, their history of racism, their child molestation cover ups and their controversial stance on blood transfusion. I started looking into other sects of Christianity and other religions. They all had a pattern of misogyny, bloodshed, contradictions, and the one key factor: if you don’t believe in our god and our way, you’re going to be punished. That “exclusivity” clause. I had to confess it to myself. I wasn’t mad at god. I didn’t believe in god. And I was mad that I was deceived for so long. There was no god. But of course, I couldn’t tell this to my husband or my deeply Christian family. I would be shunned, outcast. Though I had these thoughts, I no one to talk to them about. That put even more of a strain on our marriage.
The little semblance of marital respect that we had for each other quickly dissipated. We became nothing more than angry roommates with one another. As I became more and more distant from religion and missing Hall meetings, the woman who partnered with her husband to lead our bible studies stopped by to see why I stopped attending. I told her that I just didn’t believe in it anymore. Her response was, “But you’re not baptized. If Jehovah’s day of judgement comes tomorrow, your children will be killed!” I told her, “Any god that would kill my children because I don’t believe in him to stroke his ego does not deserve my worship,” and I asked her to leave.
Once my husband was off of probation, things began to escalate again. The DAY he was off of probation, he backhanded me so hard for not agreeing on what to make for dinner that night. he told me, “I’m not scared of going to jail anymore. You better get your shit together.” I knew that things would just get worse.
Again, things were quiet. As long as I walked on eggshells, things were ok. The children were getting bigger and I was breezing through my college courses. There was some tension as my husband decided that he would not pursue a degree beyond his Associates. However, I had big dreams that I wanted to achieve. One of the items that I had on my, “Things I Want to Do before I Die”, list was to be in a beauty pageant. I wanted to be in one when I was a teenager, but I never got the opportunity. A couple of internet searches led me to the Mrs. Michigan America pageant. The pageant was for woman from different counties and/or cities in the state of Michigan to go out for the crown and to represent Michigan in the Mrs. America pageant. It looked like it would be glamourous and fun so I submitted my picture and I was selected to represent the Motor City. My husband tried to push back, but because I would be using my own money and I would find sponsors, the costs would be minimal.
I had no idea how much was involved in being in a pageant. There were times that I was nervous and overwhelmed and scared. I agonized over what color dress I would wear in the evening gown competition and the best place to buy shoes and how I would wear my hair. But when the day arrived for us to drive to Grand Rapids to, my adrenaline kicked in. My best friend from work volunteered to be my stylist and makeup artist. When I tell you that I was flawless, I WAS FLAWLESS! My hair was beautiful, my makeup was superb. My family, including my mother, was there to cheer me on. I danced and twirled in my purple show dress during the choreographed opening of the pageant. My husband walked me across the stage during the evening gown competition as I word my golden, satin dress. I was not even afraid of competing in the swimsuit portion of the competition. I confidently strutted out on stage in an all white monokini with a sheer white wrap. During the I proudly represented the Motor City and, though I did not win the competition, I did win the internet choice award. Being in that pageant gave me so much confidence. If I could do that; I could do anything.
The year pushed on and I graduated from school that fall. At my celebration dinner, my oldest son relayed to me that he had gotten in trouble at school earlier that day for talking. I told him that we would discuss it after dinner and not to worry, we would figure out how to make sure that didn’t happen again. My husband overheard and became incensed that my son had not told him. He called my son over and punched him in the chest. Right there in the restaurant. Knocked the wind out of him; he was crying. My mom was there, my aunt was there and other restaurant patrons. I knew in my mind that he was NEVER going to change. His way of handling things was through violence. With my degree now complete, I started figuring out an escape plan. And I started executing it too.
My new found confidence from both the pageant and finally graduating school gave me the courage to ask for a pay increase at my job as well. Maybe, if I made more money, it would be easier for me to leave; it would be easier for me to be a single mom. I just obtained my Bachelor’s degree. I studied for and earned numerous IT and Project Management certifications, surely I could ask for an increase of five dollars. I set up the meeting with my supervisor and let her know of my accomplishments and of the fact that I had not received nor asked for any increase in pay since I started working there. At the time, I was doing the job of three people and held the title of “Program Manager”. I worked on the project budged, scheduling, and resourcing. After I made my argument for an increase, my supervisor told me, “Well actually, Marquita. Your’re really only worth $XX”. I wasn’t hurt. I was more disappointed. I knew that that wasn’t my “worth” and figured that it was probably time to move on to new opportunities with my new found skillset.
And like clockwork, when I was down, my husband came along to make sure to kick me. When I got home that evening with my long face, sad from the letdown of my meeting with my boss, my husband asked me what was wrong. I told him what happened and that I was just a bit down. His exact words: “You are a spoiled brat. You act like somebody owes you something.” Hmmm. Yeah. Ok. Well, maybe. I just figured that if I was doing the work of people who make $40 an hour, that maybe I could get $30 seeing as how I was just as qualified. I should have known better than to tell him anything. He didn’t deter me, however. I put out my resume and found new employment within two weeks; at the rate that I requested and deserved.
Even though I accepted my new opportunity, the job offers still poured in. I was offered a Project Management job in Washington DC with the Bureau of Veterans Affairs. It was an exciting offer and a great package came along with the job, but moving my family to a new city was scary. Especially considering that I wanted to leave my husband anyway. A family friend encouraged us to just drive down and check out the city. See if we could see ourselves there. So, one Friday in Early May 2013, we drove down to DC. The traffic was terrible in the DMV area, but the hotel room was beautiful. We arrived in DC around 8am that Saturday morning. I had arranged to meet the hiring manager that afternoon for lunch to discuss the position. My husband drove me to the restaurant and before I could get out of the car he said, “Hey, tell them to give me a job too.” I said, “Um, honey. I don’t even know if I have the job yet. I will let them know that with moving and uprooting the family that you will need to find a job too. But I don’t think it’s their responsibility to give you a job.” He looked so irritated with me and once I was out of the car, he sped off to find a parking spot. Unmoved, I walked into the restaurant and aced the interview. The manager was very nice and explained what the position would entail. I told the manager that I would still have to think over the offer and that I would let him know on Monday.
My family and I spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday seeing the sights. The trip was pretty decent and for a moment, we appeared to be a happy family. Once we returned home, I thought about the offer. I let my employer know that I was considering taking the offer and she countered offered with a $10 raise. Well. That made my decision for me. I declined the DC offer and stayed in Michigan. The tension at home continued as my husband remained unemployed and distant, but the physical abuse subsided; at least for a while.
It took one year, but I was finally at the point where I was ready to go. One night as we were sitting on the couch, he playing video games and I on Facebook, he decided that he wanted to discuss my affair. “Here we go again,” I thought. He wanted to know what I would do in order to make up for the affair. I asked him what did he want me to do? Over the couple of years since I had had the affair, he demanded that I find a way to “make it up to him”. I never knew there was a way to “make up” for an affair. In my desperate attempts to try to figure out what he meant and to shut him up, I offered to find him another girl to have sex with; offered to watch him have sex with whomever he wanted. This never was good enough for him because he knew that I was not jealous, he always declined my offers. That night he decided what I needed to do in order to make it up to him: anal sex. He wanted me to have anal sex with him. I told him that I had no problem with that but all I requested was that we wait until we bought lubrication. That was too much of a request, apparently. He took his cell phone and threw it at me so hard that it left a bruise on my left bicep. I calmly walked to the door, grabbed my keys and drove to my mother’s house. The next morning, I inquired of my mother’s apartment leasing office about an apartment. I was able to get an apartment with no security deposit and one half of the first month’s rent. I was finally going to get my chance at independence. I was going to walk away from the abuse that I had suffered for the previous ten years. I was scared and excited at the same time. I picked my kids up from school the next day and let Tony know that we were moving out. That this was the separation that would possibly lead to a divorce. He was distraught. When I went back to get my things, the house was a mess. He hadn’t eaten. He was barely going to work. I tried to convince him to get help, but he wouldn’t speak to me and I turned around and walked out the front door.
That summer after I left was one of the most peaceful times I’d had in over ten years. I had my children, my peace and not much else. In our 900 square foot apartment, we had no furniture. We slept on the floor. On the floor is where I found a resolve that I did not know that I had. I got up everyday and was a single mom. My children were happy; no more walking on eggshells for us. We ventured out and did things that he never wanted to do. We went to the out of town zoo, we went to the water park, we drove to Mississippi for a family reunion. We as our own little tribe were discovering ourselves, who we really were without fear, and it was fun.