The fear licks at my stomach, a white hot flame. There is no greeting for me, no smile. Hope leaps that maybe this time she is not angry, but it falters, because she is always angry. I am always wrong. There is no chit chat, no inquiry about my day. Only the granite stare, the tight lips. I go upstairs to my room and shut the door.
I sit in my room, staring around me blankly. In this moment, all I want is to cease to exist. If only I could vanish for a time – if only I didn’t exist when she ignores me. The white spark of fear lands in my gut, a cold congealed lump of heavy grease. The diarrhea will come later.
I do not call a friend. If she hears me talking she might take away my phone. Texting is not an option, locked in the 90’s as I am. How might life be different for me today?
I cannot read; the words swarm my eyes like a cloud of gnats and I read the same paragraph over and over.
I cannot listen to music. Any sound risks confrontation, and though I know it is coming, is unavoidable, I cannot provoke it. I must simply be still and quiet.
I crouch on the floor, between my bed and the wall. How small can 110 pounds get? I focus on breathing, in and out. The breaths are shallow, my heart is racing, and I am frozen. Why can’t I just cease to exist?
And then, footsteps. The door opens and she enters. A lump forms in my throat. I stand up to face her. Rest my fingertips on my bed for support. She begins to speak, to outline my crime. I detach from my body. I feel my spirit tied into my physical form at the throat, almost as though I could use words to escape, but there are no words. My mouth is parched, my breathing minimal. I keep my eyes locked on hers, but there are no tears. Crying makes her angrier. The room around and behind her goes blurry and my eyes focus intently on her face, her flat eyes, her tight mouth.
I have given up deciphering the words. I have given up trying to discover my crime. It seems that simply existing is the trigger. Later on I might realize that there is no pattern because I actually have done nothing wrong: this is not about me. But right now I only know that at any moment, my world will come crashing down, and there is no protection for me. I cannot escape it. I can only survive it, wait it out, take up as little space as possible until the rage has passed. Then I must soak up the sun, must smile and love and appreciate and play act until the next tantrum.
This is what verbal abuse looks like.