Late last Saturday night I was binge-watching Netflix when I heard some violent screaming. It was slightly indiscernible—I couldn’t quite tell what it was or where it was coming from. The walls in my apartment are thin, so I thought it could be people having a party or dogs barking or other general ratchetness going on. But the screaming persisted, and I started hearing someone yell “Help!” I jumped out of my bed, went to the front door and peered through the window to see what was happening. Only the noise wasn’t coming from outside, it was from the apartment next door.
“Help! Help! Please don’t,” I heard a woman screaming and crying. “Fuck you, you ain’t shit to me! I’m out of here. FUCK YOU!” an angry man said over and over as the woman begged him not to strike her again.
The screaming was so intense and loud that it felt like it was happening right in my living room, like I could see it through the wall. Part of me wanted to bang on the wall or scream through it: leave her alone. Instead I grabbed my phone and called 911. It took forever for the cops to come, and even still the beating continued.
Domestic violence is no laughing matter, but I do find it ironic that this is the same guy who knocked on my door in late September to complain that my music was too loud. I thought he was annoying for stepping to me to tell me my shit was too loud at nine p.m. You live in an apartment in the middle of the city bro, not in a comfy house in the suburbs. People make noise in their homes, deal with it. Little did I know that one day I would actually call the cops on him.
I’m sensitive to domestic violence because my stepfather beat me when I was little. He’d punch me or push me to the floor, knocking the wind out of me or—and I think this one was his favorite—after he knocked me on the ground he’d pick me up by the ankles and shake me, swinging me around the house upside down. For some reason, though, I think he did it to somehow toughen me up because he knew that I would one day grow up into an amazing cocksucker. He didn’t want a faggot for a son, so he turned to abuse to try to toughen me up.
Whenever I told my mother she did nothing to stop it, maybe because even she felt powerless. So I just stood around, waiting for the next beating. What is it that makes someone so angry that the only way they can express that anger is to hit or abuse someone they’re supposed to love? Starting a fight with an enemy on the street is one thing, but going after the person you love is totally unnecessary.
Every day for the last week, I’ve seen my neighbor outside either smoking a cigarette or walking the dog. He’s a tall stoner type of guy with long blond hair he keeps tied behind his head. Talks with a Southern drawl, and I’d peg him at about late 20s early 30s. We used to exchange pleasantries—how’s it going, stuff like that—but now he won’t even look at me. Even if he doesn’t know I was the one who called the police, he knows at the very least that I heard every word, every hit, every cry for help.
And as for her? She hasn’t left. I heard them earlier today watching television, laughing like nothing happened. Why didn’t he leave like he promised? What on earth is she still doing there?
What keeps us in relationships that are physically unhealthy for us? And why do we make excuses for people who abuse us time and again?
—Follow Madison Moore on Twitter: @popgazm