It’s 2:43 a.m. as I type this. Bleary-eyed and gut-clenched. The memory of this time seven years ago keeps me awake.
At this time seven years ago, my friend Sarah had been to a bar with her husband. Joe was bartending that night. Joe told me that Sarah’s husband didn’t like him. Joe adored Sarah but ever since she’d married this guy, he was not able to joke with her as he used to. This guy that Sarah married developed a dark cloud over him pretty quickly whenever Joe and Sarah laughed together. Or whenever Sarah and anyone laughed together.
There are people in this world who are so miserable that they hate to see people enjoying themselves: people laughing, people dancing, people singing, people making art. It just destroys them inside because they realize they can’t have that enjoyment of life.
Sarah left the bar with her husband, probably walking unsteadily towards their car from too many drinks and disagreements. They drove to a house in a gated community belonging to the parents of Sarah’s husband — a doctor and his wife. It was called Bermuda Run, this gated community designed to keep its residents safe from harm. Safe from burglars and murderers.
Sarah had been making a plan to leave her husband. Because he hurt her. He hurt her physically and emotionally. I could tell. I never met the man, but I saw his work whenever I ran into Sarah. She avoided looking in my eyes. I used to do that, too, when I lived with an abusive man. Somewhere inside, you know that you deserve a better life than one entangled in abuse. You feel ashamed. It’s hard to show people you are aware of the damage being inflicted on you and how you know you need to leave but don’t yet have things in place so that you can.
Furtive glances are a sign of abuse.
Sarah had a plan. And that night, she told her husband she was leaving. She gathered herself and her things and ran out of the expensive house in the gated community, crossing the street and falling from the blow of a bullet into the damp well-manicured grass of a neighbor’s lawn.
With a handgun he never should have owned, Sarah’s husband stopped her from leaving him. And then, maybe because he realized what he’d done, or maybe because he wanted to make sure they were together forever, Sarah’s controlling, abusive husband shot himself in the head. He died right away. Sarah did not.
Sarah’s husband, a wretched, cowardly man, a Marine with anger management issues and a drug problem, severed Sarah’s spinal cord and shattered her larynx with the gun he never should have owned. He maimed her, put her in ICU for several days, but did not kill her immediately — which would have been far more merciful. Sarah laid in a hospital bed unable to talk, unable to move, in great pain for four days.
I did not see Sarah when she was in the ICU. Only her family did. And the Marines who came in to tell her that her husband was dead. This is what they are supposed to do. Whether you want them to or not. Sarah’s family did not want them to do this. But they did it anyway.
I painted for four days while Sarah was in the ICU. I painted because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Of course I had to go to work. But in my free time, I painted. I painted a giant vagina.
I remember getting the news that Sarah was dead and thinking, that’s not how this is supposed to end. This isn’t real.
Think about the tender flesh of someone you love being pierced by a small lead object traveling at 1,800 miles an hour. Imagine its force upon impact. This is the sort of imagining I did after I learned Sarah died.
The September air is tinged with this tragedy. I will go about my usual business all month, completely fine, and suddenly the day Sarah was shot arrives and I feel it in my core. I look at the calendar to confirm. Yes. It is September 23rd.
It is now 4:11 a.m. A quarter moon hangs low in the sky. The air is cool and filled with the sounds of night creatures. This time seven years ago, Sarah was probably arguing with her husband. Things were probably getting violent at this point. In approximately 49 minutes, Sarah will be shot.
I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to sleep. I think I’ll sit on my porch, listen to the late September cricket choir and wait for dawn. By dawn the emergency vehicles will have arrived. The police investigation will have begun. Soon Sarah will be in the ambulance on her way to the hospital. My week of mourning can begin.