I was on the bus back to college from my hometown when I heard him.
It was 9:30a.m. bus full of tourists, workers, and students headed to the city. He had been in line with who I believed to be his wife or serious partner right behind me as we filed onto the bus. He had been muttering complaints of some sort, but I was ignoring the chatter and focusing on finding a good seat. I got a seat right in front of this grumbling man and his lady, not thinking anything of it when it all started.
"Thanks to YOU, we're going to be late! I told you!"
His grumbling had turned into a roar. The bus went dead silent.
He continued on, "You're so stupid! I told you! We're going to be late. You're stupid!"
The woman whimpers like a puppy, "I'm sorry."
"Yeah well, thanks. Can't count on you to do anything right. You're stupid ... again!"
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"You're always sorry, aren't you? You're ridiculous."
The shouting goes on. The whimpering proceeds the shouting. I am feeling utterly uncomfortable for this poor woman and furious at this man. How is she tolerating this? What's wrong with her? How is he so rude and vile? I decide to stand up, turn around, and face him in the seat behind me.
"Excuse me -- but be quiet! No one wants to hear you scream at your wife! No one wants to listen to this nonsense on the bus. You wanna abuse your wife? Not in front of me. Not on this bus."
I looked around at the passengers on the bus, hoping for some solidarity in case this man pulled out a knife or something. All the women were nodding their heads like, "Damn right. We're with you."
The wife, the whimpering puppy, gave me this look that said, "Thank you. Thank you so much."
The man finally shut up and was quiet for the whole ride back.
Eleven years later, I still envision myself strong and firm on that bus. I remember wondering why that woman didn't just tell him where to go. Why she was on the bus with him in the first place. It's so easy when it's not you, to point out folks in bad relationships and marriages. It's so easy to say, "Why is he or she staying in that situation?" Yet it is a whole other ball game when it's you in those shoes. When you are the woman being yelled at on the bus.
My ex-husband was neither that aggressive nor nasty especially in the beginning few years in which he was lovely, but in the last two years of our marriage, there were times when he said things that cut me right down to the bone. Things you should never tell the person you love but then again, he probably just didn't love me anymore at that point. He would say later on that he was angry--that's why he said it. When I said that being angry didn't make it right each time he would say, "But you made me mad. You made me say it."
He wasn't accountable. It was me who had made him do that! But I didn't put a gun to his head and ask to be called stupid. And I am no Mother Theresa. While I was never that angry or hurtful, there were times when I said hurtful and mean things, especially after being stabbed metaphorically in my gut. But I always apologized. Why? Because I cared about him and knew that I had chosen to say that. No one else had made me. I wasn't perfect but I never tried to tear him down.
When you are the one who is being lashed out at...it's difficult to step aside from the situation and tell yourself, "I'm not really a bad person. This person has issues and is unhappy with him/herself. He's hurting over many things. It's not about me." All I felt was, "I must be dumb, etc."
I drank in his words as if they were biblical.
I was just like that woman sitting on the bus being screamed at. I was hanging on to the marriage still. I couldn't walk away yet because I believed what I was hearing and I was afraid. If I was indeed this awful, would I end up dying alone? I questioned my own worth until finally, I couldn't take being unhappy anymore. I couldn't take seeing him unhappy anymore. So I suggested we quit our third round of failed marriage counseling and finally divorce already.
I got off the bus.
Today, my ex and I get along well, although there are conflicts and tense periods in which I remember why we are divorcing. There was a lot of relief for both of us in finally admitting defeat after two separations and so much counseling. I don't think he is a bad guy. Quite the contrary! I think he was an unhappy man with a lot of emotion buried inside. I hope one day he can find the woman he thinks is right for him. That he can find light at the end of the tunnel and happiness.
Since we separated, I have felt better month by month. It has been baptism by fire but the rebirth has been amazing. I finally feel hope. I finally have the strength to say, "Don't treat me that way. "
To the lady on the bus, I hope you found that strength too.
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