In my early 20’s, I naively thought someone had to hit you to constitute an abusive relationship. I didn’t know that breaking all of your shit was also a form of abuse. And that’s what Bill did. He broke all of my shit.
Looking around the old house we lived in at the time, I saw that he had also broken the television, a coffee table and a chair. He had given me the dollhouse last Christmas – a childhood dream of mine, to own one. I perched it on a stand in the corner of our living room, where bit by bit, I added pieces to it. Now, just like our miserable relationship, it was trashed, in pieces.
As I cleaned up the mess, the old house watched me quietly. The walls absorbed the psychic pain. Some places feel inhabited by ghosts, but it’s a strangely comforting sensation to me. That house, where I lived with Bill, had a more ominous feel. It was never easy being alone there. Even though I despised Bill at this point, I was always slightly relieved when he would return.
To this day, I dream of that place: I’m locked in and I can’t get out. The house is breathing and groaning, as if it’s trying to come to life. I run down the stairs to escape, but the stairs never end. The walls slowly move inward, in an attempt to touch me. I usually wake up startled, sometimes screaming. Perhaps it’s a form of PTSD from that awful relationship.
Or perhaps that house still remembers me, still reaches out to me from time to time.
One of the evenings there, as I slept next to Bill, I woke up suddenly. I had been sleeping on my arm and it had pins and needles. I shook out my arm for a moment, hazy with sleep. Then I felt something move toward my bedside: a cold, airy presence. It stood above me for a moment then seemed to bend down, near my face. I turned my head away from it, in weak defense.
“Beth!” it whispered loudly, inches from my face. It spoke my name.
I let out an ear-piercing scream. Bill woke up and immediately began yelling. “What the fuck is your problem?”
“Someone is in this room. Turn on the light!” I pleaded.
He did, and of course, no one was there. He berated me then went back to bed. I stayed awake the rest of the night. I just had a brush with the supernatural and sleep wasn’t remotely possible.
The next day, I felt like a zombie. I tried to explain to a friend what had happened, but mere words couldn’t convey the sensation, that icy presence. Or the voice - not quite male, not quite female. That harsh whisper.
“You have to get out, Beth. That house, that relationship...just get out,” she warned. “You’re under a lot of stress there. Your mind is playing tricks on you.”
Sleeping was difficult for the next few months. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I was instantly terrified. When would it return? Why did it feel so cold? Why couldn't it be warm and welcoming? Did it want to hurt me?
The relationship with Bill worsened. The fights escalated, police were involved. When he wasn’t home, I packed my bags and hid them in my closet. My escape was forming though I had no clue where to go.
During my last week there, I remained as quiet as possible, just biding my time. A fight erupted nonetheless.
Slam. Boom. Things began flying. What was there left to break?
“I know you’ve been packing your shit. It’s all in your closet. You think I'm stupid?”
He headed down the steps to the bedroom. I knew what he planning to do: destroy the contents of my closet, which included a newly purchased stereo and my mom’s jewelry box.
I grabbed a large knife from the kitchen and followed him downstairs to the bedroom.
“Touch that closet door and I’ll kill you.” I hissed.
I raised the knife over my head to reinforce the point. He laughed nervously. I charged him. He grabbed a large pillow off of the bed and used it to protect himself. I stabbed it. I stabbed it again. His face peeked from behind and the look on it will stay with me until my dying day: he was terrified. And it felt good. My breaking point had been reached. I had become the malevolent force in the house for once.
The police carted us off. Since I had called about him in the past, I was permitted to place a restraining order on him. He moved out and I was left in the house alone. My bags were packed and out in the open. I was ready to go. I had so little left to take with me. It had all been broken. But I was taking me with me.
During one of the last nights there, I woke up to go the bathroom. When I returned, I hurried under the covers and demanded my brain to fall instantly off to sleep. But before I could, that cold presence was by my side once again. The voice wasn’t as distinct as the first time. It whispered hurriedly to me:
I did not scream this time. I did not lie awake frightened all night. This entity knew I was scared, I believe. It said something as quickly as possible that would convey some form of friendliness. Hi. A ghost said hi to me. And in a few days, I said goodbye to that house and one of the most difficult phases of my life.
Though I don’t know if that house has ever completely said goodbye to me.