I have been meaning to write to you for a while now, but somehow I always got caught up with everything else that was more important than talking to you. I saw the sorrow in your eyes the other day, the tiredness in your movements and I heard the distress in your forced laughter that did not even have the strength to try and reach your eyes in order to complete the façade and I meant to talk to you then but I got distracted with the more important story of my life to ask you if you were OK.
In my defence we are all grown women here and we each have our own problems to worry about so surely if something is wrong, you shouldn’t need me to tell you to fix it. I hate the way I end up feeling guilty for the way he hurts you as though I am the one that called you “stupid” because you had made a simple mistake. I realise that I have not been in your shoes so you might think that it is easy for me to say but I have been in my shoes long enough to know that I do not like having to tell you time and time again that he is bad for you. To reiterate to you that although it is true that love hurts sometimes, true love does not damage or destroy. Besides, they might be right, maybe all men are like that, short tempered that is, and a woman cannot really afford to be picky, especially at our age. You are lucky to get what you get and also, if I am to be honest, you can really test one’s patience sometimes you know? Perhaps you might want to tone it down a couple of thousand notches and maybe he wouldn’t feel the need to degrade you so much. It’s just a thought.
I have been meaning to write you for some time now dear sister and tell you that I see you labour at staying in love with her. I have seen you battle with the guilt of realising that you have fallen out of love with her, but you feel you owe it to her, to everyone in fact, to stick it out because you feel you have to be a martyr of some sort or worse, that you have something to prove. I have been meaning to write you to tell you that you do not have to sacrifice your own happiness for something that is not real but I got caught up in my own woes that I resented the fact that you needed me to point this out to you. We are all in a search for love as it is portrayed in the movies and the books that we simply can’t take the time out to point out the obvious to a grown woman about her relationship.
I have been meaning to write you some time now dear sister to tell you that I noticed that bruise that you so futilely attempted to hide with concealer, the Bobbi Brown one I think it was, the other day but after my outrage and your subsequent defence of her brutality I decided that I did not want to listen to your problems anymore if you continued to not appreciate my advice and to refuse my help. You are a grown woman now, as I am, and my life is finally taking off. I would rather spend my time helping those who want to be helped in any case. If it is your wish to wait the estimated 35 times before reporting your partner to the authorities then so be it or perhaps you want her to beat you to death before justice is served yes? Whatever it is, I, quite frankly, have more important issues to deal with than your never ending drama. After all, I am not even sure it qualifies as domestic violence anyway. I mean, you are both women so it can’t really be abuse now can it?
I have been meaning to write you for a while now dear sister, but I have been swamped with trying to find myself, on my little quasi – Eat Pray Love adventure, that I simply didn’t have the time to tell you that while I was visiting with you a few months ago, I heard you beg your husband to stop and tell him that you would not have sex with him without a condom and yet he forced himself on you anyway. I felt it was hardly my place, as a mere friend and guest, so I did not intercede. Instead I turned off the reading light, switched on my ipod and went to sleep. Besides, you are a grown woman. An educated one at that, so surely you should know that there IS such a thing as marital rape. Not to mention, you know all about his dalliances with all those other women. Lord knows what he picked up along the way and why you didn’t leave his sorry ass a long time ago when you found out about the first affair. Why then should I make it my problem? Were it me in your situation, I’d have kicked him to the curb a long time ago. Instead, you decided to listen to your aunts and the women from your church who told you that a good woman stays with her husband no matter how bad things get. Who told you that men cheat, that’s how they’re programmed and that there is no such thing as marital rape in our culture. In fact that it is your duty as a wife to give it up to him whenever he demands it. Oh and let’s not forgot, you must keep pushing him to come to church with you and maybe one day he’ll stop doing what he’s doing. You chose to ignore the sound advice I gave you, and the story I told you of the woman in a similar situation I’d seen on Oprah who finally, after years of marital rape, left her husband but not without contracting HIV first. I’ll bet that you do not even have the brochure with the helpline number for abused women that I slipped you the other week anymore so really what more do you want from me? I have problems of my own to be busying myself with following up on whether or not you sought help.
I have been meaning to write you for a while now dear sister… to tell you the truth, I have been selfish and I have been afraid and that is why I have not said anything up till now. Afraid that if I keep pushing and sticking my nose in your business it will drive you away and you will cut me out of your life just as she wishes you would. Afraid that everyone will think I am jealous of what you have if I keep insisting that it is ok for you to take the kids and leave. Afraid, dear sister, that if I acknowledge the abuse, I’ll have to acknowledge that my own boss is an abuser. Afraid that if you finally report him to the police, my son will go to jail. Afraid that if I try to empower you, I’ll be robbing my friend of her bright future. You see dear sister, helping you will mean betraying my brother, my uncle/ my father/ my sister/ my friend/ my colleague even though they are an abuser. Not only that, I have also been afraid of the implications of me interceding. How much of my time that would require, how much of a sacrifice of my own relationships with the people I care about I’d have to make for you, not to mention how much of my own resources all this would require (I am really not sure I have that much to spare for you anyway)? I just simply couldn’t risk any of this.
Dear sister, I write this letter to you because I realise now that I have failed you and that it is too late. I had the chance to help you help yourself, to pick you up when you were down and to be your strength when you were forlorn but I let my own needs, which, in retrospect, were minor in comparison to yours, prevent me from being there for you in the way you needed me to be. I realise now that it WAS my job and my place to stand up and fight for you when you couldn’t do it yourself. Dear sister, I see the rage in your son’s eyes when his patience is tested and I recognise it as the look your husband used to get sometimes before we all uncomfortably decided it was time to leave as the atmosphere got tense, knowing that we wouldn’t see you again for a couple of days before you re-emerged with a cut lip or broken arm. We would pretend we didn’t notice or that it was a normal feature on your face because it was just too uncomfortable to talk about it. I fear that if I fail him the way I failed you, he might end up just like his father. I can’t let you down again by letting this cycle continue with your son.
Dear sister, I held your daughter last night and rocked her to sleep when she woke up crying for you again as she does every night. I am trying to be the best mother to her that I can be but I know that will never be quite the same or anywhere near enough. The most I can do for you all now is be the person you needed me to be when you were still here and the person your kids need me to be. I had been meaning to write you this letter for a while dear sister but I never got around to it and now I am afraid that it is too late.
© Doreen Victoria Gaura/ Colouredraysofgrey, 2012