The Red Dress Club: Misstep
Things would be fine. Until something, anything, would set him off. Money. His lack of employment. My disrespect. The child.
I tried to stand my ground. Tried to speak in a calm and controlled voice, just as I’d been coached. It was as if the calmer I spoke, the more his anger grew.
He grabbed my arms. The marks? They would go away. In time. He pushed me against the wall. He’d done it before. Didn’t think much of it. Figured it would end the way it always did.
I never saw it coming: his fist. It landed squarely on my jaw. I tasted something salty. Tears, I assumed. Until I saw droplets of blood fall to the floor.
That’s blood. That’s my blood. Oh God, I’m bleeding.
He stormed off, leaving me in a bit of daze. I could feel my lip begin to swell. But I had to get back to work. No time to feel sorry for myself or wonder how or why that just happened.
A bit later, playing it over and over in my mind, I sorted out what had gone wrong. And how to avoid it the next time. There would be a next time.
Seeking me out, he was clearly filled with remorse.
“I’m so sorry,” he apologized.
“I know. It’s OK.” It was a struggle to speak with a split lip. “No biggie.”
“Yes, it is. I don’t know what happened. We’ve done that dozens of times…”
In the weeks leading up to opening night, “Bill” and I spent many an hour “finding the rage” that we would need to fully inhabit our characters. At seventeen, I had never played anyone who was a victim of what is now called IPV, or Intimate Partner Violence. Working together to find the right balance of emotions was both exhilarating and terrifying. For quite some time, my staccato slumber was darkened by troubling dreams. One particular day-long rehearsal included a character development session in which “Bill” threw me into a chair and screamed at me until I shrunk into the chair, cowering. Intellectually, I knew this was make-believe. But how could I not help but think of the thousands and thousands of girls and women for whom such episodes of violence are not an act?
Though we had blocked the scene, refined it, rehearsed it, something went very wrong on that night. The carefully choreographed fight scene was thrown off by just the slightest misstep.
“‘Bet’. She missed her mark,” I explained, “I had to adjust and…”
“So the blocking was thrown off?”
“Guess that’s why you seemed so much closer.”
“Because I really was closer,” I smiled.
“I really am sorry.”
Red Writing Hood is a writing meme. This week’s prompt was to write about a fight, either fiction or non-fiction, in 600 words or fewer. Immediately, I was transported back to my senior year in high school and the Spring musical. My role as “Nancy” in Oliver! required several scenes involving physical violence. It left a lasting imprint. (Please read here for more.) As always, constructive criticism is appreciated.