February 14, 2019

Ah, Valentine’s Day, a day full of eagerness to please and expectations that come in the form of heart-shaped candy, chocolates, roses and extravagant dates. I could easily expound on my amorous journeys, and go all “Notebook” on you, but I won’t. Instead, I’m going to tell you how I managed to spend my Valentine’s Day, two years ago, alone in a bar, drowning my sorrows in beer that’s blacker (and colder) than your ex’s heart, and jeering at couples who have stupidly wandered into my very tragic anti-V-Day party.

By a twist of cruel fate, I had come to love a guy who had mistaken my kindness and benevolent love for a stage on which he could perform his acts of lunacy and despair. There were police involved, a good amount of slightly fraudulent court visitations and a great deal of blood spill.

Wait, don’t panic. I haven’t told you how it ends yet.

Spoiler alert: Nobody dies but somebody’s ego did take a huge bruising.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a little trip down memory lane; where things were cinematically technicolour, like the endless fields of tulips in Noordoostpolder, Holland. They say that the universe has a great sense of humour, whereby something that possesses such a dreamlike quality can suddenly metamorphose into your worst nightmare. He, Mister X, had stepped into my life with the youthful dexterity of a young buck. A little aloof, a little mysterious, splicing the banalities of life with a certain joie de vivre that was far and few between. He had an air of nonchalance about him, integral to his charm. You would have liked Mister X. Hell, I was smitten. Infatuation quickly gave way to the ferocity of a thousand suns. It might as well have been that way since the blistering heat scorched all remaining logic out of my system.

He was a classical pianist, a weaver of sensational tunes, the man with the magic fingers. Despite the incessant arguments, once behind the piano, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Astor Piazzolla came to life. There are no words to succinctly describe how it made me feel. The pensive gentleness in his face translating to sensual rhythmic texture and lightning fast dynamic shifts. It’s breathtaking, and all grievances are tossed out the window. It wasn’t long before I was well-versed in the piano sonatas of Camille Saint Saëns and Edvard Grieg’s lyric pieces; something I never saw my tone-deaf self engaging in. But as they say, love makes you do the unimaginable.

We got married in the summer of 2016, to the clinking of beer mugs surrounded by close friends and family in a local brewery by the coast. Mister X promised to be the way the ground folds under my feet, the rushing of waves and waterfalls, the silence and the absence of it, and all things untamed. I promised to safeguard his heart through thick and thin.

That would eventually be my demise.

Things went sour very quickly. It’s as if someone hit the Jekyll and Hyde switch. Like in The Beautiful and Damned, Mister X’s relationship with booze climaxed with an evocation of the state that was close to his artistic heart. And because I was so deeply besotted with his musical edge, I allowed it to happen. There was no median, no mild intoxication. He would often challenge his own self-awareness of alcohol’s ruinous effects, pushing the boundaries till violent drunkenness showed its ugly head.

In my defence, I never knew he had it in him. His deep-seated issues, masked and hidden like skeletons in a closet till we were pronounced man and wife. These quickly manifested in ugly spates of demeaning acts and condescending words used, sometimes in public spaces, but more often in the confines of our home. They happened frequently, more often than I hoped to remember. While on our honeymoon in Stavanger, Norway, he hit me in the face so hard, I bonked my head on the pavement and concussed, only to regain consciousness to a horrifying sight of my husband being assaulted by two other men (Yes, Norwegian men are very protective of women). I ran to his defence, feeling a shower of punches rain down on me as I dragged him to safety. Another time, he shoved me on the pavement and ruthlessly stomped on my toes till they were blackened and bleeding to prevent my attempts at escaping.

The irony was that I never wanted to. Through thick and thin.

Nights often ended in similar fashion—involving me lugging a grown man onto our bed, being on vomit clean-up duty and then waking up to a seemingly satiric Groundhog Day narrative. The beauty of alcohol is that in large doses, it can lead to blackouts and memory gaps. There would be no sorries exchanged; Mister X exhibited no remorse.

“Why didn’t you just leave?”

I hate to address this comment. But months of counselling following the separation uncovered a certain ugly truth. Loving him became an unhealthy obsession. An addiction that involved a futile search for highs, reciprocation of love, between the bad times. I thought if I showered him with enough love, then maybe he would change. Maybe in time, when he had flushed all the demons out of his system, the bad would go away and we’d live that dream life I envisioned. I have to admit, it was foolish.

It took me a long time to come to my senses that my acceptance of every kind of folly or vice that stemmed from his misdemeanour was not a symbol of love, but a profoundly cruel assessment: “You expect no better of a partner. You’re not enough.” My already poor self-esteem suffered a heavy beating.

Only a masochist could ever love such a tormented soul.

I remember the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It was my thirtieth birthday. Mister X had thrown a left hook which left a gaping hole in my lower gums and crimson red blood stains all over the Elgin bridge. My wrists were bruised from being dragged around, and my knees torn from being pushed to the ground. With my last burst of energy, I conjured enough strength to fling my Cartier wedding ring into the river—along with my faith in the sanctity of my marriage. Mister X was dead to me.

I laid naked in our bed that night beside him, surprised the police didn’t come barging through the door by my crazed screaming. Earlier, Mister X had tried to suppress it by smothering me with his fists. I writhed and fought back, my body slowly succumbing to exhaustion. You might die on this bed tonight and it’s okay, I thought before I slept soundly that night, resigned to my fate.

A month later, the scars had healed to the extent that I could masquerade it as a gum infection gone wrong, but the wounds extended far beyond the facade. I was emotionally ravaged, a dire state which my family had to deal with after I came clean about my situation. I was shamed into silence. Abuse. Society does not usually believe this word especially with it being thrown around so flagrantly. In fact, my then mother-in-law accused me of lying. But for the true victims, we have to claim our battles.

My abuse was not copious amounts of concealer used to cover my bruises. My abuse was not a police officer asking me to recount the events of assault in great detail. My abuse was not a restraining order, or the visits to the marriage counsellor. My abuse was a radiant soul who wormed his way into my heart with beautiful music.

Finally, 3 years later, the marriage has been annulled. Through the doubt, the anxiety, the depression: It didn’t win. I’m still fighting.

But on Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded that loving him was reckless. It was something I did anyway, but I should have known better.


[Read More: Finding Myself Again: The Positive Side of a Breakup]