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Nice Girls Don’t Hit

by Nicole Caldwell

I have been hiding something I want to share with you. I was feeling slightly suicidal the other day when this knife in the dish dryer scratched my arm. I had to laugh. The knife belonged to my ex-husband.

The snow softened under our skis from the February sun which hung in a vast blue winter sky. I looked down the face of the mountain covered in moguls and ice with a gut full of fear. I wanted to turn back away from the racing gates. I had never raced before and rarely went down that ski run. We were probably ten or eleven. I can still see him, leaning on his ski poles sliding his skis back and forth like socks trying to collect static. Smiling that crooked white tooth smile I fell in love with. “You can do it” he said, “just go slow, take your time.” And I did. We practiced all day for that Valentines ski race he talked me into.

We were competing against a girl who bullied me. A real Updike Queen B type wrapped in a clan of sheep minded posse, like a fur stole meant to keep a collar bone warm. I don’t know what went on in her home at night, to make her hate me so much. I just know I frequently missed the bus for school, hid inside from the tormenting playground while classmates recessed in fresh air. I spent mornings of my youth pulling a yellow checkered comforter to my chin, lying to my mother about a stomach ache, not the flu. I can still see Queen bully standing in a linoleum speckled hallway, armored with her clan, awarding me a hate petition signed by all my classmates, a trophy she designed and titled “The Waddler Award” in honor of my waddling walk which they mocked, complete with quacking.

Frankly I steer away from drama queen stories, finding them repulsive and embarrassing. But I want you to know something. It’s not about me. It’s about the things we talk about when we talk about love.

I married that boy, many years later, the first boy I ever kissed.

My husband was my friend. We hitchhiked across country, ending up in a small Texan town nestled in the Sangre de Cristobal Mountains. I can still see him on his knees asking me to grow old with him. In many ways I still love him very much. I would’ve done most anything to have stayed with him. But I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my freedom or my life. That was a long time ago, and until recently I couldn’t see what I just shared with you now. I could only see his smile turned to a sneer, his eyes which became shaded. I could see my journal being shredded and thrown out the second story window. White pieces of my heart fluttering nakedly through the blue sky. I could remember the hollow ache while staying up all night worrying about him when he was arrested for pissing outside and never called. I know, it sounds like a typical relationship gone sour. Ours went rancid. I can see his figure in a manic state waving a 357 pistol throughout my home at an hour when the world’s asleep. I can remember what it felt like to calmly tell him to remove the knife he held at my throat. I remember sitting at a cold grey metal desk filing papers of betrayal.

I try to remember what I did.

Instead I remember these things without answers: my amazement while feeling my head full of lumps like a Bugs Bunny character pounded with an anvil; being curled up on a kitchen floor while my ribs are kicked, a bright red Dirt Devil in the corner silently watching; being thrown down a flight of icy metal stairs on a cold November night; looking around a room full of people who do not know that underneath I am beaten.

I was so careless.

You know, I even said aloud to myself to not marry him, but my left ear had been punched the month before so maybe I couldn’t hear so well. That ear has never been the same, even after all these years.

Most of all I still remember how I felt looking up at jagged rocks of Bob Cat pass down that old mining road, seeing my life pass before me on the vast blue sky. I remember thinking, as my skull was being smushed into the gravel road and suffocation rippled through my airways blanketing me in static fuzz, they’re right, life really does pass before you when you are dying.

I couldn’t breathe… I couldn’t breathe.

I still can’t breathe.

When I hear his voice today, I feel a surge of anger. Power placing me back into my feet. I want to see him and smash his face, but nice girls don’t hit.

He said he’d stuff my body in a mine. I think in some ways he did.