Silence can be restricting, like a hand choking you to death while slowly cutting off your air supply. Silence can be liberating, like a bird swiftly moving through the air. But most of all, silence can be comforting, like an old friend. Silence may be many things, but the feature that always stood out to her was its familiarity. Whether she was having a productive day or a miserable one, the silence would always be her companion.
The days seemed long, and the nights seemed longer. But the misery of the night was hidden by the fabric of the mask she donned in the morning. It had taken years to stitch this mask– layers upon layers of inequality, patriarchy, and subservience were mixed together until it became an identity for an entire gender.
While accepting his proposal, she had never suspected the future that lay ahead. The thinly veiled smiles at their union would soon change to glares, the arms that once hugged her close would be replaced by a strong grip, and the mouth that had ravished hers would be defiled by foul words of abuse. It had started with disagreements, quickly escalating to arguments, and culminating in full-blown fistfights. The evidence of his love often showed on her previously unblemished skin. His lavender kisses found a home on her wrists, slowly slinking up towards her neck. Unfortunately, the make-up and sweaters could not account for the trauma she had suffered.
Her only solace was his work, which granted her eight hours of solitude and severance from the inevitable nightmare that would follow. The moment he stepped out of their home, she would take her first breath of the day. It was the time she would smile, laugh, shout, and dance. For when she was alone she could experience a semblance of her old life– a life that did not involve tiptoeing around her lover.
Encountering him once the sun had set was like walking through a minefield with a blindfold tied around your eyes. She was like a balloon that was close to bursting in his presence; always waiting with bated breath to be a victim to his explosion. She never knew what would be the trigger that would set it all off, for it was a different one each day. As she had learnt, mistakes meant anger, and anger led to experiences that she wished to erase from her memory. It started off easy, with a slap or two, escalating to strands of hair pulled out of her immaculate hairdo. Tears were spilt, but to no avail, for once it began there was only one way it would end. She eventually learnt that her crying made it worse. From that day onwards, she endured his love in silence.
But one day, things got worse as the world came to a standstill. There were additional rules to the regular ones (read: she must be his subservient to him) and this infuriated him as much as it vexed her. An idle mind is a devil’s workshop, but here, the devil would be unable to compete. He barked at her more often and did not leave for work every day. Instead, he parked himself at the dining table, the perfect vantage point to attack her as she cooked for his highness in the kitchen.
In the guise of supervising her, he slipped into her camp behind the stove, feeling her up against her wishes. His lust for her body was amplified, and he began to take out his frustration on her, painting her skin with vivid blues and reds. The frequency of their rendezvous increased rapidly, as did her thoughts of wishing to escape from this living nightmare. But still, she said nothing.
The omnipresent threat of her lover was growing day by day, along with his frustration at being confined to the four walls of their home. But it was far from a home- it was a fortress that she had been lured into with no means of escape. Work kept him busy, but not busy enough to ignore her presence. She wished for nothing more than for the world to return to its previous state, for at least then she was able to be away from him for a few hours. But now, he never left her side day in and day out. He was her sole companion apart from her destructive thoughts. Though she lived in silence, the voices inside her head never stopped screaming.
Sixty days into this new routine, she had had enough. She waited until the rules were relaxed to attempt abandoning this way of life forever. A plan was plotted and her bag was packed. That night, when he trapped her in between his strong, hairy arms, she had given up all thoughts of offering him a reprieve. After she waited for him to fall asleep one last time, she ran. She ran until she could not breathe, not stopping until the fear of being caught had dissipated from her mind. She was finally free, no longer a servant to a cruel master. But she did not celebrate her victory. Instead, she reveled in the familiarity of the silence.