Fight Or Flight

I wrote this essay for my writing class this term, and told whoever read my blog that I would post it… So here you go. Names have been changed, of course.


There is nothing quite like being paralyzed by fear. When we are faced with a situation like this – knowing that no matter what action or inaction we take, we’re wrong – we often resort to our most primitive instincts, simply doing what we must to get ourselves out of the situation. Fight or flight. When we are not allowed extrication, we go further – feeling like we would give up everything else if we could just give up this one person. Escape becomes everything.

I was in a situation like this. My then-boyfriend, Paul, was a strange guy, with what I recognized as antisocial mannerisms. I didn’t mind his behavior until he started having outbursts of rage. Occasional tantrums quickly turned into semi-regular, which soon became monthly.

It would start with something small, usually. He would be playing a video game while I busied myself with homework. Then – it was like a switch – he would suddenly not be playing. Without warning, he was demolishing the controller, tearing the analog sticks and buttons out, literally pulling it to sheds and hurling its remnants against the walls. This wasn’t a quiet activity, either. Along with the blare of the surround sound game in the background and the destruction of the technology he loved so much, his tormented roars would echo through the hallway, somehow ignored by his family in the other rooms. A game had caused this. He felt that he was in no way overreacting by destroying his belongings; punching and kicking holes in the walls was obviously the rational thing to do.

I don’t know why I was surprised when he turned his fury on me. I should have expected it, especially because it had happened toward the beginning of our relationship, but my naivety led me to believe that his promises to never hurt me again were genuine. The first time “was a fluke” – he was upset that I had asked his ex-girlfriend if they were still seeing each other, and even more upset that she had said they were. She, being more realistic than me, let him crawl back to her. I let my insecurity and loneliness drag me back to him.

It was a recognizable cycle; all of my ex-boyfriends had cheated on me repeatedly because I allowed them the opportunities. This was no different, except that with Paul, instead of just a broken heart and bruised ego, I was rewarded with a black eye and obliterated sense of pride.

The point where I realized that this was a pattern was when he actually used his hand against me. The first time he had hit me, it was with his forehead, breaking my nose. He had begged forgiveness, telling me that he had never been so angry and would never do that again. The funny thing was that I had left the friends that I had gone to for solace that night, literally telling them, “If I’m not at work tomorrow, it’s because he killed me. Here’s his address.”

I don’t think that I knew how strange that was; to even consider visiting a person who I thought might end my life now seems absolutely insane. It probably was. It was certainly insane to think that he might never do it again, to trust him when he so obviously had trouble dealing with his anger.

When he used his hand on me the first time, it was because I had been texting my best friend. One of his seven cats had died, and instead of telling me, he went to his ex-girlfriend. She had been a constant point of conflict between us, and it was common for me to complain to my friends about her. Trying to convince Paul to stop dating both of us was futile and only ended in arguments, so I had given up on talking to him about her. When I left the room that night, though, he looked through my phone. He saw that I had talked to my best friend about it and lost all sense of reason, saying that he would not care when my dad died. I was being “so insensitive” about his cat by discussing it with my friend. I responded by slapping his arm.

In hindsight, I realize that I should not have done this, especially with such a volatile person. I also realize that his reaction was unreasonable – he wound his arm up and backhanded me, then snidely remarked, “I hope you get a black eye.”

I started crying, probably saying something brilliant like, “You hit me!” Then, stupidly, I tried to leave. This resulted in him blocking me in and removing anything I could use to call the police. He thought that, after our argument, the best thing for us to do was to sleep in the same bed, so I did. There was no other option; even with a house full of people and me screaming as loudly as I could, no one came to help. The black eye he wished for formed a day later.

The same things happened every few months – being trapped in a room, no way out, with someone I no longer considered human. Every time, we would say, “this can’t happen anymore,” and every time, it would happen. It didn’t matter where it was – similar things happened in hotels, and to stop anyone from hearing my screams, he would choke me until I was silent.

My escape ended up being myself. I found, after three years, that our relationship would never be healthy. It would never change. My instincts told me to run, and I did. I removed any possibility of him coming near me by first moving from Portland to Los Angeles, then traveling to Australia. I reported him once, just to help the next girl. Nothing meant more to me than feeling human instead of savage and degraded. My decision to leave made everything that I really wanted possible.

6 thoughts on “Fight Or Flight

  1. I remember PAUL.i also remember the textjng. I cannotbe happier that that sitution is done. Cannot be sadder than i am now knowing 2 things… 1- i never slapped him with fish and 2- yo I never let me run him over or beat the snot out f PAUL.

  2. I agree with fianchna, the world would be such a better place without people such as that person and well that person specifically.

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