Right in the Eye
I killed him. I did. I suppose I should have felt some kind of guilt or remorse but those feelings never occurred to me. My immediate and final reaction was relief. I had no choice. It finally came down to him or me. My actions were inevitable.
His abuse of me was no secret to anyone. My body bore the colors and stains of his irrational anger. I never tried to hide them. I wanted others to know. I wanted justice. I wanted vindication. I wanted somebody to save me; to stop him. But nobody wanted to get involved. Whatever was going on was between a husband and wife. It was nobody else’s business. And so no one ever intervened on my behalf.
I made them uncomfortable. Seeing me like that compelled them to have an opinion; to take sides; to confront the immorality of their silence. But I refused to hide. I wanted them to be feel guilty about their cowardice, to feel uncomfortable in the comfort of their own lives.
I’d wear my bloodied, bruised face and body into town, forcing them to confront their own complicity by doing nothing. Passing people on the street, I would look them in the eye and nod hello. When I walked into the General Store, they’d all turn to look and see who’d just come in, and then immediately, they’d look away. I would walk right up to the counter, and ask for what I needed, and they had to wait on me, all the while pretending they didn’t understand that I’d been beaten like an intransigent mule.
Some of them felt sympathy but I didn’t need their pity. I needed action. Most shunned me, as if I were shameful. But why should I have felt shame? He was the guilty one. I was merely his victim.
I always knew that the day might come when I reached my limit, and I wanted everyone to understand why.
We worked our own land, so although he was known in town, he mostly kept to himself. He mostly drank at home, but occasionally he drank at the saloon. After a few, he would become belligerent. But nobody ever stopped him from drinking, and nobody every stopped him from going home, even knowing what he was likely to do when he got there.
And then one night, in one of his rages, he grabbed me by the throat and nearly strangled me to death. I managed to get away. I grabbed his gun and I shot him, right in the bed.
I didn’t know what would happen to me but I didn’t run. In any case, I had nowhere to go. In the morning, I went into town and presented myself to the sheriff. There was a trial. It was quick. I had nothing much to say in my own defense that wasn’t already obvious to all from the marks on my neck and years of history.
The jury of men deliberated for a long time but in the end, they could not set me free. That would send a bad message to the other wives. And so, I was hanged.
I was calm when they put the noose around my neck. I felt I had fulfilled my destiny.