That would be the time. 4 a.m. A little late tonight. Four hours in the Harborview ER, watching other people’s emergencies, watching, protecting her while she was poked and prodded in a hallway, x-rayed, returned to the hallway for more poking and prodding, waiting for test results, watching over her as she slept, finally, waiting. Bruised face, broken capillaries in whites of her eyes, she’ll have a nice shiner above her right eye, but it’s unlikely the bite mark above her left breast will leave a scar. Sister-in-law in the waiting room, can she come back to see her? Sure, of course, but no, the nurses won’t allow visitors while she’s still in the hallway. Not private enough. Irony.
2. The number of times he’s done this to her. She’s unusual, most of our victims have seen the inside of a palm rain down on their face many more times before we get to them, before they’re hurt badly enough to call the police, to realize the next time they may die. The first was in April, her family was away on vacation, just her and her little brother at home. Too ashamed to tell anyone, too afraid to call the police. “I’ll kill you” echoing in her nightmares, hoping it won’t happen again. But she loves him, and he apologizes a month later and she lets him back into her life. Angry. So angry all the time. His family doesn’t understand him, her family doesn’t like him, he needs her. Needs her to need only him. Restricts who she can see, when she can go out. Domination and control, the name of the game.
9. The number of x-rays of her neck and throat they took, just to be sure he hadn’t crushed anything irreparable when he took her larynx between his two fingers and squeezed until she couldn’t breathe. Never mind the two bite marks and the bruising, it hurt to swallow, which could be more serious. She was too afraid to yell out, even though her family was just on the other side of the door. Too afraid of what he might do. Better to let him leave, pretend it didn’t happen. Again. But the marks show, little brother called the police, but he was already gone, left the scene, at large.
8. The number of police and firemen and women who responded to the call, including volunteers with the Domestic Violence Victim Support Team, we’re here to help, we want you to be safe, it’s not your fault. She needs to be evaluated, we’re bringing her to Harborview. Holiday weekend, lots of drunks, lots of accidents, broken limbs, battered bodies. Trauma center, the only one in the area, the worst it gets. Never been to the ER, surrounded by strangers, feeling like everyone is looking at her, reading her shame in the bruises on her face, blaming her for needing them. Bed in the hallway, need to take pictures for the police report, get her statment, Officer Anderson ready to go find him, bring him in, make sure he won’t do this to her again. A moment, finally of relative quiet, how is she doing, introductions, what happened, has it happened before. Safety planning. Hospital social worker, asks if she has a place to go tonight, yes, yes, that’s all taken care of.
22. The number of years, plus some six or so months, she’s been alive. She looks younger, afraid, uncertain, still not willing to believe she isn’t at fault. 22.. where was I? Blissfully unaware that someone you love could beat you, could throw you by your hair into a wall, bite you hard enough to break the skin and leave distinct impressions of all his teeth in your flesh, even nine hours later. Tetanus shot. Human bites are worse than animal bites, more opportunity for infection, an antibiotic just in case, you’re not allergic to penicillan, are you?
*sigh* Too young.