He had been going to group ever since he got out of the hole, however, he only participated in the conversation minimally. He said his name. He checked in. He briefly smiled when something was funny and that was the extent of his interactions. But what was being discussed in this session really struck him. The topic made him push his shoulder blades back hard against his chair. This talk about love languages was bizarre to him. It was both engaging and very hoakey at the same time. To have a whole conversation about humans show love was hilarious. He didn’t laugh though. He tried to never laugh out loud in the penitentiary. He felt like it was a liability. So he just smiled for a minute while he threw the concept of “Love Language” around in his head. Dr. Joanne was laying all of the languages out but none of them really resonated with him. She talked about physical touch and that one kind of made sense but it was still off in a sense.
There were eight other convicts there—four Mexicans, three blacks and a Cambodian. He was the only white guy. Presently people were being asked by Dr. Joanne to share their love language and he started to panic a little bit. He felt like whatever his was it hadn’t been discussed yet. There was a black inmate who was right before him and started going on and on about Quality Time. And how the essence of love is the time you spend with people because your voluntarily giving pieces of your life to someone. Then he started talking about how time is the most precious thing that we have and the white man knows that, which is why when you get in trouble he takes away your time and throws you in prison. The blacks said “Hmmmm” in approval and nodded their heads. It was all cool. It just gave him more time to think. By the time it was his turn he was ready.
“Violence,” he said. “My love language is violence.”
Dr. Joanne looked down her nose at him so he went on.
“I don’t mean like in a super tough guy kind of way. I just mean that everyone that has ever loved me has either kicked my ass or tried too. When my father was in between jobs he used to punch us in the face for not ironing our clothes, or talking back, or playing in the house or sleeping too long. Whatever we did was a problem you know. When he did have a job he would beat us for being ungrateful or wearing our shoes out too fast. Then when he didn’t come home my mother would beat us because she was worried or lonely or because she didn’t want us to be like him when we grew up. I got a little older and got bullied at school. One day I couldn’t take it anymore so I chased the bully home with a knife. When he finally came back to school, he wanted to be my best friend. It’s like until I pulled that blade on him I wasn’t a fucking human being you know. Sorry about the language Doctor. So after that he became my closest friend.
So a few years ago I got a woman. And uh, you know she’s pretty and all that. Things are going good. Then one day she gets on my case for drinking. Like she’s really screaming and crying and just going all out. And uh, I punch her. She falls. I panic and I go back to the bar to finish drinking. And that’s where they arrested me.
My point is, I loved her. It’s weird. I still love her. I just uh, I don’t know. Obviously, her love language is different than mine and uh, I need to spend some time learning a different language because I have 18 months left on my sentence and when I get out I’m never coming back to this fucking place again. Excuse my language.”
He smiled briefly.
“Thank you Chris,” Dr. Joanne said. “We’ll talk more about it next Wednesday. This concludes our group session guys. Thank you all. I really appreciated hearing your voices.”
November 13, 2011
What is abuse? The word really baffles me at times. I mean lately I feel as though abuse is the most abused word in the English language. And I hate to say it but some people are just addicted to it. In the same manner that drug addiction is a disease I believe abusive relationships can be a disease as well.
I got a call from a close friend a few a nights ago who told me that she got into a dispute with her boyfriend. The same boyfriend who always verbally berates her and the same boyfriend who she always manages to go back to. Oh yes and this is the same friend who is absolutely always in an abusive relationship. But this time something appeared to be a little different. The tone of her voice sounded as if she was high. Not high on drugs but high on adrenaline. She reminded me of how fighters sound at my gym after they’ve sparred for the first time, and of course that’s what happened. Her boyfriend flipped out and hit her which is something that a man should never ever do, but at the same time when she told me the story it got complicated.
In real life domestic violence situations are always puzzling which I find to be totally irksome. If abuse in the real world was as clear as how Ike Turner abused Tina in the movie “What’s Love Got to do With It” then I would be a considerably less tormented soul, however, this is never the case. She told me she became suspicious of him dating another woman and even though she has seen at least one other guy while they were together she decided to confront him about it; at his home in the projects, with his two little sisters and mother present, in the middle of the night. He responded by asking her to leave which she refused to do. Instead she decided to tell him about some guy who she “almost” slept with the previous night.
Now at this point in the conversation I began to get nauseous and I’m sure you are too. I was finding it hard to conceal my contempt for her atrocious judgment. And I never want to blame the victim but it was difficult for me to restrain from doing so because I care about the victim and don’t want to see her in that situation again. It’s troubling because my friend is an educated, highly articulate, young poetess. So I can never understand why she puts herself in so many bad spots.
After she says this the guy gets upset and slams her to the ground. She gets up swinging and then he socks her one good time in the face. She says after that she passed out on the bed and woke up an hour later to ask him for ice. He refused. She went back to sleep. She woke up the next morning to his kisses. He asked was she OK, which I guess brought her a certain amount of joy. A few moments later he took her car keys and said he needed to take his little sisters to school. I stopped her after that. It was too much.
I asked her what she was going to do. She said her home girl took pictures of the bruises and she filed a police report. I asked her the same question again and she said she didn’t know. She doesn’t want him in the system because the system won’t help him and she couldn’t say whether or not she was going to get back with him because she needed time to think about. I can’t remember anything else she said because I tuned her out. As smart as the young lady is she’s very stupid.
I just can’t comprehend it. In the past I’ve had a loved one put his freedom and his athletic scholarship on the line to violently defend the honor of his sister who was beaten up by her boyfriend only to see them walk in the house hand in hand a few months later at Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve also been in situations where I felt as though a woman was deliberately pushing my buttons in order for me to strike her and then she considered me to be less of a man when I did no such thing.
I know that there are countless people in the world who have abusive partners and it is something that we need to aggressively pursue an end to as a society but at the same time there is a contingent of people in this world who seem to find a certain peace inside the chaos of an abusive relationship. For some people who grew up in abusive households violence is to dating just as dinner is to a movie. I’m wondering is it still abuse if someone goes out of their way to make it happen or is it merely a perverse partnership only understood by a select few. I’m not sure I’ll ever know.