Screaming permeated the walls of the house. In the darkness, I leaned up against my car, can of beer held loosely in my hand, staring up at the towering structure. My chest began to tighten as I wondered, for the first time, what I had really gotten myself into.
My left hand toyed with the cell phone that lay dormant in my jeans pocket. Eyes drifting away from the house, the lids closed over them. I could feel my heart beating wildly through my chest as I furiously contemplated my next move.
I pushed myself off the car and began to walk towards the deserted street. My cheeks grew hot and I felt tears pounding at my eyes. Why did I let him control me with his anger, with his sickness? I lifted my arm and harshly threw the beer can into the street, the liquid fizzing and exploding out of the top, spurting into amber puddles in the night.
With a start, I stopped and spun around. Glass crashed from within the house, a scream followed. I ran towards my car, got in with a jolt. Once backed into the street, I thrust it into drive and pulled out my phone.
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“911, what’s your emergency?”
I swallowed hard and stared unblinkingly ahead. “Yes, I, um… I think that my boyfriend is beating up his mother. He’s very drunk.”
“How do you know?”
“I was just over there, I heard it happening.”
“Are you there now?”
I blinked. “No…”
“Okay, where is the incident taking place?”
I told her the details through clenched teeth, despite the hot tears running down my face. This is not what love is, I lamented as I pressed the accelerator harder. This is all a game to him. He drew me in with talk of love, with compliments of how perfect I am. Yeah, just perfect enough to manipulate and control.
“Can you go back there to speak to the police officer?”
No, no, no, no…
Ending the call, the screen blinked blank as I shoved it back into my pocket. As I licked my lips, a sob wrenched my body. As counterintuitive as it was, I couldn’t help but go back. I had to make sure his mother, a woman who had dealt with an alcoholic husband and now an alcoholic son, was okay. And the passive, ‘yes-sir’, do-anything-to-please-you side of me wanted to make sure the man I was now ashamed to call my boyfriend would be okay, too.
On the deserted highway, I abruptly turned the wheel to the left in a u-turn, and headed back to the disaster I just couldn’t escape.
I followed the two distinct yellow beams back to where I started, running over the beer can I had thrown in the street as I steered back into the driveway. A squad car waited for me, as did two silhouettes with flailing arms and moving lips.
My hands were sweating as the car died. One foot lowered to the pavement, and before the other could follow suit, I was met head on by Sue.
“You were encouraging him, weren’t you?” Mere inches from my face she screamed, the smell of sleep and cough drops wafting towards me. “This is all your fault! He wouldn’t drink if it weren’t for you!”
I was speechless. Ben had been into drugs and drinking long before I met him. Taken aback, I grunted incoherently as the police officer came up to us. “Now, ma’am,” he said, calmly. “Let’s just calm down.” He stepped between Sue and I; he said to me in a low voice, “Come with me so we can talk.”
We walked away from her, but as I moved, I noticed Ben was now nowhere to be found. Instinctively I put my hand on the cop’s elbow and he stopped. “Ben’s gone.” He hummed a question, and I repeated, panic ripping my voice, “Ben’s gone. My boyfriend, he left.”
“Do you believe he is a danger to himself or others?”
I shook my head rapidly. If I hadn’t thought he was a danger to himself or others, would I have called 911 in the first place? “Yes!” I wailed.
The officer nodded once and headed over to his squad car. I shot a death look at Sue and in that same instant my cell phone began to vibrate in my pocket. I whipped it up to my face. I said, seething, “Where are you?”
“You don’t understand,” Ben slurred. His voice sounded strained. “Neither does Mom. No one does!”
“Ben, calm down. Just come home.”
“You called the cops on me!”
“I could hear you guys screaming from outside. What was I supposed to do, let you beat your mother to death?”
Silence filled my ears. I pulled in a breath when Ben continued, “I have a knife.” Another moment passed, my mouth agape in shock. “I’m going to kill myself.”
“Where are you?” I repeated.
No answer. Only sobs.
“Ben, where are you? You need help.” My muscles clenched. “I want to help you.”
“I’m cutting my wrists.”
Eyes wide, I whirled and shouted, “He’s going to kill himself! We need to find him, now!”
“Any idea where he might be?” the officer said, his calm beginning to crumble.
“Probably at the park up the street.”
“I’m on it.” He turned from me as I hung my head, but he stopped short. “Do you want to take custody of him? He can’t stay at his mother’s tonight…”
“No, I don’t want custody of him.” The officer nodded and advanced into the dark. I closed my eyes.
Why do I love him so much? Fresh tears plastered my cheeks as I thought about Ben alone and hopeless in jail, or the hospital. I was the only hope he had.
My hands clenched and unclenched. I looked up and took a step forward. “Wait…” The officer slowly approached me again as I heard myself say, “I’ll take him in.”