My Cousin

There are iron bars on the balcony of my aunt’s house. She had them installed after her ex son-in-law clambered onto the balcony from the pipes outside.

My cousin is alright, now, and she goes to work and stays out some nights while her ex in-law’s take care of her daughter, her mother takes care of herself, and prison wardens take care of her ex, who is in prison for murder–who will, perhaps, be executed for murder.

Before, before he stabbed a faceless stranger and then stabbed him to death and went to prison for it, he beat my cousin. But he’s not doing his time for that, no, because wife-beating, when it’s not severe enough to send a woman to the hospital, is one of those crimes that can only be met with sighs from pursed lips, and helpless head-shaking. It happened so long ago, not very long ago, actually, and there isn’t much to say about it other than “it happened”, and that’s that.

Well, my cousin did go to the hospital–twice in fact–but still, abuse happens and bruises form and maybe lips are split, and it’s really not something too bad, is it, to be beaten by your husband who, one day after you separated from him, went to your apartment building and bashed your mother’s head hard enough to make her receive stitches. This is fine. It’s not something very serious. It’s certainly not serious enough for him to go to jail for it, but maybe that’s because he’s already in there for something far more heinous, which is the taking of a human life.

(He almost took her life.)

He didn’t stab her. No. He beat her, maybe in front of their daughter–I hope to God not–and then she tried to kill herself. Sleeping pills. She went limp and the life was leaving her, and then they found her and rushed her to the hospital, where she had her stomach pumped, and she woke up, and went home, and everything was fine for a while, or not, because he might have been still beating her–I wasn’t there to see, this is something that was over before I knew it had started.

And then she did it again.

Pills. Pills, again. Funny how they’re so easy to come by, when they can be so dangerous. She downed them, a bottle maybe, I’m not sure how much, and to her, it was probably like swallowing all her regrets and her anguish and her hopeless anger and betrayal and fear, one big mess tumbling down her throat. (He killed that bit of her brain that told her to live, and that’s rather like taking her life, stabbing her, isn’t it?)

They found her again, naturally, because they were at home, and she was sent to doctors and saved. Again. And after that, she was beaten. Again. And after that, she separated from him, and went to live with her mother, my aunt, the one who installed the iron bars on the balcony after he tried to get in the house one day. He begged, pleaded, he got down on his knees with flowers and their daughter crying beside him–she was what, seven then? Asked for her to take him back, and she, for some reason, was torn, and afraid, and unsure what to do.

(This is guesswork. I’m imagining real things happen.)

But eventually she found the courage to leave him, completely. Divorce. It was not clean, not a knife down the middle, because after they split, he waited by her house for her to get off from work, and then he got in her face and ended up bashing her mother’s head.

There was blood, and screaming, I assume.

Luckily, he didn’t kill them.

After, it was quieter. He left them alone. Perhaps a little talking-to by the police, or a few days’ lock-up did the trick–although I’m not really sure if either happened. Their daughter was left in the care of her ex in-law’s–whom the girl still lives with–and he, well, went on being a despicable excuse for a human and wound up stabbing some guy, someday, for whatever reason.

The guy wound up in the hospital demanding compensation. So he waited until the guy was out from the place, before stabbing him again, until the guy died. Simple. He stabbed him and the guy died. And he went to prison.

It’s better this way. Not for the dead guy, God no, he was just an unlucky sucker who happened to get stabbed and killed by some psychotic man. Better for my cousin, I mean. He might get a life sentence to iron (steel?) bars and shaved heads and prison uniforms, he might be executed–made to kneel on the ground somewhere and shot–not with a handgun or one of those hunting contraptions that send bee-swarm flurries into wild fowls–but he’ll be shot, if he’s sentenced to it. Maybe it would be better if he is shot. Perhaps, if he is dead, my cousin will sleep a little easier knowing that he can’t possibly escape to hunt her down, not anymore.

Problem is, her daughter–do I call her my neice?–is only almost ten. She probably knows more about all of this than I do, but I wish it didn’t have to be that way. I wish she didn’t have to have a messed-up family like this. I wish she didn’t have to grow up and realize that her father is a murderer. They live in a small city; what if her classmates mock her for it? I don’t want to think about it.

There’s the question: Is it better to have a living father who is in prison for the rest of his life, so you have to imagine him languishing there, or is it better to have a dead father who weighs down on your imagination because he’s dead and you know the reason (he was evil)? There doesn’t seem to be a right answer. Either way, this whole story is messed-up and it darts all over the place, because when I think about it, it is all so simple:

Girl meets man. Girl gets pregnant. Girl marries man. Girl has child. Girl is abused by man. Girl attempts to commit suicide, twice. Girl divorces man. Man kills stranger. Man goes to prison OR Man is sentenced to death.

Yet at the same time is terribly complex and horrible and mind-numbing. I keep wondering why she stayed, why she took the abuse for as long as she did, why she tried to kill herself instead of divorcing him. Did she still love him? Did she worry about what other people would say? Did she worry her mother or daughter would get hurt?

It’s hard to understand the emotions behind all of those decisions. I think about it and I always feel slightly sick, because my cousin is twenty-nine years old, and she seems happy when she sees us, but is she? Is she reminded of her ex husband when she looks at her daughter? I can’t begin to understand what she felt, what she still feels, about it all. Because I feel cold when I think about that live woman going through all this shit, and it seems almost unreal, because it’s totally unfair.

Is it possible to still be happy after things like this happen? Or I should ask, Is there a particular reason why these things happen? Is the suffering supposed to be some sort of test? Does it mean nothing at all? I keep thinking that Everything happens for a reason, that there is some meaning to even bad things–suffering and pain cannot just be nothing–but I haven’t convinced myself of it, because no one deserves to ever suffer like this, no one, not ever. Are they just fated to be hurt? Why them? Why anything? People say to accept life’s hardships, but are horrendous crimes just included in the “hardships” part of what That Bitch Called Fate throws at us?

I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe things are planned out for us. Wouldn’t it be unfair and cruel that some things are planned out for people, that they are, for some reason, supposed to be harmed?

(Who ever said that life was fair, though?)

I don’t even know what I’m talking about now. I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I read stories, I read news, I watch movies, and in them, people get hurt. And I always feel cold all over because I feel like they could be anyone, they could be me. I could grow up to be my cousin, and marry someone who will leave bruises all over me. Maybe I won’t be brave enough to leave, who knows? No one can explain these things.

I just want it to stop. Aren’t you supposed to become indifferent to violence after you read a lot about it? Aren’t you supposed to be desensitized? I feel like I just get more sensitive. It just hurts more. I suppose it’s because I hate the way they still happen, I hate seeing victims, because I hate the evil that has hurt them so. I look at someone who is hurting and think, that could be me, that could be my friend, my family.

My cousin just happens to be a real-life example of abuse. Of violence. Of the terrible things that people can do to others.

I feel almost ashamed to say things like “at least she’s not dead”, as if you’re supposed to count yourself dreadfully lucky not to be murdered or raped, because these things always happen and as long as it’s not happening to you, well, hooray for that.

I start thinking about these things and I can’t stop even though maybe I should, because thinking never helped anyone, and I am so helpess to stop anything, and hearing about this sort of stuff just depresses everyone around you.

But I write it down anyway.

(Which doesn’t make me feel much better.)

2 thoughts on “My Cousin”

  1. I want to write something to help you. But I don’t know what. You shouldn’t have these sad scenarios playing in your mind over and over and over; but I surely understand why you do—-it’s such traumatic stuff. And right there in your family. I’m so sorry you have this burden. I will pray for you, though. And if I think of anything helpful to say I will write you again. Be blessed. Well…..one thing comes to my mind. In the Bible (I think 1Peter 5:7 it says “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” If you believe in God, give these worries over to Him, and pray for things to be better. Praying (just talking to Him) helps so much. I hope you will try that. Hug.

  2. I’m sorry that your cousin had to experience such a horrible thing. Myself, I believe everything happens for a reason. Some things that happen are awful, horrible and like you said, what they don’t deserve, but in the end, it must lead to something important and good. I’ll be praying so that everything goes better for your cousin and her daughter, and for you as well.

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