You stand, cup of coffee in hand, towering over me, refusing to sit down, too close, your face set in the familiar jaw-jutting meanness.
I try to keep calm – although you are bigger and stronger than I, and I DO feel frozen with fear – because I don’t want this to flare into nastiness.
But when I suggest you might sit down, you glare at me and say, ‘I don’t WANT to…’
Of course you don’t: You have very quickly established your physical superiority over me, and would not wish to forego that big advantage.
But stand up to you, or back down, nothing I do makes any difference.
You say what you say, spite oozing through the thin hole you will allow others to see in your perfect reflection.
It is, you claim, ABOUT MONEY – but I know, for it is obvious, that the usual seething anger is at work here, and that I am being punished, controlled, for something else.
You quiz me on recent purchases, and then, when I do not answer you speedily enough, copy them out on a sheet of paper and present it to me, expecting, I suspect, an apology.
It deteriorates from there, with you suggesting a formal split up of our finances – and making poisonous little cracks about all manner of things.
Shaken to the core, and so scared I can barely breathe, I skip rehearsal and drive, drive, drive, beneath a beautiful half-moon, near to places which soothe, feeling a safety in the inky blackness of narrow country lanes which is absent from home.
I come to rest in a lay-by. Hemmed in between giant resting lorries and couples courting in Cortinas, mediaeval music on the radio, I bend my head forward over the steering wheel and give way to tears.
I do not know what to do. Then or now.
The friend who makes contact stems the blood of wounded panic, and gives me the respite plaster of laughter and care.
I flag the conversation up today – because, for all the controlling games, you have brought up a subject of mutual concern, and it is, after all, only decent, to honour that uneasy thread, to try to give some kind of an answer. We DO spend too much money. That is a fair comment. But the malice and emotional blackmail behind your approach is NOT fair.
You play games from the start: Wanting, initially, to talk to me from the next room (shout, more like, since you have hearing problems), you then come in, sullenly, and stand once more, leaning over me.
When I express my concern about this, you grab a chair higher than mine, with angry bad grace, and position it so that you are far too close for comfort – and are, once again, in the dominant position.
I am so afraid I can hardly breathe; so afraid, in fact, that I become light-headed. I feel tiny and threatened. I want to cry more than you will ever know, more than I can risk telling you.
I cry now because it is so sad that even my tears are used against me. That they become a pawn in the sick chess game of our marriage.
I cry because you know exactly how to frighten me – and have no compunction about using those specialised ‘skills‘ in order to subdue me.
When I tell you that I feel intimidated, you say, ‘So you say,’ and then, ‘As usual…’ – and refuse to back off.
You, as ever, misinterpret my fear for defiance and ask, nastily, ‘What’s with the Death Stare?’
You behave like an angry ten-year old. As always. Once I had compassion for that stuck, hurt little boy, bereft of a parent at age ten – but you will not seek any kind of help, nor will you admit that your behaviour has a serious effect upon others.
But you are NOT ten; you are over sixty, and big and frightening. You are a fully grown man, not a little boy – and your need to emotionally blackmail and terrify, bully and intimidate me is, at times, out of control. Perhaps because you fear – rightly – that I could slip out of your control after all these decades.
You project it all on to me, the way you always have, slipping nasty little hints into the conversation, accusing me of wanting everything my own way; accusing me of living life in a constant state of ‘Fuck you!‘ directed at you and the children. You tacitly accuse me of neglecting them, of being completely selfish.
And, when I point out that you do your own things too – and that I think this is about more than just money – you get sarcastic and childish and walk out, terminating the conversation.
And I, despite knowing that I AM safe to seek sanctuary with friends, am too afraid to leave my room – because, if I do, you will use it against me, throw the accusatory rocks at me once more, involve the youngsters one way or another.
Or you will bank your rage, try to cover it all over with specious charm – and then go for the jugular at a later date.