I recently took part in the Bard of Northampton competition at the Bardic Picnic. We had to read three pieces; this was my first based on the concept of freedom. My thought was that we appreciate a drink more when we are thirsty, we appreciate food more when we are hungry and we appreciate freedom more when we are imprisoned. Domestic abuse is all around us whether we know it or not. if you think this might help someone you know please share it with them. I know it’s a serious subject and the only reason I publish it now is to raise awareness and give someone in this situation hope. Thanks for reading it, this is called “When will your Shawshank be?”
“Your phone checked as you sleep. The mileage on your car logged for distance travelled. Texts that say “Come home, you’ve been there long enough now.” At a party and told he’s had enough; you’ve had enough “Let’s go.” You make your apologies to your friends and concede to being tired. Sex whenever he wants it. You say no, you’re sore or tired, you just want to be held, but he uses you anyway, never understanding that rape isn’t right even when it’s your wife. He visits you at work to make sure you are where you are supposed to be. The suffocation is total and then you plan your escape. How will you get away?
You watch ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and remember Andy Desfrene and how he crawled through the pipe of shit to escape into the river and the rain washed the stench from him. The tunnel took years to dig and he told no-one, not even his best friend Red. Your best friend used to be told everything, but now you hold back so that nobody knows the pain you feel. You smile, feed the kids, walk the dogs and when it gets too hard you open another bottle of wine so that when it comes to bed time you don’t have to say anything, just lie there whilst he finishes himself and you clean up after, feeling used, but knowing your place. You wonder, how did Andy find the courage to escape? What price freedom?
What are your dreams? Do you allow yourself to dream, you told me once that you forget most of your dreams and I wonder if that is the only place where you feel free. You start having affairs to get some sense of love and emotional response. With his surveillance it’s not easy, but fake accounts and the help of friends and you find the release until one day someone comes along who shows you the way out. The escape. Someone who can give you the poster of Raquel or Rita Hayworth. The day comes and you make your bid, but “he” comes after you. Begging to be given another chance, telling you how he’s changed and you go back; your friends can’t believe it, “But you were out,” they exclaim and you tell them,
“He needs me.”
I have seen your struggles and tried to understand. From the land of the free it is hard to watch the place of the imprisoned. When in my head all you have to do is walk away and tell him to never come near you again, but your pain runs deeper than I could ever imagine. His control is that of the master hypnotist with the ideal subject. It frightens me to see it for myself. I want to stop it, but you won’t let me and like a dog on a lead you go back again. You watched “12 Years a Slave” and yet you have served longer. Years ago I read the stories of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy – how they survived years of solitude and suffering by escaping into their minds. Is that what you do too? Unlike Keenan, McCarthy and Solomon Northup you only have to pick up the kids and walk out of the door. I tell you of my friend who suffered at the hands of her husband. How her daughter heard her being beaten and for twenty minutes thought she was dead. When she came to her husband took her to bed and raped her. The children walked out the next day whilst he was at work and they went to live with a lady up the road, making sure that their mother joined them. The police were involved, they forced the husband out of the house and he ended up in prison. I told you this story and briefly you even met the lady and saw how far she has come. How happy she is since those dark days 9 years ago. Freedom is the only future to look forward to. To stay in the same place, with the same manipulator, is death of the soul, even if not of the body. Help is out there.
It’s a tale told every day by those in the control of others. The repeat of the phrases “I’ve learnt my lesson,” “it will be different,” “We don’t need anyone else, but us” and all the time the noose tightens, the freedom disappears and we, your friends, the ones who love you, look on helplessly and pray for you to find the strength we know you have.
In the land of the free we make our own decisions, we have our dreams, we live in a world of colour, we have hope and our future looks bright. We gain our strength, we are nurtured by positive people and we can feel our life expand and grow. We look at you and wonder how you live like that – in your own personal prison, your own Shawshank. And then we remember the end of that beautiful film, when Andy has escaped and Red finds the box hidden in the wall by the tree and buys a ticket to Mexico to be with his friend. To quote Andy Desfrene, “It’s time to get busy living, or get busy dying”. We pray for you; for those who believe they ask God for help, for the atheists we pray for your soul. No one can make you leave and no one can make you stay, only you, our dear friend, can find the courage to walk and never look back. There is always a way forward. You love to quote positive things, but nothing makes a difference without the action and courage to back them up. Only when the façade drops and the real you comes through will you set yourself free.”