Every morning, I wake up snuggled underneath my blankets. I make coffee, brush my teeth, eat my cheerios. My cat crawls all over my lap, and I push her off. I can’t eat when she is crawling like that. I pack my bag, put on my shoes, and meander, slowly, to the bus stop. There is no rush. I am always early. I ride for fifteen minutes, and hop off at 3rd and Seneca. The 11 bus turns into the 125, and this is the last stop on 3rd avenue. I glance at my watch: 20 minutes to eight. Once more, I debate whether I wish I was asleep or whether I am more grateful to be awake. Regardless, I am happy. I feel fulfilled. I am scratching the desire embedded within me to do good. Helping others is not about them, but about me being happy on my way to work every morning.
I walk into the office, and copy the day’s court schedule. I check to see who has lawyers. Part of me is glad when someone does not, because it will give me a chance to work with them. Again, this day is about me, not them. Everyone in the office is cheery. They know some of the petitioners. They are hoping all works out well. We grab pens and walk down the hall.
The first victim I interact with sticks with me. I am brutally reminded that I woke up safe that morning. That I meandered to the bus stop. This woman woke up frightened. Is this the day he snaps? If I get this order, will it be the tipping point for killing me? Am I going to live? What about my children? They have seen him grab my hair and throw me against the wall. What must they think of their mother? You see, I get to help this woman. I get to file papers for her, and I advise her on what to say to the commissioner. I have power. And she doesn’t. She has never had power, and he has made sure of that. Today, she takes a little power back. But I help her, so I keep a little power for myself as well. Will she ever feel power-full? By that I mean, will she ever feel as though her body, her mind, her soul are within her own power and overflowing with her power? Will she wake up, make coffee, and walk to work with a smile on her face? Will she ever love again?
Can we hate these abusers? We loved them at one time. We were partners, and we made children together. Suddenly, I am one with her. Her problem is mine. We are fighting together. We are working toward her safety. We will file this order with the clerk. But don’t get too attached. She might die tomorrow, and I won’t. My partner will not beat me to a pulp. In fact, how dare I even attempt to merge myself with her? I have never tried to explain to the doctor bruises without blaming my partner. I have never been told to be ashamed of myself for being essentially me. I cannot merge with her. I cannot say we.
I cannot say we, because I am safe.