The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
701: “That’s when . . .”

701: “That’s when . . .”

🎧 What a Piece of Work I Am, Chapter 26 continues, read by the author

“THAT’S WHEN the son of a bitch hit me. He punched me. In the stomach.” She shuddered and drew a breath. “I lose my breath even now,” she said, “remembering it. I doubled over, I coughed. I remember I started coughing. I felt myself getting dizzy, sick, felt myself slipping toward the floor, losing the ability to keep myself upright. I felt that—I was very aware of that, and I just sort of collapsed onto the floor. I was surprised. I tried to object, tried to say something, and—just—nothing. I could hardly make a sound.
     “He kicked me. I was on my knees, bent over, with my forehead on the rug, and it smelled like dirt. And he kicked me. In the side, low—here.”
     She brought her hand to her right side, low, at her belly.
     “I fell over and I curled up, and a kind of apathy came over me. He kept kicking me, but I had a sense that it would end. It would end. He kept kicking me, but I hardly felt it. I felt the rug on my cheek, rubbing. It annoyed me.
     “I could see under the bed. I was lying with my head at the corner of the bed, and under the bed I saw that he had something taped there, inside the leg. I was lying there, and he was kicking me, and I was trying to figure out what that was, taped there. I could have reached up and pulled it down, but I was holding my hands in against me. I was very afraid that he would step on my hands. Otherwise, I had the feeling that I could reach up and pull it down. It looked like a pin of some kind. I said to myself, ‘It’s a poodle pin, one of those poodle pins,’ and then I really got terrified that I was going to laugh. Part of me wanted to laugh. As if a second self inside me—a perverse and mischievous bitch—was going have her laugh even at my own expense. He would have killed me if I had laughed. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.
     “He got tired. Eventually, he got tired. You know, he wasn’t wearing shoes. If he had been wearing shoes—but he wasn’t. He said, ‘Get out of here. I’ll tell them you got sick. Don’t you tell them any different.’
     “I crawled to the door. He pulled me to my feet and held me up for a minute, and then I twisted away, and I held on to the railing outside, and somehow I got home.”
     “You walked home?”
     “I walked home. I guess. I know I walked part of the way home. I know I sat down a lot. I might have passed out. I don’t know. I think I was in shock. At home, I locked myself in my room, took my clothes off, and looked myself over in the mirror. I must have been out of my mind, because my first reaction when I saw myself—it seems incredible to me to say this—was relief.”
     “Because you weren’t hurt?”
     “No, no, no. Where have you been? I was hurt. That’s not what I mean. I was relieved to find that the bruises weren’t going to show when I was dressed. He hadn’t hit me anywhere that wouldn’t be hidden. People wouldn’t know there was a mark on me—and I was relieved at that. I was hoping there wouldn’t be trouble. I was thinking that I would run a hot tub and soak in it. I told myself that I was okay, just bruised. I was nuts. I was standing there bleeding, and telling myself that I was okay. I wasn’t allowing myself to see the blood or feel the pain. I must have been deep in shock. I mean technically, medically. I was sure as hell in shock emotionally. I got into bed. I didn’t wake up until sometime the next day. I had aborted, of course. Miscarried. I hurt like hell.” She lit another cigarette.
     The anger I felt, hearing her say all of this, was so strong that I was ashamed of it, but oddly exhilarated by it. I wanted to kill Guy. It was as simple as that. I had never felt such anger. It passed, but it was, for a moment, a real emotion, a real desire.
     “What a mess,” she said. “I took care of myself—like an animal. One of those wharf cats you used to see around the docks. My mother—helped me—and protected me. She covered for me. I wouldn’t let her look at me—not what was under the covers. God knows what she thought. What am I saying? I know what she thought. I’m sure I know what she thought. She thought I’d gotten some half-assed abortion. She—let me order her out of my room. She told everybody I was suffering from women’s troubles. That was enough for my father and brothers. And when you get right down to it, it was the truth.” A bitter laugh.
     “I wouldn’t get out of my bed unless I was sure the house was empty,” she said. “My brothers would have been peering at me through the cracks in my walls. What a nightmare.”
     She leaned against the wall and brought her hand to her eyes again. I got up from the sofa and went to her, put my hand on her neck. She brushed it away.
     “The real stupidity didn’t start until I was on my feet again,” she said. “I was standing in front of the mirror one morning, inspecting my bruises, and thanking my lucky stars that the bruises wouldn’t show when I was dressed, and it dawned on me that it was odd that the bruises didn’t show.”
     I couldn’t help imagining her, naked, in front of the mirror.
     “That’s when I understood that he knew what he was doing. He had kicked me around for ten minutes or more, and he never hit me anywhere where the marks would show. He had made me feel—hopeless—you know—beyond fear, but he hadn’t even lost his temper. He just went at it. It was discipline, punishment. He was giving me the strap, you know? For misbehaving. And he must have done it before. I had discovered his true skill! This was something he could do! He was very good at it. I began to wonder what I should do. Should I turn the bastard in? Call the cops? Not a chance. What a circus that would have been. It would have been smart, though, compared to what I decided to do.” She turned away from the wall, looked at me, expelled a breath, and shook her head. “I decided to go back to work.” She shook her head again. “I was going to confront him. And for some stupid reason I expected him to be ashamed.”

[to be continued]

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The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
The entire Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy, read by the author. "A masterpiece of American humor." Los Angeles Times