Balcony, 3am

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Balcony, 3amBalcony, 3am. Sitting out here at my desk because Husband protests the space my work-from-home career consumes in our small apartment. Working from home in the living room didn’t work for him. Too crowded.

Solution: Turn half of our balcony into my office so that my work and writing are out of the way.

Note: When he’s not working at his desk that is in our bedroom, he’s at the kitchen table, books and papers strewn across one-half of its surface.

Balcony/my office, 3am. I’m working because of course I’m working—I’m past a deadline for a magazine I write for because I have spent all of my time these past few days (and weeks) (plus months) (not to mention years) (you get the picture) (etc.) arguing with my husband. Nothing new. It’s what we do, what happens when a marriage tries to hold onto something that no longer exists. Respect, for instance.

At 3am, my husband has decided to join me in my office to continue his life-long work of finding new ways to tell me that I’m a terrible person. It’s a full-time job, berating and blaming and vilifying me. Sometimes he even puts in overtime. Night shift.

At 3am, my husband steps out onto the balcony—steps into my office—and begins to make himself abundantly clear.

He makes himself abundantly clear for an hour.

Balcony/my office/crime scene of a verbal beating, 4am. I sit at my desk, unable to decide which of the following feels worse:

  1. My husband walks into my office to yell at me while I’m working.
  2. It is 3am when my husband walks into my office to yell at me while I’m working.
  3. He accuses me of emotional abuse.
  4. He declares that when I was sexually harassed by one of my co-workers for an entire year—a situation that eventually landed me in a psych ward because of my anxiety and depression that it spurred—what I was actually doing was fucking around behind his back.
  5. He explains how I’m not a victim, but a fucking cunt for fucking around behind his back.
  6. I am silent for the entire hour.
  7. In the space between my desk and the door sits my husband who has cornered me and is scolding me and I’m too scared to get up and leave because I fear he might physically harm me if I do because he’s done that before.
  8. At some point he stops reprimanding me and just rants into the darkness.
  9. The elevated amount my body is shaking.
  10. The skill it takes to cry silently.
  11. How quickly I start to dissociate.
  12. He’s too far gone in his rant to notice that I’m shaking, crying, dissociating.
  13. Or maybe he knows and he just doesn’t care.
  14. Or maybe he knows and he thinks I deserve it.
  15. After an hour, he stands up, exits my office, and goes back inside without saying anything else.
  16. I wipe away the onslaught of tears and return to writing about soft-serve ice cream and iconic curlicues.
  17. The article is two days late because I have been spending all of my time—even middle-of-the-night time—fighting with my husband about the same situation over and over and over.
  18. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
  19. This isn’t the first time this has happened.
  20. I know it won’t be the last.

I reflect, feel how still I felt during the verbal assault. Unmoving. Frozen. Trapped. It was me in my office chair, staring straight into the darkness just beyond my desk light, staring straight into the darkness of our marriage until some part of me lifted and then I was looking down at me, at him, at our marriage, at his yelling and his position between me and freedom.

This is what it is like to talk with him. I bite back most of the time, but tonight, or rather morning, I turned to silence. I sat in my calm costume covering the surface layer of my skin, while inside I was shaking and fissuring and just waiting for his uncontrolled verbal violence to peter out. To end. No sudden movements or arguing, but just staying silent, staying seated when what I really wanted to do was sprint out of there. Sprint away. But that meant having to walk past him.

Again, the fear.

Over and over.

Better to just take it. Better to just play dead.

Alone on the balcony, 4am. I get back to work while I can.


Photo used under CC.




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About Author

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Chelsey Clammer is the author of the award-winning essay collection, Circadian (Red Hen Press, 2017) and BodyHome (Hopewell Publications, 2015). Her work has appeared in Salon, The Rumpus, Hobart, Brevity, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Normal School and Black Warrior Review. She teaches online writing classes with WOW! Women On Writing. www.chelseyclammer.com

3 Comments

  1. Wow, what a powerful essay and an emotional read. I’ve been in a similar position before but never had the words to write about it. Thank you for your beautifully written and brave words, Chelsey! Bravo.

  2. Ohhhh, indeed a punch in the gut-heart. You just go THERE. I write about this in my head sometimes…the scrolling line beneath those husband-complains-to-wife-about-wife Special Announcements. Program Interruption. You capture it completely. I want to put up fairy lights to guard you on your balcony.

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