freedom / by Erica Kathleen

So, a few years ago, I got my first tattoo. Up until then, there was nothing that I could imagine wanting on my body FOREVER. Times change. People change. Tastes change. You know? And I'm not really a fan of being part of the 'in' crowd . . . wearing what everyone else is wearing, you know? I'm kinda my own island. Thank god I didn't get a tattoo in college, or else I'd be walking around with a big ass sunflower somewhere on my body (I was obsessed with sunflowers). 

Somewhere along my journey, there WAS something I wanted on my body FOREVER. With every cell of my being, I wanted this word inked on my skin until the day I die. I ached to have this word on my wrist as a reminder of everything I had been through & everything I had fought for, and to never, EVER take it for granted.

I'll try & make this short & not get into gory details . . . I'll give you the Cliff Notes version: 

I met this guy in college when I was 18. He was loud & charming & funny & FUN & everyone on campus knew him, he was the fun party guy. And talk about chaaarming! We were friends for awhile, then we got together.

Mostly fun.

Mostly charming.

But then, there are these incidents, that, fast forward 20 years, when I'm sitting in a lawyers office describing the horror that was my marriage, she 1) looks at me like I'm fucking nuts, and 2) says to me, "Why have you stayed so long? He wasn't ALWAYS like this, was he?" . . . to which I QUICKLY reply, "No!" . . . (duh! cuz that would mean I'm fucking stupid!) . . . then i gulp, and then the floodgates open & the suppressed memories (that apparently my brain had worked really fucking hard at forgetting) start flooding back in . . .

within the first few months of dating (we were in college) & he saw me sharing a cigarette with a friend of his & he abruptly stormed across the room, grabbed me by the arm & dragged me into the hallway & yelled & screamed in my face for an hour, telling me I was a fucking slut & a whore &  . . .

oh ya, I had forgotten about that.

then there was a time (again, in college) we were at a friends dorm, hanging out, drinking. In front of a room full of people, he hurled a huge wad of car keys at my face. For no reason. None. I was in such shock that I couldn't move. My friends swooped me up, took me to their room, told me he was a fucking asshole, I wasn't to go back with him & took care of me for a few days.

I was 5'4" 110 pounds. He was 6'2" 210 pounds & a defenseman on the college hockey team.

I went back.

I wore sunglasses to school for a week to hide my black eye.

My art professor begged me to take them off. I laughed, made a joke, refused to take them off. He just looked at me, with such love & compassion. He knew. I knew he knew. Neither of us said anything.

I forgot about that one too.

So, SHIT. Ya, I guess he HAD always been like that. 

For MOST of our 20 years together, those crazy rages happened when he was drunk. The next day he would say, "Why are you mad at me? Why are you being so cold to me?" . . . and I would say, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!!! AFTER WHAT YOU DID LAST NIGHT???" . . . . (I don't know how many times those words were said between us, but WAY too fucking many!) . . . Then he would get all sappy & sweet & say shit like, "Oh, come on babe! I was so drunk I don't even remember what I said! It wasn't me, it was the booze!" . . . and eventually, I'd give in. 

WE got married. I asked HIM. Fucked, I know.

WE had 3 wonderful, beautiful, amazing kids, who are the love of my life & have saved me more times than I can count.

Probably about 18 years into this, I think I finally started to wake up, when he "all of the sudden" quit drinking. I was SOOOO HAPPY!!!! I was SOOOO HOPEFUL! I thought, for SURE this would change things. I thought, AT LAST, we would be happy, that I would be happy.

Well, it did change things alright. I remember the first time it happened when he was sober . . . he was YELLING & SCREAMING & SWEARING & ACCUSING & the look?!?!!! OHMYGOD, the look in his eyes . . . he wanted to kill me. I had never seen that level of anger & rage & hate & evil before in my life . . . and here it was, standing over me, staring me in the face. OHMYGOD . . . that's when my alarms went off . . . it was NOT the booze, it was HIM! Holy Fuck, help me.

Yikes, I was trying to make this short . . .

I wanted a separation. He refused. "We are NEVER going to separate. We are NEVER getting divorced. Don't you EVER SAY THOSE WORDS AGAIN!"

I told my mom, "well, I'm fucked. I have to stay. I have no choice!" . . . Thank god for my mom. "Erica, that's why there's lawyers."

So, back to this tattoo . . .

This tattoo came, after fighting for my freedom in the Supreme Court of Canada for 2 years.

This tattoo came after I was told "We will NEVER be divorced!"

This tattoo came after he said, "You will NEVER go back to Utah & be with your family."

This tattoo came after my lawyer said, "There is NO WAY a judge is going to give you sole custody.

There is NO WAY a judge is going to let you take the kids & move out of the country!"

This tattoo came after being stalked, followed, harassed, having the police on speed dial, restraining orders, hiding, living in terror for too fucking long.

2 years, I fought. Every fucking day, with every ounce of my being. 2 years.

This tattoo came after I WON my fucking case in the Supreme Court of Canada.

This tattoo came after I DID get a divorce.

This tattoo came after the judge DID give me sole custody.

This tattoo came after the judge DID grant me permission to leave the country with the kids.

This tattoo came after I DID move back to Utah & be with my family.

This tattoo came after I finally stood up & said NO FUCKING MORE!

This tattoo came, after the long hard battle to win my FREEDOM.

Freedom, has a whole new, beautiful, amazing meaning when you have to fight so fucking hard for it.



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