I fell in love with a man who loved me and hated me.
The first time a warning fluttered inside me was in the early days of our relationship. He was short of money, work was scarce – he was a gardener and it was raining. He had a severe tooth ache but couldn’t afford a dentist. Couldn’t afford the loss of pride to ask his parents for help.
The agony tormented him. He got up one night and started punching cupboard doors in a fit of rage. He helped me to rationalise this outburst, explaining how much agony he was in.
His tooth wasn’t removed for four weeks. Once it finally was taken out, he was kind again. Almost gentlemanly.
Until he wasn’t. Until the next rage. Until the next excuse.
The verbal outbursts escalated into small physical events. Accidents he claimed.
As if he would ever want to hurt me, he said.
I became lost in a sea of uncertainty, and he became the only person I could find. That was the relationship we had.
I took photos of myself with bruises and injuries and reddened eyes. I knew I needed to document this. Not so much to use against him in the future, but deep down inside I knew I needed to see these photos for myself to try and help remind me of all the reasons not to be with him.
For the better part of a decade, I created a pattern for myself defined by hard-fast decisions that were difficult to reverse. Spontaneous, desirous, dangerous. I married in university, after a uni bar night. I gave birth to a gorgeous boy, after teaching in Japan. I divorced, after the passion ran out of my marriage.
Then, I dated this man who loved me and hated me.
Then, I fled to Thailand.
Now, in my artists’ studio in my step-family’s small rural rice farming village, I sit down with a pencil and draw. Finally, I draw. Slow, long, forgiving sketches that require time and dedication. These pictures can be refined and redefined.
Birds. They are a pleasure to draw. Their bodies have such fluid lines and curves, with the challenge of intricately honouring the detail within their feathers.
They are symbols of freedom.
Original Music by I Killed