Tires squealing, we merged out onto Lake Shore Drive seemingly oblivious of the Saturday afternoon traffic, patches of burnt rubber left in our wake. I gripped the Oh Jesus! bar over the door, my knuckles white, while I tried to breathe through my panic. I couldn't let the four-year old strapped into the car seat in the back see my abject fear.
Nervously, I glanced at the driver, Matt, my ex from many years before and the father of my child. We'd been broken up for ages, but my upcoming wedding had him nearly off his rocker. Foolishly, I'd agreed to celebrate our son's birthday together with a trip to the museum, and now we were stuck in his two-ton death trap barreling 80 miles an hour down the highway. Out of his mouth streamed a steady diatribe that had flowed unrelenting since he'd picked us up from our condo that morning. I was a selfish fucking bitch, I was ruining his life with my marriage, I was ruining my son Ben's life, we belonged together, to raise our son together.
He seemed to forget the lies, his affairs, the fact that underneath his denial was the absolute truth that he hated me with a fiery passion.
“You're such a fucking bitch,” he sneered through his teeth, punching the steering wheel and dashboard to drive the last two words home. “How could you do this to me? To US?” He gestured to the now-sleeping child; oblivious to the danger we were in. Quickly, he jerked the wheel right, pulling us into the right lane, as horns blared and brakes squealed. I sat quietly, knowing that this moment was not the time to correct him, not the time to fight. Now I needed to play my cards right in order to survive. To save Ben and I.
The tears began to spew from his eyes, hateful bitter tears, as he insulted my character. “You're such a fucking whore,” he spat. “I'm so much better than you. You don't deserve me. You're a failure. You're turning into your crazy mother. You're mentally ill.” The insults were hurled viciously at me, occasionally punctuated by a punch to the left side of my body. The adrenaline coursing through my veins prevented me from even feeling them. I've never been so numb.
His car merged onto the highway and he changed lanes with frightening speed. I watched in horror as we crept from 90 to 100 miles per hour past other cars, narrowly missing their bumpers. I could taste the metallic taste of fear in my mouth as I tried not to vomit. Vomit would enrage him further. I saw a few sparks of metal gnashing upon metal, but just like that, we'd moved past. The exit that would take us back home loomed ahead of us, and I sat there, quiet, trying to placate him and telling myself to take deep, slow breaths.
Rather than merge onto my exit, he instead got into the left lane, narrowly missing a motorcyclist. His eyes narrowed.
Tentatively I asked him if he were going to take us home. “No,” was his reply. “I'm not.”
I considered calling the police but the hatred of all authority that Matt possessed made me acutely aware that this wouldn't end well. I saw a massive car crash and decided to do nothing. I sat there, sweating profusely despite the air conditioning, the smell of fear and panic radiating off me like ugly cologne.
Onward and onward we drove, his driving and mood fluctuating dramatically between offering me diamonds and riches to just come back to him and telling me that he was going to take me to court and use my past depression as evidence of being an unfit mother. That he should just kill me now and be done with it, I wasn't going to amount to anything.
Minutes turned into hours and I prayed that my fiance wouldn't try and call me, knowing this would further enrage Matt and escalate the situation. I focused on survival, counting my breaths, and watching the clock tick by. I was powerless. Just as he wanted me to be.
Ben, thanks be to the Powers That Be, slept on obliviously in the backseat, where I nervously watched him out of the corner of my eye. He could sleep through anything, apparently, even a kidnapping. Poor kid, I thought, he didn't need to see this, this had nothing to do with him. I was suddenly overtaken by a wave of sadness that things had gotten so bad. He hadn't asked to be born into what quickly turned into a volatile situation. He didn't need to know how cruel his father could be. He never needed to see his father debase his mother.
Just as I was contemplating what the hell to do when he finally had to stop for gas (getting out of the car was key, but having Ben strapped into his car seat made things logistically trickier), he quickly yanked the wheel right and exited the highway. He turned his car in the direction of my house, crying and cursing me all in the same breath, still intermittently punching me when the anger overtook him. I was numb. A doll. A waxy numb doll.
I don't remember much of what happened after that.
Hours later, he inexplicably dropped Ben and I off at home. I quickly popped my son out of his car seat and out of the car before he could take away him from me. Without so much as another “I hate you,” he peeled off, leaving us in a cloud of burnt rubber, bruised and battered. But not broken. Never broken.
Becky blogs at Mommy Wants Vodka.