When I had been with S for about eight months, I tried to break it off with him. I was too afraid to talk to him in a private place – the beatings were routine by then and I was afraid of him – so I told him on the steps of the student union. It was public there, and yet curiously private: it was the kind of place where you could gain anonymity just by being part of a crowd.
I told him that this had to end before his wife found out. He took the news surprisingly calmly.
I expected him to stalk me, but I did not turn around that afternoon to see him vanishing behind a corner. He did not send me obscure messages through other people, or leave notes on the windshield of my car. When I got back to my apartment after classes, there were no notes in the mailbox, and the phone did not ring.
They say that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
By the same token, if something seems too easy to have been accomplished, it probably is.
I went to bed that night without incident. At about two in the morning, I was jolted into heart-thumping wakefulness by the ugly jangling of the phone.
My wife stabbed me, he said, sobbing. She took the breadknife, I raised my arm in self-defense, and she stabbed me.
Well, what was I going to do? Leave a stabbed man to bleed?
I met him in some obscure park and drove him to the hospital. When I got a good look at him in the light, I almost keeled over. There, on the fleshy part of the inside of his arm, was a deep stab wound, about eight inches long, steadily pumping blood. The nurses whisked him away, and returned him to me about an hour later, stitched and neatly bandaged. He looked shaken and pale. Not surprising, I guess, considering the amount of blood that he had lost. I asked the nurse if they had given him any blood.
“We have a shortage,” said the nurse, who was clearly anxious to move on to the next patient. “We save the blood for the people who are really desperate.”
S looked at me plaintively. “I know you broke up with me,” he said. “So I understand if you want to send me back home to my wife.”
He knew me better than that, of course. He knew that I would never send him back to the woman who had stabbed him. I brought him home to my apartment, gave him his medication, and put him to bed. Once he was asleep, I cried myself to sleep, knowing that I was trapped, that I was stuck in this relationship whether I liked it or not.
Many months later, as we were eating dinner, I found myself staring at the scar on S’s arm. And suddenly I knew exactly what had happened. The positioning of the scar made his claim of self-defense impossible.
He had laid his arm on a table, and he had stabbed himself. As I sat there staring at him, I knew this with an absolute certainly.
He had done this to himself. He had done it in order to manipulate and control me.
From that instant, my relationship with him took on a whole new sinister meaning.