Someone once told me that a place can’t hurt you. No matter how strongly you may associate a painful memory with a particular place, it was never the physical location that caused the pain. Logically, this of course makes perfect sense. People can hurt you, words can hurt you, but a location in space? No. That most definitely cannot hurt you.

But sometimes, it really doesn’t feel that way. Almost exactly one year ago, I experienced perhaps the worst night of my life, and it began at a seemingly harmless martini bar, one of my favorites. My ex-abuser and I had gone there many times before, but one night last May changed everything. Up until that night, everything had seemed perfect between us. I felt like I was so completely in love. But on that night, I began to realize that things weren’t so perfect, that something was very wrong with him. That was the night I learned what it feels like to be scared of someone you love.

It started out innocent enough. We were able to leave lab in time to make happy hour. He’d had a particularly rough week and he wanted to de-stress. But he started drinking and drinking and drinking, ordering one martini after another. He was on his third before I had even finished my first. He started talking to the man sitting next to us, who was somewhat drunk but still coherent. I don’t know who this man was, but I will never forget him. He looked at my abuser and me, with this kind of mesmerized look in his eyes (although most likely it was just the alcohol), and he told us that we would be together forever. He saw a bright future for us, with a lot of kids and a nice house. We would be so incredibly happy. He was sure of it. Little did he (or I) know that hours later the man I loved would turn into a monster right before my eyes.

When we got back to my abuser’s place, that’s when he changed. As if the demons he had suppressed for months were finally unleashed. He became aggressive, screaming at me, pushing me, trying to hit me with his belt; his roommate tackled him to the ground to protect me. I shrieked in utter terror, my throat making a noise I never thought possible. That night I felt like I was in a movie, one I never wanted to see. Because I never thought that anything like this could happen to someone like me. As his roommate restrained him on the ground, I looked down at him in disbelief and shock. It was the first time I saw his eyes turn black – the very first time, but certainly not the last.

Almost exactly a year later to the day, I will return to this bar, the bar from the night when everything changed. I have not been back there, or anywhere near it, since that night. I planned to never go back. Of all the things he took from me, a bar is the least of it. But as luck would have it, a celebration for a friend is being held there tomorrow night. And as painful as it will be to go, I cannot let her down. Every bone in my body is screaming at the thought of returning there, but I will go for her.

I know it wasn’t the bar that hurt me. I know it was him. I know that he was abusive and I am grateful that I am free of him, although I still do miss him. But that memory is still so strong and still so raw. It’s as if my brain needs to tie it to something. Maybe it’s easier to blame the place, instead of blaming him. I don’t know. Maybe this is my chance to reclaim something that I let him take from me and I should feel empowered. Or maybe I should be angry that he took it to begin with. But the truth is that all I feel is sadness and emptiness; that he was not the person I thought he was, that this is how it worked out, that the man in the bar was wrong – there was no bright and happy future in store. There was only abuse, pain, and loss.

Although this post is about happy hour, I don’t really have a happy ending for it. I will go tomorrow night for my friend. I will put a smile on my face. I will pretend that I am okay, and that this wasn’t the place where everything changed.

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9 thoughts on “Martinis and Memories

  1. I am thinking of you as you bravely walk into this place. You don’t go alone…and a big part of my healing has been reclaiming places. Maybe it will become part of yours, also. Big hugs to you…

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  2. Places also hurt. When we go to places we have bad/sad memories the past comes back. Once when I had to go to the same hospital where my mother passed away I was reluctant. When I told this to the doctor she said it’s a way of testing. This is true. Suddenly we come across people too and they are all tests to see how strong we are. By now you would have gone. Remember the good things that happened this time. To forget the bad things you need to pile up good things on them. The more you pile up the more the past get buried. All the best. Love and light from me 🙂 ❤

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  3. Places, smells, sounds, songs, feelings…. they all have the ability to act as triggers to summon up feelings of fear. Years ago, I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of an extremely traumatic event. I’m okay now (for the most part), but there is a certain area in town that I try to avoid at all costs. If I do have to go through it, I feel physically sick, and my entire day is thrown into turmoil.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear about what you’ve been through. I know what you mean – there’s an area of my town that makes me feel sick too, and areas of my campus. I hope things have gotten better for you over time. wish you all the best – speak766

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