In 1993 I went off to college at Florida State University. I had spent my entire high school career dating a guy who was mean, thoughtless, mildly physically abusive, and wildly emotionally abusive. He was a deadbeat loser and had no business at a university, so I saw my acceptance letter as a ticket out of that relationship (why doesn't an 18 year old think she can just make the decision to end it herself?). Until, on my first night in my dorm, deadbeat loser called to tell me he was following me up to Tallahassee to get a job. My heart sank.
When he got to town, we continued dating and fighting. He continued cheating on me and telling me it was my own fault. He took my money, ate my food, and ruined every opportunity I had to make new friends and get the most out of what should have been an exciting time for me. One night, though, went way beyond the kind of standard mind-fuck he'd been laying on me for four years.
I don't even remember what the fight was about. What I do remember, is that after an hour I knew I was going to die. He was driving my car like a crazy person, because he was a crazy person. He ran red lights, spun out in the middle of intersections with traffic on-coming, sped up divided roads going the wrong way. It wasn't just the driving that made me aware that my time was up. It was the fact that, in a calm and reasoned voice, he told me that he was going to kill me. He realized then that he had no way to do it. I guess using the car put him at too much danger himself. He told me that we were going back to his apartment so he could get his baseball bat.
I'm not sure which is more absurd, the fact that he left me sitting in the car while he ran upstairs to get my murder weapon, or the fact that I obeyed. But there I sat, car running, utterly convinced that this was my night to die. I'd shut down. I was defeated. But that's when everything changed.
A woman from the apartment complex had heard the whole thing. As he disappeared up the stairs, she came to my window and looked me sternly in the face. This was no time for lengthy interventions. She simply locked onto my eyes and said, "Run."
I blinked, confused. "RUN!" She was yelling now.
"But, it's my car."
She would not be disuaded. "Then drive."
I nodded my head and got out of the car, got back in the drivers seat, and drove away. I went all the way home to Orlando that night. I ended up leaving college completely in order to get away from him, and I never did go back and finish.
I have no complaints. I'm alive, I'm married, and my four-week-old son is sleeping in his swing while I write this. All I know is that woman saved me. Not just by getting me out of there that night, but by reminding me that I still had power. I still had a good mind and a good heart and two feet that could carry me away from danger. "Thank you" doesn't seem like enough.