My spouse tried to smooth over his abusive behavior with his usual tactics. I listened and looked him in the eye while he played the victim and blamed me. He finished, and I told him: this is the last straw; I’m leaving and filing for divorce. I saw the muscles in his face contort, and he responded by telling me to get out of his house right now. I said no, I’ll get out when I find a place. He left my room, walking fast, stomping down the steps, and slammed the door so hard the house shook.

Moving was foreign, so I Googled the best way to do it and how much it would cost. I printed out checklists, made lists, and made phone calls. I decided what type of rental was best for me and began my search. I wanted to live in something other than a high-rise or garden apartment. My oldest lived in another city 40 minutes away, and I needed a place for my youngest while in college. Rental houses were too expensive, so I decided on apartment buildings that didn’t have too many tenants. I freaked out at the costs, application fees, extra fees, additional fees, background checks I had to pay for, parking, and laundry. My oldest sent me links to rentals in an area 25 minutes from my old house and much closer to my youngest’s college. The location was great and convenient, and I would not run into my spouse.  It was bigger and with more traffic. In large communities, there is a good area and a not-so-good area. I searched every day and made appointments. Some apartments were nasty, stinky, and run-down at premium prices. The rental agents, who came unapologetically late, if they came at all, had no shame in showing them in that condition. After that experience, I relied on ratings and reviews to narrow my searches. New listings are posted daily. I set more appointments and kept looking every day, all day, and during my working hours.

In the meantime, I started boxing up my world. I started in the basement. I kept some, donated some, and left some seasonal decorations with a lifetime of memories. I broke down and sobbed when I cleared out my youngest’s old playpen with broken toys, toddler clothes, and an old coloring book completed by a 3-year-old. I went room by room, boxing up personal pictures, wall pictures, vital school and family mementos, awards, trophies, books, kitchen stuff, and whatever else mattered to me. My kids’ rooms were the hardest; their young lives flashed before me, the laughter, tears, and confusion.  My room was last and the easiest. Purging my house during the pandemic helped. But emotionally, I was a wreck; I flipped-out regularly and felt unsure but kept going anyway.

Toward the end, my spouse followed me around the house making sure I wasn’t stealing any of his stuff, rushing me with a fake smile on his face, making snide remarks, telling the walls he was going to throw my property out, or talking loudly on the phone about women or to women. My spouse didn’t talk to me, he talked around me.  I wasn’t afraid and he knew it, but he was determined to act ugly until I walked out that door. I didn’t focus on my spouse, I focused on God who gave me strength I never knew I had.  At last, I found my apartment. Thank God. Oh happy day and oh how I love the sound of that: my apartment. I got my keys, hired a U-Haul truck, and my children moved everything out of my old house. I said goodbye to my roses, my porch, and my bedroom. We drove off, and I never looked back.  I am free.