Last Dance

The whiskey is thick on your breath. The fire that you say I stoked, all night, burns in your eyes like a preview of Hell. Your red, angry eyes. The fire that, once again, I unwittingly fanned licks at my feet, my hands, as I try to remember what it was…that I did or said…

Spittle dots your lips, gone slack now, from the amber-colored fuel. Was it one pint, or two? Definitely, two. You never stop at one. Those lips, that once spoke of love, and devotion and eternity, now exude a different kind of heat, as we sway, together, in this unholy dance.

My trembling hands cover my ears as your words, your threats, your venom continue to flow like the river, where you proposed, on its very bank, a ring nestled in your trembling hand.

A voice in my head screams, “run!” But I am too far, too far from the door in our home. And, you are too close. But, not in the way I remember. For not the first time, I am scared. No. Terrified of you and your temper. And your hands. Those hands you keep rubbing together until the knuckles crack like a gunshot.

What was it this time? What did I do to set you off? I asked you to slow down, to put the bottle aside, for just a little while. Was that so bad? I made dinner. Pot roast. Your favorite. But, you were too far gone, to care. Too far into the bottle that you drained and smashed against my clean wall. Now look what you’ve done. Even our dog has fled. The dog you professed to love. Like you professed to love me. You scared our dog. You bastard.

I think these things. I don’t say them because I know it will only go worse for me. Like that one time. When the police came. When I thought I was finally, saved. But, you were so smooth, telling those cops, “Everything is fine, officers. My wife is just a real klutz.” (Cue laughter.) “This isn’t the first time she’s fallen.”

Like a knife jab to my heart, I realize I hate you with a passion I haven’t felt in years. So different than the desire that once burned in me, for you. I wish I had a gun.

Like a hyena stalking its dying prey, you follow me around this room. We move in circles. We bob and we sway. Like a dance that only we can know. Remember dancing? A flicker in your eyes. You remember. We used to do so many things. Expressions of your wanting to please me, and I, you. Until you decided Jack Black was a better companion…

This particular dance will soon come to an end. The only music — my harsh, ragged breathing and your mumbled epithets. Your symphony of hate.

I’m backed up against a wall now. My head against a framed photo of us in “happier times.” We look so young. You look so benign.

Now, you are malignant. A cancer I should have excised long ago. Too late now. Like so many things in life, too f**king late.

A reflex: My head jerks as I move away from the wall and the photo falls to the floor with a tinkle of breaking glass. Oh no. Now, look what I’ve done.

As you peer at me, with those eyes, reflecting, deciding, I raise my hands in a gesture of sublimation. “Please. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”

And, just at that instant, as quick as a viper, you raise your hand, your drinking hand, and with every muscle in your body, every fiber of your being, strike me once, twice, in the face, with such force, my neck snaps.

And, finally, thankfully, I am alone in the dark.

You weren’t expecting that, were you?


Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn is a long-time, Chicago area, advertising/marketing writer, blogger and, for the last fifteen years, screenwriter. A big-time dreamer and proud of it, Sherry has had two short films produced, one in L.A., the other in New York. Both won several awards and screened at festivals but she is still "fighting the good fight," in order to become a full-time, working screenwriter. A passionate straight-shooter who never rests on her laurels, Sherry writes about damn near everything because how do you encapsulate…life? Unflinching in her determination to “just tell the truth,” Sherry strives to educate, engage and inspire others to follow their dreams. A lifelong animal lover and advocate, Sherry resides in a Chicago suburb with her husband and their three fabulous felines.

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  1. I needed a few days before I could comment on your powerful and tragic story which upset me to my very bone marrow. I simply cannot accept abuse in any shape or form. I wonder how many more abused women, children, and men (though in much lesser numbers) it is going to take for the police force to shake up and not fall for a glib tongue in situations like this. Most of all we need to hammer home that abuse in any relationship is pure evil and to seek help from zero hour.

    I sincerely hope that the courage it took for you to write this (somewhat) eased a bit of the heartache and pain. I wish I could give you the tightest possible hug. But since this is not possible I want to tell you that you are much loved and admired.

    • Noemi, I’m so sorry to have upset you. For better or worse, that seems to be the fallout from some of my work. I was not the victim here, but did have someone close in mind when I wrote it, as well as all the faceless victims of domestic abuse who suffer in silence and fear. Thank you for reading and for your kind words.

  2. Sherry – This is powerful. You capture the raw emotion of “love” that revolts when it was based upon control and not a mutual desire to be a servant to each other. What begins with hurtful words becomes anger – anger becomes rage – rage becomes violence. Your force the reader to face the unspeakable so that they are required to reflect on their personal relationships with new eyes. Thank you for sharing this important story.

  3. Sherry, this is terrifyingly powerful and much too real. On Friday, my colleague, JoAnna Bennett, published this:

    Yesterday, Tina Swithin, founder of One Mom’s Battle — — shared JoAnna’s post on her Facebook page:

    Violence of any stripe is abhorrent. Violence perpetrated by men against women is obscene and unacceptable. Anything and everything we can do to call attention to it and eradicate is worth doing.

    Thank you for doing your part and for sharing this gut-wrench.

    • Good God, how tragic. I am so terribly sorry. Whatever awareness we can bring to this horrific situation is hardly enough. We need to do what we can, where and when we can. Thank you for reading, Mark.

  4. I know all to well the hands of abuse and the fear of more torture. The minds retreat into the realm of trying to understand…how to stop it and what to do about it. The psychological torture and subsequent aftermath of not wanting to live. The cloak of depression, the gravity of anxiety, the tortures enhanced when mind has left you. The ground beneath isn’t deep enough and you want it to swallow you whole and never return…and then that moment when you see some hope…something to fight for. I had to forgive…I sill have more to do.
    Thank you for sharing this Sherry! I’m so sorry you had to endure such violence. and am proud of you too. Abuse is wrong…it’s not your fault. It is pure evil and the devil is to blame.
    Those who sold their souls…and those who don’t know why….
    It isn’t your fault to think you want to die….
    I have found comforts in writing and sharing and reach out to others as you do here
    Stay strong and courageous, it happened and is done
    Life now is better, you really have won.
    Love and hugs!

    • Paula, I’m so sorry that you are apparently well-acquainted with the topic of my story. Thank you for your typically kind response. I should stress that this was not about me. I was channeling someone else when I wrote it. Again, thanks so much.

    • Please! No apology necessary! I was thinking of someone close, and yes, it IS like experiencing it. You’re absolutely right.

  5. In my career as a Police Officer, responding to many Domestic Violence calls, the majority of them involved alcohol and more than I can count, victims were the woman and the children. There is something about the need to control, off balanced with a mental/or additictive issue that lies beneath within the abuser. This story takes me back as a little girl to my mother. Sherry, know that you matter and are precious in God’s eyes.

  6. Great writing/article, Sherry! This is a powerful story about a very serious subject. Violence in a relationship should never exist or be tolerated. To anybody that is an abusive relationship the best thing to do is get yourself to a place where you will be safe.

  7. It is emotionally difficult to break a violent relationship, women who have suffered both emotional and physical trauma are frightened of what could happen, and their social and trusting relationships have often been torn away through isolation mechanisms. Furthermore, violent partners establish a relationship of power and the need for control increases when you decide to end the relationship.
    Many women, who have freed themselves from abuse and violence, have long thought they could not do it. In the end they did it.
    I think it matters a lot not to give in to the illusion of being able to change a person who gives the first signs of a violent nature, and the awareness that in a couple’s relationship one should live peacefully, not be afraid of one’s partner and not suffer psychological, physical violence , economic, sexual and verbal.
    If you are aware of living a violent relationship, you need to act and take back control of your life.
    It is not easy and you have to live these situations to understand what you are going through.

    • Thank you, Aldo. Thankfully, this is not about my relationship, merely my musings on what is far too prevalent.