One time my boyfriend and I were on a flight and this couple sitting in the seats in front of us got into a whisper fight. Their fight seemed humorous at first, not unlike a fight my boyfriend and I might have (just… not generally in public). But it quickly became evident that this guy was abusive. What had seemed as banter back and forth was actually really harmful comments and denigrating behavior. At one point, she must have moved her legs or something, and he pointed a finger right in her face and whisper-shouted “don’t you EVER face your feet at me like that. You’re disgusting. You would get beaten for that in other countries.”
What killed me was her constant apologizing. It was clear that she was doing it to keep him quiet, and it reminded me of my own abusive relationship when I was a teenager. Say whatever you can to calm him down, doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it. She just seemed so defeated. He was truly awful, but we were really frozen. I wanted to say something but I didn’t know how he would react and there isn’t really anywhere you can escape to on a plane.
When we landed, I followed her to the bathroom, unsure of what I was going to do. I knew that if someone had come to me when I was dating my abuser and told me anything I wouldn’t have listened. I probably would have reacted with hostility. I stood next to her as she was washing her hands and basically blurted out “relationships aren’t supposed to be like that, and you deserve better.” She looked at me blankly and said “what?” So I repeated myself, and added: “I’ve seen you, and I wish that someone had helped me see the hell I was living.”
She didn’t reply, but she started to tear up and rushed out of the bathroom. I think about her a lot. I hope she found her way out.
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