Ruth Marimo was a mother, Zimbabwean immigrant, abuse survivor, and lesbian. In this excerpt from OUTsider, read about the night her ex-husband turned all that against her to add one more identity: inmate.
I find myself sitting on a shiny metal stool, writing on a shiny metal table, wearing an orange outfit with big black letters that say CASS COUNTY JAIL. Tears are streaming down my face and falling like raindrops onto the paper on which I'm trying to write. The cold temperature of the room infuses a chill right into the core of my weak bones.
"What's my crime?" you ask. I'm an alien — illegal in this foreign land, put here in this jail cell by the person I've spent the last seven years of my life with, the person with whom I bore two beautiful children, the citizen to whom I'm still legally married, the person who nearly took my life a little over a month ago.
I had separated myself from Ted at the beginning of the year. It was September 20, 2008. In my heart and mind, I had no emotional, physical, or spiritual ties to Ted. Legally, we were still married, but I had started the process of acquiring a lawyer. Because I knew that he would turn my immigration status against me, I had started to look into what options I had to obtain legal residency without him. …
When I had confessed to Ted my feelings toward other women … he used this as an excuse and a means for where all the blame would lie. … That's how complicated my world is now. I was daring to indulge in the part of me that always existed, but I was also endangering my life. I was still married to a man whose anger was unsurpassed.
He would, without a doubt, make my life a living hell.
November 9, 2008 was the day of his most brutal attack on me. I cannot say I had known this day would come, in the way it came. I knew there would be an eventual showdown — I just never envisioned this.
It was a Sunday and Ted had not shown up all weekend, not even to get his kids. It was after 10 at night and the kids were fast asleep, both of them in bed with me, for we would have an early day the next morning.
In my sleep, I could hear the door opening downstairs. I had locked and chained the front door, so Ted was letting himself in through the garage door.
The next thing, he was standing above me, mad, and screaming at me. "You have another thing coming! You know that? Reality is going to hit you real hard. This is the biggest mistake you ever made, and I will make you regret the day you were born."
"Okay, Ted, do whatever you need to do. The kids and I are sleeping, and we have an early day tomorrow. Please just let us sleep."
"Get out of that bed right now. Those kids are mine, not yours. Their name is Browner, not Marimo. They're Americans, okay? Not Africans! You hear me." His tone was getting angrier, his voice rising.
"Please, Ted. You can't wake the kids. Please, can you just let me sleep? I have to work in the morning."
"Well, I have all your documents, and you're going to pay, Africa."
I could see that he would not leave it alone. I decided to get up out of bed to remove the noise from the room and avoid disturbing our sleeping angels, because that's exactly what they looked like in their sleep. The children were so peaceful and so free, with no idea what was about to take place in their home, between the two people who had brought them into this world.
As I was walking, he was shadowing me. I was inquiring about the whereabouts of my documents. As I reached the kitchen, I turned to face him. Without hesitation, he kicked me in the torso with a boot-encased foot. I landed hard on the ground.
He followed me there with a barrage of fists. I did my best to cover my face, but it seemed to be his main target. He punched me with such force and power. He stood and replaced his fists with his boots, pounding at my head and face, then my torso. I started to beg him, please not to kill me.
I had never seen him this enraged. His entire face and neck looked red. He was shouting obscenities and telling me that today was my dying day. I believed him. He was much too strong for me to try to fight. I was simply holding on to life, glad that at least my children were sleeping and not witnessing this.
Seemingly tired of punching and kicking me, he grabbed my throat with both hands and started to squeeze. I was 28 years old and this was the way I would die. I felt my life slipping away. I became dizzy and faint. I could no longer resists or try to shield myself. I was lying limp on the ground, reduced to a dwarf by this man who had transformed into a Hulk-like figure right before my eyes. I was not sure how much time went by, but he released me, as if transformed back into a human being.
He frantically searched for the phone to make a 911 call. I lay motionless for a few minutes, but I could hear him telling whoever was on the other line about how I had attacked him with a knife and how he tried to defend himself. Something moved me to get up off the ground. My head was heavy and pounding, as if I had been struck with a hammer. There was chocolate pudding smeared all over the tiled kitchen floor.
I found my phone to make a 911 call to say I had been beaten. I ran outside the front door in an effort to find safety. I could feel my forehead swelling. Flashing lights appeared in both directions of Parkview Boulevard.
An officer ran toward me with something drawn, asking, "Where is the knife? Drop the knife."
"I have no knife. He is lying. I never had a knife."
"Let me see your hands."
I put both hands up, as if to surrender, to show the approaching officers that I was not the threat my attacker had painted me to be. As the first officer got close to me, the first thing he said was, "Wow, your head is swelling!"
"Can I get some ice?" I asked.
"Stay out here. We will get it for you."
The cop entered the premises, while another started to question me about the events that led up to this point. I told them my version, which was, of course, entirely different from the one Ted was telling the officers inside.
The officers traded places. The ones inside came out to question me, while the ones questioning me went inside to question him. Someone gave me an ice pack, which I held to my bulging forehead. My head felt bumpy everywhere I touched. My right eye began to shrink. The officers spent about 45 minutes investigating both our stories and the scene. They came out and told me that they had decided to put him under arrest. He had yelled something about me being an illegal immigrant the minute the police arrived. I was escorted to my basement in order to be out of his path as they escorted him to the waiting police car.