I’m currently on a work related trip that has me staying in a small town in northern Minnesota. On my way to the hotel, I stopped at the local Target to pick up some snacks and do some self-soothing via the clearance rack. It was just getting to dark when I trudged out through the thick gray slush covering the parking lot toward my car.
An aisle over there was a woman trying to get a boy, perhaps around 10 or 11, to get into her car. She was clearly his mother. He was clearly trying to get away from her, by any means necessary- including hitting her with a water bottle and kicking, and to get back into the car he had arrived in. There were three grown men in the car, none of which were trying to help her manage her son.
She was screaming at him to “get out of the car”, which soon became “get the FUCK OUT OF THIS CAR”. A man emerged out of the car and began to scream at her. He called her a whore and a slut and talked about how she’d suck any dick she could fine. I couldn’t hear how she responded but he scream “What? What? You gonna send my ass back to prison?”
I was putting my bag into the car when I first heard the yelling but then I was just transfixed. I couldn’t look away but I couldn’t figure out what to do. If I had seen the man raise his hand to her, I would have called the police, I am sure of that. But this? This I didn’t know how to handle.
Eventually the boy was dragged from the car and the man peeled out of the parking lot as the boy chased after him. Once he realized the car was gone, he turned back around on his mom and screamed “I hate you, I hate you!” as he tried to kick and punch her some more. She was silent as she grabbed his arm and pulled him back to her car.
I felt sick to my stomach as I walked over to her and asked “Do you need anything? Is there anything I can do to help?”. She gave me a tight smile and said “no, he’s just my ex-husband. This is what he is like.”
The boy started to try to hit her again and I said “hey, knock it off” but it didn’t make a difference. I asked again if she needed help and she said no again. I walked back to my car feeling useless and upset. I also felt grateful that my life is such that I’ll sleep soundly in a comfortable hotel and call my husband who has never made me feel unsafe and guilty (somehow) that I can’t imagine she feels safe. From her ex or her son.
I’ve found myself thinking about that woman today and her son. I can only imagine the things her son has seen. If her ex acts like this in public, what happens in private? I feel like I should have done something but even now, I don’t know what that was.