Warning: this post is different. It talks about things that may make some readers uncomfortable – especially ones that know me personally and in parts it may be a bit graphic. Don’t feel you have to read it, it’s just something I need to write.
So, it’s been awhile. Kinda like a whole year while. A weird, overwhelming, stranger-than-fiction type of year.
Last October was the break up of a ten year union between me and the father of my two beautiful children. November heralded news of cancer, not mine. December saw a new me, full of optimism and excitement, ready to take on the world. January was welcomed in by a trip to chemo and every second weekend spent taking care of the patient. February brought fear, anxiety, police, a panic button, betrayal, and really amazing friends and colleagues to my side. March dawned the realisation of needing some help. Professional help. April had some upsetting news, an intentional death, an end without a closure. May to July brought an inner strength and a continuing battle. And now, finally, it’s time to write.
I had this boyfriend. I had this pretty crappy, controlling boyfriend. He was controlling. He was violent. And he was abusive. This boyfriend of mine abused me in each and every way you can imagine. Go ahead. Don’t, it’s not very pleasant.
He had chosen a rather dark path to follow. I don’t know why. I wonder why. I wonder why all night sometimes. But I don’t know, and I’ll probably never know. But what I do know is that his name was Christopher Alexander and he had a mother. Christopher had a mother that loved him. That loves him still. I’m a mother. I wish I could hug Christopher’s mother. I wish I could cry with her. Mourn her son. He’s dead now. Her son. My old boyfriend.
It’s really hard to talk about Christopher. But I need to talk about Christopher. I need to not feel completely alone. I can’t talk to his mum, I can only talk to you.
I don’t know what was wrong with Christopher, I wish I knew. I wish I knew who he was as a child. I wish I could see a photo of him as a baby. I wish I had something to replace the horror that is my memories of him.
Christopher Alexander held me over a 12th floor balcony once. He held me over the balcony and he told me he was going to drop me. He told me that my body would hit the perspex roof below and that nobody would find me until the next day. He told me it would be classed a suicide. Christopher told me that if I moved or screamed he would drop me. He told me that even if I didn’t move or scream he would probably drop me,
He didn’t drop me.
In February this year Christopher called me at work. He spoke to our office lady, demanding to talk to me. Like it was his right. I hadn’t had contact with Christopher since August 2005. He frightened the office admin. That’s what she told me. She said “I’ve had a really strange call, a man asking for you”. I knew who it was. In Rm 9 my knees gave out and I sank to the chair behind me. In that moment I was reduced to the victim I had left behind 13 years ago. I was no longer me, Mum, Teacher’s Aide, Daughter, Friend, Colleague. Gone in just 11 words.
One time Christopher Alexander, it helps me to use his full name. For three years I knew him by the names Nicolas Larsen. Nicolas Von Larsen. And Nicolas Hessan. I never really knew him at all. One time I came home… from work. We were staying in a university apartment in Brisbane. I came home to find Christopher looking at Bugatti’s on the internet. I came home, and I made a mistake. I didn’t read his mood. I looked over his shoulder and I commented on the car. Christopher turned on me, pinning me to the wall he gave me a choice – to be punched in the face or the chest.
While I write this I’m listening for the very first time in 13 years to Craig Armstrong’s album The Space Between Us. It makes my lip curl. I love this music but it’s Christopher’s music. I’ve listened to this music with a broken rib, because I chose to be punched in the chest. I’m not sure if you can imagine being given a choice like this. It’s almost impossible to make. It’s kinda like asking a parent which child they would save if they could only save one from a car sinking in the water…fucking impossible right? But it was a choice I was forced to make. When Christopher said “if you choose the face I will probably have to kill you because of the bruising” it didn’t actually make the choice that much easier. I didn’t want to be punched at all. The inner strength it takes to remove your arms from across your chest and wait to be punched is almost unimaginable.
Christopher Alexander killed himself on the first Monday of the April school holidays this year. Well, he was found dead that day. By a friend. He had friends. The police said it was alcohol poisoning. The coroner recorded his death as “intentional” The trauma counselor that contacted me called it suicide. None of these surprised me. None of these comforted me. He had a mum.
In February when Christopher contacted me he used his alias. My boss took me to the police station to file a complaint. My boss was the strength I needed. The police had nothing to go on. Nothing. And they made that pretty clear. No name? No case. But Christopher made a mistake. In the sixth call he made to my work that day he left a voice message with his mobile number. That mistake gave me so many answers.
In the weeks that followed there were more visits to “the station”. My boss drove me and waited in the foyer. She bought me a coffee, made small talk, helped me to feel normal. There were follow up statements. Meetings with different police teams. Practice interviews.
And then, then the big day, I gave evidence on video at the police station. It took 2 1/2 hours. A lady police officer led the interview in a little room. There were two arm chairs and a two seater sofa. I sat on the sofa and the interviewer sat on my right, in a chair. There were a couple of cushions, during various stages of the interview I hugged these to me. There was nowhere to hide. A camera was installed in the wall in front of me. In an adjacent room a male officer sat directing the interview. He was joined by the Detective Constable in charge of my case and a support worker from the charity HELP. They listened to everything I said. They watched me. For 2 1/2 hours. They brought me coffee and told me what a great job I was doing.
The evidence I gave was to support the case being sent via Interpol to Australia. I had been asked whether I wanted to pursue charges for the crimes Christopher Alexander committed against me. Some of the crimes he committed warranted extradition.
Telling, reliving those offences, was the most difficult and at the same time the most freeing moment of my life thus far. To be surrounded by people who knew I was telling the truth, who were outraged, who wanted to fight for me. In that moment I felt loved.
One time I came home from work and Nicolas was sitting on the sofa in the lounge of the furnished apartment we’d rented, there were a couple of empty wine bottles on the floor beside him and a pile of GQ magazines on the table in front of him. Nicolas accused me of tearing out pages from the magazine. Pictures of male models. I knew he knew I hadn’t done it, because I hadn’t done it so the only person who could have done it was him. But in the end I saw there was no way around it. I would have to admit to having done something I hadn’t done, knowing that my accuser had done it himself. So I did. Nicolas told me that my punishment would come later. He told me he would inject me with a chemical that would make me feel like I’d been set alight. On fire. My body would feel like it was burning up. It would last for hours. I wouldn’t be burnt. But I’d feel like I was on fire. He told me if I were really strong I could convince my mind it was just a chemical and control the pain. He said he didn’t think I was that strong. Then he butted me in the head, and I passed out.
It turned out that when I met Christopher in 2002, he was on the run from a court case. He’d skipped town. Skipped states. Changed his name. Ditched his identity. I left him in 2005. In 2009 he was arrested for I don’t know what, fingerprinted and subsequently identified as Christopher Alexander. Wanted for skipping his court case. Skipping a trial for the rape of a 16 year old girl.
I found this out at the end of my 2 1/2 hour testimony. The Detective Sgt came into the room. He was carrying a brown manila folder. He sat down in the chair next to me and he said “I’ve got some news”. “I want you to prepare yourself because I’m going to show you some photos of who I think ‘Nicolas’ is and he’s going to look quite different”.
James passed me the first sheet. It was of an old man. He looked like a homeless person. He had Nicolas’s nose.
He didn’t look like the person I’d met in Cairns, lived with in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. He didn’t look like the man who had strangled me till I passed out. Or the person that told me he would go to Melbourne and rape my niece if I tried to leave him. He wasn’t the person I remembered waiting for me behind the door with a knife or the person that locked me out of my own house at night.
“Is that Nicolas?” he asked me. Fuck.
Nicolas was Christopher. Or Christopher had been Nicolas. Nicolas had been arrested in 2009. He was spent 8 years in prison in NSW. EIGHT years. Nicolas had been on the run. On the run when he was with me. The picture James showed me was from Christopher’s passport. Christopher’s NZ passport. Christopher’s passport that the NZ embassy in Sydney had issued only to accommodate his deportation. Deportation to Wellington where he was to serve out his two years parole. Australia sent him back. A violent sexual offender.
James explained to me. I sat and said Oh my God. Oh my God.
I miss James. The first man that ever really gave a fuck.
Christopher is dead. The panic button in my kitchen cupboard is now moot. I don’t have to look over my shoulder, or worry about who is coming after my kids. I don’t have to, but I still look under my bed and in all the cupboards before I turn the lights out. I still rely on medicine to control my anxiety and more to allow me to sleep. I still need weekly appointments to guide me back to the living. I still wonder why the men in my life don’t honor me, refuse to stand up for me, take my side, fight my battles with me. I wonder what I could have done differently to prevent a death. I wonder who I am and who I will be now. I wonder if I’ll ever be whole.