The first time you found me,
I was a little girl.
You told me I could trust you
and then you turned around and ruined me.
And now, years later, you find me again.
You are different this time, younger and female,
but the words you whisper in my ear are still the same.
They silence any objection I have and force me to believe
that you are right.
and I am wrong.
From underwater, I hear you growl darkly, “You can’t leave me,”
and for a split second, I swear I feel your hands on my shoulders,
shaking me and I think
you're hurting me
until I realize it is just me trembling in blind fear.
Can’t you see?
You’re scaring me.
The lies that flow so effortlessly from my lips
like milk and honey, to keep me safe like they have all my life.
And you’re so desperate for affection
that you just lap them right up like a scrawny stray
never once stopping to question
whether or not I felt forced to feed them to you.
And now somehow it’s my fault.
“You don’t get to decide if you want to leave me.”
Your eyes are manic in the near twilight,
the warm brown I had grown accustomed to
now glowed eerily in the dark.
And instead I hear -
“you don’t have a choice because I will do what I want
and you will keep quiet”
Because isn’t that the same thing you said to me, over ten years ago?
“I love you and I’m not leaving you, no matter what you say.”
You’re sick, how you prey on someone’s loneliness.
Because you know I have no friends that care,
no family that would believe me.
I am broken
but not too broken to be bent by your bruised, blistered hands.
Your long arm snakes towards me in the dark
and the bruise -
that you so handsomely acquired
just two weeks prior
by punching the steering wheel in what you must think
was so brave in an attempt to control your blind rage when I refused you that night -
catches my eye and draws my attention to it
like a moth to a flame,
and suddenly my body is prepared for what I know will come next.
And I flinch.
Something shrill hits my ear, falls unto my lap -
it is my scream, they are my tears.
They are foreign to me, and yet, I know them all too well.
I glance up,
mortified less at my own reaction
and more at how I would be punished,
to see your simmering glare narrowed at me
so hot with pure fury
like my mother’s hot comb against my scalp early Sunday morning
“Did you really think I was going to hit you?! How stupid could you be?”
you’re yelling now
and I cower in your shadow.
I am sorry.
I do not understand how I am different from that steering wheel.
I am confused
as to why someone would be so angry
at the person they claim to love.
If they flinch away from your touch.
does it mean you’ve done a good job “loving” them?
“If you walk away from me now, you’ll never see me again,”
If only because I didn’t have a chance to escape from your dirty fingers
and a small part of me is grateful for that ultimatum.
Because I knew then
as I know now
that you did not love
because love does not destroy
and I am still discovering burns
from ten years ago.
So while I may not know exactly what a healthy relationship looks like,
I sure as hell can tell you what it doesn’t.
Even if I didn’t realize the signs until only a month ago.