I walked passed the restaurant you used to take me to, it had been a long time since I last was in that area and these memories came rushing to me. The air felt crisp, the smells familiar, it was like it was only yesterday that we shared our last meal together there. I could see a couple sitting there, talking and laughing. I wonder what they were talking about? I wonder if they were truly as happy as they wanted it to look like. I hoped they were nothing like us, secretly resenting each other and despising each and every breath the other took.
I remember when we first met. I was at a party with my friends, you were with yours, and we spent most of the night looking at each other from across the room, stealing glances and secret smiles. I thought about going over to speak to you but I could see the girls surrounding you. So beautiful and seemed to have your attention, there was no way I could compete. I didn’t think anything would go beyond our few looks, but then suddenly you came over to introduce yourself. Leon. I kept repeating your name in my head. I was so mesmerised by your voice, your eyes, and your body. You held yourself with such pride; you spoke with such urgency, when you looked at me I felt like it was just the two of us in the room.
You were the bad boy, tattoos creeping up above your shirt line, I wanted to look at your body and see the ink etched on your skin. When you smiled, god, I would just melt. Even though you could be talking to anyone that night, you chose to speak to me, I had your undivided attention and you were so interested in what I had to say.
I was the good girl, or so you thought, because that’s what I wanted you to see. You thought I was different, that’s what you said, that the way I stood out from the typical girls in the room, that’s what grabbed your attention. I was quiet, reserved, you wanted to explore every part of me, and you meant that in every way you could. We talked for hours, you flirted with me, pulling me closer every time I took a step away from you. Holding my hand and telling me how much you loved my mind, my wit, my passion.
“I want to give you the world.’
You whispered into my ear. I laughed and pushed you away but secretly I wanted you to carry on. From the moment I laid my eyes on you I wanted you to be a part of me. I wanted you to ravage me, undress me like you were doing with your eyes. I wanted to feel your lips on mine, I wanted your hands to feel my body. I was taken by you so quickly that you practically had me in the palm of your hands.
You were a lot older than me, had a lot more experience, and therefore I thought you had more wisdom. I was practically a little girl, in your world, I was a visitor but in the beginning you wanted me to believe that you were making me your world. That you were giving up everything for me, that I was your Queen and that anything I said went. I was young and so naïve so I believed every word you said, every lie you told.
Our first moments together were so magical. I was an outsider in your crowd, your ‘crew’ I was hypnotised by your gang culture. I loved all your tattoos, your pacts, how you said ‘no one ever messed with the family or else’ that anyone dumb enough to hurt any of you would have what was coming to them. You promised to protect me, never did I imagine in my wildest dreams that the person I actually needed protecting from was you.
You made me feel like I belonged somewhere, which in my lifetime was a pretty foreign concept. I had spent so long feeling like a lost person that being welcomed into your inner circle seemed like a dream come true. At the time I thought this granted me so much freedom, but really I was willingly walking into a prison.
I felt like because of you I had suddenly found a second family, a big group of party friends who all liked to have fun, be silly, go on adventures. I felt so happy and content to be in the inner circle, because they all liked you, they seemed to like me. They worshipped you, but I saw you as God. You could do no wrong with me.
When we first had sex you told me that I was never to think about any of the guys I had ever loved or had sex with. You said that you refused to have damaged goods for a Queen, you said it in such a way that I laughed with you, never for once thinking about how dark it actually sounded. I knew you were protective, but never thought of it as possessive. I felt so loved, I felt so wanted, but really that was part of your game wasn’t it? You wanted me to feel like you had given so much to me, you wanted me to be so happy, to feel so full of love, happiness, friends, joy, memories, just so that when you decided to, you could take it all away and you knew it would feel so much worse.
My friends warned me about you, I didn’t listen to them. Isn’t that such a kick in the teeth now. I was so convinced they were jealous of us, I knew so many girls were after you, desperate to be your companion, it was almost like a competition. I knew you had a reputation for messing with girls, but you kept telling me that I was different, I so badly wanted to be different, Leon, you made me want to be different. I wanted to be the girl that changed you; I wanted to be your wife. I wanted you, your world and every day I was so grateful to be ‘allowed’ in your life.
You were so attentive; making sure that when I was visiting but you had work I had company. You made sure that I was always being taken care of, that I was having a good time, you always wanted me to feel like I had a better time with you then being at home in my ordinary life. You had me buy into your lifestyle so that I would never want to leave. You said you quit your bad habits, you stopped smoking weed, you only drank when you were with me, you said you dropped every female that had been in your eye line. You said I was your Queen, that I was the one, but just because I was the one didn’t mean I was the only one. Right?
When we had gotten to know each other more, things started to change. You got meaner. Either that or I stopped hearing your ‘jokes’ as a joke and started hearing them for what they were, horrible criticisms. When I look at myself in the mirror now I laugh, I’m probably quadruple the size now as I was when I was with you. I was a petite size 6 and yet when we lay in bed you would grab my stomach and tell me how fat I was. You’d laugh after and at first I would laugh too, but eventually it got more frequent and a little more hurtful. It wasn’t so funny when I’d have starved myself for the day and have an extra bowl of rice at dinner and you’d take it away from me because you said you would never have a fat girlfriend. Whenever you’d say that you would take your shirt off and make me look at your muscles, your body so toned and tight. The body I had once traced with my fingers, was now my source of discomfort. Comments became actions, if I gained even a pound you’d take me to the gym and we’d work out together. You’d call me a fat pig and people would look and we’d both laugh, for me it was a way of building a barrier so I wouldn’t get hurt, you liked that I played happy families with you, you had no idea how much it was killing me inside.
I thought, at least it’s just words, words will never scar.
Then things got dark.
I remember one weekend I visited you. I had been having such a tough time with my family, my friends just didn’t get me, work was physically exhausting, school mentally, life emotionally. I’d had enough. We had a big party to go to, all your friends were going to be there, you were looking forward to being able to just relax and spend time with me. I was looking forward to getting fucking drunk.
Within an hour of being at the party I was plastered, dancing on tables and taking way too many selfies with my best friend. I was having a good time, I had pretty much forgotten about how sorry I was feeling for myself. My friend Becky and I were doing shots when she demanded we dance like they did in Coyote Ugly, for some stupid reason I thought it was a good idea and so that’s what we did. I could hear the music thumping, the drinks flowing, my laughter was ringing in my ears, I’d never felt so alive, so happy, so carefree then I felt your hand wrap around my ankle and yank me down.
As I came tumbling down, I saw your angry face, I could hear the energy coming out of you, I was scared. You picked me up, I was laughing, fuck, why was I laughing? As I write these words, I look in front of me, I’m picturing it happen, it was dark, you yanked my arm up so that I stood up. You were grumbling something under your breath and I was laughing so hard, I remember being so scared but being unable to supress my laughter.
“Look at what happens when you get drunk, you’re embarrassing yourself.”
People were looking at us, you were glaring at me, I looked around and shrugged. I knew I shouldn’t have said it, I really should have kept my mouth shut but didn’t, I couldn’t help myself.
“No I’m not.”
I shouted, I was still finding something funny. You clearly didn’t.
You yanked at my arm again, leading me through the sea of people.
“You’re embarrassing me. We’re going home.”
And with that you lead me out of the house and hailed a taxi.
When we got home, you stopped talking to me for an hour. I got ready for bed, having no idea what I was going to be laid next to. I hadn’t been afraid of you until this point. You had been nothing but gentle with me. Maybe it was the drinks? A bad day/night? Maybe you were just not in the mood.
When I told you I had a fantastic evening, it was like your mind erupted. You turned around and slapped me. It happened so quickly that I didn’t know how to react. I hadn’t even processed what had happened before you jumped on me and began kissing me, apologising over and over again, telling me how I had pushed you too far tonight, making me promise not to do it again, me? Making me promise not to make you mad again. But I did, I obediently apologised for pushing you too hard and we went to bed.
Neither of us kept to our promise though, we both broke it so many times over the years. We fought like cats and dogs. I started becoming more vocal but in some ways I also became withdrawn.
It was like after that evening the illusion was shattered, for both you and I. Like once you laid your hands on me, it opened up the way for you to do as you pleased when you pleased.
Those nights, when you’d choke me till I almost passed out, the smacks on my face, never being hard enough to bruise too badly. You never beat me, you’d only ever hit me in the heat of the moment, I was lucky you didn’t beat sense into me. You’d always say that after I made you too angry. Sometimes you’d be able to restrain yourself, sometimes all you’d have the energy for was to tell me how I was an elephant and that no man would ever want to fuck a fat girl. Sometimes you’d hint at how I needed to be the kind of girl that made herself sick. Sometimes you’d tell me how I was too dumb to go to University. Sometimes you’d tell me how embaressed you were to be seen with me when I dressed like a whore and how my Mum would be so disappointed to see that her little girl was basically a prostitute.
You never forgot to tell me how you could have any girl you wanted, but yet you wanted me. But why did you want me? What did I do for you? Was it because I was so obedient, so discreet, because when we were with your friends I would talk about what a wonderful person you were? Was it because everything you told me to do I would, I never really questioned what you asked of me, I just accepted and willing abide. I loved you so deeply and was so hopeful that you would love me too.
You ingrained in my head that you were the best I was ever going to get and that you were slumming it up with me. I believed you, I really did, I appreciated all you were doing for me, trying to make me a better person, tough love you’d call it. I would show my gratitude to you in every way I could, any way you’d ask of me. I’d have sex whenever you wanted, but sometimes I couldn’t help but feel like it was rape. Oh, are you triggered? Well I don’t want to offend you, but what really classifies as rape? I mean, you never really forced yourself into me, you never fucked me when I begged you not too, but you may as well have done, because whilst I obediently laid down for you, I never felt like I had a choice.
Back then I felt so helpless that I never felt like I ever had any real choice over anything. I was so afraid of loosing this world that you had given me, all the friends I had made, the doors you’d opened up, and in a very huge way I was still so convinced that you did what you did because you wanted to make me a better person.
“Those boys never cared about you and so they never tried to make you a good person, I love you more because I’m trying to mould you into a better human being. I wouldn’t need to be so harsh if you just accepted that you aren’t good right now.”
I felt like I memorised this. Like a prayer I would repeatedly tell myself how I wasn’t worthy of your love but if I accepted your lessons and punishment then someday I would. I wanted your love, I was desperate for it, and I think it just made you push that much harder.
Those months turned into years and I don’t quite recall what that eureka moment was for me. The moment I woke up to see the monster right beside me. I had become so numb to what you were doing. Your words rang hollow in me. You had pretty much broken every part of my being and still you wanted more.
I was frightened of living but also so scared to die. I don’t know why. It wasn’t like you were making me bleed. Your words were worse than your touch. You would constantly tell me how if I ever pushed you so far as to make you leave me, I would be the one to suffer. I would loose everything because without you I had nothing, I was nothing. How I was so destroyed that no man would ever want me. How you would make me hurt for the way I hurt you.
I believed you.
Those three words that hurts me to this day. I believed you. I had allowed you to give me my worth for 2 painful years and you did so willingly. You didn’t want me to ever think I was worthy of your love or attention and so you made sure I felt as worthless as possible. It worked, I felt so dehumanised for so long that I no longer expected your love nor did I want it.
You did the opposite of what you wanted and I stopped longing for you. I stayed with you why? Because I was afraid of you. I was afraid of what you could do because I knew the worst thing I could ever do to you was leave you.
I think we both found our place in this situation, I wasn’t a victim, I was a willing participant, it just so happened that more often than not the hurt was directed at me, and in your words, caused because of my lack of obedience. If you wanted an obedient companion you should have had a dog, though I am grateful you fixated on me instead of a helpless animal, at least I could tell you to stop.
At what point did your grasp on me begin to burn my skin? Do you remember the moment I first flinched when you went to touch me or can you only see the good memories. Back when I looked at you like you were my King and I was so hopelessly devoted to you.
When I think about those times now I’m just so embarrassed. You were right, I did disgrace my mother, but not because I was the whore you constantly told me I was, it was because I was not strong enough to leave you, I wasn’t brave enough to break free from you. Another thing you were right about, I only really have myself to blame, if I had left you sooner maybe I wouldn’t have fallen down such a dark path.
After hearing your threats for so long, having been so afraid to lose you, or be hurt by you, I had become so numb. Almost defiant by thinking, don’t keep threatening to leave, just leave. I was weirdly comforted by my secret defiance but it was never enough to actually break me from my despair.
I was basically a zombie and could barely feel any true emotion. I almost frightened myself by how cold and distant I was becoming from everyone I loved.
My visits with you felt like a prison sentence. I knew I would only be able to do the things you enjoyed and so I never really felt like I could have a life. My biggest shame was how I let you bully me into satisfying your perverse sexual fantasy and then allowing you to do so in front of a camera. You promised me you’d delete it, you promised me I wouldn’t have anything to worry about, you promised me that it would be worse if we didn’t than if we did. I trusted you, even after everything I trusted you because your ego was a lot bigger than your dick.
Yet another way I had shamed my family, at the time I didn’t see this as your way of having more leverage against me. I figured you couldn’t be so cold and callous to hold that over me, once you were done with me that would be it right? When we were finished i wouldn’t matter anymore and that was my only saving grace.
I can’t tell you how predictable you became. Even though in the beginning I knew you loved me, I knew eventually you’d miss being a free agent.
Let me just say this. I know that no matter what you say or how many times you say it, I know you loved me. Why else would you have told me all of those things that you did. Why would you have entrusted me with things that you had never shared with anyone else. Why would you have let me see a part of you that you were so afraid to show? Why would you have cried in my arms about how you missed your Mum and how fucked up life was. Cried with how you were done with the world, sick of the drugs, tired of the friends, the lifestyle that never had any true substance, and the parties that only ever left you feeling empty. Why is it that I know that when you cry, you like to do so with your Dad’s hoodie. How even when you’re cold you don’t like to cover your feet. Why did you let me see any deep and real part of you if you never cared at all?
Sometimes I like to think that you could see that I was young and still had so much to look forward to but you were washed up and had already peaked. Sometimes I like to believe that that caused you to resent me and you wanted me to fall down to your level. Sometimes when I want to feel some kind of sanity when thinking of you, I like to think that you loved me so much that you were afraid to loose me, so you did what you did, said what you said just so that I could feel like you and I were the only two people who could be for each other. But then I remember what an asshole you were. How cold hearted and callous you were. How the pain and devastation you caused in my life lead me to fear love, relationships and any potential close connection with any other human being.
I was so frightened by people I developed a fear and anxiety towards social situations and yes I truly blame the cause of that on you.
I became so fixated on disappointing my parents and my family because of all those nights you would keep tabs on my whereabouts. You always insisted that when I wasn’t with you, I had to tell you where I was, who I was with, what I was doing and when I was going home. Then you would make me call you on my house phone just so you knew that I was definitely at home and not lying. Then the weeks when I would go out two nights in a row and you’d get so mad at me, you’d text me constantly in hopes that you would say something to ruin my night. Sometimes I would have to turn my phone on silent just so I could ignore you. Then we would talk on the phone and you would harass me, telling me how I disrespected my family all because I was out with friends. You would constantly say how I was embarrassing myself and how I was disappointing my parents because of how much of a whore I was. Your words with venom and hate because you knew that it killed me thinking about how I was potentially hurting my parents.
What was it you even liked about me? Because from what I remember you only ever had harsh criticisms of me and I can’t even remember many nice things you actually ever had to say to me.
But even now as I try to explain to my boyfriend why sometimes I flinch at a touch, or struggle to connect with him or even other people, I am scratching my head and asking why the hell we were together for as long as we were. Was the night we first met ever a memory worth keeping? Because I know that every night that you scared me, made me fear for my life, I would remember what it felt like when I first met you. How you blew me away with your smile and made me feel so important. How I would try to convince myself that you were still the same person but you were just going through some shit and that eventually you would snap out of it and we’d be okay again.
I spent so long pleading, bargaining and settling for whatever mediocre form of love you had to offer me and I played it into my head as if it was God’s gift. You were my knight in shining armour that slowly became my captor and I was afraid of you.
I AM AFRAID OF YOU.
I wanted to scream that out so many times but every time I tried to the words got stuck in my throat.
You were wrong too though.
I didn’t loose anything when you left me because I was already left with nothing before that. You broke me down till I no longer recognised myself and I was surprised I could even live my life as normally as I did.
I think back to those times and there was so much darkness clouding up my judgement. It was such a dark period of my life and I have so much I want to scream out loud now but it’s too late.
Even if I could say it, you wouldn’t hear it, even if you heard it, you wouldn’t care.
But I have this courage in me that you did a good job trying to break. You did, for a while you succeeded. The funny thing is a big part of our relationship was fear but what you didn’t realise is that by constantly threatening me, you were making me used to it. It was normal for you to yell and stamp your feet and throw things, at me, at the wall, at the floor that I became desensitized to how damaging it was. I could go from you pining me down and threatening to hurt me one minute to suddenly cuddling with you in bed as if nothing had happened.
Despite the constant wave of emotions you made me feel and your intense scrutiny and insistent to basically watch over me every day, I still felt such deep loneliness. Those friends that you had blessed me with became a curse, I knew they were watching me for you, reporting everything I did and said so that you were always with me. Those few girl friends I felt could relate to me, well at the end of it, I knew you were sleeping with at least 2 of them. But still, when all was said and done, I was the one out casted whilst you went back to being King of your people. I was glad for you to go back to them; because I was secretly laughing, deep down in my misery I could still see the irony in all of it. I saw the shallowness of your world and how I no longer had to be a part of your consort. I wasn’t afraid in the end because I had nothing left to be afraid of. You made me stare into the face of evil but I still found the energy inside of myself to pity you. Pity that you had to go back to living your life, in your miserable job, with your fake and phony friends, trying to find someone to love you, all of you, your misunderstood, out of control being. I pitied you because I wasn’t sure it was possible and wondered how long before you found your next victim. Whether they would be as weak as I was. Would you lure them in with the promise of love and devotion only to make them wear your name like a punishment. Would you humiliate them in order to make yourself feel like a man, would you beat and dehumanise them just to make yourself feel superior. Whatever the future had in store for you I hoped you nothing but the best. I mean that. I still do. Because everyone deserves to be loved, even those incapable of giving love themselves. I hoped that someday you would find someone to calm that insecure mind of yours, that someone will finally be able to show you that love doesn’t have to hurt to feel good, that an imperfect person is just as capable of being a good person and that the right person, the actual one, will wipe away any expectation you have and will make you grateful for their existence.
I used to be sorry for not being that one, until I accepted that I am just a person who was not brought into this earth for you. That I tried my very hardest to be the person you wanted me to be but ultimately I couldn’t conform to the unfair expectations you set on me. For many years I wondered why you treated me the way that you did, why you hurt me so much when my only crime was loving you. I asked myself this countless times until I realised that it no longer mattered nor would it change the past. I’m not looking for acceptance or answers anymore Leon, I am free of your grasp but I also want to tell you that you are free from any guilt you may have felt towards me. I no longer care nor’ have the time to be thinking about what could have, should have and would have been because I am far from the meek little girl you temporarily broke, I say temporarily because once I allowed myself to heal, I became stronger, braver and smarter. I am a better person now, but it wasn’t because of you, whilst you tried to mould me into your image of a perfect person, I learned what it meant to be a good human being, that rebirth required breaking away from you, re-evaluating my life and changing the parts of me that made me unhappy, because really we should be the change we want to see in the world.
It took a long time to get me to a place where I could trust that what I believed was for my best interest and that I deserved much more than what you or anyone with bad intentions for me had to offer.
So I’m back at that restaurant, standing outside, watching that couple stare into each other’s eyes, playfully discussing something they’re finding amusing. For a moment I see myself in that girl’s position, I plead for her to get up and walk away before it’s too late. But then I catch my reflection in the window, I see my partner, Norbert standing beside me and I laugh. I feel like I haven’t laughed like that in so long, I laugh because I realise that you and I were a lifetime ago and I’m now in a better, happier, healthier place, I’m a good person, and I no longer need you to tell me that.