color key — blue: mental health; red: assault. contrast of light and dark correlates with bright and somber tones of voice.
I've Finally Moved On
I've Finally Moved On
I've Finally Moved On
I've Finally Moved On
cw: sexual assault. One of the first times we spoke, he asked me why I always looked away when he tried to look at me. I told him that it was because I wasn’t fond of the freckle on my nose and that I didn’t want him to see it. I always tried to show him my good side, so I chipped away at bits of myself I didn’t want him to see. He told me that covering up my freckles was like the night sky covering up its stars, and that he loved it more than anything else about me.
I liked the freckle on his cheek too and the way it tucked into his dimple when he smiled. I liked that when he smiled, you could see all of his teeth at once and even his gums. I wrote about it a lot. I wrote about him a lot. Most of my free time was spent idolizing the person I thought he was and wanted him to be,writing about him and his intricacies. He never shared much of himself with me, and I thought it made him deep and emotional. I tried to share my writing with him but he never seemed moved by it. He never told me he liked it or that he was proud. I even found pieces I’d written him tucked in the back of drawers, still folded in the exact way I’d given it to him.
The first time he told me he loved me, I have to admit that I felt nothing. I felt no obligation to him, but felt obligated to say it back. I felt trapped. I felt like I had led him on and it was my job to make him feel loved, but often I wondered what it would be like to be on my own. I often fantasized about being with other people and I wished he was different. I didn’t know what was right and what was wrong — all I knew was that we were together and it was going to stay that way.
One day we were walking down the street and I saw one of my friends that I had not seen in a long time walking by. Excitedly, I wanted to run towards him to say hello. I noticed his grip on my wrist was a bit too tight and I couldn’t get out of it to speak to my friend. My friend noticed me first and came to say hi, but he pushed me behind him and became sort of a wall between me and my friend. I had to speak over his shoulder and even though I could tell my friend was alarmed, I didn’t think much else of it. I didn’t see much of that friend anymore after that.
The more and more my other friends tried to hang out with me, the more he insisted that if I were going anywhere that he was to come with. I felt it was endearing at the time. Once again, I didn’t think anything of it.
The jealousy started to get more and more intense. I took my laptop into the bathroom with me to shower (a strange routine I know, but I liked to play music from it), I closed the door and let the water run and began searching for songs I wanted to hear. Suddenly, I heard his footsteps by the door, followed by vicious knocking. He insisted that I open the door right now. He demanded I tell him what I was doing on my computer. The knocking became more and more intense and I began to feel frightened. I opened the door and tried to show him it was just my music, but tears were already streaming down his face. He insisted I was talking to another man, that he was going to pack his things and leave because of what I was doing to him. Again, I didn’t think this was wrong. I thought that because he was crying it must have been my fault. I must have done something to make him feel this way. I held him tight and promised him I would start showering with the door unlocked and without any music.
Soon there came a time where I wondered why we knew so little about each other. He had caught me staring at this woman one day and he questioned me about it. He asked me if that was something I was interested in. He didn’t seem angry, he seemed curious. I decided to share a huge secret about myself with him, because I trusted him more than anyone and I truly thought that he would accept it. He instead responded with anger. He told me that if I had those thoughts about women, then he was allowed to have thoughts about other women too. He insisted I bring another woman into our relationship. It upset me very much to think of him with anyone else so I strongly declined. I apologized for sharing and promised I would no longer speak of it.
The distance between us was growing from the beginning. The more time we spent together, the further apart we felt. We slept in the same bed but we never said goodnight. We slowly began to sleep with our backs to each other. I told myself that all love came at a price and that there’s no such thing as a perfect match, that this was the best that I could do. One night before bed, he began slipping his hand up my shirt and trying to kiss me. I pushed him away. I was tired. I didn’t feel like it.
“You belong to me,” he told me. He tried again. I told him I really didn’t feel like it. He continued to insist. He climbed on top of me and started kissing me. I felt trapped under his chest. I felt like the box I’d been in this whole relationship was finally closing around me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe or speak.
“Fine,” I said. I didn’t mean it. It wasn’t fine. Tears were streaming down my face and he saw them. He knew it wasn’t fine. But he continued anyway. I cried myself to sleep that night. I told myself that he was right, I did belong to him, and belonging to him meant I had to give him what he wanted even when I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t know how to process what had happened to me, all I felt was that it was my fault.
The small arguments we used to have turned into screaming battles. He said something horrible so I slapped him. He picked me up by my arm and slammed me against the wall. He slapped me back. I felt his fingers dig into my arm and the sting on my face. The bruises were on my arms for days. I didn’t say anything, but he would sit me down and tell me it was my fault because I slapped him first. It seemed like he was just trying to justify it for himself. I had to keep wearing long sleeves and sweatshirts. I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea. Because it was my fault this was happening after all.
When we broke up, it devastated me. How do you live on when you spent years with someone which convinced you they were the best you could do? Who convinced you that your friends weren’t really your friends? Who broke you down into a shell of a person and left you completely hollow?
I spent months in bed. I couldn’t eat. I barely spoke to anyone. It took me so long to rebuild my relationships with my friends, and just when I thought I was over it he would text me in the middle of the night, and it would put me right back where I started. I gave him so many parts of me that he didn’t deserve. I gave him things I didn’t even know I had. I let everyone around me see us together. I let him into my home and into my heart. It took so long to dig the pieces of him out of my life.
I’m finally at a spot where I’ve moved on, I’m even with someone else now, but I still feel his shadow sometimes. I still feel the hollowness he distilled in me. I still hear his laugh and see his big teeth smiling at me. I don’t know how to forget him. I don’t know how to eradicate him from my life. How do I stop dreaming about the night I told him “fine”? How do I tell the person I’m with now that I still have nightmares about him?
I know now that I’m a strong person. I know now that the weakness I had in that relationship does not define me or my femininity. But he still lingers. And I’m afraid he always will.