He convinced me to go out with him one last time, after he told me that he would take me to my favorite restaurant. I was never taught to know when not to trust people; I was raised by a woman whose word was the law, if you questioned it then you were wrong. So I believed him when he said that he was sorry, that he would make it up to me. He always said words that fell to the ground and I was left to pick them up and put them in my pocket. I found a special place in my rib cage next to my heart where I tucked his words because I wanted to believe them so much that it crushed my lungs, leaving me breathless.
I met him at the most vulnerable part of my life and I truly believe that he knew that. He saw a lamb, and like the wolf he was, knew exactly what to do in order to betray me. The first time I saw him, my aunt told me that he looked like my next boyfriend. It felt like I was in a romantic comedy and this was our meet cute. But there was nothing cute about how he left my heart to die on the chopping board. He told me that he didn’t want anything serious, but he still pushed me against the wall and took the one thing that was supposed to be kept from people like him.
At first, I thought that this was what I wanted. I had an imagination that would kill to be in a world where someone cared about me, so I picked the wrong person to rescue me from my tower. I told him to stop as I bled out on his mattress; I gave my heart to a wolf and told him not to bite. Later he told me that his brother came over and helped him flip the mattress over, to hide the evidence. I slept there for two years because I thought what we had was love, even though I kept a sharp kitchen knife hidden under that same mattress just in case. But he never called me his girlfriend, or anything of the sort: he always said that we were just friends when people asked. I was just living in his house, sleeping in his bed, but it was nothing more to him until I grew sick of it all and left.
I was desperate to never return to my life before him, which was full of a controlling mother who didn’t want anything for her daughter. I wasn’t a living, breathing, person to her—I was just a doll, a plaything that she kept throwing away when she got bored. But now that I was disagreeing, having thoughts of my own, she decided to dig me out of the garbage just to torture me. Even though I was twenty-three, I ran away from home and into the arms of a man who didn’t want the burden of rescuing me. As soon as things got complicated, he sent me back into the arms of a monster. But I refused to stay captive in the tower, desperate to get out. It is impossible to escape the hands of evil when no one around you is willing to help you fight it off.
I found myself in the arms of another monster, who refused to say he cared about me at all, and used every part of me that he could. When he first showed me the house that his father bought for him, he told me about how he saw a hawk in his backyard that swept down to catch a mouse. I didn’t recognize the irony until after the fact. It was on his thirtieth birthday that everything changed for me. So many times he told me that he was going to do better, to stop disappearing for days on end without so much as a word. He was going to stop having parties at his house, stop going out to the bar, and the strip club, and god knows what else. Every lie he told me made me heart drop and it died, and it died, and it died a little more each time.
He lied to himself and said that he could stop at any time, but every moment passed and he kept on going. He had an illicit affair with drugs, starting off small but it only got worse. I remember the time that he came home one night, to lay in the bed next to me and scream about how someone was after him. I could tell that there was something wrong but I didn’t know what to do. I was watching as someone slowly destroyed himself from the inside out. Any time I asked him about it, he would fill up his mouth with lies upon lies upon lies until he choked on his own words. He could never admit that he had a problem, even though I was the one person willing to help him. I knew what it was like to be surrounded by people who didn’t want anything to do with negativity in any form, because they were afraid of what would happen to them. They always thought of themselves first, you second. But I was willing to ruin myself for him, a million little times.
I begged him not to go out on his birthday, we could have a party, just him and me. He let his drug addiction speak for him and before I knew it, he was gone. Before he left, he promised that he would call me at midnight to wish me a happy birthday but midnight came and went without a sound. I called him frantically a million times, as I always did, to no response. Eventually I passed out on the same mattress he took my virginity on. I woke up to him pounding on the front door, drunk and high. I must not have gotten up in time because when I went to answer the door, he was gone. All I could see was the his shadow walking down the street, going who knows where. I have never felt such a fear in my life and I hope to never experience it again. I immediately got dressed, threw on my shoes, and went after him but by the time I got there, he was gone.
I found myself walking the streets listlessly, unsure of where he was going and immensely worried about what would happen to him. I have never felt such pain in my life, that stuck in-between my rib cage and pounded against my chest. I cursed the god-forsaken mess that he made me. I walked for miles in the dark, not entirely sure where I was going. I walked into a neighboring small town, where I stopped to stare at a window display that had jewelry. My heart ached for something that I would never get. In my mind, a relationship was supposed to be about showing how much you care about someone through small gestures, like buying them a piece of jewelry that you would think they would like. Looking back, I wish that I could say that there were good moments that made me question the bad ones. But I had never knew a life full of good moments. My life was full of hiding in my bedroom closet when my mother took my door off its hinges, trying to find a way to fight with me just because she could.
After I had walked the streets in the middle of the night for who knows how long, I made my way back home and eventually fell asleep out of pure exhaustion. I woke up to the sound of him coming home. I wanted to shake the very core of him, begging him to tell me why he had did what he did. But he shrugged it off, as he always did in his charismatic way, making me believe that we shared a secret language. I couldn’t talk to anyone else.
When the day broke, something inside of me changed. The thing he stuck in-between my rib cage was beginning to come loose and for the first time, I was tired of it all. He took a broken girl and shattered her more, daring her to pick up the pieces and make something of herself. I could no longer live with the fear that one day, he wouldn’t come home and I would learn about his overdose on the news. Our relationship started in beautiful rooms and ended in parking lots. There was nothing there anymore, it was empty.
But he asked for one more chance and I gave it to him with shaking hands and a bruised heart. He was going to take me to my favorite restaurant, something he had never done for me in the two years that we were together. He always filled up my hopes with a promise that he never meant. A wolf who sharpened his teeth and told me they were dull. As we drove in the busy five ‘o clock traffic, I turned to look out the window and close my eyes. I had never wished for anything, but I asked the universe—god, or whatever was looking after me, if there was anything—to show me a sign. It couldn’t be a sign that I could easily overlook or explain away. I asked for a clear, concise sign. Show me a sign that I’m going down the wrong path. That I shouldn’t give him any more chances. Then he slammed into the back of a car, and my whole world came crashing down.
He was trying to change lanes. He wasn’t looking. His eyes were wild like they were the night that he disappeared. I knew in my gut that there was something wrong. But this whole time, I didn’t listen to the voice inside of my head that was screaming out to be heard. I was in shock that this had happened. I asked the universe for a sign and it provided one for me. I had no choice but to listen.
I never saw him again. He tried to call me, email me, and even showed up at my mother’s house. Something deep inside of me wanted to give him a second, third, fourth, fifth chance but the way he acted made me stop myself. He spoke as if our love was a romance, all flowery looks and far off glances, when it was just a wolf convincing a sheep that he wouldn’t bite. But he tore me to pieces and it took a long time for me to put all the pieces back together again.