Trigger Warning: Abuse
Sylvia Plath warned me that “the sun rises under the pillar of your tongue” and I found myself seeking refuge there, erecting shelter knowing full well the demise I would succumb to if I slept that night. His harsh brows hovered over his less outlined features which struck me as trusting. His ancestry tanned him—not the Kapahulu sun rays—and he sniffed with a turned-up nose which held his lips up when he breathed between words. Grieving was something I put my finger on and got back to in the future. It is now as immediate as breathing. Pain, loss, scratches, and marks. I bear these and often loathe myself for giving time to them, but still recognizing them as such. The struggle of power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,
I will call him Leo because he probably changed his name. He insisted he was respecting my deceased father in the beginning before our initial date. Respect inspired by an exasperating Hollywood movie portraying my father’s death, his actual passing happening back in 2005. My father, a young man entangled and caught by the war he so readily jumped into following his own high school graduation. How proud my father was to be a Navy SEAL. The war machine finally refused to let his foot loose and the helicopter he hopped onto would be his flying hearse, mounted by Helios straight into the sunset of mountainside Afghanistan, the mark of a new day.
I let him have my father. He devoured every bit to be licked, even tearing away the parts beyond me in hopes of possessing it all. If I kept my father, he would rip him away from me anyway. I rubbed the remnants of a father onto my bones and he kept the spirit of a heroic savior. Leo worshipped him through various versions of himself, often holding his vomit in when he brimmed with frustration at not being my father. Catching fire to his only shirt left to me, ripping through it as I kneeled before him in burning vexation, my box of things sat shredded beside me.
There is life without attachment—I was taught it whenever a knife was drawn. A life of no attachment to escape the entropic suffering we are ascribed to at birth. The veins in his arms never ceased to surge and it was as though the air constricted him. Poised to fight. He told me he would piss on my father’s memorial plaque at Triangle Park if I moved, which he did regardless. He loved the way the pain tasted after, however croaking it left me. I stood as a grant of forgiveness. He bellowed to the ground for reciprocity when my face blurred, stupefied by the endless variations of the same pain existing before and after us.
I have no history of him, digitally or physically, only through the marks on my skin and the aftertaste of my thoughts. We alternated blocking each other for months after we both left the island. Except for the occasional homecoming message in which he expected to meet me for a cup of coffee at midnight my first day back. An impressionable self from high school, felt up and stripped of its being. I found a home in being with him however faithless it was.
Saying no words to my family, I went straight to Leo. I embodied nowhere and he spit me out, eating me again and again. He devoured my hair like dry noodles and sucked on my eyes, slobbering over it like a child with hard candy. I looked to the swaying mango leaves from his rabid mouth and saw how the sun does rise with every word he snarled.
He threatened to come and kill everybody in the house I stayed in afterwards, an instruction laid out through the phone: shaking the doorknobs until they gave way or ripping open the screen windows and hurting them one by one like a silent killer. It never worked, the plan went awry and he pulled me out instead, grating my cheeks with gravel or shoveling my head into damp mud by the collected rainwater. His pupils widened as if screaming at me to disappear while his sweaty lips slogged along like slapping thighs, barking epitaphs. He was an addict of purloining stability from me while he issued it, reasons to disturb and rearrange. It was urgency to reinstate his own existence.
By no means am I saying intrusion is the only way out of contradiction. It is intrusion coupled with confusion that led Leo into my life and what he held onto in order to pry into it. Intrusion is the weapon, confusion the game. The officers intruded on me in order to decipher why I was walking alone so early on a Thursday morning without Leo to save the day, entrusted by the law to give me a ride back to my fictional home. Another when he drove his car in front of me after following me for a mile. The dutiful neighborhood watch called police three times, nearly writing me up for not speaking up for myself or getting into the car. Intrusion, the arrow dipped in his despotic charm and shot at anything that listened.
I blurred the edges of my silhouette and had no pleasant idea of who I was. We never do, but when we might it only exists in the future. I held and bore myself; performed the woman he so wanted. I was proud, but he saw rebellion and pulled me down to the floor, his dog scrambled into the bathroom to hide behind the toilet. I was crying for the brute to stop, the pressure from my bones breaking me. His naive innocence ran down his cheeks. I imagined it was dripping obsidian escaping hellfire through his tear ducts. Regaining balance, I got up and cooked us pancakes with drizzled lilikoi jam. I comforted him as he stood in the shade of the backyard, mango tree and silent breeze floating around us. The light pull of a burning candle in the kitchen. We danced our usual twist of regret and forgiveness before he pulled me down once again.
A bell cracked by a firm hand, her ring warped and dumb. The world surrounding me survived and survives without taking account of myself, morality; without deity or ritual; and certainly without thoughts. Peering into others as beautiful vases to pour divinities into. Hoping to possess an evidence of life so a search can then die at the end of the day knowing how well one did or what one requires in order to succeed. For what? All of its victims, a fascinated victim. Willing and submissive to the complexion of significance overriding our thoughts as effortless as calling a person by their name or an aggression towards a cracked vase.
He denied cause. Said I did this to myself, had it coming. Marks dripping with the violence of a year. Leo used to call me a mercurial bitch, which is more a compliment than other things he uttered and carried out—an allowance of the unknown—something I did not have to explain but only let be. Violence preceded the act, owned my arms and legs as dissected objects to play with before I even learned how to walk. I lost my father, my home, myself, and he placed weights upon me while he took their shadows and danced with them, a celebration of the lost—I was anxiety when he tasted the bitterness before raw ecstasy.
It is the victim that is praised for their luck, then questioned. How well they are able to compose themselves knowing full well people desire success stories for their prized seconds; a neatly wrapped problem with a bowtie solution as a cautionary tale. One must operate through a collection of ideas: some stitched together and some thrown away, disorienting and never still. I saw myself as in-connection with myself, watching sporadic figures floating down a river. I flinched whenever I accidentally shaped a father from one of them, but only settled with the disturbed water after the fact. My impulsive drive edges along skepticism, halts itself when I put Descartes’ hand into the water to be sure it is submerged, only to be drowned in it later that evening. I want to peer into Hume’s sunrise and be reassured it will be there the next morning if I am not blinded by stab wounds.
Jasmine Healy is a writer and bunny mom.