Two days ago, after months and months of seeing neither hide nor hair of you, a beat up red mid-sized sedan pulled into a parking space three spaces down from where I was sitting in the truck waiting for my stepmother to come out of the store. Two days ago, when you realized it was me, you slowed as you fixed your glare on me, coming to a stop just feet away. You looked away long enough to watch where other people were in the parking lot before re-focusing your attention on me. Two days ago, your nostrils flared like an angry bull ready to stampede, and in all my wisdom, I froze. What was most likely moments felt like eternity. I could not move. I could not scream. I could not react at all as you stood there, you who would claim you loved me even as your fist met the back of my head. You who drove me into the woods that night an wielded a tire iron above my head with all your might. You who held knives to my throat, dragged me around by my hair, choked me, beat on me with a metal bar. I would like to think that had you actually been brazen enough to move toward me I would scream, fight back, something. Anything but what I did. I froze. I couldn’t think. All I could do was be overwhelmed by all these memories of these things you did to me once upon a nightmare.
I was immediately embarrassed at my response. I was distraught, and I remembered why I did not feel I was safe enough to have you arrested when I fled, leaving the entire sum of my life behind in the blackness that was you. I was angry and felt childish and weak, because even after almost two years, you can still stop me with mortal fear. All without lifting a finger. With just a glare, a sneer, your mere presence sent me into an inner tumult I haven’t felt since the last time you pointed the tip of the knife at my neck in the moments before I walked out on you.
But you claimed you loved me, even as you would beat on me, verbally tear me apart, and humiliate me in front of others. You called me your home. When I questioned you, became indignant. You accused me of talking to someone, because as intelligent as I was, I was apparently too stupid and foolish to have any thoughts for myself. You claimed you loved me, even as you forcibly took my bank card and bled me dry, burned up the money as fast as I could bring it in stumbling around on legs you struck with that cold, hard, unforgiving piece of metal. You claimed you loved me, even as you threatened my life. You professed you loved me, even as you sent me out into the judgmental world with black eyes, arms bruised up, limping, and struggling to breathe.
Is this how you show your love? By destroying what you designated your “home?” Tearing apart, mercilessly shredding, pounding, grinding, pulverizing, and breaking through?
Love is not fear.
Love is not being so afraid of someone you cannot so much as move.
Love is not being verbally destroyed.
Love is not you. You don’t have it in you, except the love you carry for yourself. Except the love you carry for power. For winning. For getting what you want.
Love is not you.
When someone loves you, they protect you and cherish you. Even when you don’t see eye to eye on things, even when you get into an argument. When someone loves you, they don’t belittle you and attack you. They don’t beat on you, and they don’t revel in their torment of you.
This was not love. This was you hitting me with a knife sharpener in an attempt to teach me a lesson.
This was not love. This was from me trying to protect my face and head as you repeatedly struck my head with your closed fist, then a sealed metal can you grabbed from the kitchen, because you were pummeling my head so much and so hard that your knuckles started to hurt.
You have no right to look at me and feel anger toward me. You have no cause to look at me in self-righteous indignation or hate. You did this. You caused this. And in my fear of you, I was too stunned to move. All I could do was remember the things I wanted most to forget. I felt the pain as the images flooded my mind, pain so vivid it was like it was just yesterday I was at the mercy of your monstrous temper and horrifying physical strength. The metal stinging my legs. Your fist to my face. Being burned by your stem. Being dragged around by my hair. Having my head slammed into the door frame. The butcher knife above my chest. Being tossed around like a rag doll. And everything in between. I was in fear of you, and all I could do was stay silent in mortal terror.
When I regained my senses, I made a phone call, so don’t remain so indignant. According to New York State law, I can still hold you accountable. According to New York State law, I have a minimum of three years after the last incident to file charges and seek an arrest, and depending on the severity it can extend up to five. Don’t be so indignant when I have people willing to provide written statements about that glowing black eye you sent me to work with in the months before I left. When I have pictures and an order on record. I have to decide whether or not risking the friends and favors you stacked up is worth doing what I wished I had done a long time ago. My fear of you may stop me when you are in my face, but it isn’t strong enough to hold me back.
You weren’t love. You weren’t kind. You weren’t safe.
You were death, and I escaped.