She thought he loved her. If he did, it was not the kind of love she hoped for, dreamt of, and wanted in her life. It was a broken truth, shuffled in glass shards on the floor of her heart. A truth she desperately clung to, as if letting go would be the end of her.
When she left him, she left with the clothes on her back and $2.75 for bus fare. It was all she needed to get away. She took it, and the opportunity to find a new life. Despite his volatile temper, he wasn't the one who taught her about unhealthy love. Truth was, it started much earlier than that.
His world revolved around him, and that was as far as he could see. She took it all in. She watched, and learned.
"What's the matter?" he would say with severe eyes and posture.
"You know you can tell me anything"
She would try, but it always ended the same way. Her voice drowned in his, like a tiny bubble of air stuck inside a bottle of dish soap. She could feel the growing tension in her stomach, move its way up to her esophagus, and then her throat. She knew what he would say, but she kept that tiny shard of hope.
"You don't feel that way"
She quit listening just after the "This is what you feel…" beginning of his next sentence. She felt null, and void. Meaningless to him, and at the time, he was her world. She counted on him for food, shelter, and love.
The house was usually kitchen bare. It felt soulless to her. The violent disruptions were common. He would get this "look" in his eyes that let her know that someone was going to get hurt. Most often it was a shake, or a push, but the motive was the same. Anger was a way to manipulate and control the people around him, HE was in charge, and you WOULD NOT go against what he wanted, even if it was wrong, even if it was against the very rules he laid out. It was his way, or the highway, and it was the highway that became her friend.
She watched as he used people, persuaded them with his intellectual rationalization and "big words". She watched how he tormented people, and how kind he would be, if only they treated him like some sort of god, yes, she was taking copious notes.
It was no surprise that the man she first fell in love with, first slept with, first lived with, was an abuser. At least not to me. She was preened for the occasion. While it shocked her to find out that even though you "love" someone, it doesn't mean they have your best interest at heart. The truth of the matter was, quite often the "love" she had been exposed to was more a result of manipulation and negotiation than any type of affectionate interchange.
She eventually came to understand that what she knew of love sucked, and when she did, a part of her died inside.
I told her that love was not slamming doors and high-pitched voices. That it was not a hole in the wall instead of her head, but her truth was the only thing she knew. A heart is strong, and fragile, like a crystal vase… once it has been broken, the pieces never quite fit together the same way again.
I watched her pull away, with the trunk full of odds and ends that she just couldn't live without. She smiled over the backseat, while the tires drummed out another journey that would take her far away from the part of herself she ran from. But only for a while, she'd be back, she always came back. Truth was, she didn't know any other way.