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The day he died, the snow hurled itself against the earth, and the ice sealed us into our homes. The day he died, the newscasters warned us to stay off the roads, stay inside, stay safe. The day he died, my mother knocked on the door with her big, puffy jacket, and I greeted her with a smile. The day he died, my mother threw her arms around me.
"I have news," she said.
The day he died, my mother forgot to close the door behind her, and I felt not the cold sweeping in, but the warmth seeping out.
I am consumed by fear. I am fear in a person-shaped shell. I am wound so tightly, there is no room inside for logic or love. I am frightened by the depth of my fear. I wear masks of expressions, but I watch my own wary eyes flicker and cringe and close.
No, I am stronger than the woman I used to be. I am neither untamed monster nor shriveling babe. I am who I am, and I will not be brought down by the past.
But oh, did you know a dragon's fire could grow so cold?
Beneath the soil of the garden of what-might-have-been, I have buried the corpses of the memories of many men. The flowers that sprout are always too late or too early, too fast or too slow, too dull, too bright, too poisonous. I have broken hearts. I pulled back the musculature, cracked open the ribs, and dug the hearts out of their pulsing chests.
But I never kept them. Not for long. Eventually, men realize that their hearts don't belong to me anyway, and they steal them back.
Except for the man who didn't have a heart.
The problem was, she couldn't write when she was happy. She needed pain and fear and anger to build up the words and fling them into existence. And she had been so happy lately.
Well, she didn't see it coming. Fear like ice just under her rib cage. Shaky knees. Pounding heart. Breath that came in gasps.
She didn't expect to find anything, didn't expect to be peering into the yawning, gaping pit of panic and hurt and distrust that so many had experienced before her.
If she knew anything, it was how to keep her men from straying.
Except he wasn't a man. Not the kind that she had dealt with. In the past, men always loved her more than she loved them. (Or, in the case of the man whose heart was already shriveled with a past filled with abandonment and cruelty, I suppose they pretended to love equally.)
In the end, she was always the one who left.
In the end, when she left, it was with a wound on her heart that had already begun to heal, and they bled out for days.
This man softened her. Changed her. Taught her to love.
If life taught her nothing else, it taught her this: it is more terrifying to be the monster than the victim.
There is a dignity to being the victim. A kind of pride. A sense that there is something to fight against, to rally for. There is the excuse that nothing is truly your fault, and by god, that is a wonderful feeling.
But the monster is afraid. The monster avoids looking at her reflection. The monster closes her eyes before she strikes. She pretends that she isn't a monster, isn't cruel, doesn't kill.
He sewed mirrors over his heart.
When you love someone, you can't stop staring into the depths of their heart. When you love someone, you dance along with the quivering, thumping, bumping, twisting of their soul. When you love someone, you want them to be happy.
But when the someone you love isn't happy with you, how far will you bend, how high will you jump, to make them happy again?
And if they wear a shield of polished silver over their heart, and you are forced to watch your own reflection warp out of shape, how long will you try before you let them go?
She was used to fearing the way a man used his hands. Big hands that can touch or hurt. Big hands that fumble and bumble but never excite. She was used to the dull touch of a man. She was used to the pain a man's hand could deliver.
His hands were different. His hands knew pain themselves, and they never raised against her. His hands were exciting.
She had always been the victim. It had always been self-defense.
But she wasn't a victim anymore, and with his shield of silver, she could see that she was the monster.
The problem was, she understood him.
The one with the gold curls. The one with the hands like stone. The one who hurt her. The one who pushed and squeezed until her soul was so small, she could fit inside his chest. The one who locked her away in place of his heart.
Now, looking at her own reflection, she can see him inside
Had living with the best for so long changed her?
Or worse, was it her fault that he became the monster?
Were his cruelties just desperate attempts to keep her in love with him?
Funny things happen in life.
Sometimes, you italicize wrong, and everyone's entry under yours is italicized too. Sometimes your grandfather dies and no one knows why. Sometimes your toddler tries to go potty in a mixing bowl. Sometimes you find your significant other's phone forgotten in the car, and out of simple vanity, you search it to see if he talk about you with his friends, but instead find signs of his infidelity. Sometimes you forget to add the egg to your cookies. Sometimes you realize that your happiness is entirely one sided. Sometimes a flower blooms in the winter.
I suppose the point of all this was to say, "Am I the monster?" Have I tried to crush him and mold him into something he wasn't meant to be? Have I stifled him? Have I neglected to give him the love and approval and acceptance he deserved?
I suppose the point is that the Witch is the only one of us who ever understood anger. The Witch would have hurt him. The Witch would have sunk her claws into his chest and feasted on his soul.
But the Witch and I have always disagreed, and I cannot erase love.
I'm still me. Still Imperfect Circles.
But many months ago, I forgot the password to my old email account, changed my phone number, and couldn't remember the password to my 100words account. So I created a new profile. Same name. Same blurry, worried, dizzy, dark words full of anguish and hope and insanity. Same writer.
I know it's confusing. Sorry.
But I imagine so few people take the time to click on my profile and read my old entries, it probably doesn't make a difference. And if any of you do, well... look for the other me, I guess.
"I think, perhaps, this will be the end," she says, wiping a drop of silvery soul from her chin. "I think this will be the last one."
Don't underestimate the sorrow a monster feels. Don't be tricked into believing that they don't feel pain.
She cries over ever soul she steals.
"This will be the last one," she says again. "If I can't keep you, I don't want anyone."
Would it shock you to know that she never meant to hurt anyone? Never meant to bleed them dry? Never meant to bury them beneath the heavy blanket of doomed love?
It's strange, the things that keep us alive. Not the air or the warmth. The reasons. The "this is what I live for" things. The point to life.
I've heard several stories from individuals who planned suicide and then changed their minds. One woman stayed alive to see the end of Lost. (I bet she was disappointed.) One man started computer classes.
Me? I lived for life. For the tiny elfling growing inside me.
"I'll wait until she's born," I told myself.
But I quickly realized that she chose me, and I couldn't leave her. I was hers for life.
It has been two weeks since the day he died.
The snow has melted. My daughter turned two. All but one of the plants grown (out of season) on my windowsill have died, but the one that lived has bloomed and bloomed again. Life carries on. Stumbling and blind and sore, but it carries on.
I admit, I do not know how to grieve. I cried, yes. I wept like a baby when I saw him in that box, when I touched his hair, when I watched my grandmother give him one last kiss. But now, I am left empty.
In a way, I feel as if I don't deserve to grieve him.
I never entirely knew my place within the family. My sister was the first grandchild--a blessed position--and had their undivided attention for years. My brother is my grandfather made over. They bonded by their similarities. My cousins never lived more than two miles away, and most of them were half raised by my grandmother.
I was always most like my mother, and we lived so very far away. I loved him, but quietly, distantly. It was the first time I touched his hair.
This winter has been a hard one. Mother Nature closed her eyes and turned her back and let the ice drive its nails into our hearts. She covered her ears against the cracking and moaning of her beloved trees, and she stood back as Death crept into our lives and stole the people we loved.
We survived the winter, but there were casualties.
Faith was lost.
I await spring. Spring when hope pokes its frail head above the newly thawed soil, when all things seem possible, when wounds heal.
I just want to see love prevail.
It's funny, because this time I thought it was different. I was never a woman to fall in love easily. I said I was in love plenty of times, but the closest I ever felt to love was a feeling of need:
"You love me, and that makes me feel good, so I will try very hard to love you."
I told myself I loved them. I molded myself to their ideals. I slowly chipped away at my soul and self-worth in an effort to truly, deeply love them. But I never loved anyone until him.
What a shame.
With him, I felt love.
I understood what it felt like to look at a man and be happy--actually happy--about spending the rest of my life with him. I finally had the freedom and authority in my relationship to say "No, I don't like that. I won't do that. I won't allow that." I did not feel the need to shove and twist and tear at my personality until I became what someone else wanted. I was thriving.
But he wasn't. For some reason, he became the one who had to twist and tear. Did I break us?
There have been times when I thought about leaving him. When he passed out drunk every night naked in the living room. When he spent the same amount on booze as on rent. When he kept smoking pot and told my friends to lie to me about it. When he missed our daughter's first ultrasound to do drugs.
He doesn't pass out drunk every night or do drugs while his daughter needs him. But he still lies. I have come to wonder if he will always lie.
I never worried about a man cheating before.
We broke each other.
Golden Boy might have cheated, but to be honest, I probably wouldn't have cared. I would have breathed a sigh of relief and walked out the door.
Goes-to-Floss would not have cheated. He might have stolen several books in his day, but he had a code of honor. Besides, I probably gave him more action than he'd ever had.
The Tall One was so socially awkward, I think I was the only girl he could talk to without fainting.
I could see it brewing beneath the Dragon's chest, but I thought he loved me enough to tame it.
You were the best. Truly the best. You made my heart flutter. You left me breathless. You warmed my soul. You took care of me. You took care of our daughter. You protected me, encouraged me, and helped me to grow into the person I am fiercely proud to be.
Even now, teetering on the edge of a precipice so steep, I cannot see the ground, you kiss me and cuddle me and tell me you love me.
I will teach our daughter to stand up when men hurt her. And so I will stand up to you.
The ground was too wet to bury my grandfather. We left him in a marble crypt. My grandfather sleeps in a hole in a wall, waiting for drier ground.
In the swamps, you must cover the coffins in concrete or else they will rise to surface during the rains.
I feel as if the gravediggers are poised over the cold corpse of my relationship, waiting for the opportunity to bury it forever, and behind me, the coffins of my previous relationships are starting to rise, reminding me of all my sins against them.
"You reap what you sow," they croon.
I used to feel as if there was no hope left in the entire world. I used to imagine my future as a gray, foggy bog of misery and tedium. People asked me where I wanted to be in five years, and I could only respond with a vague horror that I would have to muddle through another five years.
It's strange that now, in the middle of such a bleak stage of my life, I can still feel hope. I feel angst like a normal person. I am not numb, but I am not devastated.
I will survive life.
Look, Ma! I might finish this batch!
Part of me wants to stop, so these words are never seen but by the curious few who read other authors' work throughout the month. Part of me wonders why I am so hesitant to pull the plug, to cut the cord, to let us plunge into the unknown.
Another man talked to me today. He was nice. He made me laugh. Although he flirted, it was a subtle flirt. A gentle flirt.
I like this man, but he isn't you. I don't understand why you don't feel the same about another woman.
The earth is crumbling beneath my feet, and all I know to do is keep running. Mother never taught us how to fly.
I'm sinking, but Mother never taught me how to swim.
I'm lost, but Mother never taught me how to read a map.
Can't we look each other in the eye when we draw our guns and pull the triggers? I cannot stem the flow of fury that pours from my lips into your dreams.
I did not know how to say "I forgive you" without giving permission, but now I don't know how to forgive.
It's ok. It's all right. I was missing my shrink anyway.
I'm tired. I'm so tired and hurt and angry and confused. I never thought I'd be the woman who got cheated on. I never thought I'd care. I never, ever thought it would affect me like this.
The Witch kills with her bare hands. Her victims know exactly what she plans to do, and she does it quickly.
The Maiden kills softly, slowly. She doesn't even realize she does it. Later, as the blood pools between her toes, she weeps.
The Witch kills for fun; the Maiden from hurt.
I'm not complicated. I'm human.
I'm not dark. I've experienced.
I'm not crazy. I see too much.
I'm not sure I believe in true love anymore. At least, I don't believe in romantic love.
Love between family members? True.
Love between a girl and her stuffed animals? True.
But I have experienced love. Love between two hopelessly entwined souls. True love's kiss.
I kissed that kiss on a cliff in a desert with the buzzards and the ants and the dark angry land watching. I kissed that kiss, and though it tasted sweet, I now taste nothing but dust.
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