by Hayden Church
Emma, what are you doing? You know you’ve had too much to drink. You need to sit, OK?
No, no… let me do this. Let me finish. I need to say something.
I need to.
I need to get something off my chest. Seems like the right time, you know?
Jeez, that booze really hit me hard, made me all… melancholic.
Look at me—I’m completely wasted and I’m still trying to use the word “melancholic”.
I wish James was here. He needs to hear this.
I need to talk—not with somebody, but to somebody—and I guess all of you will do.
I have scars, you know? I mean, you can’t see them—they’re all up here; they’re in my head. I try to hide them, but they are too big to conceal, too big to suppress. They are a part of me now.
He was too strong—or was I too weak? I don’t know.
His subverting comfort, his treacherous love—it fooled me. It made me feel as if I mattered, only for him to tell me that I didn’t. I was an idiot. What was I supposed to do? I thought I knew him so well. We were close. I thought I loved him.
He seemed to loathe my existence—and, in a way, I kind of did, too.
Why did he loathe and resent me? Why did he hate me? What do I do once he gets out?
I could keep asking these questions, but I’m not naïve. I know he wouldn’t answer them. I guess he couldn’t, huh?
Our relationship was not the best. I’ll admit that. It wasn’t for either of us, really. I mean, he hurt me. I can try to forget what he’s done to me, but… I just can’t.
Look at my scars. Do you see them? You can’t miss them. I know how you feel: You want to look away but you can’t. You can tell I’m different. Nothing about me is the same. There’s something wrong with me, something off-kilter. I know I’m a freak, and I probably sound like I’m crazy, but—my brain—it feels fucking numb. My insanity, my anxiety… my depression—they’re here for all of you to see, to witness.
I wish I could tell him.
Emma, are you alright? You know you don’t have to do this. We’re all here for you.
No. Please let me finish. For my sake.
OK, OK. We’ll let you finish.
I remember the first date we went on: I wore my favorite blouse and skirt; he wore a button-down and a pair of khakis. I also remember the car he drove. It was, for lack of a better word, a lemon. But hey, if the date went well, who cared if his car kind of sucked?
James took us to this mom-and-pop pizza place, I think. I don’t remember what kind of pizza we ate, honestly… all I remember was how great he was. James knew how to talk to me back then. I could tell that he dug me. I was digging him, too. We talked about our hopes, our aspirations. He wanted to become a carpenter, he said. I was taken aback. I mean, he was a smart guy—at least from what I could tell. Not that carpenters are dumb… But it was what he enjoyed, and it paid decent. I wasn’t going to complain—at least not on the first date. I told him I wanted to be a journalist, or at the very least a writer. He seemed interested in that. I was glad he was; I was interested in him. I wanted us to work. We were a hot couple; at least I thought so.
We were like perfect, little puzzle pieces. Now we’re not, and I’m still left trying to put together what I did wrong.
The constant state of paranoia I live in encapsulates me. I am paranoia. That is my existence; my beginning and my end. I feel like a freak. He needs to know that. I want him to know. I want him to know so damn bad.
He opens fresh wounds, and my memories are salt. I wake up in pain from them. They haunt me. He haunts me.
Is it his fault—or is it mine? Did I cause this?
I wish I had answers. I guess I can’t ask him, can I?
I wish I was stronger.
All of you treat me like a I’m a psycho, like there’s this big, fucking elephant in the room.
Do you think I made it all up? Is that why?
I try to rack what is left of my brain to find an answer, but I can’t find one. Is it not there—or am I just too stupid to see it?
I mean, yeah, we’d fight. There wasn’t anything to it, though; most couples do that anyway.
But he’d call me all sorts of things. Terrible things. Things that really screwed with my head.
We always made up after, when the tension was gone.
I provoked him, the first time he hit me. In retrospect, I might’ve had it coming. I was vicious. My anger and frustration had built up to an unimaginable level. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I let him have it. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, right?
Emma, please stop.
No. I am finishing this—and you are going to hear it. I have to say this… so… fuck off.
Then I saw James raise his hand. I didn’t know what he was going to do with it. That’s a lie—I knew what was going to happen the minute I started chastising him. Him raising his hand only confirmed it. That’s when he unleashed his fury and his scorn.
We were something, whatever that something happened to be. And I liked it, even with all the fights. Don’t get me wrong—it got really hard to like it… really hard. He’d come over to my apartment wasted, and try to start arguing with me, asking who I’d been in contact with, if I’d been seeing anyone else. As you can probably tell, I started to lose my fucking mind.
I had to force myself to call 9-1-1 after one of our worst fights. I was so scared of him. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go to any of you. I was afraid you wouldn’t believe me.
I’m not fragile, or even weak.
Maybe it was my fault.
What am I saying? Of course it wasn’t my fault. You can’t control another person. Everyone makes their own choices.
Who am I kidding? I, of all people, should know that’s not true.
Nothing about him set off any kind of warning to all of you? None of you knew that side of him. Oh, but now I know.
He’s charming; I’ll give him that. Even if I do hate every other thing about him.
No, I don’t hate him. I—I can’t let him go.
I still feel guilty. Maybe I should not have done that. Maybe we could have worked everything out. I’d like to think so, anyway.
But now James is gone. Jail cells aren’t ideal for relationships, are they?
A part of me doesn’t miss him at all. That’s the part of me I don’t know what the fuck to do with.
I am a slave to him. My love is shackles and chains and whips. My love has scarred me, and the memories of us rip them open again and again and again.
I want James to know that. He needs to know that.
My love for James will exist as long as I do.
But maybe I shouldn’t; maybe I shouldn’t exist. That seems to be the only way I’ll ever forget him.
But maybe I don’t need to forget him.
I don’t want insincere apologies, no “I’m sorry. How can I make this better?”. Because he can’t fix this shit. Only I can.
I need closure.
I need solace.
I need peace.
I want to look him in the eyes one last time and tell him the pain he’s caused; I want him to know the terror and resentment I felt—feel. I want him to know I’m suffering because of him. He must know.
Can—can somebody help me? I need to sit down somewhere. My liquid courage is losing its power.
No, it’s OK, Emma. Have a seat.
Heh, sorry to ruin the party.