he rubbed his chin, and thought of Tynan, one of his rowdy kindergarteners, and Kwasi, the sweet, brilliant boy in the hospital who’d wanted Ben to adopt him. He could picture the orphanage on the compound – all the beautiful kids who needed a home. Seeing them, he’d been so close to giving up on his dreams.
Sleep calls to you, but it’s a siren song, beckoning you to ruin. No, best stay in the middle and not seek solace on the shores to the left or to the right. Best not to even look overboard, because you might be dragged over before you even know what’s happening, and then where would you be?
She couldn’t hold it in anymore. A laugh escaped. At his startled expression, another one flew from her mouth. And then she was bent over double, holding her stomach and chortling so hard she could barely breathe. In only one second, he was joining her, the deep melody the most beautiful music she’d ever heard.
He still doesn’t seem to understand that he’s playing with fire, though, and the mischievous glint remains in his eyes. “Have you ever killed anyone?” he asks conspiratorially.
Ever the gentleman, Jake followed her lead, closely watching her and adjusting his manner accordingly. They ate their fill of snacks, watching each other across the table. It had been so long since she’d had company.
All those people. Hundreds? Yet none of them were here. He didn’t get any visitors other than her and Jake. He was making friends with all the staff at the hospital, charming them with his good looks and charisma, but Lanie had the feeling that he would walk through the smoke of those casual relationships too.
Love. Love had taken a hold of him like a vice, just for that one moment, and he hadn’t been able to breathe. He didn’t know whether it was God, and if so, which one. He’d vowed to make amends, and do whatever it took to make himself worthy of that box of dreams. On pain of hell or bad karma or whatever cosmic consequences would hold him accountable, he was determined to change.
hose huge eyes narrowed, and he realized they looked particularly big because of the goop applied so expertly to them that it naturally enhanced her eyelashes. She caught her lip, the same candy-pink as her high heels, between her bottom teeth, and regarded him with a look so unlike her usual haughty poutiness, that he suspected she’d entered a new phase in her emotional development – self-actualization.
It was always predictable, the death of hope. To hope was to fall, after all. To love was to kill, and to trust was to die. It started in the eyes, when the attempt to be brave or laugh it off or remain stoic gave way to the tiniest crack of doubt. And then, that glass box of hope would bust wide open, unable to contain the mortal terror that burst forth. Sometimes, when the torrent had slowed to a trickle, there would be acceptance.
“If that’s what God wants me to do, then I’m definitely not going. If God really doesn’t let anyone be lost, then that means that Sean and my grandfather and my father are up there. And I really can’t stomach that, because they deserve to rot in hell more than anyone else. “
I write this on behalf of you and other survivors who can’t face their abusers. I write this on behalf of my own child who will one day realize the extent of the damage that my own pain caused him. I do hope that I can be well enough one day to receive his honesty and honour his story, but if I can’t, at least he’ll know that once upon a time I knew how he feels. I also write this on behalf of the perpetrators of emotional violence, like I myself sometimes am.
She sank her fingers deeper, closing her eyes, imagining the feel of his thick, black hair, his impossibly warm arms. She pressed her ear to the ground near the head of the grave, where she thought his heart might be. She listened, and she waited, but just like in the garden when he’d had that white guitar, she heard nothing. It was just one of a million quiet summer days.
She didn’t remember how she got there, but she knocked on the open door of room 245. Only one bed was occupied. The woman was covered in bandages, and the places that didn’t have bandages were bruised and swollen. She was plugged into almost every wire and tube in existence. Lanie was still staring when Susan’s eyes slit open.
She glared at him, fighting the tears that spilled into her eyes. He looked just like his father. That’s what was different. He looked so much like Ben now that it cut her to the center of her being.
“If you loved him, then don’t do this to him. Don’t throw away the four people he loved more than anything in the world.”
My brain is riddled with holes. The structural matrix of my being is barely strong enough to resist a slight breeze. I require others to keep me together, because left to my own devices, I fall completely apart. Without you controlling me, I don’t know who I am or what to do.
Although I try not to, I can’t help but stare
I know in my heart that I shouldn’t dare
Even to look at an angel like you
An angel so lovely, so pure, and so true
So, sometimes I forget that I have this thing. Sometimes, life will be going so well that I forget that I’m sick. All it takes is a few good days, and for some reason, my brain thinks that I’m cured, that I’ll never have a bad day again, or if I do, it will feel different, and I’ll be able to rise above.
She couldn’t take this lying down. She wouldn’t. Later, when her brain could hold onto a thought for more than a minute, they would pay.
So I wonder, does God see only the fiftieth time that I’ve messed up that day? Does He hear my cries when my heart can’t take it anymore? Does He hold my dreams as tenderly as I do? Does He look at the efforts I expend to try and make the world a better place and smile? The same way I smile when I see my son doing the same?
I’m going to be honest. My life is a disastrous mess right now, mostly because of my poor coping strategies that I learned to cope as a child, or that soothe me in a weird, twisted way. Because we were taught by having love and abuse conflated that pain should be comforting.
Now, he cocked his head at her. The light grey of his shirt tamped down the brightness of his eyes, darkening them to rainclouds. They were dilating now, and widened with surprised curiosity. “Do you think I’d submit to you?”
Nobody except for Alexandra, who peered around the corner with wide, dark eyes, just like Fiona and Melanie’s, just like Nima and Emilia, just like Sakina and countless generations of de la Torre women. Except real de la Torres didn’t stay stuck in the shadows, not like Zarah.
“Ben, if you won’t let me look, you should let the Chief. Someone has to assess you. Or do you want me to take you to the hospital?” Although McGuinness says it gently, Ben flinches as though he’s been offered a trip to the morgue
This morning, while her other daughters slept, the mother made two shrouds. One for her child, one as a donation for a future corpse. Or maybe she wishes she could use it for herself.
I don’t know what your story is. What I know is that even if your trauma isn’t “as bad” as mine, I won’t hold it against you for having a more severe reaction than me. And I hope you can understand that even if my trauma isn’t as bad as yours and I still can’t keep it together like you, it’s not because I’m trying to take attention from your pain, or imply that people like us are incapable of healing. I don’t want to disrespect your trauma by appearing to complain about something that seems minor to you.
“I think he’s stupid. He doesn’t stop to think about what would happen to him, and he puts the burden on everyone else to look out for him, and patch him up, and save him.”
His introspective mood popped on a sudden, sharp spike of mischief. It was Dre’s turn to take in Fletcher with his eyes. “I don’t think you can handle my kind of fun, Choirboy.”
His lungs were filled with razors. His head was a balloon about to burst. His whole body was agony, and a tiredness as heavy as an elephant lay on him.
She pressed against him, making him moan and kiss her deeper, playing his tongue in her mouth. For a moment, she pulled away. “B,” she whispered against him. “Touch me. I need you to – ”