I think, quite possibly, that the most abusive thing a man has ever said to me was as follows:
“You’re so pretty when you cry.”
Granted, this came at the end of a torrential eleven-month living hell I had willingly clung to, terrified and wild-eyed, in the hopes that somewhere at his core there might be some kernel of love for me. A love that might be returned. He paid me this particular “compliment” in the kitchen, while holding my hands and smiling his smug drug-dealing smile, all lopsided and boyish. It caught me off guard. What could I say now? I batted my eyelashes, at that point laced heavy with tears, and dully replied: “Thank you.”
As I stood up and slowly walked away from the kitchen table, I could feel his eyes digging into me, staking claim to me, eating me alive from the bottom up. There’s a certain feeling you get when someone is looking at you and evaluating you as nothing more than an object, something to be used. Your ass? An object. Your arms and legs? Objects. Your face and hands? Objects. Your pussy? Object. Object.
I have never felt as drained or as powerless.
A quiet, damning voice prowled my thoughts after this conversation. The voice wasn’t only whispering in the kitchen. it was everywhere else. It was at the coffee shop. It was at work. It was at the DMV. It was in the houses of my friends. It even followed me back home to visit my family. “He owns you. He owns you. He owns you.” And for a time I believed it.
The belief was so powerful that I began to shrink into myself like a dying star. I tried to be less needful. I tried to be less intelligent. I tried to become tame.
I was always less happy.
I had been too much for him, for this man I willingly chose to love- this man who hated strong women- too bright and loud and full of life.
As I collapsed, I propelled myself towards supernova.
There had been a dark gnawing in my abdomen that had kept me from eating and sleeping for several days before the explosion. An ever-expanding burning sensation that stretched from the bottom of my gut to the top of my throat, spilling into my mouth when I belched up acid. Malcontentedness made visceral.
The veil between my inner world and the stark reality of my situation had been growing thinner every day. Dying stars aren’t very good at hiding their feelings, in case you weren’t aware. They aren’t very good at lying.
One evening, when I was finally too hot and restless to lie to myself any longer, I asked our hapless roommate the golden question: “Did he sleep with her?”
The roommate broke eye contact, stuttered, shrugged, and murmured the words I had already understood to be true.
For a moment, I stopped breathing. Eleven-months worth of lies and broken promises fell out from underneath me, white rage ignited.
That evening I gathered my things and left.
I have only burned brighter since.