You’ve moved on, just like everyone asked you to. You’ve fallen in love and your career has catapulted forward and you’re genuinely happier than you could have claimed to be in the past. Sure, bad things have happened between now and then, but even the mind-numbingly negative has helped to erase that day, and the days that followed, a year and a half ago.
Sometimes you’re handed a hurtful reminder, a sharp sting of the past penetrating your present. Usually it happens when you’re watching a movie or listening to a crude comedian or reading comments from happily ignorant strangers. You’ll feel him or begin to smell the room or hear a sympathetic voice, but the recollection fades quickly, usually due to the stubborn and palpable call of self-preservation.
Friends no longer ask and you no longer bring it up. You’re beyond it, remember? You didn’t allow the sadness and anger and confusion a lingering chance to ruin any possible good time or memorable moment or worthwhile conversation. People don’t appreciate any unwillingness to move on and, frankly, neither do you. There’s an unspoken understanding that the grieving period has an expiration date, so when you surpassed your allotted time you simply painted on a smile until it stuck. Now, it doesn’t wash off with your day-to-day makeup.
You were put back together. The pieces had been sufficiently glued and while they couldn’t pass for perfect, they passed for functioning. You labeled it just another learned experience, a chapter in a book you placed in the corner of a decaying bookshelf meant for dust and neglect. You’re nose-deep in a better novel now, reading words like “productive” and “grateful” and “fulfilled”.
And then the phone rang.
The moment you hear the male voice you know. Your throat falls to the souls of your feet and your stomach crawls behind your spine. Your entire body is terrified as you begin to revisit that debilitating feeling of helplessness. All. Over. Again.
The Detective is kind. Hell, it’s the motherfucker’s job to be. He reminds you of your meeting a year ago, as if any description of those few days is at all necessary. As he begins to explain the exact purpose of his call you notice yourself resenting him. Him, the actual good guy. That guy that protects and serves and is, honestly, there to help you, now seems like a vindictive sadist.
You clear your throat, erasing any evidence of your indignation.
They’re finally ready to proceed, he explains. Kits have been processed and evidence has been examined and witnesses are ready to be interviewed, he continues. You controlled any possible course of action then and you’re in control now so, after a year and a half, how would you like to move forward, he asks.
And as you open your mouth to answer it hits you: an entire year has just been erased. You’re back there. You’re in that room and he’s on top of you and you’re biting and scratching and yelling for him to get the fuck off of you. You’re in that hospital and they’re stripping you down and swabbing your mouth and taking pictures of every single bruise. You’re listening to a loved one blame you for being there and a detective is asking you how much you had to drink and your mind is spinning out of control as you wonder just how much of this really is all your fault.
It’s happening all over again and nothing in the subsequent year and a half has made you any more prepared. Not the career or the falling in love or the happiness.
You’re just the girl curled up in the corner of the room with her hands over her ears and her eyes squeezed shut, waiting for it all to end.
After painful contemplation and a few more questions you’ve made your decision and you hang up the phone. You’re methodical now. Someone else is controlling necessary bodily functions while you’re far away, where it all seems like nothing more than an unrealistic happenstance. Tears are carving multiple paths down your cheeks and past your chin and onto the pavement beneath your feet. Your stomach begins to crawl out from behind your spine and your throat is, at the very least, past your chest.
You pick yourself back up and go inside your apartment. You get down on your hands and knees and begin to search. You know it’s in there somewhere. You awkwardly push cluttered objects aside until your hand lands on the corner of a decaying bookshelf meant for dust and neglect.
You pick up that one, seemingly forgotten book and flip to the chapter you thought was behind you. You start writing…