I always thought I needed to be saved.
At least, that’s what fairy tales used to tell me. You know the ones. Cinderella needed the Prince to save her from her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Snow White needed true love’s kiss to save her from the poisonous apple. I’d watch those movies on VCR while sitting on the hardwood floor downstairs, my eyes glued to the television. I’d take it all in.
When I was growing up, I thought my dad would be there to protect me, whether it was something as small as healing my bruises and cuts with a kiss or something as big as telling me the boy who broke my heart was a fool. But he didn’t do any of that, because he was too busy destroying himself, one empty beer bottle and cigarette butt at a time. The only thing he saved me from was realizing how much I never wanted to lose everything I had around me to something as stupid as drinking and smoking. It’s been 12 years, Dad, but you’re not worth getting to know anymore.
My first boyfriend told me he loved me over text less than a month into dating. I thought that’s what love was. Asking them to borrow their sweatshirt in 80 degree weather and carrying it around with you in the halls to let everybody know you were taken. But we used those three words without meaning, and I ended it. He went on to date my then-friend for years, only to cheat on her. At least he saved me the trouble of doing it to me before I got too invested.
The first boy I kissed swept me off my feet. For once I thought, This is it. This is what being safe and secure felt like. I thought about this sitting in the passenger’s seat of my mom’s car as he leaned in and grazed my lips. I’d had a crush on him since middle school. But he went back to Virginia and I stayed in Rhode Island, and a month later he sent a text saying it was over. I read it in my car before going out with friends. He’s married now.
The first boy I dated in college was one I didn’t see coming. Because after spending most of my time focused on school, I put dating on the back burner. I was never one to take away success and substitute it with mediocre love, but he brought me to the golf course field at night to lay down in the grass to look up at the stars some nights. He was the first boy I ever stayed overnight with. I thought adult sleepovers were supposed to be more fun and mature, but when they only want you for one thing and you’re not ready or willing to give that up, they make it easy to replace you with someone that will. And he did less than a month later. They’re still together.
The last boy I dated was one I gave everything to. Because he made it so easy with the way his deep brown eyes would look at me. I dodged every red flag and jumped over every trap that was set for me right from the beginning. And for the first time ever, I thought this was my endgame, that he would be The One. So I gave him my heart, took it out of my chest and handed it over to him. But he let it slip and fall and break right in front of me. Because right when I thought I was soaring high, he clipped my wings and watched me fall.
I told myself that I would never get them back. I chose to numb the pain with liquor and guys to keep me company and hold me close, if only for a second. I thought I needed them to save me.
But it took every person that ever left and hurt me for me to grow my wings back. And for one person to show me that I wasn’t damaged goods in his eyes for me to finally believe in myself.
So now you can all watch me fly.