Trigger warning: this article contains content involving emotional abuse.
If there was strength in hanging on, it had long since passed.
Now all there was, was a neon sign flickering in the dark. At first glance, it said, “I’m weak.” At second glance, it said, “I’m scared.” At every glance thereafter, it pleaded to the passersby to “Save me, save me, save me.”
From him, perhaps, but most of all from herself.
He loved it, of course. He had always hated her strength, since he had none of his own. He loved that she was weak, that she was scared. He loved keeping her on edge, uncertain what he would do next, what he would say next, where he would go next.
What he did not love was her.
He told her he did. He made a big show of it, when he felt like it, gracing her with words of love and accepting her wide-eyed gratitude with no shortage of magnanimity. He let her feel that it was an undeserved gift, to be loved by him. He made sure that she knew that she was difficult to love, prickly and untouchable, a soiled thing with reaching hands and pleading eyes.
But oh, he did not love her. He might, if he knew how to love. If there was a shred of kindness to his soul, an ounce of goodness. But his soul was a shriveled thing, empty of all of the things he sought to empty from her, as well. He took a particular joy in peeling away the parts of her that
There was no telling her she deserved better. She would lift her head high, jut her chin just so, and proclaim that nobody understood the depth of their love. Nobody understood him. Nobody understood, nobody understood, a defiant stomp of her foot, nobody understood.
They saw the neon sign, and unlike him, they did not rejoice in it. They mourned the loss of the strength she used to radiate. They mourned the confidence she had once had in herself, the certainty she had once carried that she was not difficult to love. She was lovable, and loved, and he did not deserve her.
What do you do when you understand and she doesn’t? When she’s sure that she does and you don’t? When you are watching her peel away pieces of herself for him, watching him dance in the falling embers of her strength, watching it happen over and over again like a show you meant to stop watching seasons ago but for some reason haven’t managed to quit the tired story lines? The same old story, over and over again, with the same ending, and the same falling pieces, and the same broken character.
You keep watching, I suppose. You don’t change the channel. You sit on your couch with your hand held out to the screen, waiting for the end credits, waiting for the character to slide out of the screen and grab hold of your outstretched hand and say that they have had enough. That they won’t live that story again.
You wait for her to flip the switch on the neon sign, to deaden it to the night. You help her gather up the pieces she had shed, and you silently, carefully, help her put them back in place. You use extra glue where it’s needed, lean extra hard to get the pieces to stick, and you whisper promises that she will be okay.
You will be okay.
You are beautiful and strong, bigger than the universe and brighter than the stars, and you will be okay.