I remember how you were when we first met. You were always laughing, wearing sleek leggings and old boots with your black hair always free, weaving down your back. We had our inside jokes and secret language. I spoke a clatter of consonants while you provided the vowels. Can friends be soulmates? I thought we were.
You’re the kind of girl men fall deeply in love with. The way you laugh with your whole body, rake your fingers through your tousled hair and listen sincerely to everybody who speaks. You’re unable to be anything but kind. You wore red lipstick, aviator sunglasses, and enormous hoop earrings. You were cool though you never tried to be. You were just you.
Everywhere we went, men came to you. Some were sweet and stuttered compliments, offered poems or flowers. They saw the pain in your eyes and wanted to save you from it. But they were too nice so you laughed and turned them away.
Then the others came. The cool ones, who were suave and masculine and laughed with unsmiling eyes. They quickly stole you from me and your regular life. They flipped between being loving and cold, and you were tantalized by the dance.
Each time you disappeared with one of them I burned up your phone with texts and calls, trying to knock some sense into you. You ignored me. I would stand on the side, helpless, and watch you became strangely distant, to keep secrets and forget how to laugh. Your eyes would have this hollow, faraway gaze and you would stop answering questions. Finally you would disappear. Neither I nor your family could reach you.
Until one day you would show up on my doorstep. You were always wounded, emotionally and sometimes physically. I cried every time to see you broken. I wanted to heal you somehow, but you were never home long enough. Just as you began to recover, a new silver-tongued man would appear.
The pattern of abuse runs deep. Friend, stop running to men who hurt you. Become a tree, deeply rooted, finding your own sunlight and strength. Realize your own beauty. If you wait long enough, you will find a man who is kind and doesn’t try to own you. There are good men out there. Stay with the people that love you and listen to their advice. Otherwise, next time you may never make it home.
Your eyes are darker than when we first met. You glance away a lot, and you don’t wear lipstick anymore. Your cheekbones have hollowed and you smile less. When you do smile, it’s nervous, as if checking to see if it’s safe. You wring your hands sometimes, and you’ve forgotten our language.
Friend, stop allowing men to claim you.