I’ve cut my feet on the broken plastic of cups that were thrown so hard against the floor, they shattered.
I’ve curled up around my younger sibling, behind locked doors, my little body tensed and ready to flee or fight at a moment’s notice, to take him far away from anything that would hurt him.
I’ve also lashed out inexplicably at this sibling, taught to fight and spit venom by a family fueled by malice and jealousy.
I’ve looked in the face of a police officer, clutching so tightly onto my brown paper lunch bag that my chubby fingers left sweaty fingerprints, and explained that my daddy was only mean and screamed and hit and destroyed because he loved us. It’s true. That’s what my mommy told me.
I’ve hid in my closet, legs tight against my chest as I rocked back and forth sobbing, calling my best friend at 3 am, begging her to let me stay with her as glass shattered and screaming reverberated throughout my home.
I’ve been chased by the man who gave me my eyelashes, my quick grin, my charm, heart pounding in my chest as he screamed and raged at me, blood smeared on his face and an empty bottle of tequila in his hand.
I’ve screamed and wailed and pounded on bedroom doors while, behind it, the man who was supposed to protect us beat my baby brother, using him as a punching bag, a vent for his own unhappiness.
I’ve hidden holes in my walls, created by angry fists, by moving vases and furniture.
I’ve watched the woman who gave me the shape of my eyes, my hands, my silky hair fade away into the sofa, endless days of numb staring and mindless TV.
I’ve heard her fingers crack and break as her husband smashed her into walls.
I’ve tasted metal as silver spoons scraped the back of my throat, bringing up the foods that would make me fat – because being fat was bad. So was being ugly. And I was both.
I’ve bruised my body to cope, pushed it so hard, that my vision has become black, clearing only to see faces hovering above mine when consciousness returned.
I’ve watched my brothers transform and develop the face of my father, his habits, his anger.
I’ve let them break what was left of my heart, and I’ve quietly tried to glue back the pieces.
And I learned to hide it all with my quick smile and loud laugh, to hide the demons, to tuck them away in places only I could find. They would escape at night time when I was alone in the dark. They would come to me in my sleep.
Until I met him. The man who picked up my broken pieces and held me together. Who kissed my forehead and told me I was beautiful. That I was wanted. That I was loved. Who told me I was safe and that I wouldn’t have to hide anymore. And so I leaned into him, desperately breathing him in, holding my breath so I never had to let him go.
Until I realized there was too much of me and too little of him. I had too many pieces, and he couldn’t hold onto all of them. The parts and pieces of me that he held were safe, loved, nurtured, protected. But so much more of me was alone, left, abandoned. And it was within those pieces my demons dwelt. No one, not even me, could see how the darkness inside of those pieces grew. Until it reached out, pried me from the arms of the man who loved me, and took me back.
And again, I found myself alone, broken parts and splintered pieces.
As time passed, these parts and pieces came together again, ill-fitting and confusing. But they melted together, jagged at the seams, until one day they weren’t.
So now, scarred and imperfectly beautiful, I stand tall, with my demons at my side. We stride into our future, heads held high, ready to face it all.