I am living in my sister's house, watching her love die like a deer hit repeatedly by oncoming cars. I am watching her husband look through her, not at her. He hears her like he hears gnats or a clock ticking, unwilling, unaware of what it is to listen. In my room, I hold their little girl as they argue in the other room, and curse him through low breaths, gritting my teeth as she whimpers. She has no vocabulary for the dread she feels. His words flow from his mouth like a defecation, all smelly worthless waste. I want to slam him into the wall, tackle him with no warning, just a screaming heave into the black.

This scene has played out too many times in front of me, the horrific cliche of man pissing on woman. Lies, promises, excuses, threats. Male against female, us against them. My mother said she wasn't sure if she married my father out of love or fear. It took her about 15 years to realize that it was fear she'd felt all along, but by then she was mostly rotted away from cancer and chemotherapy, and couldn't lift herself out of bed for the trip to the courthouse to divorce him. As far as the State of Georgia is concerned, my mother died a married woman.

My oldest sister, Jonna, ran away from home with her high school sweetheart, Kurt, the "bad boy" and hottest guy in school. She was too horrified by the sights and smells of our mother's dying to stay home. Kurt married her fast; no family members were present. They came to our mother's funeral a month later. He was dressed in an 80's tuxedo shirt and jeans and smelled of beer; then he took her to Nevada. When she found out she was pregnant, she told him the great news. He already hit her as a casual detail of their relationship. Sometime after she had begun to show, in a drunken, angry blur, he punched her across the room, into the bathroom. She landed, ribs against the toilet and he said he was sorry. She didn't say a word to anyone. For reasons she won't speak of, a year after her baby boy was born, Jonna sold everything she owned in a yard sale and bought a plane ticket home.

Sometimes it's all I can do to fight the hate and rage that wells up in me and I want to attack something, spitting fire and fists flying. Maybe this is why I have barely ever dated, why my first kiss came so late, and was a "kiss and run." Could he feel the past on my lips? Did he taste the poison of what my eyes have absorbed? Could he decipher my plea for a truce, an explanation? He suddenly had so much to do...

I have stopped warding off men with the details of my life, what I've seen, stopped offering up my life like an interesting jewel they can look at, so they don't look at me. This time, I just tried to tell him the truth, and we held each other, but he left anyway.

I have to believe that the truth will eventually pay off
. I won't be less for anyone. I will not, for anything, repeat the past.

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