I've kept a letter on my shelf, unopened, for two years now. I used to know every word it said inside. I'm the one that put the ink on the folded up pages sealed in that envelope, afterall. I keep waiting for the right time to open it. I keep waiting for when I think I might need those words, for when I might be ready for them.
It starts out, She was once good to me.
Someone gave this space to me. They said, put your words here. I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn't know how. There are parts of this story that I am still stumbling on. Not incomplete, but unsteady.
I have spent the last two years living alone. Rebuilding. I have learned to do things for myself that I otherwise would not have. I come home to an empty house. I make dinner for one. I have finally completed my college degree. I have finally had the courage and the resources to go after everything I've been wanting to do for most of my life.
I have had to teach myself how to take care of myself, in full and unapologetically.
I make my own bed, and I sleep peacefully in it.
Some of my greatest love affairs have been spent sleeping alone, you know, and this has been the best one yet.
After she was finally gone, someone asked me, how could you stay?
I didn't have an answer for them. I didn't know how to explain myself. I wasn't sure why this person deserved justification, and in all honesty, I hadn't yet figured it out for myself.
But here it is: I didn't know, until months later, that the proper word to use when describing what happened to me was abuse.
I didn't know. I didn't see it, even when everyone around me did.
She was, for the official stamped record, once good to me. I wrote it in that letter and I'll write it here. She washed my back and combed my hair but not once did I let her kiss my wounds. Not once because I knew she would not understand how they got there.
She would say, how foolish you are, for getting hurt there. or, even worse, what wound? As if it had never happened, as if my pain was not real.
When she became the monster, she blamed me for making her that way. And for many years I questioned very deeply if she was right about that.
She was more than willing to gaslight me into thinking she was.
Before I had to write the letter to myself, there was a last straw. Maybe that is the story I need to tell; maybe it is the last one I want to.
She came home drunk. Again. That had become a constant, and I had long passed being used to it. I had gone to bed early that night. I was so tired by then--of all of it and most certainly her. She came stumbling into the bedroom, talking nonsense, crying, waking me up. I felt her weight on my shoulder and then realized it was not her weight alone. She was sticking something into my back, squared up to my left lung. It was a gun. She was drunk, and dead set on this being my last night alive. If I can't be with you, I don't want you to be with anyone. She said it and it sounded like words out of a movie script, but they were hers.
I don't want to talk heroics. You know by now that the story ends well enough, so we'll leave it at that.
When she became horrible- when she started drinking too hard and hitting too much- I wasn't terrified, I wasn't sad. I was relieved. It was an excuse to go. I shouldn't have needed one. But I did, and I took it.
I may never open that letter. I keep saving it for the day in which I either completely forget about it or I completely forgive her for it. I don't know that either one comes and certainly neither comes easy. But, she was once good to me. And I do want that reminder-- that she wasn't always the monster that she ended up to be.
I may never open that letter. I may rip it to shreds or I may burn it. I keep hoping that there comes a day when I learn through the grapevine that she has finally learned how to help herself or get the help she needs. That is what I'm really saving the letter for. I want to open that letter then, and I want to read all the wonderful things about her that once existed. I want to be able to remind her that these good things can exist but only if the monster does not.
I don't know how many years that letter will have to sit upon my shelf. For now, two and counting. Maybe I get to write the story differently someday. It's all part of the waiting, and that's the hardest part.