*Dedicated to a woman I love so incredibly much - you are strong, beautiful, and your own hero.*
There was something wicked in the way he looked at you.
Not at first, no, at first it was all big smiles and wild dreams,
Midday drives through desert towns, and hikes through abandoned houses.
A kinship, born from troubled pasts and the desire to move faster, feel deeper.
He promised you a safe space, a writing desk and a reading nook,
A place to curl up when monsoon season came careening.
You believed him, kissed his sun-scorched face, and agreed to get lost together.
Time whispers past, and your skin freckles from the summer heat.
There is something strange in the way he watches you,
His eyes muddled and his mouth made of sharp edges.
The sky is hot with ashen clouds –
Flames drip down the horizon;
You can smell the smoke from miles away,
A brush fire on the border.
You try to get closer to him,
Hope the burning air will drive him to you – like an animal –
But he slinks away and pours another scotch
(there is always another scotch).
Crawl into bed with tear laced lashes –
You stopped trying to muffle the sobs months ago,
All too aware that he can hear you from downstairs.
Fall asleep slowly, curled around the thorns of loneliness,
Until the bedroom door slams shut behind him.
2:30 AM 2:30 AM 2:30 AM
The clock blinks cruelly,
You are awake again and already afraid.
He flips on the light and barely recognizes you,
Alcohol and cigarettes – a love hate trigger for your heart.
Then he is yelling and so are you,
Screaming at one another with electric words,
Each syllable more shocking than the last.
You feel rivers and oceans and storms apart,
And then he is looming, breathing ash into your face.
Your hair grew long during the dry days,
Loose ribbons in his hands, he yanks.
Pain sears across your scalp, and the ground feels hard beneath your back.
Wait…when did all the air leave your lungs?
Wait…when did you end up on the floor?
A shocking destruction as his fist finds your face –
An immediate purpling…a deafening hum.
You can’t see
You can’t hear
You can’t think
And then…his voice mumbles through the haze…
You recoil and then concede,
He’s crying like a little boy,
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
An ice pack and hot chocolate and desperate apologies,
A frantic, self-indulgent tirade of excuses.
You let him sleep next to you,
And wake up with a ripe plum eye and blood stained pillow.
But he’s sweet, the way he was in the beginning,
All puppy dog eyes and teasing smiles.
You hate that you love him
You love that you hate him
You were raised to have faith in people,
Taught to believe in change,
And for the next four months you learn to live a lie,
Hide the bruises and keep your mouth shut
All in the name of love.
Until, one day, you wake up with another bloody nose
And something about the sunrise catches your attention.
The light moves slowly, chasing away the shadow,
Until the desert is drenched in gold.
The sunshine reaches the window,
Spills over the frame and climbs up your body.
In that instant you feel wild, a woman woken by the day –
Woken by the carnal need to live again.
There is a new aching – no longer in your meat and bones,
But in your pulsing, thumping, grinding heart.
You pack your bags, carelessly and quickly,
Your favorite books, your coffee mugs, your art supplies.
Leave the frames with all the photos, leave the wine corks you collected.
The door closes behind you – relief in the finality.
The desert melts away as you pick up speed,
And you are sobbing and laughing and gasping for breath.
Watching the road unfold,
You let his memory untangle out the car window,
Until you are by yourself,
Stronger, braver, better.