I think of it as my other life.
That life I lived before I got here.
The times when I think about it, it seems like it happened to someone else. Those spectacularly bad decisions couldn’t really belong to me, could they?
But they did. And still do.
When I left, years ago, I didn’t tell a single soul. I left everything behind, hoping I could outrun the person I was becoming. Too many times, I’d look in the mirror, thinking about the decisions I’d made, the people I’d hurt, and I’d see my father staring back at me.
No matter how many times I’d tell myself that I wasn’t like him, it turned out I was. Hurting the people I love? Check. Running away from my responsibilities? Check. Drinking every single day, in an attempt to swallow who I was? Check and check.
It’d get to the point that I was drinking to mask the pain, and then waking up with my head about ten sizes too big, and drinking to make that go away, too. I drank to run away, and the only thing that changed was that I needed more to fill that empty space, that steely ache that was always there to meet me.
For what we’re running from, there’s not enough booze in the entire world.
I finally made the decision to move away, to either get better, which I really didn’t believe, or to find out what sort of life awaited people like me.
I met a guy, my first week living there. That was the first really bad decision I made.
The second was moving in with him.
I can still remember being so numb, that I couldn’t be bothered to care. Outwardly, he was fantastic. Attentive, loving, and wonderful. All those adjectives that make you want to roll your eyes.
It took about two weeks to meet the real him.
I don’t remember what I said, or did, but I remember how unexpected it was. I’d watched my share of Lifetime movies (the man hater’s channel, as I like to call it) and anytime a man had to spank a woman in the teeth, or give her a punch; she always had enough breath to say something shitty or ask him why.
I didn’t. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like being hit by a Mack truck.
I’d like to say that was the first time, or the only time, and that I hit him with a brick or cut his penis off and threw it in a field.
But it’s not a fairy tale I’m telling you. I’m telling you about a girl who had nowhere to go and no one she wanted to admit her stupidity to. So, it went on that way for awhile. I never believed that whole “I swear it’s the last time."
But I wanted to believe it.
I let that nightmare continue for another month or so, before my breaking point.
When I called my brother from the hospital after I’d gotten away, I remember hearing his voice, and I could feel the tears, shame at what I’d become, heating up my face. He sounded so safe, so sane, and so normal. If he would’ve asked, I would’ve told him everything. He never knew that I called him from the emergency room, and he never will.
I knew better than to call any of my friends. I ended up sitting on a hospital bed, talking to the Chaplain. He had the kindest eyes. I told him that the smell, the smell soaked into my pajamas was lighter fluid, like for barbeques.
I couldn’t say the rest of it, it was enough for me just to have made it through. I’d take the nightmares, too. Nightmares are for people still alive to have them.
I took that night for what it was. A second chance. A lesson who not to be, what not to become.
The better part of me made it out of that night, that's for damn sure. I know just how lucky I was.
Some don't make it out at all.
There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar. -- Moby Dick