When I told you that I would die an early death, you laughed and called me melodramatic. When I shared the knowledge that I would die by your hands, you laughed harder and told me how unfathomable that was, that you, who loved me more than God himself, could hardly kill me when you couldn’t live without me. But I knew only one of us could make it out alive and you were the stronger of the two of us.
Already, I felt the effects of the poison you were leaking into my body, into my mind. You understood the potency of your words: the morbid refrains you liked to recite, lyrics carefully crafted to puncture my soul in ways you could monopolize because you, and only you, knew me so well. And yet you didn’t know me at all. You didn’t know the quiet revolution raging inside my heart, the grassroots rallying that occurred while you slept – because it was the only time your shackles around me loosened. I was determined to break free of your abuse, to shimmy out from under your dark wings, wings too heavy to fly so you resolved to keep an anvil on everything around you, so you weren’t alone in your grudging groundedness.
Over and over again, I tried to be compassionate with you, to understand you, because I had heard that it is those most in need of love who will ask for it in the most unloving of ways. But you didn’t, you wouldn’t, make it easy for me to love you. The more I approached you compassionately, the more venom you spat at me. The more quietly I sat, observing you, trying to learn you without judgement, to see the real you beneath the façade, the more impatient and anxious you became, as if in my watching you, you were being laid bare, stripped of your beloved weapons. And still I persisted to change you, to grow you. And though I knew you were tearing me down with you in this quest, I tried to remember a time when you were less ruthless and rigid. You saw lines as more suggestion than law and your rose-tinted filter remained intact. Before the world compressed you into a pressure cooker of conditions and expectations.
And even now, I try to reason that behind your malice is a misguided desire to protect me from the world, to keep me in so ironclad a grip that I’ll never be far from the safe enclosure of your arms. But I am not safe. My lungs have forgone their function and my brain begs for more than the shallow air I can barely supply. And these chronic body aches and bruises from your battering will live on in the corrupted energy field of the world long after I am gone, and from it, billions in your likeness will draw strength to sustain this global suffering. Because I am not alone. And you are not the Chosen One.
But you have chosen your victim well. You diligently laid the groundwork so that one day, you could sit back and watch me self-destruct knowing I had internalized your lies. The classic oppressed turned self-oppressor. You wore me down so thoroughly that delusion became the default landscape of my foggy mind. I couldn’t think beyond your clouded fist. I couldn’t dream with deadened nerves. I couldn’t sense my way around a world with ringing ears and blurry vision. You crushed my capacity to create beauty and meaning and relished the defeat on my face, knowing it would permeate as despair in my heart. Another bull’s eye for you and a catatonic spirit for me.
You said you couldn’t be the one to kill me because you loved me. But what is love without compassion? What is love without laughter? Your love is a perversion. A deception. A python masquerading as a safety rope. Your love is an investment without return, a promise of destructive patterns and regurgitated pasts designed to imprison me in pervasive shames and grief-inducing guilts. And I continued to bear the unbearable weight of it all because I had signed the contract letting you define who I should be and what I should do.
When the depression came, it came swiftly and stealthily as if it were moping just around the corner waiting for the impenetrable darkness in which it could arrive incognito. And all those nights you refused to sleep, terrorizing me into staying awake with you as you portended the demise of people I loved, people who were oblivious to the power you held over me, the depths you delighted in making me sink to. You determined that family, friends, and others with whom there was potential for me to have a loving and affirming relationship with threatened your monopoly over me, so you masterminded my separation from them. This I would realize in hindsight as I worked to repair all the relationships that were salvageable. But even as I waded towards my island of isolation, stranded and miserable, your insanity glimmered with rationale. After all, you were always right, weren’t you? They didn’t understand me like you did and abandoning them before they could abandon me would ensure I never got hurt. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was necessary you said, and I would survive it because I had you in my corner forever. Little did I realize I was only taking bullets away from them to give to you.
I knew what you were capable of, and I didn’t want to bring others down with me, so I suffered your tyranny in silence. My deep desire for peace was incompatible with your chaos and “joy” was a concept to be entertained abstractly, never as something to ever embody because joy is only tangible in the absence of fear and fear was my lifeline.
Because of you, I graduated with a PhD in fear before I learned I was enrolled in classes. You made life and day-to-day decisions seem complicated, opaque, directionless, when it was really as simple as choosing, committing to choices, and trusting that the divine intelligence that regulates nature’s natural rhythms would guide the path where it needed to go. You made it clear from the beginning that everything was about you, and that everyone was a resource to be extracted or a mirror in which to reflect your peerlessness. When I tried to impart to you some borrowed wisdom: that when we take from others, we’re really taking from ourselves, you slapped me several generations into a future reeling with the repercussions of your violence.
I deserved more than you could offer me but was paralyzed by the terror of leaving your familiar tyranny. The image of the door alone caused unimaginable pain and the torture of opening it ensured the door remained closed, keeping me trapped with you.
You told me that I was weak, stupid, inarticulate, insecure, incapable, unlovable, deficient, and alone and needed you to make me matter. You told me I would never amount to anything, that it was laughable and pitiable for a speck in the universe to think she could make a difference in anyone’s life, validate any one individual’s experience, and I had kept silent and allowed your words to ricochet off the walls and pelt my body. You saturated the air with your cants and wonts and nevers and shoulds and I naively inhaled and let the poison seep into my skin.
Then when the contamination culminated in my organs shutting down one after the other, and death finally came calling, I expected the claustrophobia of an inhospitable grave and the anxiety of an impending judgment of a life not lived to its highest potential. Instead, something airy and expansive floated to the surface. Sweet, sweet laughter. How blind I had been not to recognize your face as my own. How unnecessary to have gone so long not realizing you were only as powerful as I allowed you to be.
It was true that only one of us could make it out alive. But you were not the stronger one after all.
Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash
COMMENTS ( 3 ) -
Mariam B. February 12, 2022 09:42
Thank you for reading and leaving your thoughts <3
Ujunwa Onyekachi Paul February 11, 2022 02:04
intense. How we readily yield to imprisonment of self.
Ugochukwu Anadị February 11, 2022 01:04
How so much I love this story. Sometimes in life, the power used to oppress us is being supplied by us.