You Shouldn’t Feel That Way

It lumbered down the street towards me. Dark and hulking. Ominous. I had to run. Now! The asphalt had melted into hot taffy, sticking to my feet. It took all my strength to wrench free. The strands latched onto my bare toes like black, ropy tentacles. They scorched my skin.

The creature slunk closer. Stalking me, as I stood paralyzed. I could smell its fetid breath. It opened its maw, teeth glistening in the moonlight and roared…

I jerked awake, sitting upright in the dark. The unfamiliar surroundings pressed in on me, as panic churned my stomach. Heart racing, I reached for him. Sweaty palm scrabbled, finding only cool sheets and pillows. Alone in a cheap rental, it took a moment to remember why. The nightmare dissipated, like sugar fine sand slipping through my fingers. It left me with the horror of my reality. I missed him. I despised myself for it.

I flopped back and stared blindly at the ceiling. My bare toes, peeking out from under the comforter, were frozen – a paradoxical burning. The rental was drafty and I hadn’t had the fortitude to dig out the extra blankets. Or the sheets for that matter. It was surprising that ten years of my life could be stuffed into a handful of cardboard totes. I’d left so much behind. Things that couldn’t be packed in boxes.

What the hell am I doing here?

Shivering, I wrapped my arms around myself and pressed on the fading bruises. The flash of pain gave me clarity. I didn’t need to turn on the light to see the blues, greens, and sickly yellows. I wondered if I’d always see an invisible rainbow tattooed upon my skin.

The bruises would heal. The real wounds were a shattered heart and tattered psyche. Trust was a crumpled paper – no matter how hard I tried to smooth it, the creases persisted. I replayed the movie reel of raised voices over and over in my mind. Weak, ugly, stupid. Worthless.

His words. Not mine.

It was hard to distinguish between truth and conditioning. It had been my reality for so long it felt impossible to shake free. I didn’t recognize the broken woman in the mirror anymore. I hated him for what he had turned me into. The sob I’d been fighting, broke free. Still, I missed him.

What’s wrong with me?

I needed a distraction. I scrubbed my eyes with my sleeve and flicked on my phone. The small screen was a bright square in the darkness. Social media therapy – where at any hour someone, somewhere had a goofy cat picture to share. I scrolled for a while before stopping on a joke about farmers. I had to remember to tell him that; he’d find it so funny.

Oh, wait. We don’t talk anymore because he’s a lying, narcissistic, controlling dill-hole.

I spent the next twenty minutes drowning in the memory of his laugh. Loud and carefree. Contagious. The skin around his blue eyes would crinkle in amusement. He’d chuckle until I couldn’t help but join in.

I miss laughing.

It wasn’t him I craved. Not really. I convinced myself it was all the tiny intimacies of being connected to another person. Private jokes and shared memories. Always having a date for weddings and quiet nights in on the couch. There were silly rivalries and shared goals. Someone I could put my cold feet on at night. That one person who was always there to bring me crackers and ginger ale when I was sick. Who would do that for me now?

I don’t know how to be alone.

13 thoughts on “You Shouldn’t Feel That Way

  1. Your opening is gripping, and the transition to reality was smooth. I thought the interplay between voices in the piece played off each other well and highlighted the struggle of the essay that is yearning for normalcy in situations like these. Nice work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You pulled me in with the powerful first para and let the emotions wash over me gradually. I loved the way the essay ebbed and flowed. It is always difficult to come to terms with a relationship gone bad, especially if it had had its good moments. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are allowed to feel any way you want. So I agree with what Lisa said about the title. I’m sorry you have been through abuse and it’s normal to still have feelings for that person, which is why so many people have trouble leaving. I’m glad you are safe now. The rest will come eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lisa & Stacie about the comment about the title… it wasn’t really intended to sound preachy. It was meant as a commentary on the unforgiving things we tell ourselves when the heart and head are conflicted.

      Coming up with good titles is a skill I’ve yet to learn. 😉

      Like

  4. Wow. You brought me in straight away and kept me hanging for the next word. This was truly powerful and paced perfectly. I’m sorry he did that to you. 😦 You did the right thing, for sure!

    Like

  5. I like that you start this with a nightmare about a monster only to wake and discover that you’ve escaped from one in reality. You wrote this beautifully. Ending bad relationships is harder than ending the ones that are kind of ‘meh’. I’m sorry that you experienced such abuse. But, you’ve written this in a way that others who are in the middle of this type of scenario might find the strength to leave too. Nice job.

    Like

  6. There are so many great turns of phrase in this, like “The flash of pain gave me clarity.” I was okay with the title because I felt at this point you were still so critical of yourself, still thinking you shouldn’t miss him, so it fit. I think the fact that you can write this shows you have moved past that point, so I am happy for you that life has moved on for the better.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So many gems in this…Trust was a crumpled paper – no matter how hard I tried to smooth it, the creases persisted.

    The back and forth struggle with the self really well done. Allowing forgiveness of oneself and finding the strength.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Two things I especially liked here: 1) the creases in the paper reference and 2) the way you describe him and we can feel the pull you feel and why the opposite, the missing and the anger, feel so strong.

    Liked by 1 person

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