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.