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nine years ago today, i capitulated and told you that yes, i would go out with you, after you kissed me at the halloween dance on my brandomizer_072.jpgirthday and told me that yes, you loved me. even though at first i thought we could only be friends, i said yes.

i said yes to you and your broken heart, the heart i thought i could fix. at first i thought it had broken because of the childhood bullies, then i thought it was because of the lost dream of playing in the nhl – it had been a distinct possibility until you shattered your ankle on the ice. that was why you were heavier than you wanted to be – you kept eating the same amount, even though you were immobilized from the crushing pain.

i said yes to you and your crazy family – your stoic father who worked at the nuclear power plant, your overbearing mother, the younger brother who was achieving what you dreamed of, athletically – and their secrets. their ambition to make me your wife and the mother of your children before i turned 21.

i said yes to your friendship. my mother was sick, and then sick again, and you offered me your shoulder to cry on. you were the best friend i needed when i went crazy from grief, and lost it. you brought me a sick kitten for my birthday, the day of my mother’s funeral, and the three of us played in the grass, in the sun, before the bells called us in for the services.

i said yes to letting you take care of me. you were so protective of my left side – becoming this snarling bear when you thought i was getting threatened. i called you mushu, after the dragon in mulan, and you called me thumper.

i didn’t know i was saying yes to your lies – that the money i was giving you to pay bills was padding your entertainment account, and that i would be liable for all the missed payments, landing me in debt i’m still in today. that the girl you said was a close friend was also your lover of almost a year. that the shattered ankle that ended your hopes of being a professional athlete happened not on the ice, but in the dressing room, when you tripped over a stick.

you told me you loved me, over and over, and yet when it was over, when you had betrayed my trust for the last time and i said enough – you beat me. you held me down by my right side so i couldn’t defend myself and you left me with bruises so deep that my friend made me undress so she could take photographs, in case i ever went to the police.

i never went to the police. i told my male friends to not go and exact revenge, i moved my things back into my parents’ house, i tried to forget. the bruises healed.

i found out, a few months ago, that you’re engaged to be married. i wonder if she got better than i did – a zirconia ring bought at a flea market, the ring going green and two stones falling out within a few days, a symbol of us, i thought – and i was so angry with you. how could i have lived every day since then trying to be such a good person, living with every breath the way you used me sexually, physically, emotionally – and you were going to have what i wanted so much, a best friend for life?

today, it is enough. i have punished myself by punishing you too long. i let go. i forgive you. i wish you the best.

***

walking to work today, scattering the fall leaves with my mary janes, i realized that the only reason i couldn’t forgive the one person i thought i could never forgive was that i wouldn’t let myself. i realized because i wouldn’t – how much i was stunting my own growth, and dooming myself to repeating so many of the same, unhealthy patterns. so today, on the anniversary, i cut myself loose. i set myself free.

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