But this is not a story. The grasp of his hands around my neck or the pressing drive to bypass my legs, dive deep into my body, and lay claim to what he believed was irrefutably his. This is not a story.

The story that I told was how he didn’t abuse me. I told that story everyday when I woke and pulled down my sleeves.

He thought I was doing it for him, or he thought I was doing it for them. But I was doing it for myself. I was doing it for the defiant pride that was going to prove to him one day that I was worth more than the bruises on my arms and more than the bleeding ache in my sex.

But a story follows rules.

Patterns emerge. As did with his abuse. But a victim’s mind is ill-logical and swims in a sea of fallacies. You cannot build structure around a tower that is always crumbling and rebuilding itself. A victim’s thoughts are schizophrenic. Their truth as buried as an abusers’ guilt. { I’m Useful } { I’m Loved } becomes meshed together, pounded and shaped. When I close my eyes, I believe they are the same. They feel the same. And after I’ve endured his hacking away at me– his terribly howling tantrums– he invites me in again, to taste the sweetness of a calm afternoon, a gentle smile. Approval.

There are two sides to every story.

But isn’t that what they say to offer excuses not to care? As the busy roar of their day speeds past, they look over their shoulder at me with mixed concern and impatience. What kind of investment did I turn out to be if I’m choosing now to fall apart in front of them and reveal the taboo secrets of our lives? That none of us admit to what we mean. That none of us have any certainty in things. That we see relationships as more transactional than we care to admit. Or that once a person starts prying up the rocks we have buried and stuck deep in the mud, the underbelly of these things are just as filthy and shameful as we once imagined it?

I don’t believe this, but they might with those impatient eyes wondering why I haven’t taken the hint. There would be no investigation. And there would be no further investment. I presented myself to them falsely before, or am I doing so now? Regardless I cannot be trusted. The excuses are irrelevant and dangerous because they know that– upon further examining– their own life is riddled with little secrets. Holes they shove things into and hide when the guests arrive. If they took the time to examine my vulnerabilities it will inevitably reveal some of theirs. And their own crumbling towers are doing just fine.

There are two sides to every story.

Like Eve to Adam, women were made by Man and for Man. Our bodies were knit from his. And when he just so happens to pass us around, like a chipped bottle of bourbon at a party, we are to not complain for this is exactly how God has made us.

The uneasiness of something essential gone missing goes unspoken. It silences us. And when there are no words for it, how do we know it is even real?

There are two sides to every story: the story that you tell yourself and then the truth.

When did abnormal become normal to me? When did the outrageous behaviors cease to make an impact? Maybe what we tell ourselves is a reflection of our own idealism. When we feel love, we assume the other person must be feeling it, too.

My abuser was smiling like I would be, but his body language was different. His tone wasn’t quite right. But that’s fine, I’ll just make more assumptions. Perhaps this must be how he expresses his love and surely the feeling, the feeling, that is the same.

The truth is abusive people don’t love you. Seems simple enough. But try to believe it when they’re holding onto you. Try following the logic when you have shared your life with them. When vulnerabilities have been exposed. And commitments have been made. Try to believe it when he grasps your arms and begs you to hope.

But the truth is that hope can be used against you.

It can be weaponized.

Why did she stay? They ask. They hone in on the condemnation of her actions. Less interested in the man who did it to her. They believe that her actions could have somehow prevented certain realities.

We all long to believe that we can avoid pain if we rely on our charms or our moral compass. None of us care to admit that we aren’t in control of circumstances, especially when they are orchestrated by other people. We don’t like to think about how the demons that come to claim our lives are too often revealed through the loved ones we trust.

The truth is that this can happen to you. No one is the exception.

The love that we embrace and the goodness that blooms in our hearts can be our greatest undoing. Our lack of belief in the absolute reality of monsters prevent our own protection. We fear that giving up those beliefs will cast our souls into the very shadows they are mythicized to dwell. We believe kindness can quell the beasts’ rage. Patience can end their suffering. Surrender will stop the hunger.

But there are men out there who will drag you into the dark and consume you with sweet smiles. Those boundaries we have been taught to respect are play things in the eyes of Monsters who cannot feel God. Who only know the empty echo chambers of their own selfish hearts. They are cut off from the source of what gives Life its meaning beyond the insatiable gasps of a fragile ego’s calling. You are the bridge that connects them to it, and they will run you through to tap into its essence, not knowing why they do it or even what they’re seeking. So far removed are they from It, they strike at you and anything that can breech that barrier.

But there are always two sides to every story.

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