Saturday, July 16, 2011
The Past Invades
Then one day he betrayed her in a way that crumbled her foundation. He turned her trust in him back on her and destroyed her ability to trust her own judgment. He hurt her more than anyone ever had and told her he did it for her own good. She cried. She hid. She tried to disappear. She became self-destructive. She dreamed about ways to die. She dreamed about ways to punish herself. She lost herself and everything that made her her. She looked in the mirror and saw simply a shell of who she had once been. She knew no one else could see there was no longer anything in that shell - just emptiness. She rejected anything good that came near her. She ran from anything kind that approached. She hid from any offer of love. She embraced that which would inflict pain because feeling pain was better than the numbness and the emptiness she felt.
Slowly, she began to realize she wasn't responsible for his actions. He chose his behavior. In hindsight, maybe she shouldn't have ignored some things, but at the time they hadn't raised any alarms. People who said "I could've told you" were also speaking from hindsight or else they really weren't friends. She wanted to say "Why didn't you?" but instead let them make her feel like she was an idiot for missing what others saw.
Eventually, she began to heal. She began to open her heart to the world again and not just for show. She began to build a future again. She began to let people back into her inner circle. She began to reach out to others. Always slowly, cautiously and not necessarily steadily but forward motion nonetheless.
Then one day she sat on a bus in a faraway town looking out the window. She heard a voice that sounded just like... his. Her heart stopped then raced. Her fists clenched. Her crossed legs squeezed together as tightly as possible. She had to remind herself to breathe. She unclenched her left fist and pressed the nails into her leg until it hurt. She slowly turned. The face wasn't his, but that voice. She stared a little harder than she should have trying to convince herself her mind wasn't playing tricks on her. No, it wasn't his face. She could see that clearly. Still she felt her gaze move down to the man's shin and calf muscle looking for the nasty scar that would identify him if it was. She couldn't remember which leg, so she checked one leg and then the other. Right leg? No scar. Left leg? No scar.
Still, that voice.
She willed her breath in and out, her heart to beat normally, her hands to unclench, and her legs to relax. The man spoke to the young girl with him - his daughter, she presumed. She listened. There was that sound in his voice. But the more he talked the more differences she noticed. Yet, she couldn't help staring every time his voice hit one of the similarities. The memories flooded her for a few moments. She tried to force them away. It took several attempts before she was successful.
As she convinced her mind of the reality that the man wasn't him, she felt a need to apologize for thinking even for a second he could've been. She knew that was ridiculous. The man would think she was crazy yet... There was no way he even knew what his voice had triggered in her mind and thrusting that knowledge upon him would've been unfair, possibly even selfish and almost certainly misunderstood.
So she kept quiet. She told no one. She kept it all inside where it belonged. It was her problem just as it always had been. Yet in that moment she knew she wasn't as free of her past as she wanted to believe...
T. L. Cooper grew up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Kentucky University. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published work includes a novel, All She Ever Wanted, five books of poetry, and a book of short stories. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, creating plant-based recipes, and traveling. Currently, she resides in Albany, Oregon.