“Do you want to play?” He said. There was a twinkle in his eye. I was too young to know better, and curiosity always leads to stories. It wasn’t in the happy times He visited though. It was only in the sad times. Then, He would tell me how my veins would look better suited open. Ordinary objects in my room became outlets for words I didn’t have.
But He knew that. He would whisper in my ear that it was better this way.
“Do you want to?” he asked. I didn’t know what he meant until he entered me. It was too late then. The damage was done. his fault became mine, and His voice became louder still. All the times we played before weren’t enough. He told me over and over it was all my fault, and I knew He was right. I hadn’t seen him since that day, but He spoke to me just the same.
“Do you really think this changes anything?” He snarls as I stared in the face of my daughter. Tears ran down my face. The first time felt like acid, knowing hello would become goodbye. Even though I left the hospital alone, He followed me home. He told me the drugs and the alcohol would make it okay. He told me more sex would fuck the pain away. He got stronger, and I got lost. My grief, my pain, and my suffering became all the fuel He needed to create the Hell I existed in.
On my wedding day, I stared at my best friend in wonder. I was terrified of what would be, terrified I was making a mistake, but too in love to care. I knew my best friend was a gift to ease the pain of my yesterdays. A hope, a love, a truth I’d always searched for but only found when my head was nestled on his chest. He stood behind the altar cackling. “Good times only end in bad, silly girl” and that fear lodged in my heart with every beat. I knew He was right because I am always wrong. I do became merely a countdown to I don’t.
Not too long after, when my little boy came home with me, He followed along, but He was quieter. There was something contained in this promise of “I love you”. There was a seed germinating that He did not quite know what to make of. Suddenly, I was not I, because we became we. Maybe it had always been we, with Him as my dark cloud. But as a mother, my heart grew stronger than my mind for once. Still, He whispered in my ear, “It’s only a matter of time, love.”
And His time came, with butcher knives and hospitals. He came in between us, and then my best friend became my enemy. A new enemy to join all the hes before him. All of my friends become enemies when they stay long enough. As a failed marriage devoured what was left of my sanity, He stayed faithful to his vow of suffering. He never left my side. He has told me since I was a little girl how everyone would be better off without me, and I often agreed, angry at my own weakness. The fear of Hell kept me from obeying Him, oblivious to the fact that He, Death, Life, and Hell were merely interchangeable pronouns and nouns in my reality.
“Do you seriously think I’m ever going to say I love you?” The new face of my demise sneered. Unrequited love wears so many masks, but that venom is the same. he opened my heart enough to let it all in. Everything I had fought so hard to keep back, fix, heal, ignore, repress, express or distress was coursing through me like bad acid. My life had been a bad trip all along, but somehow it was worse when you realize it.
Suddenly, I didn’t know where I was. I was driving. Yet, I was a passenger in the driver’s seat. He was driving and He was the happiest I have ever seen. The speedometer surged, as the telephone pole grew closer. I realized with horror that I was going to lose this time, and I didn’t even know how I had gotten in the car. His laughter was all I could hear. Though my arms fought me, I swerved. I missed by inches but His miles took their toll. I went to my old best friend to save me from my constant best friend.
He wasn’t done. In the hospital, I was trying to appease Him with hoodie strings and thankfully weak hands. He told me if I didn’t, the kids would die. He told me if I didn’t, my best friend would die. When He convinced me if I did not die, they would, I fought to die while they fought to make me live. It would take months to find my voice above His.
Even today, I hear Him, but He is my wisdom. A constant reminder of what could have been, and a promise of what will always be. It is easiest to stay present when Death is your companion. When I go to the future, He laughs hysterically with omens and threats. When I go to the past, He charges with nooses, knives, and razor tongues. When I sit quietly by his side, He tells me what a fine student I have been. Every scar has been an A+, and every he has been a teacher He selected to bring me here. Where home is my own skin, and love is as close as the next inhale. Where was once fear is strength, and where once was a war is peace.
When I look in the faces of my children, He stays quiet. They are the antidote to all his poison. He knows, as do I, immortality courses through their veins. One day he will ferry me from this skin to another, but my love for them is untouchable.
Anyone can cheat Death. But, a Mother’s love can defeat anything – even her own worst nightmares.