I sit in my bathrobe and my matching underwear at 8am, smiling like everything’s fine, drinking coffee, right before work. It’s the normal thing to do, me at my kitchen table in my apartment where things aren’t pristine but they’re clean enough to belie the presence of an adult in the household. That adult is me. Briskly glimpsing at this morning’s news before whisking off to put on lipstick and modest yet fashionable close toed, three inch heels and a dress that shows neither too much cleavage nor too much ass, but that, at the very least, makes me feel more attractive than your standard 9-5er. Then I hop in my car and go about my day, and when work is over, I buy groceries and call my boyfriend and eat a salad and do the dishes. Big kid shit.
This is life.
I’m not sure when my life got sideswiped by normalcy and infected by everything I never used to be about. I drink moderate amounts nowadays, three drinks max before I go home and turn in. I tell my boyfriend I love him, and I mean it, and I don’t grin like a Cheshire cat and trot off to text other boys with bigger dicks in the bathroom when he’s not looking. Instead, I sit close to him and let him hold his hand, and I look him in the eye when I have things to say. He has met my parents. I have met his.
Perhaps I should have known way back then that the nonstop violence wouldn’t be good to me. I smile at my boyfriend as the thought crash lands in the back of my brain, a hot flash of who I used to be. I have a moment of doubt as I harken back two years, to me, zapped on blow and laid out on some dark couch with some heaving junkie’s tongue in my ear halfway across town. Yeah, that used to be me.
I tell myself that’s not me, anymore. I have this nice job. I have this nice life. And this is who I am now, and this is who I have always been. I hit delete on all those backlogged files of vice and indulgence. That person is gone. Those memories will be gone, soon, too.
I try not to think about the person I used to be because I don’t want to think about what happened. I don’t want to think about why I changed. I don’t want that vision of violence to disrupt this nice dinner that I prepared for me and my boyfriend while we watch some artistically indifferent TV show churned out for us by Netflix. I don’t want to be back there, to feel the flutter of panic in the cage of my chest. I don’t want to think about how I’ve changed. Why I had to change.
Turns out a gun in the face was all it took for me to abandon my wild ideals of fornication and immoral fuckery. I try not think about him as I’m curled up with my boyfriend on our almost nice couch in my almost nice apartment. I try not to think about the desperation and the fear that put my flat on my ass, and then all the work, oh all the work, that it took for me to be sitting here, with my nicely manicured nails, and my Louis Vuitton bag, and my newly opened investment account where I invest my monthly bonus from work.
Really, I’m one of the lucky ones. I escaped alive, or alive enough to assimilate back into society in the blink of an eye. I guess my face wasn’t too fucked up for me to get a good enough job, but my body certainly is. Luckily I don’t have to bare my body at job interviews anymore. That’s not what they want. Not for this job. So I go to work, and I pretend everything is okay.
Pretending is fine because I’ve gotten good at it, but the reason my heart flutters when I think about who I used to be isn’t because I regret who I was. I regret the people that I had to leave behind. I regret sitting here with my boyfriend and remembering the other people who used to sit here when I used to be someone else. I regret the dreams that we built together, that we had planned on living out. I regret that my new dream did not include them. I regret having to watch them fall by the wayside, into the gutter, swept away with the soot and the gray rain of bad days. I wonder where they are, but just for a moment, because if I think about them for too long I might launch myself into an Internet goose chase that leads me into a rabbit hole of friends I have lost and what are they doing now.
We are no longer friends for a reasons – our lives have diverged. But I have emerged (relatively) scott free, and they – well, I do not follow them down the Internet rabbit hole because I do not want to know if they have or haven’t gone to rehab yet, because either answer is grim.
But it’s about more than the former friends, isn’t it? Because any chase down the rabbit hole would wind up with him, with me sitting here, with me on his page, with me wondering what he’s doing, with me hoping he’s okay. I can’t fall down the rabbit hole of my former life because I’ll wind up stuck on him again, and when I’m stuck I usually do the same thing I always do: I text him. I can’t text him.
For some reason texting him is the only trigger I need to fall back into my old ways. One text of, “Hey, how are you?” and two weeks later he’s back in my bed, and I’m back to the old me, but the old me won’t work in the new context of my life. I can’t chase him through my dreams and into reality, because this reality can’t withstand his presence anymore. I have to live here without him. Or not live at all.
He ruins me, not because he is wanton, but because that is what he does best. I cannot let him ruin me again. I cannot let him remind me that he loves me, because his love is a trap into which I gleefully leap every time. His love is a drug, and I would jump down from the heavens to die if only I could get high one more time.
I don’t. I won’t. I cannot. I sit back in my sofa, and I eat my salad with my doting boyfriend, and I leave those thoughts and those memories for another day. I am no longer that person. I no longer do those things. Jesus saves, and so does violence, and I run away from these memories as fast as I can before I get stuck there again, in the muck of the life I used to live, drowning in the person I used to be.
This is who I am now. This is who I will always be. The girl I used to be is a myth and a lie, a failed experiment, an undetonated bomb. I sneak away from her whenever I can, but in moments of darkness I glance back over my shoulder at her – she is beautiful, in her own way, but so am I. So I look ahead. I can only look ahead.