I froze on the sidewalk while Tyler kept his eyes glued to his phone, halfheartedly pulling me along. Out of a mixture of stubborn defiance and fear, I refused to move. I raised my arm and pointed but Tyler wouldn’t look up to see what I was pointing to. “There…Th” I pushed through my chattering teeth and shaking lips. A dark skinned man, puffy locks of hair covering his face, lay on the ground motionless. The air around him was cold. “Come on, it’s probably some passed out drunk” Tyler says in an annoyed tone and yanks me harder to make me follow him. Did Tyler really not think he was dead? Or did he not care?
Tyler was the type of man that didn’t like to be inconvenienced, so after working a 12 hour day, he wasn’t about to let some “passed out drunk” stop him from going home sooner. I knew this about him, hell, I even enabled this behavior, but something about it today disturbed me to my core.
I decided I wouldn’t say anything though, I never did. I knew how to behave, how to walk on eggshells, not to ask too many questions, not to express my feelings, not to ever cry out loud. I knew how to do all of this long before Tyler.
There was a night I will never be able to piece together because I was so young when it happened. Maybe 4 or 5? Screaming, yelling, broken glass, my sister and I being drug into our bedroom, door slamming shut. I remember crawling into bed, arm screaming with pain, knowing I needed to cry but had to cry silently. I remember just wanting the darkness to swallow me whole so I didn’t have to feel this pain but instead I shook violently as I choked on sobs. “Shut up!” my older sister said in a harsh whisper. She was eight and already learned how to shut her emotions down. I let out another shake and felt a foot kick me hard in the back
“Owwww” I wailed, pain and sadness spilling over. Another hard kick “SHUT. UP!” and with that, I choked back everything.
Maybe that was the first time, I don’t know. But I do know that over the years I perfected the art of crying silently, just laying on my back, letting the tears fall into my ears, without even so much of a sniffle. So by the time I started dating Tyler, it was nothing new.
Except that night when I went to sleep, there was a new feeling in me. I tried to shake it off by numbly going through the motions once we got home. He took off his jacket, I followed him in the bedroom. He motioned for me to give him head, I obeyed. It was never anything I liked to do. But I could zone out a lot easier giving head than I could with sex. So I got on my knees, and entered that state of gray, a place with no emotions, a place of minimal existence. Suddenly, he aggressively pulls my head away from him. I look up and I can tell that he’s frustrated.
“Fuck it, I’ll do it myself. God, I could have gotten better head from that dead guy” He stomps off, pushing me aside, and I hear his laptop snap open.
He knew??? He knew that guy was dead? And he didn’t care?? Swirls of emotions I had constantly been pushing down came rushing back nearly knocking me back. Though I suspected this all along, this moment brought me crashing back to reality. This man was nothing more than a fucking jerk.
That night hit me hard as I went through the motion of a silent cry that was all too familiar. As soon as the tears hit my ears, I was done. As if a string was hastily pulling me upwards, I sprung up, threw off the covers and began to grab a suitcase and stuff my clothes in it
“What the fuck? What time is it?” Tyler said in a groggy, sleepy tone but I didn’t answer. I could only concentrate on what I needed. I didn’t give a shit about leaving some clothes behind. I could buy more clothes later. Cell phone, charger, pants, shoes, all sloppily thrown in the suitcase. I wrapped my laptop in a shirt and was off.
“Wait…what…Where Are?” He said, now springing out of bed. I was almost at the door when I felt a pull at my arm.
“Hey, hey, you gonna leave me?” He gave me this enraged look that normally I’d cower in fear of, but I’ve seen it so much that in this moment it didn’t phase me.
“Well fine, fuck you, go!”
I was used to this tactic as well.
There was something about knowing, about being able to predict his moves that helped me find solid ground. With one hand clutching my suitcase, I looked deep into his eyes, wishing I could burn these words into his skin.
“Tyler, you will never find anyone to treat you as well as I did.”
And as if sealing his fate, I spun around on my heels and slammed the door behind me.