The Sound A Ghost Makes: a Short Story

You get a phone call from a wrong number, but instead of it ending there, you two begin exchanging messages late at night while the rest of the world sleeps.

“Is this what it feels like to be fifteen and a ghost?” Hannah Cower asked as she took a drag of her cigarette, fingers faltering. She had felt invisible for years now; the third child of divorced parents, Hannah was often neglected or forgotten about. At school, she might as well have been noncorporeal. She was a social pariah except for Ainsley Carmichael and Bret Hanson. Lately, her two friends had been more interested in sniffing glue in the baseball dugouts than anything else, and honestly, Hannah found that kind of shit boring.

The cigarette paper crinkled as she stared off into the distance. She might as well not have spoken her question out loud; Ainsley was gone, the ecstatic grin on her face meant she probably had left the Milky Way galaxy far behind.

Hannah rolled her eyes and dug into her messenger bag for her sketch pad. She whipped out a pencil and began doodling. While smoking her menthol and sketching, the buzz of her phone vibrating stopped her. She yanked it out of her bag, checking it. It buzzed twice before the call ended abruptly. Hannah squinted at her phone in confusion, not recognizing the number.

Crap. She thought, groaning. It better not be Simon. Simon Burnett dated her the year before, when they were freshmen and stupid. He had changed his number three times in the past eight months in hopes of getting Hannah to answer just one of his calls. He was desperate to have her back when he realized Riley, his new girlfriend, wasn’t all that rumors claimed she was.

Suddenly, the shredded wheats she had been chewing tasted like bland, torn-up bits of a corrugated box. Hannah pushed the text out of her mind.

She tapped out a message quickly, then shoved her phone back into her bag. Resuming sketching, Hannah was starting to lose herself in the details of the girl she was drawing and had forgotten about not only her previous existential crisis but the bizarre two-ring phone call.

A few hours later, when she was home grabbing a bowl of cereal for dinner, she heard her phone buzz an insistent and obnoxious vibration. She grabbed it to check. Same number as before, but this time, there was a little envelope. The caller had left her a text message reply.

She clicked into the message. Her eyebrows shot up as she read it. You ever just feel invisible? She wanted to say, “Well, yeah, that’s what I was just talking to my best friend about this afternoon,” but the fact that she didn’t recognize the caller stopped her in her tracks. Suddenly, the shredded wheats she had been chewing tasted like bland torn-up bits of a corrugated box. Hannah pushed the text out of her mind as she settled in to work on her geometry homework. Before long, night had fallen, and she needed a distraction.

The room had grown cool, so Hannah threw a hoodie on and decided to walk Buster, the family dog. She grabbed her cell phone, yelled at her mom that she’d be back in a half an hour, and started to walk around the neighborhood. The October breeze rustled through her blonde hair, and Hannah felt some of the heaviness of the day lifting off her. Ping. Another text message.

She glanced down at her phone, its blue screen illuminating the dark. I sometimes wonder if anyone sees me at all, the mysterious person had messaged.

Hannah shook her head in disbelief as Buster whined. He wanted to keep walking and couldn’t fathom why his owner had stopped abruptly on the sidewalk like that. She tapped out her reply without thinking about it. It’s like being a ghost in your hometown, she admitted, somehow, I feel like I’m just haunting my house and could walk through the walls at my school.

She trudged forward and scooped up Buster’s waste. The shaggy white dog peered up at her with his big brown eyes, urging her to continue the walk.

Ping.

Again, Hannah looked at her phone. She wasn’t used to Ainsley or Bret being so responsive to her text messages, so it fascinated her that this stranger was so earnest in his or her replies. You too? It’s funny – I could be in the most crowded space sitting in the cafeteria, surrounded by people, and yet, I feel alone. You know what I mean?

Interesting. Whoever it was sounded to be her age, considering they were talking about school cafeterias. She nodded, amazed that whoever this stranger was understood where she was coming from. Sometimes, I swear it’s like static coming from their mouths, she admitted. Or another language entirely. Where do you go to school?

She walked past Malcolm Brenner’s house, the house awash in light and laughter coming from its open windows. Hannah glanced at the inside of the house; even from the street, she could see the Brenners gathered around the dinner table. “Like a normal family,” she muttered under her breath, thinking of how her mom could spend hours in front of the television without even noticing her only daughter. Ainsley said she wished her mom was as permissive as Hannah’s mom, but most of the time, it just felt like she didn’t care about Hannah.

Ping.

Roosevelt. What about you?

The similarities were a little eerie, Hannah hated to admit. Me too. What year are you?

Ping.

Sophomore. Same as you. What are you always doing in that notebook of yours?

“Okay, weird,” Hannah mumbled. Maybe it was Simon just messing with her. It’s a sketch pad, she corrected, despite herself, and I’m drawing. I am trying to make a webcomic about life. How do you know who I am?

Buster began to growl a low growl. Two older boys had appeared out of nowhere and shoved Hannah out of the way. “Watch where you’re going, space cadet,” one hissed at her.

“Sorry,” she muttered. The two boys cackled as they stomped past her, mimicking her hesitant, insecure voice. There was a lull in the text messages, and Hannah decided she might as well go home.

As soon as she twisted the door handle open, she heard the familiar ping of her cell phone again. She unleashed Buster, tossed his trash into the trash can in the garage, and checked her phone. You’re not completely invisible, Hannah. I see you. The response chilled her in some ways, and she rubbed her arms, trying to warm up, but in a strange way, despite the cold air, she felt her cheeks warm.

There was something oddly reassuring about being noticed.

The next day at school, Hannah was staring at all her classmates, trying to figure out who the anonymous texter was.

Every time she heard the buzz of a vibrating phone, she lurched, thinking it might be hers, but it never was.

That night, she was laying in bed on her stomach, doodling one of her classmates from American History, and her phone buzzed. She jumped back a bit, then smiled, glancing at it. The mysterious caller. You know what I think is strange? They asked Hannah. You’re absolutely beautiful, a fantastic artist, and you seem so sweet, yet you hang out with burn-outs like Carmichael and Hanson. What’s up with that? Hannah’s eyes glittered with unbidden tears. How had this stranger noticed her so much, yet she had no idea who they were?

No one cares about me, Hannah found herself admitting, my own mom doesn’t care if I live or die.

She leaned over her bed to turn off her lamp and plug in her phone before falling asleep, but before she could even plug her phone into the charger, there was another vibration. It was a short, two-word message, but something about it comforted Hannah beyond what she had expected.

I care.

A couple of weeks went by with the anonymous texter messaging Hannah every night before bed; the two of them exchanging stories about school (but always cautiously holding one another at an emotional distance) and feeling invisible.

Hannah had begun to participate more in class, and instead of her voice shaking when she spoke up, she began to deliver her remarks with more confidence.

Who am I even becoming? she asked the anonymous texter one evening. Franklin called on me during World Literature today, and I talked about Gilgamesh like I actually knew what I was talking about. I feel as though I’m being resurrected from the dead.

Silence.

Hannah wondered if she had said something wrong. Finally, a ping from her phone. She put the phone close to her face as she read, Franklin? I’m in her class too. The world gets smaller and smaller. “Interesting,” Hannah murmured.

One day, after school, Bret and Ainsley were rough-housing, just beating the crap out of one another, when Bret caught Hannah’s eye and untangled himself from Ainsley. “What’s with you lately, Cower? You aren’t acting like yourself.”

“I know,” she muttered back, fidgeting with her phone. “It’s strange, isn’t it?”

Ainsley nodded in agreement. “It really is kind of weird.”

Don’t let your burnout friends discourage you, the anonymous texter told her that night, you’re blossoming from a caterpillar to a butterfly. You’re bursting out of your chrysalis and becoming the butterfly you’re meant to be. Don’t resist the change, Hannah. It frightened her when the texter used her name because she literally felt as though she knew nothing about them.

The days crept on, and the messages only baffled Hannah more. Do you still feel invisible? The texter asked one night. Because you are seen and you are beautiful.

Somehow, the messages gave her the confidence to see herself differently, but she still didn’t have the courage to ask the texter who they were. One evening, she asked them, Do you still feel invisible? You haven’t told me.

They replied, As long as I’m seen by that one right person, it doesn’t matter if the whole world disregards me. It was a strangely comforting response to Hannah. She started to realize that her days revolved around her nights, talking to the mysterious stranger, and she found herself thinking about them more and more throughout the day.

Sitting through Franklin’s class, she found herself examining her classmates in a peculiar way; was it Jimmy Brown with the ruddy cheeks and blonde curls? Was it Winston Jones? Sometimes, he looked at her with his brown eyes shimmering as though he had seen past her facade. Could it be a girl? The thought seemed strange, but it was possible. Heather Rodriguez came out last semester as being bi; maybe this was her way of announcing her interest in Hannah. Strange, but Hannah had heard of stranger stories.

One night, she was walking Buster, and the seniors that had bothered her a few weeks earlier were out goofing off, and when one of them bumped into Hannah, she knew they expected her to lower her gaze. She stared at him directly in his eyes, challenging him with her glare. “Watch where you’re going, freak,” he snarled.

“Why?” she demanded, “what are you going to do about it?”

The boys jostled among themselves halfheartedly and looked at her sheepishly, muttering under their breath, before walking away.

Hannah considered it a victory.

I stood up to some bullies tonight, she confessed to the stranger, I don’t know where the courage came from, but I’m glad I did it.

I’m proud of you, they replied. An abrupt silence fell between the two. Her nerves jangling, Hannah took out her sketch pad and tried to ignore the silence. She flipped on her stereo and blared some Compensated Endeavor. Finally, her phone began buzzing repeatedly.

She glanced at it, a look of confusion crossing her face. Do you ever think about me? The person asked. Immediately after, another text fired through: Ignore that. It’s a silly question. Hannah was about to text back when a flurry of texts came through from the stranger.

I think about you often, if I’m being honest. I feel like sometimes, we come from different worlds. Hannah tried to imagine who could have been on the other end of the text message exchange. I want to know you better. I want to be your best friend, your confidante, but I want more. I’m becoming greedy. It’s silly, but I think about you regularly and want you to find me.

“Find them?” Hannah replied, musing to herself. What would that be like? Finally, face-to-face, an encounter. At this point, they had been communicating over a month. She had no idea of what the person looked like. She could not conjure up an image of them if she tried, though, in her mind, she did have an idea of what their voice sounded like because of their text messages.

Their word choices, syntax, formal manner of speaking, she expected one of the brighter kids, but of course, it would be someone brighter – they were in Franklin’s class, and it was an AP class.

She didn’t notice that she had left the person hanging because she was so caught up in her thoughts. Finally, she responded, How can I find you if you don’t tell me anything about you?

Silence.

Then, I’m alone in crowds. I’m lonely when surrounded by my friends. I don’t care what others think, yet somehow, they care what I think without truly knowing me at all. I want you to know me. I daydream about you sketching me in that sketch pad of yours. I know this all sounds silly and sentimental, but I can’t help my growing attraction to you.

Attraction? Hannah’s mouth dropped open; she didn’t think to admit it until that moment, but she, too, was feeling the same. The butterflies; the warm flush of her skin; the way her heart skipped in her throat; yeah, Hannah was falling for a complete stranger.

***

The morning of Thursday, October 24th, Hannah woke up early. She curled her blonde hair and applied a thin layer of mascara to her eyelashes and painted her lips in a thick, shiny gloss. She found a paisley dress she hadn’t worn in years, pulled on a pair of leather boots, and a jacket. This was the day. The stranger had already seen her; she wasn’t sure why she was dressing up, yet she couldn’t help but want to impress them.

Bzz.

Her phone vibrated as she walked out of the house. Her heart leapt as she checked it. That same number, that number that had been texting her for over a month, had messaged. This won’t change things between us, will it?

Whoever it was felt the same nervousness she felt coursing through her body. Only if you let it, she replied.

That morning, after Franklin’s class, Hannah lingered near the classroom door. She did not speak, but she watched her classmates swarm out of the room. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. The world swam before her, even with her eyes shut. She felt as though she had just gotten off a carousel. It was nerves. It was just the nerves.

Hannah nearly leapt out of her skin when there was a tap on her shoulder. Jonathan Langley stood before her, a shy smile on his face. Shy? He was the most popular boy in the class, and yet the way he approached her was as though he was timid.

He reached out and squeezed her hand. “Don’t tell anyone I asked,” he whispered, “but is this what it feels like to be fifteen and a ghost?”

She whispered back, “There’s no one in the world I’d rather be invisible with.”

Interested in a different response to the same prompt? The authors Damien Concordel and Dlvan Zirak created their own short stories as well.
Read Damien’s here and Dlvan’s here.

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Today would have been Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 172nd birthday if she was still alive. Granted, she passed away almost a hundred years ago (1924), but I still thought it’d be nice to post an homage to an author who I didn’t mention on my Influences entry.

She wrote the books The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, books I loved as a little girl. I had the imagination equivalent to the main character in her book A Little Princess, Sara Crewe. I loved how Sara was kind to everyone she came across, regardless of their social standing.

To me, Sara was a role model in some ways; she kept her kindness and charitable nature intact throughout the novel. Even when she stood up to the antagonist, she was still respectful. During her hardships, she remained hopeful. That theme of hope has remained me with me, even as an adult. I faced abuse as a child and a young adult until my mid-20s, and hope kept me alive sometimes. People often called me resilient, but I simply chalk it up to never losing hope.

I have several favorite quotes from the book, but the one that provided me with light on my darkest days was from after Sara loses her riches.

“Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”

A Little Princess, Frances Burnett

I remember reading how Sara, even when she was punished in the attic, maintained a positive personality. She uses her imagination to get through the worst of her experiences, pretending to be in the Bastille, and I attempted to bravely face my darkest hours by using my imagination to survive.

So, in a way, though this book didn’t influence my writing style, it did influence me as a person.

Burnett began writing to earn money for her family when she was only 19. She struggled with depression especially after her son died. Yet her characters all seem to find a way of making it through difficult circumstances, which was enough to inspire me, even as a child.

She described herself as a “story maniac”, something I could – and still do – relate to. She began writing when her imagination took her places and invented characters as she looked out onto a garden. She passed away in 1924.

If you want to read her, I’d suggest A Little Princess or The Secret Garden.

Unwavering: A Poem

From the prompt “unwavering”.

Like a bullet in its chamber,
her quiet nature could be misconstrued
(perhaps thought empty or aloof).

She’s a lightning bolt yet to streak.

When she clears her throat,
all eyes fall on her
(an audience when she is used to none).

She does not hesitate this time,
though fear clogs her chest
and makes it feel
as though her heart escaped its cage.

Her words come out clear.
Her voice – unwavering.

Pretty Woman Singing with Eyes Closed

This time,
she will speak out
for all the victims,
for all the survivors,
for all the beautiful
corpses
that died too soon
with coins on their eyes
to pay Charon.

Her fingers dance and skip
across her numb, denim legs.
She feels as though she wants to scream
(for all the times she kept silent
are piling up like a traffic accident
everyone can’t help but
stop and stare at)
.

Her truth – and the truth
of all the women before her –
need not be suffocated any longer
(because for so many centuries,
we fought,
dirt underneath our fingernails
from digging our own graves)
.

Finally, a voice emerges
from somewhere deep
(the voice of her ancestors,
the voice of the dead and the victims,
the ones whose shame crept through
their bloodlines like an insidious poison drip
through sewer veins)
.

Her chest is an iceberg –
as cold as a glacier.
Her eyes are embers
reigniting with every word.
Her voice – unwavering,
belligerent,
and not silencing or sleeping
until all the sinners are taught
to atone for their sins.

Influences

As I mentioned previously in my post, “Untitled”, I did a poll in my Facebook group and one thing readers seemed to be interested in was a moment of inspiration in my life. It was one of those prompts that I mulled over in the back of my head, but I didn’t think of very much. Honestly, my fear of this becoming a diary has stopped me from sharing more personal entries, but after opening up about my friend’s father’s death (and how it impacted me), describing my story with adoption – by the way, November is National Adoption Month and if you feel like refreshing yourself on my personal experience with adoption, click here, my experiences with domestic violence, and more, I feel like I can talk about something as simple as writing influences.

I have always been a reader. I’ve been reading since I was three, and even before that, my mom was reading stories to me. When I was six, I was writing stories, which in the 90s made me a prodigy of sorts. These stories were nonsense, but I always had an overactive imagination. When I was baby-sitting in middle school, I’d make up stories for the kids I babysat for, and when I went to sleep-away camp, the girls in my cabin begged for my ghost stories.

As I grew older, I had teachers who encouraged my writing abilities – the mentor I had in tenth and eleventh grade who bought me books on the craft and spent hours with me people-watching and giving me advice on scenes I wrote. I even wrote a misguided attempt at a novel with a scene where a bunch of hipsters go to an art gallery where a bird is ripping up a van Gogh. Yeah, I shudder to think that notebook still exists somewhere – 53 pages of absolute drivel.

It was around this time that I started to develop my voice and discovered authors who influenced me: Jack Kerouac, J.D. Salinger, Diane diPrima, Jeanette Winterson, Sandra Cisneros, Chuck Palahniuk, a giant menagerie of influences. Later, I read works by Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, and I learned, despite my mother’s liking, not all poetry was sunshine and daydreams.

Around seventeen, I became friends with a poet/author who called herself “Aya”. She challenged me to be a better author and poet. She helped me to truly discover my voice as she helped me whittle my metaphors sharp and introduced me to bands like Meg & Dia, Paramore, and I began listening to music for the lyrics. I had a British boyfriend who introduced me to Travis, Oasis’ little-known gems, Snow Patrol. My English teacher gave me a mixed CD with Pearl Jam on it, and all of a sudden, through all the music I was listening to and books I was reading, I began to grow. I began to challenge myself to be a better writer and poet. I scribbled song lyrics on my faded jeans and lines from poems on my sneakers.

By the time twelfth grade rolled around, my poetic voice was nailed. I knew who I sounded like and I liked it. Sure, I was still growing and experimenting (as we must always do as authors), but I took a Creative Writing class and didn’t absolutely cringe at my works. I wonder why everything had to be a tragic love song (because it did — so many heartbreaking stories), but I was beginning to develop into an author and poet with a style.

I went through a variety of pseudonyms and dark spots, but I ended up here, working on a ghost-writing project, revising my first novel, and crating my second.

And maybe years from now, I will look back on this post and laugh at how immature or naive I was, but right now, this is the story of my influences and where I came from as an author.

Most likely, my tastes and influences will change as I age and grow; because even now, I think of Neil Gaiman, Simon van Booy, Janet Fitch, and Erin Morgenstern, and I know there are more authors than I can possibly name who have influenced my writing voice, but these are just a few.

Untitled

I read somewhere, when I first started writing, that if you can produce one good sentence a day, you can consider yourself a success as a writer. Lately, I have been struggling with writing either poetry or fiction, and though I haven’t been depressed, I haven’t felt the urge to write anything in weeks. At first, I chalked it up to grief, and while I adamantly don’t want this to become a diary, I do feel it’s important to give my readers an update on my writing.

In the past few days, I have been working on my ghost-writing project; I am ahead of schedule with that, which is great, but I haven’t written much on my other projects like the letters I want to write for Jackie Bluu or other anthologies. Hopefully, soon, that will jump-start again, and I will begin writing more for my chapbook and anthologies I am interested in submitting to.

I recently did a poll in my Facebook group about what kind of content people would be interested in seeing. Turns out, it’s a close competition between more poetry and an option added by an old friend of mine: a moment of inspiration from my life. The moment of inspiration from my life actually came in first place, so I will be thinking on that the next couple of days.

In the meantime, here are my couple of good sentences for the day:

The bundle weighed a couple of ounces under eight pounds; it was light, yet fragile like fine crystal, wrapped in a pink blanket. When the woman opened it, she immediately said it was too pretty and couldn’t belong to her.

– Isabelle Palerma

This is for a new novel concept (utilizing the homonym “novel” here) I am toying with. If you’d like, feel free to let me know what you think.

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Resources

One of the effects of domestic violence, not just the physical, emotional, mental, financial, and sexual components, is isolation. Often, abusers isolate their victims so that they don’t have a support system or a means of escaping. This can be detrimental because then, these victims feel as though they don’t have anyone to turn to. A lot of society has a difficult time comprehending abuse, and a lot of myths abound, but I want to restate this for anyone who is or has experienced intimate violence: you are not alone.

  • Be prepared. Hide an extra car key, have the gas tank filled, and have a secret stash of emergency clothes, cash, and phone numbers you might need.
  • Practice. Practice your escape plan so you can do it even in challenging circumstances. If you have children, include them in the practice.
  • Memorize emergency contacts. If you have any resources or supports that you might be able to rely on, don’t count on having the list of phone numbers you might need. Memorize those numbers.

This article has good, practical advice for those who are looking to leave or individuals who think it best to stay.

“The Hotline” is a great resource available for victims 24/7/365. They provide confidential support. You can call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text by texting the word START to 8878.

They can provide you with

  • Assistance with a safety plan.
  • Domestic violence education.
  • Direct connections to local shelters.
  • Agency referrals.
  • Crisis intervention.

Online, you can visit The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, the Battered Women’s Justice Project (their phone number is 1-800-903-0111), and finally, for the LGBTQIA+ community, there is Community United Against Violence. These are just a few resources, but hopefully, they will help you if you need immediate assistance. This, by no means, is an exhaustive list – always make sure your phone line is safe before making a call and your Internet browsing is secure.

I am not an expert; I am merely a survivor wanting to make sure others escape these terrifying relationships with as little negative repercussions as possible.

Also, these resources are only resources available in the States. If you need resources in another country and I can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email address is isabelle DOT palerma AT gmail DOT com.

Be careful and be aware of the mental impact of manipulation.

A Poem from Those Left Behind

A flame was never meant to extinguish this abruptly.
Starved of oxygen, your origami letters became ash in a mouth that bled (for too many years).

I would say goodbye, but the word is a branding iron razed against a smoldering tongue.

Forgiveness never came easily for the dead.
Graveyards are full of grudges and barely concealed debts.

When I told you that I loved you, I disguised the words (behind shattered glass bottles and origami letters confettied like New Year’s).

I remember your eyes cold like marbles, frozen like winter ponds.

(I made a half-joke and thought myself funny, but your lips never curled up in a smile.)

This is autobiography, but all you ever asked for was a poem or a story (but not this – not an obituary or elegy).

I could never say goodbye. I ran from endings & ripped the last page out of every book I ever read.

Sometimes, I wrote stories that ended in the middle of a

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Part III

Trigger Warning: This post is about sexual abuse and domestic violence. If these topics upset you or you don’t feel comfortable reading about these topics, please do not continue.


Things moved very quickly; I didn’t know how real love worked, so, even though there was an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, I somehow felt charmed and taken by him. He started visiting a lot. He told me horror stories about abuse – how an ex threw a pan at his head, how his stepdad stabbed him with a pencil. He told me how he felt uncomfortable living with his roommate because he had recently started shooting up heroin.

I felt sorry for him when he said his roommate kicked him out because he didn’t support his friend’s habit. This guy seemed sweet, kind, funny. Listening to him tell stories felt like a stand-up act in the beginning because he was such a fantastic storyteller.

I was, for lack of a better word, enchanted.

He texted me asking me who I was with or what I was doing. He felt clingy, and for once, it felt nice to be the one being clung to, instead of the clingy one. We quickly started dating. Things happened so fast – in a matter of days. Slowly, the clinginess devolved into possessiveness and jealousy.

He no longer asked who I was with, but instead he demanded to know who I was spending my time with. He felt he couldn’t trust me. He told me he was scared I would cheat on him. He told me he loved me a few days in. I trusted him; I could have sworn I saw absolute sincerity in his eyes.

We had moved in with each other soon (too soon), and he worked at a restaurant, I worked at a pharmacy. Things were fine. My best friend came over and had dinner with us. Things were good.

Then, we had our first real argument.

He screamed at me and called me names. Then, he tore open the front door in a blind rage and stormed out. I followed after him. He stood at the top of the stairwell, I scrambled a couple of steps below him, trying to block him from leaving. In a flash, I was tumbling down the stairs. I curled into a tight ball as I fell and smashed into the wall near the front door of my apartment complex.

He told me that I had fallen. That I had lost my balance and fallen backwards. Later, I remembered he pushed me. I sobbed from the pain, stood up, and looked behind me. The drywall was smashed into a perfect dent from the impact of my body colliding into it. I hobbled up the stairs, and that was that.

That was the first time.

Person in Blue Denim Jeans

Any time he got mad from then on, he used my head as his punching bag. I was a feisty girl, so I’d fight back verbally, sparring with him with my words. He began to isolate me from my friends and family, forbidding me from going anywhere without him except work. Eventually, my moxie weakened. I’d flinch at seeing his curled fist. The sound of glass shattering made me wince.

One night, I did something to upset him, and he threw a glass bottle at my head. It shattered against the picture frame behind me. I spent days brushing the glass shards out of my hair.

Another night, I asked him to clean the dessert plates for me because we were having company over. I was busy cleaning house – dusting and vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, getting the house in order. He ended up cornering me against the closet door and throwing glass dessert dishes at me until they were all broken.

But intermittently, he’d shower me with love. He’d make me biscuits and crispy bacon. We’d dance together in the kitchen. He’d make me laugh. He’d cook for me and bring me flowers and jewelry.

He’d shower me with drawings he made me. Then, in a heated rage, he would confetti the drawings and make his sketches rain down above me, laughing as I frantically scrambled to scoop the pieces of art up.

He gave me gifts, then broke them. I’d go to work and he had ransacked my apartment one day because I refused to give him a key. When I relented and gave him the key, my apartment was totaled.

For months, I lived this way. He’d punch holes in the walls and the doors. He’d scream, force sex upon me, put razor blades to my throat, call me awful names, stalk me at my job, frighten me with suicide and murder comments, and more.

Man Hand Oppressing a Hand of a Woman on the Wall

Finally, I was tired of living in fear.

I had tried to leave before, but it wasn’t easy when it was my apartment he was living in. It wasn’t easy when he was controlling where my money went and only allowed me a paltry allowance of my paycheck.

One December night, he was out with friends, and something in me snapped, and I told myself I needed to get out, regardless of the consequences.

The night before he had choked me, and according to a peer-reviewed journal article by Nancy Glass, PhD*, “women who were the victims of completed or attempted homicide were far more likely to have a history of strangulation compared to the abused control women.” I knew the facts: I knew abusers who had escalated from strangulation moved onto homicide or attempted homicide.

I locked myself in my bathroom, told him not to come home, and texted my parents, begging them to come get me.

Shockingly, it worked. The threat of the police being waiting there for him scared him off, and I haven’t seen him since.

Caveat

I know I make this sound disarmingly simple, and there are a lot of details I do not choose to include in this part of my story. I don’t describe the attempted escapes, the nights down by the train tracks where I was scared we were both going to die, the drugs, etc. etc. I don’t even describe how I got out of this situation in great depth.

This is, by no means, a prescriptive essay; this is me giving a broad overview of my experience with domestic violence. It capitalizes on a few experiences but does not explain the nuances or describe the aftermath – I do not talk about the nightmares or the extreme vigilance or the physical side effects. This isn’t the full scope of what can happen in an intimate partner violence-based relationship.

That being said, I will tell you what one of my counselors said when I called a hotline that went a long way with me. She said, “What a lot of people fail to understand is it is a relationship; it still has its ups and downs. He is not a monster. He is a flawed human being, and you are trying to love him, but love should not hurt. He might be loving you the best he can, but that might not be the love you deserve.”

This meant so much to me. It is easy to paint abusers as monsters, but those of us who have loved an abuser know that they are deeply pained human beings. There would be times I’d look at him when he was sleeping, and I’d see a little boy – a hurt, sad little boy who was lashing out because he was scared.

Thank you for reading my story. Be sure to keep checking back – I will be posting resources later this month and a few more poems.

*Glass N, Laughon K, Campbell J, et al. Non-fatal strangulation is an important risk factor for homicide of women. J Emerg Med. 2008;35(3):329-335. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2007.02.065

Grieving

I will be postponing my series for Spooky Sundays and only the scheduled posts about domestic violence awareness will be posted.

Yesterday, I lost someone who was like a father to me. I’m still processing the loss. I’m going to take a break from my blog and social media for the time being.

I’ll write more when I’m able.

Thank you for your understanding.

Ps: He would want me to share with y’all that my short story “We’re Not Salem Here” is being published and I’ve been hired as a ghost writer for a novel.