“Forgive her,” the man says.
A mask hides his face and a grey cloak covers his body. He holds a sleek whip, its length running along his arm. I cannot move, trapped by invisible bonds that tie me to the floor. His fingers caress the whip and I shake my head.
His arm – including the whip – alights in flame, and he walks closer. I try to look away but a force keeps my head in place. As sweat starts to pool on my forehead he brings the weapon down on me, each lash like a secret memory seared into my skin, and I scream, and I scream, and I scream.
I wake up with a jolt and a gasp, my fingers gripping the sheets. My roommate rolls over on his bed, still in deep sleep, a signal to take this trauma elsewhere. I fumble out of our room and into the hall bathroom, where I secure a stall and proceed to breathe, in and out, my head in my arms, the sun just starting to rise in the distance.
I’ve prospered in college for about eight weeks now. With each day, the distance from home makes the memory of my mother a little less painful. I no longer have to fear a thrashing when I spill water or read late into the night, I no longer have to ask for permission to walk to the library, and I no longer have to monitor who knows about my sexuality and who does not.
The nightmare happened about a week and a half ago, and other small things still get to me. Sometimes when people raise their hands for high fives I cringe, and I make up some story about a friend who always slapped a little too hard. When people complain about their parents not sending them money or laud their parents for all the care packages they receive, I smile and nod like I get it, like my parents are just that ordinary as well. Whenever I feel a vibration in my pocket, that inkling of fear tinges my perspective, and doubt settles in, even if only for a second.
I went home for the first time since college started last weekend. One conversation stood out to me, a talk I had with a friend who gave me shelter when I ran away from home. She told me that one day, all the trauma I survived would catch up to me, and it would stun me. It amazed me because it felt like she knew exactly what I was thinking – that all of these little pieces of life were swimming around me, surrounding me, blending together the past and the present and the future.
I should make the best of it. While I will avoid advertising my struggles, I know, deep down, that I should thank my mom – and more importantly, all of my friends and family who helped me get through her abuse – for giving me an iron resolve to make a difference. Either through teaching or counseling, I possess purpose: to make the world a more beautiful place.
Forgiveness may come, or it may not. Forgiveness does not mean letting her back into my life; forgiveness does not guarantee any form of redemption at all. Maybe this will change with time as I grow older, as we grow further and further apart, but it is my choice as a victim, as a survivor. It is a piece of me, taking shape, a part I will develop in the recesses of my heart.
With fire in my eyes I will walk forward, arms open to embrace it all: the past that propels me forward, the people that push me further, and every little piece of living I have left to experience.
Has anyone else experienced anything similar after going through dark times? If you want to talk about it and it’s personal you can always message me. Meanwhile, I will share what I love about college: there’s always something to do. Tests to study for, clubs to attend, books to read – it’s a fabulous life. If anyone can identify any of those rocks I will be amazed, and if anyone has read any of the books in the picture above, please let me know what you thought of it. I hope to hear from you all soon!