a letter to The Scars On Your Knuckles and the way they Have Hurt Us Both
by Bridget Condron
Content Warning: Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence
I should have known when the first time you told me that you loved me. You followed it with: But I’m Scared.
I remember the night your cat scratched you up pretty bad. I remember the way your fingers curled into her fur as you grabbed her by the skin on her neck and hurled her out the door.
“She needs to know she’s not allowed to hurt me,” you said.
This was the first time I realized I was not allowed to leave. You’d always joke that I couldn’t break up with you, I wasn’t allowed to. You made me promise to stay, promise I was being true. You never believed I would be – I know this now.
The questions at first made reassurance fly from my heart, to my mouth, to your ears. Of course I won’t leave- you have my whole heart. It was only as the months grew longer and your questions more frequent that I began to realize these were not jokes; they were threats. I began to recognize the way your voice shook in desperation, in fear.
“Please don’t leave. You can’t leave. I know myself and I know what I will do if you leave me. You are not allowed to hurt me.”
I realize now these lessons were taught to you by the scars on your step dad’s knuckles; lessons from the bottom of the bottle of your alcoholic father whose been sober and kinder for years now. But when I met him I noticed the tremble in his voice – you can’t leave me.
You’d told me of past loves, always girls breaking your too tender heart, picking at it with their black colored fingernails.
I began to notice, once we had to spend time apart, that I had to ask your permission before I acted. You were always waiting for me to hurt you; I had to prove on a daily basis this wasn’t my intention. I so frequently ripped my true bleeding heart out and handed it to you – “please love, look. Look at how I beat for you.”
I loved the lines of your smile, the way it crinkled your face and the way your glasses would slide down your nose and you’d have to push them back up and I loved how you called me cutie.
Cutie, a name I thought was mine. I realize now that it wasn’t mine: it was yours. I was your property, your girl. I was a toy that you had, the nicest one you’d ever owned and you were so afraid of someone stealing me that you locked me away beneath the heavy weight of
All Of Your Shame.
The amount of things I saw you hit during our relationship was too many to count on both hands- I knew it was only a matter of time until it was my turn to be your punching bag.
I remember how rainy it was the day you threw me out. I remember being cold and alone and broken and coming back and banging on your door. Even after you threw me away I still came back. I didn’t have anywhere else to go – you made sure of that.
At first I thought it was romantic you wanted us to keep so many secrets. I thought you just wanted things to be special, just ours. Now I realize it was because you knew what you were doing wasn’t okay. I remember when you told me you didn’t want my friends to think badly of you. but they did. because:
you were bad to me.
Sometimes you were so, so good to me. There were beautiful days where I so vividly dreamed of a future for us. Times when you bought me kombucha and chocolate or when you met my family, or when we’d stay in bed the whole day and you’d kiss every single part of my body. We laughed at the same things- you had such a great laugh.
And we loved, boy did we love. But you don’t hurt things you love. You protect them, you don’t threaten them.
You hurt me.
On a daily basis.
For a long time.
And you tried to cover it up; always. You tried to spin it and reconcile it but we both know how you are.
You have the same scars on your knuckles as your step father. I know you threw him through a wall, I know that was a changing time for you. I know that broke you out of so many things that were happening to you. But it also opened up a part of yourself that you have not been able to close. There is a fire inside you that you cannot keep in. You refuse to believe it is there, to take the steps necessary to put it out. I’ve offered you water so many times – you won’t take it.
I hope you find some water sometime soon my greatest and most painful love. I will always be hoping that you do.