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a difficult existence

the never ending story

Do you remember the last piece of your innocence leaving you? The last piece of your soul untouched by the cruelties of life becoming mutilated by the travesties and tricks life shoves down our throats? The final piece of your innocence shriveling up into death to fit your tragic, cliché life. Do you remember? I do. I remember every moment of losing that piece. It is seared into my brain. No escaping. Shadowy darkness ebbs in to take over, but I push, and I push. “Stay away from me," I always say, but it’ll come for me. Eventually.

They say time heals all. They say memories will fade. They say move on. Well, I have. I did. I’ve given it time. I’ve thought about how to heal. I’ve talked. I’ve cried. I’ve turned my trauma, my pain into laughter, but guess what? It still haunts me. I can’t run. It’s always there. They say the first cut is the deepest. What about the last? The god damned last, final cut. 

I can swim down a stream, let a river take me down the lane of my nightmares, my memories, investigate the vast nothingness of the feelings I pretend to have – or maybe I do have, but I forgot to feel – far darker than the deepest depths of the ocean, but what happens when I reach the edge? Will I fall into oblivion? Will I crash into a wall keeping it all in? I didn't ask to be here. I didn't want these memories. Who decided this is my life? Because I sure fucking didn't.

You see, the darkness and I play a game. We tease and taunt one another. The game is rather one sided, but I still play. What else am I to do? It waits for me, edges closer and closer, ready to take me, but how can I let it so easily? I am not that easy. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I sneak, and I slither, but I'm never as quick as darkness. Its’ shadows stretch out, long and spindly like spider legs reaching for me. Creeping towards me. It almost has me.


There he is, long brown hair, curlier than the doodles I used to draw on my school notebook, sun kissed and shiny from the sun’s rays – the sun should realize he isn’t worth the light of day. He’s tall, but not too tall. Skinny, but not too skinny. Muscles just barely line his body. Strong enough to work in the outdoors, whether he’s out in construction or guiding the never-ending stream of tourists through the Rocky Mountains. Or wrapping his strong, thick fists around my thin, delicate neck. The same thin, delicate neck I unconsciously wrap my own fingers around when my nerves begin to boil. A leftover symptom of dating someone who wanted to kill me. The kind of thing they never tell you about. It's left out of the romance stories. It being abuse, of course. Your head slamming into the side of a wall because you changed your phone passcode and forgot to tell him. Yeah, right. Why would anyone want to tell you that love isn't always pretty.

He peers at me, with gray green eyes, small but outlined with thick dark eyebrows. I always loved his eyebrows; the kind of eyebrows girls fake with gel and a pencil. He sports a thick mustache that tickles the top of his pink lips. Dry from being out in the sun all day and not drinking enough water. Acne splashes across his cheeks, but it's hard to notice. His long face and narrow jaw jut out enough to make him appear chiseled. He always was beautiful. My eyes could dance around his face all day.

My surroundings seem foggy, unclear, but it’s night. I see cars to my left and right. It feels like I’m in some parking lot, but I don’t recognize any landmarks.

Something changes in his eyes, an intensity I am all too familiar with, a kind of determination I’ve become enemies with.

He’s wearing a salmon-colored collared shirt – he always did love collared shirts – that I helped pick out from Goodwill, stained with car grease and barbecue sauce. His legs bared gray Levi’s, rolled up to his calves. The dirty flat brimmed hat sitting atop his head paired with his tennis shoes were the only things he ever bought new.

I stare back at him, frozen. And then he turns into a blur. He’s sprinting towards me. Fast. Too fast. My body turns cold, and I can’t move. I fall flat against my stomach. Cool asphalt scrapes my face as I slam it into the ground, quick and defensive. I’m waiting for the familiar impact against me, to finally take me to the darkness.


I shoot up from my bed panting, unable to catch my breath quick enough, heart racing, eyes scanning the room. The hair along the back of my neck is damp, and my t-shirt clings to my body soaked with the fears of my nightmares. It’s been almost three years, but the nightmares have been coming more frequently lately.

I push the blankets on my bed all the way down to let the sheets air out, and I walk over to the window, staring blankly into the gray sky. I thought coming here would clear my mind, but it seems it only pushed my nightmares closer to the forefront of my fuzzy mind, demanding to be heard, screaming to be seen.

A day in the life of me seems unreal. My mind wanders through place to place, memory to memory, deep inside that I forgot about while my body does the daily motions that I am supposed to be doing, but somehow I am completely disconnected from. I watch it all happen without ever being there, doing it, living my life.

It’s been almost three years since the last time I laid eyes on him, but he still haunts my dreams; I still see him in the faces I pass on the street; I still wait for the day I’ll see him once more.

I take a deep breath, peering down at old scars on my hands, wondering if time will fade the silvery line hidden beneath a tattoo, if the memory of his face will ever be as easy as deleting a photo, as throwing away all his forgotten clothes that will never be forgotten in my own mind, where all my memories hide. Every place I go, every place I am, every single moment I exist, there he is again. Where do I hide?

I lay back down in my bed. Letting the blankets and still damp pillows devour me whole, staring at the ceiling fan turn and turn and turn, until sleep takes over. My eyes slide shut, and warmth crawls over my body once more.


“Shit,” I say aloud, as my body jerks back awake. My screen lights up fluorescent blue, and I see Daphne’s name pop up. Sighing, I look over at my watch; it reads 8:30 am, and she’s an hour ahead of me in Boulder. “Why does she always wake up so fucking early,” I breathe through my teeth. I begrudgingly swipe the screen to answer. Her voice is a mystery to me. A complete contradiction. Always so cheerful, but it scratches out from deep in her throat, a beautiful rasp.

 “Hey, so everything’s set for the beach house, and we’re leaving in a couple days. You’re coming right?” she says. Shit. I forgot I told her I would go to her Florida house with her.

 “Yes, yes. Sounds good,” I say.

“Okay, cool. Send me updates when you’re packed and ready,” she says. I haven’t seen her in over two months, but her voice always calms me, bringing me up while keeping me grounded. A steady voice to help battle the darkness always coming for me.

I click end, and sigh one final loud breath. I find myself sighing so often lately, so much effort for every small movement. I’ve spent over two long months at home in Chicago with my parents. Trying to avoid and hide from problems that won’t stop building up and up. It’s time to start reality once again. That thought alone sends goosebumps surging to the back of my neck, raising my hair at the nape of my neck.

I peek over at my two dogs fast asleep, thinking back to the day my parents thought it would be good for me to get a dog, if it meant it would keep me occupied, and away from him. One more barrier to separate my life from his. A real-life barrier that will never stop my mind from wandering to what was, to what sometimes still feels is.

My mouth salivates for water with the bitter taste of early morning breath urging me to get up. I throw blankets down off me, toss my legs off the side of the bed. “Too early,” I say to myself. My voice croaking with the night’s sleepiness, trying to convince me to fall back into the dreams I left – or was it a dream? They all blend and blur together now.


A gray morning painted across the sky, fitting for how I felt that early hour. My eyes flutter open, remembering the argument from the night before. One wrong move and talking turns into an argument, and an argument turns into a fight, and a fight turns into so much more than I ever wanted.

Unsure if I should move, if I should breathe, not wanting to wake him from his heavy slumber, the small room smelled of spiced gold tequila and the thick distinctive stale air that lingers too long from his camel filter cigs probably stuck between the nightstand and the bed, where they fall every night after too much to drink.

I’m holding my breath, hoping last night’s blows can be hidden by my clothes. My eyes search the cheap fake wood ceiling for answers to my never-ending questions. Why doesn’t he love me the way I love him? Why does he hurt me? Why do his eyes turn dark when he wraps his fingers around my neck? The list goes on, and I stare deep into the lines of the ceiling as if the lines will begin to form words and tell me all the secrets that I will never know. I push out the question I never want to ask myself, but it always creeps back in, hiding around the corners of the easier questions, the ones I can wrap my mind around… Why did I want him to hurt me? Why would I provoke the fight? Is it all me? Is everything me, like he’s always said? It’s me.

I let out the breath I’ve been holding when I begin to feel his naked body next to mine begin to move. His eyes snap open. Groggily rubbing his eyes, he begins to sit up, and looks over to me, a small smile spreads gently across his face. He slowly leans down to kiss my cheek. Blood rushes to the surface of my face at the soft touch of his fingertips. I breathe loudly. He still loves me. It’s okay. It’s not me. His long, curly dark hair smells dirty, maybe from the heat of our fight, and tickles my face. “Good morning darling,” his voice croaks. A finger brushes against my neck to push my hair back. I am frozen still. I wonder if he can tell I’m scared he doesn’t love me anymore, if he can tell his touch makes me flinch, if he can see his own bruises he left in the shape of his hand, or if he let go while I choked out crying for him before marks would be dark enough to be seen.


Cold, bitter coffee touches my lips. I tip my head back, letting it pour into my mouth, holding it there for just a moment before I swallow. A cool feeling spreads down my chest. The sweet bitterness of coffee seems to be the only thing that hasn’t changed over the past few years. Every morning, the same order. Too much change overwhelms me. Maybe that’s why it was so hard for me to leave him. Maybe that’s why I thought every slap, punch, shove, kick, or every time he put his strong hands around my neck it was my fault.

A shudder runs down my spine as I push the darkness back into the shadows and depths of my mind. I pull myself back into the reality of my life and sit up a little straighter in the driver’s seat. “Get it together Sydney,” I say aloud to myself. My thoughts are always louder than when I speak. Must be another side effect from being told everything was because of me. I stare straight ahead at the road, watching the front of my white Jeep eat up gray asphalt. I’m trying to focus, but my mind races. I think about every trip I ever traveled with him. I think about how I went more places with him in two years than I ever had my entire life. I laugh quietly to myself, reliving so many moments in seconds, stained a dirty color, ruined.

I focus my eyes on Daphne’s car ahead of mine, gleaming from the reflection of the setting sun. Only a four more hours before we reach her beach house. Corinne and Hannah are stowed away in her car as well. Thankful that I only have to hear the breathing of my excited dogs in the backseat, the rustling of my overstuffed Jeep, and my own thoughts. Too many thoughts. Riding in the car alone is my sanctuary. I spent hours and hours with him in this Jeep. Discovering new worlds, new roads, new mornings. Waking up in the makeshift bed in the back to the inside of the car coated in condensation and hearing birds chirping somewhere in the middle of a dirt road leading to a back entry of a national park. Now my life has become trying to prove to myself that I can do everything and more without him, but being in this car traveling once again is almost too bittersweet.

I remember when he told me it was my fault, when we’d wake up the next morning after drinking too much tequila that led us to fighting. When I would shove him, and he would throw me against a wall. And he would look at me with these empty eyes. Empty eyes that said it’s you. You are the reason. Or the times when I would be laying on the floor, and he would look at me with those same empty eyes to tell me that we were over. I would try and stand up, begging him to stay, apologizing over and over. “Please stay,” my defeated voice would crack, “Please, I need you.” He turned me crazy, made me second guess myself. Emotions would writhe through my body in ways I never knew could, emotions I never knew I had.


I screamed as loud as I could. No one could hear me besides myself. My scream lived and breathed inside my parked car in a neighborhood near his house. I slammed on my car horn. Birds flew from the trees into the morning sunrise. I sat trying to decide if I should go bang on his door one more time, pleading for him, or let my clenched fist break against my car window. I wonder how many more times I have left until one of my knuckles shatter. I look down at my throbbing, swollen red hand. My knuckles are three times the size they should be. I take a deep breath once more and let out another scream. Except, instead of the shrill pitch I should be hearing, all I hear is white noise. Blood pumping loud in my ears; my face burns red hot, warm tears streaming down to my chin. My breath is hot and quick. I struggle to slow it down and catch my breath. “Why?” I scream.

I hear myself laughing. Why am I laughing? Am I going insane? My laughter turns to sobbing, and my clenched throbbing fists lists itself. I can’t stop it. I feel out of control. My first slams into my car window and falls to my lap. I bring my hand to my chest and nurse it tightly, feeling my heartbeat in my chest, waiting for everything to slow down. My ears ring so loud I can’t hear my own thoughts. I hit my head against the headrest over and over. What is happening to me?


“Are you okay?” Daphne says. I shudder for a second, coming back down from whatever memory I got lost in.

 “Yes,” I sigh, “yes, I’m okay. Just tired, I think.” I take a sip of my drink and lean back on my towel. The sun shines on my face, but I don’t feel like I’m here, like I’m present. I shove my feet in the sand to ground my body. The wind sprays ocean mist on my face, and I let myself smile. Unsure whether it’s real or not, but I know I should look happy. I should be happy. I’m in warmth with friends on a beach, but I still find living in the moment difficult. I live in two different worlds at once, trying to learn to live with the past.

The speaker blares classic rock, and I turn over to tan my back and grab my journal. Staring at the blank pages, thinking, and sorting through my thoughts, deciding what words should be pulled from my brain. Wondering if writing down my never-ending thoughts will help turn down the volume.

 “We can go to trivia night tomorrow?” Daphne says.

“That sounds fun,” Corinne says. Hannah nods her head in agreement. I listen and observe my roommates’ interactions. Wondering why I feel so outside while being right here with them. I thought coming here would help me escape. I peek down at the silver scar hidden beneath my tattoo, running my index finger over the raised line. The double-sided rose that pretends to hide the scar looks back at me, trying to remind me that I’m okay. But sometimes I’m not sure if I am.

I stand up and walk towards the water. My feet sink into the wet sand, and I wince when the cold water reaches my ankles. I keep walking, letting the water consume me, letting the tide wash away memories from my mind. Goose bumps tickle my spine, and I take a deep breath and dive into the dark blue water. My body is electrified by the cold, and I jump up for air. I turn to yell to everyone to get in the water. My face crinkles, and I realize I’m smiling. This one is real.


My eyes shoot open. I look for my phone to check the time, 5:57 am. The memories flood my brain, and I gasp. I try to sit up, but every cell in my body says no, and I collapse back into my bed. everything feels sore; my body begins to remember the blows it took the night before. I force myself to get up, pushing myself through the pain. I look out the window. His car is gone.  I unlock my phone to see a text reading, “Goodbye. I hid your keys, so you can’t come looking for me.” I hit the dial button, but it goes straight to voicemail. I try again, voicemail. And again, voicemail. Again, voicemail.

I cry out, starting to panic. I run into my bathroom, leaning against my sink. I stare at my reflection, into my eyes; I see hatred, disgust. My naked body repulses me. The words form in my head before I hear them. “You are worthless. You are nothing. I hate you,” a voice I don’t recognize speaks from someone deep within. I look down at the white porcelain sink. The scissors I trim my bangs with sit open. Laughing at me, mocking me. My hand shoots down to grab them before I know what I’m doing. My arm reaches above my head, and I swing down on the side of my wrist, hard, forceful, with purpose. I want to do this to myself, to deface my body, ruin it. I drop the mocking scissors covered in red. My eyes dart from my reflection to my open wrist. I see bone. I fall to the ground, convulsively shaking. What did I just do to myself?


 You see this story is not an easy story. My hands tremble as I touch pen to paper, fingertips to the keyboard. The thing about pain, about trauma, about this darkness that closes in a little more every day is that it’s never going away. It will be there in your dreams, your nightmares, your reality, your mind. It will be there. My existence is a difficult one, an uncomfortable one. As I fight my own darkness, sometimes I let it in, to look, to observe what has caused me to be me, what ripples changed me. Time does not heal. Time just makes it easier for us to distort our memories into something we can live with. But I don’t distort. I let my memories live on. They are my reminders, my dark treasures. They are me.

a short story: Text
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