Dark sky draped above the fabricated stars on the city that never sleeps. A girl sits inside a coffee shop, her back straight, posture rigid. Silence lingers around her, coiling and riveting. The kind of silence that envelops everything else and keeps her in her own little bubble. Safe and sound. Except she has learned that there’s nowhere truly safe in this world.
She stares at the paper cup in her hands, her name sprawled out in a messy handwriting. A short laugh escapes her lips. Not the mocking one that she tends to let out ever since he was gone, but a genuine laugh, finding the humor in the situation.
The messy handwriting of her name is almost unrecognizable. Almost.
Her sight starts to blur. She blinks to keep back the tears. Sometimes, she wants to confront him, to hear his answers, his defense, whatever it is. At least then, she knows where he stands – where she stands.
She imagines herself sitting across from him while he looks at her with that tender smile of his. Only a kitchen table separates them –scattered with both their laptops and papers. His favorite song, “Dear Prudence” plays in the background as they enjoy each other presence. She imagines that she speaks at that moment, her voice sound foreign to her as she breaks the silence, but even now she can never envision what she ming ask, despite the dozens of questions and uncertainty plaguing her mind.
Perhaps because she knows that whatever she asks, she can never know the reason why he kept hurting her. The only way to know is if he magically rose from the death and even then his answer might not pass mere apology. He was hypocrisy embodied, a creature of hunger wrapped in the scent of melancholy and soft smiles. Lies and truth are nothing but tools in his hands – although, she is not sure that he knows the difference between the two.
“I was too rough, wasn’t I? I’m so sorry.” He always said that to her in the morning as she woke up, his eyes and fingers tracing the bruises on her skin, “I’m so sorry I didn’t stop. I couldn’t—" His voice cracked at the end, so soft that it was barely a whisper. Pieces of sunlight fell on his face, highlighting his long eyelashes, the saltwater on his eyes threatening to spill out, “Don’t leave me. Please.”
She hates that she never left him.
She hates how naïve, foolish of a girl she was to be tricked by a predator that society had warned her about for countless times. She knew what rape is, as it is written everywhere; on the news, on the billboards, on people’s memoirs. Why she let him did that to her for God knows how many times is lost upon her.
But most of all, she hates that she could not see him as the villain he was supposed to be. Yes, she hates him, but a part of her could never forget the warmth of his embrace, the sound of his dusty laugh when they watched his favorite comedy TV shows, his whispers of comfort when she was having bad days, and the look of understanding rather than pity or judgment. There was a time when he made her feel human.
Oh, the irony.
She hates him for ruining her, turning her into a fool, a prey, a messed up victim. After all, who in their right mind miss their abuser?
Her therapist, Dr. Ratih said it was normal for her to grieve his death, because despite his intentions, he had cared, understood and supported her for a time. It is normal for her to develop emotional intimacy with him over the years.
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“You just started to redefine what happened, to acknowledge that he did assault you and it’s not okay, when you believed that it was okay for years. Healing does not take overnight,” Dr. Ratih told her.
But how long?
How long does she have to see nightmares every time her eyes closed? How long until the memories of him stop haunting her? How long until she stopped being wary of everyone? How long until she could really move on?
Would she be able to move on?
Her fingers trace the almost unrecognizable writing of her name on the paper cup. She wants to be able to recognize herself again. Her mind is a jumbled of strings that she is unable to untangle and her body is in constant wary of danger. A mere cornered-wounded animal is what she has become.
A sob escaped her lips. It’s already passed midnight, but she doesn’t want to go back to her place where she expects his claws to reach her, even though she knows that such a thing is impossible. He is dead, and he is never coming back, but somehow it doesn’t stop the him from slithering under her skin and breathing down her neck. She feels alone in a merciless, mad world where nothing makes sense to her anymore.
The sound of her ringtone snaps her out of her thoughts. Adam is written as the caller ID, her brother. She takes a deep breath, clear her throat before answering, “Hello?”
“Hey, Sis.” His voice is smooth, and somehow deeper than she last time she heard it. When was the last time she speaks to him? She can’t remember.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Tomorrow, I will be in the city and… Well, do you want to catch up? Having lunch or dinner, go the movies— Oh, Incredible 2 is coming out! You like the first one, right? How about it?”
The Incredible? Oh, right, she did—does love the movie. How could she even forget it? She briefly wonders what other things she loves that she has forgotten before answering her brother, “Okay, let’s see the movie.”
“Really? Alright! I’ll text you the schedule and you can pick one.”
“Okay, then.” She pauses for a second, “See you.”
She can almost hear his smile, “See you.” Adam says and then, he disconnects the call.
A smile creeps upon her lips. Right, she loves the Incredible. If Adam hadn’t say anything about it, that simple truth might be lost on her forever. It’s a little thing, but it didn’t stop the warmth from spreading in her chest. After all, she finds a piece of herself that had been lost from her.
She looks at her silhouette reflected on the glass window. Blurry and unclear, but she can still see herself, not unrecognizable. The fear still dances under her skin, reminding her of what had happened that brought her here. But she knows there are other pieces of her somewhere – both the old and the new. She only needs to find them until she can see her reflection stares back at her.
Piece by piece.
For the first time in a long time, she smiles.