We escaped one nightmare and entered another. My sister’s hand shook as we looked up at the men, when they told her to let me go and come with them. All those guns. All the laughing. We recognized all of it for what it really was.
I gripped her hand and said, as low as I could, “It doesn’t end here. I’ll get you.”
They took her, rough, dragging her away, and I watched her slide along the concrete. Broken. Scared. I stood there with nothing but my small hands and my reassuring smile. I wanted her last view of me to be neutral. Everything else would be chaos for a while. The one dragging her turned to smirk at me. I stared and smiled back. He’d cower. I knew it even then.
My hands now, so many years later, are red with the smirking man’s blood. Red with the blood of the other men. The men with the guns, so much bigger than us before, they cower like I thought they would. They give me excuses about war and how things work. About instructions, about duty. I go through them, one by one, and ask the same question.
“Where is she?”
If you’ve got my dreams, enjoy them. Bask in them, if you can. You’d better soak yourself in them and you’d better relish in them and you’d better use them up. Because I’m getting them back through your bone and your organs and your skin. Every second I’m in this jungle I’m thinking of more ways to GET THEM BACK.
Yes, every morning is an ache. Every night is eternal. These woods are so thick that I never see the sky anymore. I want nothing but the view of the sky again.
But I get up every day, aching and dirty and angry, and FIGHT. I will get those dreams back.
I hope I don’t scare you when I find my way through the woods and rip them out of your hands.
Sometimes they just don’t love you back. Sometimes you throw yourself through every fire, through every flame, feel every intention burn off and through you, and they still don’t love you back. Sometimes they love you less for the burns.
As much as it hurts, who can say they loved like this? Who can say they felt their soul leave their body, rush up to snatch a piece of heaven and come back to greet them like this?
Who can say they understand themselves, good or bad, like this?
She’ll never love me back. All the thumping and crunching and pouring of my heart means nothing.
But what a peek at an amazing human being.
I borrowed pieces of you. I’ve never been more sorry.
But I had to build myself. You had all the ingredients, someone loved you enough to give you all the ingredients, but you couldn’t take care of us. I never meant to leave chunks of you missing.
And you handed me every piece, didn’t you? Gave me so much of you that I almost felt heavy. You helped me swap out those rotted, useless pieces I was born with, that I was raised with. You lent me yourself so that I could be real for once. So I could save us.
I’ve never gotten over how you sacrificed yourself to build me.
When this is over, when we’re okay, I’ll do everything in my power to make the new pieces we build for you last forever.
Every time I go in there with an electronic in my hand, they believe me less and less. They don’t see me losing weight. They don’t see the tear streaks from an unfulfilling life straining the skin of my face. I clean up well.
They don’t see the shame we have. We WORK. We struggle. And somehow the bills are still barely off of our necks, barely giving us air. We work more, they press down harder. So I bring what we had, what we had before this, and I give it over.
I sold my wedding ring and the guy looked up and said, “You’re married?” with so much of a sneer, so deep a humor in it, that I choked a little.
But I go home and before I see anyone, before I look at my kids or husband, I look in the mirror. And I tell myself that next time will be the last time.
And one day I’ll be right.