By Aleha Jehanzeb, Pakistan.
As a little girl, I loved. I loved with an open heart that sat waiting on my impatient, yet enduring sleeve. I fell in love with the stories I would become one with; fairytales became more my life than the one I was living. I fell in love with my Prince Charming to-be, who would sweep me away from the dark on his radiant stallion, and create a world for just the both of us. I fell in love with the notion of a happily ever after before I fell in love with a person, and I craved one like it was my survival. But as I came across people who not only wanted my love but a part of me along with it, I realized the quest for my happily ever after would require me giving away myself till there was no more that I could give.
So I secured my heart and what it desired, diminishing it till it became as minuscule as I felt. Insignificant. Replaceable. Until you came along. Your strength ignited something foreign in me, and for the first time, I felt like I could afford to cave. You promised me dependency but your nonchalance made promises of independence and freedom, and I promise, I never believed you to be my Prince Charming, but my temporary haven from the storm life brought.
I was safe, cared for, and happy. You were a reader and I believed in your promise to be able to read me like the stories that captivated you. My hazy memory reminds me of the ghost of a smile that played across your lips, as you remained mesmerized by Robert Frost’s ‘Birches’. Your hand cupped my head like it was a nectarine that may bruise if you weren’t careful as you brought my lips to meet yours, our bodies intertwined like ivy; the poison from your tongue that embraced mine despite their quarrel was enough to blind me to the world that was shattering around me, cutting me open and leaving me bare at your disposal.
I was drunk on the notion of love, intoxicated by your deceit, and lied to by my own malicious heart, which was baited by the comfort and shelter you seemed to promise. But to you, I was a means to feel powerful.
As you grabbed my neck, my hair, my heart, and saw my eyes screaming in fear, you promised me that this is love. The pain was meant to empower me. But really, I just felt enslaved to your desires. Memories crept into my mind as your burning mouth crept down my shirt, and my ability to distinguish between the hot breath of my lover and my abuser became innate, for in that moment, you were one. And to love you, I had to love both sides of you, even the one that promised me my demise. But it wasn’t love, was it? I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want to be reduced to a means to receive pleasure. I didn’t want to be reminded of how little I was worth every time I would glimpse your way. I didn’t want to flinch at every touch to keep my armor from shattering alongside the remains of my self-esteem. I didn’t want to feel lonely, for you met me at a time when monsters in the dark seemed to be acceptable company, for the alternative was being alone with a hollow heart, and an indifferent mind.
I want to forget you. Forget the pain you inflicted, and the effect that has had over me. But you tainted, not only my memory, but also my body with a constant reminder of how next to you, I was reduced to nothing. You tainted my identity with wounds disguised as love bites that I haven’t been able to rid myself of, because as I feared isolation, you feared being forgotten.
This page features a collection of personal anecdotes and reflections by authors based on their individual stories.