Time Stood Still

TRIGGER WARNING: DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE, RAPE

 

May 13, 2005
On a dingy bathroom floor in a house full of addicts, she waited. The test sat on the counter, scarce inches away, yet she couldn’t look. One… two… three minutes passed. It was now or never. Her hands shaking, she picked up her future, wrapped in a disguise of plastic and paper and urine. Positive. She closed her eyes, unsure if she was relieved or disappointed. Time stood still.

January 27, 2006
The hospital was crowded, as if everyone in a fifty mile radius had decided to give birth right then and there. A blur of lights and sleep and strange beeps and frantic calls and pain, oh the pain! She couldn’t quite remember how or why she had ended up in the operating room or why they wouldn’t let her hold her daughter right away or anything beyond the overwhelming agony that every second away from the child caused. A bundle was placed in her arms – The bluest eyes she’d ever seen, the blackest hair, the most perfect little mouth. The world melted away and she finally knew the meaning of her life.

July 15, 2006
She could smell the whiskey on his breath before he entered the room. Her heart beat faster as she clutched her baby closer. One foot out the window, easy does it, twist and turn and grab the ledge … – his hand wrapped around hers and in a single breath she was on the bedroom floor again. The baby bawled in his arms as he hurled accusation after accusation, stepping more firmly on her throat with every uttered syllable. Her life flashed before her eyes and in the moment before the stars became darkness, time stood still.

June 1, 2007
He stumbled in at 9am, drunk, though god knows he’d gone to work last night. She lay awake – eyes closed, breathing regular – hoping he’d think she was still asleep. Their daughter stirred; a heavenly coo from the cradle next to their bed. She jumped up to attend before his clumsy hands could reach the tiny being, but not before a slurred “Stunned cunt, let me sleep” escaped his lips as he collapsed into the pillows. When the darkness overcame him, she methodically packed her belongings and drove to the new apartment across town. Furniture would have to wait, but in that moment, her life started over.

December 17, 2011
The night was young, the music loud, the tequila flowing freely. Across the table, he winked and smiled and she had never felt so sexy. The bar closed, the after party started, and before she knew it, 3am had arrived and it was only the two of them awake. He kissed her, she kissed back, he reached up her skirt. She said no. He stopped. He tried again. The no became more urgent. He conceded and allowed her to drift into unconsciousness. She awoke long enough to kick him and roll over as he peeled her panties off, then returned to the nothingness she had been roused from. Seconds… minutes… ages later, her mind snapped out of the fog, feeling him inside her, momentum building, grunts of pleasure escaping his lips. Her body froze. Words caught in her throat. As he emptied himself into her, time stood still.

July 19, 2013
Eight hours of magic was coming to a close. She thought it was going well, but one could never quite tell with a first date. They placed a bet on the last bowling match – if he won, she had to say yes to a second date. She lost, albeit unintentionally, though she was far from disappointed at the prospect of more time in his company. He walked her to her car; she thanked him for a wonderful day. The sun was setting just behind him, a brilliant cascade of light gleaming over his left shoulder. He hugged her and she could feel the restless energy stirring within him. In a moment of impulsive desire, she pressed her lips to his and held on tightly as the rest of the world became irrelevant.

November 8, 2013
They lay in bed, her head on his chest, his arms protectively cocooning her. He kissed her goodnight, and just as he was dozing off, a timid whisper asked if he was still awake. Now alert, he asked her why. Seconds passed as she took a calming breath and responded with some off-pitch statement about needing to tell him something. With a hint of suspicion, he probed her intentions. Her heart beat faster as she attempted to gather her courage. “I love you,” she breathed, barely audible, as she buried her face in his neck. He gently lifted her chin, gazing into her eyes through the dark. “I love you,” he responded, kissing her tenderly as time stood still.

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Lessons From Lovers Past

The One Whose Heart I Broke

I learned to skateboard with your hand in mine. You taught me how to bare my soul without saying a word and how to get lost in the milky chocolate of your eyes. I learned to roll a joint and drive a stick shift with your watchful eye on my every move. You taught me how much words can mean, and how much more meaninful silence can be, punctuated only by the sound of your heart beating. I learned to not expect a phone call when you were gaming with your buddies. You taught me that breakups are never straight forward, and that “I’m no good for you” sometimes means “my friends don’t like you.” I learned that moving on after being dumped ruins second chances. You taught me to say “I love you” when I feel it, not when it’s “acceptable” to. I learned that sex with your ex is always a bad idea and leads to sticky situations forever afterward. You taught me how much it hurts to break someone’s heart.

The One Who Got Away

 You taught me how to play poker, how to change my car’s oil, and how to do a wicked smoke show in the school parking lot. I learned how to play Halo and how to make friends with almost anyone. You taught me how to whole-heartedly pursue the things that make me happy and to leave behind those that don’t. I learned the “rules” of Catholicism, of UFC, of that ridiculous drinking game we made up and couldn’t remember the next morning. You taught me how to truly miss someone – someone who wasn’t physically far away, but was emotionally distant. I learned that no matter how often you let me go, I’d always come running back when you beckoned. You taught me how many people can get hurt in an off and on “relationship,” and how much it hurts that you would never refer to us as in one. I learned that once I stopped going back to you, once I pretended that I didn’t love you – we actually made great friends. You taught me how much it hurts to see someone you still love, years later, dating one of your closest friends. I learned that, 10 years after we last spoke, Kokanee beer, black mustangs, and “Speedfreak” by Motorhead will always take me back to the front seat of your car on the night you told me it was over for good. You taught me that sometimes, what we can never hold on to is what we want the most. I learned that there are people you will never quite let go of.

The One Who Fathered My Child 

Because of you, I learned to stand on my own two feet. You taught me how to drink and smoke more pot than I ever thought possible. I learned that in moments of intoxication, the most mundane experience can be otherworldly. You helped teach me that a mother’s love compares to nothing else on Earth. I learned that no good deed goes unpunished. You taught me that it’s okay to walk away when you realize you’re on a crash course to disaster. I learned to hide my bruises and to make up convincing stories for those that were impossible to cover. You taught me how to duck and cover, when to stop talking, how to plead for my life. I learned to take a hit and go right back to washing the dishes without waking the baby. You taught me that your cocaine use was “no big deal” and something you “had under control.” I learned how to recognize your actions when you were using – the way your eyes would take on that funny glint, how you’d clench your jaw, the unexplainable rages. You taught me that I was worth more than your abuse and that loving someone can mean leaving them.

The One I Thought I’d Marry 

You taught me how to swap out the rear differential in a Toyota Supra. I learned how to start a fire, how to open up and let someone in, how to speak of the unspeakable moments in my past. You taught me to let loose once in awhile, to have fun, to not give a single fuck about tomorrow because the night was young and worries were for the old. I learned how beautiful the stars are on the top of a mountain with only a blanket and your arms to keep me warm. You taught me to hold my feelings in, to never voice them for the fear of being called “crazy,” no matter how valid they may have been. I learned to fear a breakup with every fight because your solution was always to walk away for good. You taught me that my best was never good enough, that no matter how hard I tried to be who you wanted me to be, I would never stack up to the standard set by The Love Of Your Life who broke your heart three years before we met. I learned that being  friends with your ex sometimes means you’re still sleeping with them.

The One I Never Meant To Love

I learned the rules to football – CFL and NFL – and how to be an awesome chaperone for 13 year old boys at midnight releases. You taught me how to ride a dirtbike – first with your arms around my waist as you tried not to cover your eyes, and then on my own. I learned to ask for what I wanted from you, even if you never seemed to deliver. You taught me the beauty in a good morning text and a goodnight text and a million little “I miss you”s in between. I learned that you never really stopped with those texts, you just started sending them to the girl you were cheating on me with. You taught me to never let a man borrow my Darth Vader mug, because I still haven’t got it back. I learned that your family didn’t know we were dating – that they disapproved of me even as just a friend. You taught me to be ashamed of us, to stay hidden so that you wouldn’t have to tell your friends your girlfriend was a feminist. I learned that no matter how much you love someone, they can be done with you in a split-second. You taught me that sometimes relationships end months before we say goodbye.

Six Years On

It’s been six years since I packed my things.
I promised to keep in touch
I swore I loved you
Told you I just needed a little space to remind myself
How good you were to me
And that once I had sorted out my shit
We’d be a family again.

Of all the lies I’ve ever told
That one stuck in my throat the hardest.
I knew I wasn’t coming back, and I think you knew it, too.
But you let me walk out without resistance
(which, knowing you, was remarkable)

I kept up the guise of working through our issues
Until I got a lawyer
And you finally figured out that I wasn’t coming back.
I’ve never been so scared.
The drive-bys, the phone calls, the thinly-veiled threats
Were almost worse than the bruises
At least, they were a lot less predictable.

Everyone seemed to think that since I was “free”
Everything was suddenly alright
My moral support vanished
I spent my nights alone, missing you
Though I knew I shouldn’t
And wishing it could have been some other way.

Looking back, I almost don’t recognise
The frightened young woman
Jumping at her own shadow and
Spooked at the smallest sound.

Six years have helped me ease some fears
Though the terror of losing our daughter remains
Threats etched in my memory are not easily erased.
But now
I don’t look over my shoulder constantly
Though I do still keep my doors locked
And I moved every three years so you couldn’t find me.
One day I hope to stop running
Settle down and really build my life
I’m putting down some roots and starting to blossom

But then a cold wind blows and I’m reminded
Of your chilly demeanour and soulless eyes
And no matter how much wood I put on the fire
I just can’t warm my bones.

© T. Kalau 2013