Sometimes we need to be thankful for our own strength.
Time seemed to shudder to a stop, rocking her back on my heels, as soon as the drawer slid open. The mad scrambled search for scissors forgotten in a heartbeat. Inside the drawer was a scatter of memories, each their own small world of wonder.
Each something she’d tried to forget.
Almost by some outside force, she reached inside. Folded papers that echoed words she’d loved. She’d believed them, too, and their professions of love and apology, faith and trust. Some part of her heart still burned with the embers of what they’d meant, a part she wished she could douse with water. Reading them pooled tears in her eyes, long forgotten memories flaring to life once more. The cinch of pain around her heart tightened down, sure and steady in a way she’d learned to live with over the past year.
The other objects conjured a myriad of other thoughts. The photos were the hardest. Smiling faces and far away places. Echoes from a time when things had been so much easier. But still, it was hard to ignore the pain that each smile covered in the images. The knowledge of what led up to those posed scenes on rooftops in other countries. The harsh words. Those photos hid all of that to the outside world, but today, they rushed back, impossible to mask.
Did she want to mask them? Sometimes it was so much easier to remember the better parts. Pretend the photos captured the truth, and not just the careful façade. But the truth, it always leaked through.
Staring into the drawer, she couldn’t help thinking of the bits she tried to forget. The nights of screaming fights. Of trying to escape so he could cool off, only to be chased down, through the house, doors no obstacle to his anger. Covers ripped back so that 3am fights could be held. Words, only ever words, but the kind that knifed through her, hitting points only an intimate partner knew to target.
Always, always, the truth hung heavy on her tongue during those times. Impossible to say, impossible to acknowledge. The truth only brought down more anger. And with that anger came fear, tears, and a desperate feeling of her heart fighting to beat it’s way out of her ribs—a caged bird that she could never let free.
How had they gotten there? Things had started off so vastly different. Laughter, love, shared tastes and interests. A common base that felt promising to build their lives on. The long walks and talks in the desert that had cemented their relationship into something she’d felt could never break.
Oh, she knew she’d played a role in the downfall. It takes two to tango. Her inability to trust him, the spontaneous anger, took their toll. Lies and silence resulted. The heavy weight of the truth a millstone around her neck. She’d done wrong, been wrong, and hated herself for it all. But how could she have done differently? Even now she couldn’t see how, though surely it existed. The long shadow of anger overcast their marriage, obscuring other paths even now.
It’s stranglehold left hand-shaped bruises on her soul.
The rest of the drawers in her desk carried folders of paperwork for things she should have felt pride in. Success in her job, her creative work, awards and recognitions for things she’d done. These, too, she’d kept to herself. Lied about and covered up. Sharing only when she absolutely had to with the man she’d chosen to spend her life with. Good news was never received well. The announcement of her promotion at work—something she couldn’t contain in her excitement—led to hours of screaming. She shuddered at the memory.
No, not all things had been rosy in the past, no matter how much she tried to peer at them through rose-colored glass.
Two imperfect people. Sometimes it felt like three: the man she loved, and the man he turned into when the anger consumed him. A joke they shared, one she never found terribly funny because it hid the horrible truth: she feared the angry man. She would have done anything to avoid him. Anything. Lie. Bend over backwards. Turn into someone she hardly recognized.
None of it ever, ever helped.
The strength to break away had taken forever to grow. She doubted every move she made. Comments always followed. “Doesn’t she know how hard it is to find a good man?” Her grandmother. “Dating is horrible! I just want to spare you that.” Her sister. An uphill battle every step of the way. Times when she knew her family would rather he were there, not her.
And always, always doubt.
Was she doing the right thing? Maybe it was all just a product of her imagination? Did she really want this? Could she be alone forever? Did she want to grow old by herself?
She shut the drawer, closing the memories within it once again. Someday maybe she’d be strong enough to clean it out. For now, the past could stay there. Her strength would eventually return.
For now she’d be thankful for the ability to just walk away.
>She's a Northern California girl and now braves the cold winters in Montana.
>When she's not writing, she's sequencing dead people's DNA.
>She’s also an anthropology professor and loves getting people interested in studying humans.
>If she could have a super-power, it would totally be flying. Which is a little strange, because she's terrified of heights.
Find Meradeth Houston online at:www.MeradethHouston.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr,Amazon, Goodreads, and of course her blog!