Sounds like a Lifetime drama, right? It kind of was like one.
When I was sixteen years old I fell in love with a shark. The Shark was a lot older than me and filled my innocent mind with beautiful fairytale fantasies. Being as naïve as I was, I believed and floated off to this dangerous dream land with him. This was around the time I was already sinking deeper into depression and this shark took me further into the land of fantasy and out of touch with reality. I believed that this man loved me, no matter how many times he emotionally assaulted me or physically put his hands on me. I believed because sometimes fantasy is still better than the reality that you don’t want to face.
Days turned to months, months to years, and the older I became the worse this relationship became. Like a bad habit I couldn’t kick it. He was my norm, wrapping me in protection from reality. Providing me comfort from the truth of my world. Like a pimp whispering sweet comforts in my ear and making my disoriented world safe. He became my truth, my consciousness, my north pole. He was my everything.
Like a loose thread, I began to pull at the lies, and our relationship began to unravel. To make a very complicated story short, I found out that I was just one of his many girlfriends and one of the many girls he gave an STD to.
3 years later my relationship with him was fading like a summer tan that couldn’t stand the pressures of the cold winter. I began to move on and explore my awakening to the reality around me. I stepped head deep into a new friendship with a young man that was charming, quick, popular, and smart. I was stunned, scared, and confused that he wanted to get to know me. I decided to take things slowly with this man because he had a reputation that wasn’t virtuous. I was trying to turn a new leaf, be smart, be aware of my surroundings and the people in my world. I just wasn’t fast enough, I wasn’t aware enough, I wasn’t tuned in enough to realize that everyone didn’t have the best intentions.
We started a great friendship and he had an essence to him that made me want to trust him. I wanted him to know me. I wanted and needed someone to understand me. I was so in need of a connection to the world that I grabbed on and trusted false misrepresentations of kindness.
Everything he would say I would compare it against my north pole, the shark, and question if what he was saying was the truth. When you compare a shark to a sheep everything seems more peaceful. After being oppressed for so long I could stand and would welcome any petty grieving, ugly demand, and requests to change who I was. Anything was better than constantly being tired from swimming away from the hungry relentless shark.
I let my walls down ever too quickly, chiseling away at them in hopes that I could make a hole large enough to reach out and touch the closest person. I was overtaken with the task of begging someone to come in and understand me. To see me.
I told him things I should’ve kept to myself. He became my priest and I confessed all my sins as if he could forgive me for them. As if my north pole, the shark, was being replaced by this sheep and the only way I could be understood is if he knew and could welcome all my stains. The stains of past mistakes, the stains of pain, the stains of my heart bleeding out from all the rejection thrown upon me and self-hatred. He listened. He was a great listener. I should’ve realized he listened and watched too intently like a cat waiting to catch their prey. He told me he understood and that he accepted me. He accepted me. I was relieved that someone accepted me.
He left that day, saying he would call, and he walked away from my house to his car with my transgressions stored strategically in his mind. I was light. Yet, I worried wondering if I said too much. I told him that the shark once stained me with an STD. The sheep took everything with such ease. I wasn’t sure how to take it. I was disgusting, how could he accept me.
Time went on and I came to find out he was talking to another young lady. The young lady was very cruel to me and I decided I would talk to her. Words were exchanged and we both came to the realization that he was talking to both of us at the same time. As we were discussing these issues the sheep came up behind us and realized that he was the topic of discussion.
Siding with her, he started screaming to me that he knows everything about me. That he could ruin me. That when I walk down the hallways of our school everyone would know my name and know what I did, who I was, what happened to me. He threw my transgressions across the floor and I saw them rolling amongst my feet like marbles scattering. I quickly tried to collect these rolling slippery balls and begged him to be quiet. “Please, stop, lets discuss this”, “I didn’t mean to make you upset”, “Please forgive me”, “Please”. I ran away from that school on the phone still begging him to forgive me and to give me a second chance. He refused, he wanted nothing to do with me, he reminded me that he would ruin me.
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think straight. I was burnt at that moment with the scarlet letter and I was in shock of the pain it inflicted on my already distressed soul. I was supposed to go to my father’s house that was only blocks away and meet my sister and dad waiting there for me. My sister, A, called asking where I was and all I could say was “I can’t”, “He’s going to ruin me”, “Why?!?!”. A didn’t understand what was going on. She didn’t know my stories with the shark. I kept those stories tucked deep down away not wanting them to see the light of day. Ashamed of my past and in fear of who I became.
She met me blocks away from our dad’s house and halfway carried me the rest of the way as I was blinded by the event that just occurred. She carried me, unaware she was caring the hurt, burdens, and fears of her little sister onto her back. If it wasn’t for her dragging me to safety that day I would’ve still been floating in that wave that washed me out too far into the sea. I was drowning, I had no strength to make it to shore, I was too distressed to even know which way to swim. She was my lifeguard and became my new north pole dragging me and whispering to me that everything was okay. I could see the worry in her eyes as she looked down at me.
We got to our dad’s house and I was hyperventilating. I was not one to show my emotions at this time, but I couldn’t hold back. I began to swim, once again, afraid that the shark would smell my blood in the water. Afraid that the monster had found me. Except this time, it wasn’t the shark I was swimming from. It was the sheep. Yet, he wasn’t a sheep. He was a wolf.
My father and sister sat across from me and the room was silent other than my deep, throaty wails, that drifted from my soul out of my mouth and filled the room with pain and sorrow. Eyes of confusion stared at me. My father repeatedly asked me “What is wrong? Talk to us”. How could I? How could I say what was going on? How could I put into words the feelings that were even too strong to feel? Feelings that already made me consider, so many times, swimming out to the sea and drifting away.
I told them that a boy from school threatened me. That he said he was going to tell every secret I told him to everyone. That he was going to tell everyone that I once had an STD. Tell them my pain. My father just stared at me. My sister just stared at me. Confused. Confused as to how this happened and when all these things happened.
The hole that I chiseled at so furiously was now letting everything out and I desperately wanted to patch the hole, reinforce it, and build another wall behind it. I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t want my family to see me in this pain. I didn’t want to be so exposed. But, it was too late. The wall was destroyed and here I stood amongst the destruction.
The hole let everything out like Pandora’s box. There was no getting back what I said. There was no changing what people did.
I spent the next days, weeks, months, years hearing back from other people the stories I told this wolf. Where I went I was faced with everyone knowing my name. I was faced with questions. I was faced with a stigma.
The worse part about it is that the emotions of my past were taken out of the event. They were repeated and the weight of those stories were never portrayed. They lost their essence and became just facts. Whispers amongst the large fish in the small pond.
The wolf accomplished telling everyone, as he said he would. Yet, he didn’t ruin me. I was devastated for a very long time, but the stigma built me stronger. I learned how to face my past, deal with the pain, and I became closer to my family.
For the longest time I was afraid of the monster swimming behind me. When I was finally forced to take a look, I realized it was me staring back. I was afraid of my truth and afraid of how others would perceive me. The monster is now long gone and still I stand.