I have learned too many times what love is not

By: Stefanie Mundhenk

My Abuser shows up everywhere
But lately it’s been in the boys that I love
The face of one, the arms of another
I’m always shocked when I see him
And he always laughs a little and says “Oh, Darling, didn’t you know?
You can’t escape me. I am always here.
I will turn his loving fingers that trace down your spine into claws that grip your arms, vice-like when you fight.
I will change the hands that used to run through your hair into brushes that paint bruises on your skin
I will change his smile into a Cheshire cat grin, and all the perfect things that he says now will make you sick when they become the placating words he says after he throws you up against the wall with his powerful arms that used to hold you quite warmly.
And you will be confused because on some nights, I will turn him into the enemy, but he will still bring you flowers just because it’s Thursday or hold you until depression finds another stomach to rest in.
This will happen to every single boy you date, until you begin to question your sanity, but not before others do.
They’ve already started to ask why you see smiles like the Big Bad Wolf baring his teeth and insist your claim that you feel burned by touch has to be an overreaction.
They don’t understand why you can’t shake the feeling of adrenaline shots on skin-to-skin contact
And neither do you.
After all, abuse is the only crime where the credibility of the victim is on trial as much as the guilt of the accused. It’s the only crime where the question in court is ‘Did it even really happen?’ rather than ‘Did we catch the right guy?’”

When people question my reality,
I want to ask them; have you ever loved the wolf? Have you gotten close enough to see what he looks like in the second before he devours you whole?
As he paints me red and brown it becomes apparent that I was only created to be his canvas
His fingerprints on my ribcage are the boundary for my heart of ashes, instructing it to never stray too far from him.

I’m getting to the end of this poem and wondering when I switched from my abuser’s voice to my own

He laughs a little and says “Oh, Darling, didn’t you know?
You can’t escape me. I am always here.
The lines between you and I begin to blur until, years later,
It’s just you beating yourself up
I pass the torch of abusing onto you”

And like a good little victim,

Good girl
Doesn’t-make-a-scene girl
Never-overreacts-girl
Quit-being-such-a-baby girl

I have not yet put it out,
Now I’m
Gas lighting myself when I’ve chased away everyone
That used to do it for me
Or never really did
I’m still not sure whether
I’ve ever really suffered yet
Beyond the confines of my own mind

I spend a lot of nights staring at the leftover antidepressants in my medicine cabinet
Holding a bottle of whiskey
And I wonder when I started drinking myself to sleep and why I cannot seem to just give up,
Why I can’t raise my white flag in the wind and admit that life, for me, is really over

People tell me all day that I have not yet given up because I am brave, but in all honesty
I think I cannot die because
I’m drenched in so much sin that
Even the devil is afraid of me