Unfinished Puzzle

I remember that night... I scrambled to clean up my room, but with his tunnel vision, would he have even noticed? The star of the show was my bed. Pink and purple silk. Everyone told me he was toxic, but wasn’t I just as toxic? I can't quit people who hurt me, deceive me, use me. I always stumble back. If I'm honest, I knew he never really liked me, but I always hoped he would… Eventually.

I liked the way he held me. I liked the moments before, when he’d ask me about my day, stroke my hair while we watched television. Maybe it was the hopeless romantic in me, but I definitely liked the before. Before his hands worked down my body. Touching the parts of me that I once wanted to save. His hands, lips, tongue... I should’ve enjoyed it, but my body didn’t want it that night.

He didn’t care. He pushed past my precious boundaries for his pleasure, and no matter the no’s that left my lips or the way my hands pushed his away, he would not budge. He pushed back with more force. I dug my nails deep into his wrist, but he only went faster and rougher. While my frozen body began to break, he put his lips to mine and I began to squirm. He knew. He knew. He knew. And still, he left me there that night. Alone. Broken. Unloved. When the sun finally came up and my feet touched the floor, I was no longer grounded. I was no longer me.

For two weeks, I didn’t exist. My brain wanted me to think about that night, but I didn’t want to. I couldn’t. He had discarded me and I couldn’t come to terms with that night. After two weeks, I was alone in my room and I couldn’t fight my brain anymore. I ripped off my sheets and the sentiments I had shelved finally began to shed. I wept. I screamed. I admitted. And with that, the numbness kicked in.

I told my family, except my father. I told my close friends. I told an advocate that I had. After coming to terms, I thought I would finally go back to whom I once was. I was ready to heal and be happy again. That’s not how trauma works. I was never going to be who I once was, and that was the hardest part of it all. I tried to put the pieces of myself that he broke back together, but these pieces were new and unknown and some missing. They were never going to fit the same, but that didn’t seem fair to me. Instead of going to therapy or reporting him, my body and I had stopped talking and there was nothing I could do. I was an incomplete puzzle scattered on the floor of my dorm room.

The days felt long, and my incessant grief haunted me. Each night, as I laid in my bed, I felt no comfort or warmth anymore. How could I, though? No matter how many times I washed my sheets, my pajamas, my body, his presence was there. My room was the place that I dreaded and sleep became my fear. I filled my body with sleepy time tea, 10 mg of melatonin, and let my diffuser fill the air with sleep oils, but nothing could make me yearn for sleep anymore. My dreams quickly turned to nightmares as my brain begged me to seek help and no matter how much my body ached and wished to be whole again, I couldn’t confront those feelings. The numbness that took over grew more and more each day, and I let it take over.

I was catatonic for months and let my life go on autopilot while I stayed in my room with those untouched pieces, still scattered. My body and I hadn’t spoken since that night. I lost track of time and purpose and just let whoever I was in those days have control. 

Those times were reckless and I didn’t care. I decided to let him back into my life again. He said he missed us and I felt nothing. When he touched me, it was all numb. I don’t remember how many times we were together or most of what we did. I just remembered that I didn’t even like the before when he held me or the nights he slept over. I tried dating a man with who I was once enthralled, but I was more attracted to his one-bedroom apartment where I could sleep in peace. I tried being with another man to prove that I was better, but his coercion tactics made me realize that I didn’t desire this type of love anymore. I didn’t desire much of anything anymore. The nights when I realized this were the hardest. I rode the bus around and around the campus until they did their last calls. Walking around at night as I looked over at the way the moon glistened on the river. I hate bodies of water, so I knew that no one would ever think to look there. He wouldn’t be able to reach me anymore, and I wouldn’t have to keep feeling that way. Those nights still haunt me. I have such little memory of those hours of wandering and waiting to wake up to a world before August 24th, but eventually, I could hear my bed call to me. 

I remember that day. The day I found out that the man who hurt me knew what he did. We have a mutual friend and before the man who broke me dropped out of college, my friend spoke to him. I always guessed that he didn’t care about me, and I knew deep down that he knew what he did. He remembered that night as well as me, and yet, he took no responsibility. My friend gave me every detail. I hugged my friend and the moment I closed the door, I began weeping. I felt as my sorrow contorted into a strange joy. I spent that night reflecting. There were ups when I felt the need to wash my body and clean my room. There were downs when I realized that he would never be punished and that I would never get real closure. But that night, I didn’t need anything extra to sleep. I closed my eyes and for once, I was excited about the dreams that awaited me. I was ready for a new day to begin.

The next morning, when I crawled out of bed and my feet reached the floor, I felt different. I wasn’t whole yet, and that was okay. Truthfully, I felt at peace. He was gone for good, and I could finally stop caring for him the same way he didn’t care for me. I began pulling affirmation cards in order to give each day direction, and I put alarms for when to eat and when to shower. I was in no way healed or even close to being happy, but a part of me was finally ready to pick up all those pieces of myself. 

As I am writing this, almost eight months since that night, I couldn’t help but cry. I was shattered that night and I tried to hold on to whomever I once was, but I eventually let her go. I have begun putting new pieces into place, and I think that’s why I never fully gave up. So much time has passed, and I am still not healed, but I want to meet whoever I become. I hold onto to hope that one day, I will be whole again. Until then, I think it’s okay that this story has no ending yet. I’m an unfinished puzzle.

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