I ask myself, why didn’t I leave?

I remember scenes of that night like snippets put together for a movie trailer. I remember driving, not knowing where to go. I remember feeling like his hand was engraved on my face. It burned, but it didn’t hurt. I couldn’t feel pain. I think I fell into a trance. The world was moving, but I remained in the same place, with the same expression on my face, and under an endless inhale. The tears broke loose. I think I got high on them.

I kept playing the trailer in my mind, kept looking for answers—What was it that I said that got him upset?

I kept driving.

I remember the closet scene. I remember trying to put my dresses in my suitcase and then holding on to the hangers when I’d lost my balance after he slapped my head. I remember waking up seconds after to find shoes on my face. I remember my skinny little arms trying to lift me only to fall again pushed by the rage of his eyes and his dope-driven shrieks.

I kept driving. I remember staring at the red light and hoping it’d never turn green again.

I kept driving. The phone kept ringing. The expected apology messages kept coming. The lies didn’t make me cringe.

I remember my shirt soaked in tears. My eyes were swollen like two peaches on my face. My lip was broken. And my self-esteem was beaten, left to bleed over the pavement in a back alley amongst stagnant puddles of water and the stings of greasy restaurant food.

I remember driving back home, to that empty closet, to that raging bull.

Why did I come back?

Because the shame of being where I was was greater than all the pain I could ever endure. Because I thought being in an abusive relationship was my fault.

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