I let the water from the shower head pelt on my shoulders. I breathe in and out, waiting for the tension to release itself from my neck.
Loose strands of wet hair cling to the side of my arm, forming small ringlets around the outside of my bruises. The fluorescent light flickers and my eye twitches.
The man's harsh voice from the argument in the next apartment crawls my skin, seeping deeper every time the pitch in his voice rises. My breathing decides to pick up again, my neck; to clench.
The light flickers repetitively once more, and my eyes make decide to run and hide. The recognisable thump of a dresser hitting a stud wall sends my body flailing down to the mouldy shower tiles.
I am 8 years old. I am afraid. Like any child, I am afraid of the monster that creeps a night. Only mine doesn’t take on the form of the boogeyman or a dark shadowed ghost.
No, mine is a 6-foot tall man. It is unshaven and has sunken eyes, hard eyes, that have the power to make your own run in fear. But it is its breath that haunts you.
Each exhales releases the sharp scent of liquor, tainting the clean air.
When it breaths over you, the liquor drips it’s way down the back of your throat, only to crawl it’s way back up to your mind.
Your head knows what is coming next and it tries to make you run, yet your legs seem frozen, deaf to the screaming alerts of your instincts. Each punch lands on you like a bag of cement.
Leaving sunken holes in your skin only to be filled later with the colours of green and purple.
I am 13 years old. I am terrified. I can hear the muffled screams of my mother coming from the kitchen. A glass cup falls, a plate shatters. I don’t know if it hit the ground or her head.
I force myself to sleep with the background noise of stifled tears. At the break of day, I walk into the kitchen to see a vase of fresh flowers on the counter.
These flowers tend to make their appearance after a rough night, and come paired with the monster’s favourite word, ‘sorry’. Because that's all it takes.
Red roses and a 5 letter word to repair the damage, to reset. The nights spin around like broken records, repeating themselves over and over and over again, but no one ever pulls the needle.
I am 19 years old. I am leaving. My foot holds the front door open and my right-hand bears the weight of my suitcase.
I beg my mother to come with me but my argument is greeted with the same rebuttal as always. “He doesn't mean it. It’s my fault, I make him angry. He loves me”.
Her eyes are empty but my suitcase is full. I turn my back on her, start the engine and drive.
I am 23 years old. I am trying. My friends laugh when I flinch so hard at their slight movements and tell me that I need to “loosen up and have a drink”. My professor scares me a bit.
His eyes have that familiar sunken look and his voice causes the occasional stirring in my stomach. But there's a boy and he’s cute and he calls me perfect.
He says he loves me and buys me flowers every day.
I am 25 Years old. I am broken. He hit me today. A slap across the face because he said I was meant to be his and only his.
Because that seed of jealousy grew into a vine of possessiveness and trapped me from going out with my friends.
Because the flowers on the table began to resemble the apology gift I had once seen so often. It hurt to pack my suitcase again. To fill it with every regret and guilt.
To walk out that door, start the engine and drive out onto the open roads.
I hear a soft knock on the door followed by his caring voice asking me if I was okay because the sound of my body hitting the tiles sent him running to the bathroom.
I wrap a soft towel around my body and the warm glow of the light makes my skin look dewy. I walk out the door and I am greeted by a pair of soft eyes that draw me in.
He has the inviting smell of coffee on his breath and he hugs me close, leaving my cheeks filled with the colours of pink and red.
“I love you,” he says as I look at the empty suitcase in the corner of the room.
“I love you too”
I am 28 years old. I am safe.