Now That You’re Gone

Now that you’re gone I go out less.
I stay inside in the evenings
in my pajamas and eat popcorn
from a bowl while watching
Friends reruns, a luxury i never had
when you were here.
In those days I smiled plainly,
chuckled at your jokes, kissed your cheek;
you kissed mine back as though
a few weeks ago
it hadn’t been
bright red and then purple and black
from the back of your hand.
In those days we went out
with your friends, never mine,
and you squeezed my hand under the table,
threatening me soundlessly
until your knuckles
were white and mine were red
while above the table you drank your
beers and laughed
at your friends’ asinine jokes.
They never knew. I never dared
say a word to anyone,
barely even to myself, although
I knew something was wrong.

 Until one day
I started reading articles,
watching videos and
looking up phone numbers
that I memorized in earnest,
clearing the browser history
before you got home,
then rising quickly and hugging you
when I heard you come
through the door,
my heart beating so loudly
I worried you would feel it
louder than you felt yours.
Real men don’t hit women,
everything told me. Real men
hold the door, offer their coats;
real men treat their women with respect.
But you were real.
It was real.
Now that you’re gone my scars are healing.
I can look at myself
in the mirror again and put on
red lipstick and smile
for myself and not for you.
And then I can wash my face,
turn the lights off and fall asleep
knowing on the other side of my dreams
is reality.

[ Inspired by Bill Winchester’s poem “nature“]

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