When Closure Is Out of Reach

On seeing my abuser when I least expected it

Illustration: alicemoi/Getty Images

II wasn’t sure I would ever see you again. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. By the time I left, I was so afraid of you that I didn’t even think about anything but getting away from you. It never occurred to me to prepare for what happened this morning.

When abusive relationships end—or when someone flees one, as I did—the focus is on the escape. The shape of these endings is not the same as the endings of other, of “normal,” relationships. It’s not a transition, one door closing so another can open or the turning of a page with other pages yet to be explored. It’s a full stop. It’s a “road closed” sign with a cliff on the other side. It’s a blackout.

Closure is a thing for rational, functional people. It’s a luxury, really. I knew it wasn’t an option for me, for us.

When I saw you this morning, I froze. I suddenly understood the deer, the rabbit. You froze too. What else could we do? There was just the two of us, an empty bus station, and the smell of burning coffee.

I wasn’t afraid, like I thought I’d be. It was the “good you,” the old you (the real you? I still don’t know) that was in control this morning. I could see it in the clearness of your eyes, the sadness of your expression. It would have taken so little to run to you, to fold into you like I used to.

I would trade my soul for the erasure of history, if it were an option.

I wanted to. I wanted to more than I’ve ever wanted to do anything. I would trade my soul for the erasure of history, if it were an option.

But I know too much now. I know that beneath the “good you,” the you I love, there is another you, a you that will turn on me, that will hurt me. You’re like a drug—I know that the high with you mutes all other colors, muffles ambient noises, blocks out the sun. I turned myself inside out for you, for us. You laid me bare and you made me yours. I would have stayed yours forever, happily, gratefully. But all drugs are laced with some sort of poison, aren’t they?

You walked away first. Stopped, turned around, looked at me again. And it was you, my you, I know. I know you’re sorry. I know you’re in pain. I know you’re afraid. I know you’re alone. I know that you can’t control your demons, can’t stop them. I know you’d never have chosen this, never have let this happen to us if you could have helped it.

I wanted to tell you all this, to be able to leave you in peace. But I know that, with you, one word, one single touch, is like taking a sip. And I know where that sip leads. I still have nightmares about it.

Still, I couldn’t move. I’m just… depleted. It’s an emptiness with its own gravitational pull. I would have done anything to save you, to keep you, to keep us. But you know that this time, this final time, it just went too far. You know some wounds are too ugly, too raw, to confront.

You turned again, and you walked away. I watched you go. I couldn’t move until you were all the way gone.

There were no words between us this morning. It was a few seconds in time. But I still see your face, your eyes that locked with mine exactly the way they used to. I want to believe that the you I saw this morning is the real you, but the truth is that I don’t know. It’s hard to know anything for certain.

I don’t know what to do with what happened this morning. I carry the memory of it around with me like a polished stone. I look at it. I touch it. I put it back in my pocket. I’m afraid I’ll carry it forever. I’m afraid I’ll lose it.

I don’t know which is worse.

Coder, Decoder, Code-switcher, Truth-teller.

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