Content Warning: Abuse
The first time she told someone that she hurt, they exploded. She didn’t remember much, the tears in her eyes blurred the chaos around her. She heard a plate shatter and felt a dull pain in her chest as two rough palms came in contact with her breastbone and the air she lost propelled her backward into the wall. It hurt in the way you’d expect, two bruises with pain reflected like mirrors, one on each side of the sternum. But it also hurt in a different way. A deep and visceral way that made her nerves thrum every time after if she heard a door close a little bit too hard.
Slamming doors turned into raised voices which turned into incredulous looks. The slightest shift in anyone around her sent alarms through her body. She imagined a ballet, always on her toes but never as dynamic. She kept going to the corners instead of the middle of the stage. She stepped carefully, every creak in the floor feeling like a landmine under her weight.
The second time she told someone she hurt, she didn’t mean to. She’d developed a system for how to deal with the Bad Stuff: Hold it in and hold it close. It made her stronger until the day it didn’t. She didn’t like the way her breaths came too quick that they didn’t allow any new air in. Her exhales punched the inhales back and an ache started in the corner of her eyes and spread across her forehead. Then she felt a hand close over her knee and a gentle pressure on her forehead. Her airways opened, and the first deep breath she took inflated her chest up to her shoulders, pulling them back and making them strong, and she felt full.
At times it still hurt, but she learned to move more freely. The spotlight still scared her at times, but she found that it washed over her more than it burned. Her ears tuned more to laughs, her eyes found more smiles as her body turned itself to the sun. It felt good, it felt easier.
The next time she told someone she hurt, a hand closed over hers and the squeeze of her palm helped in the way you’d expect. A rush of reassurance and a quick, grateful smile. But it also helped in a different way. A deep and visceral way that made her nerves hum when she heard, “It’s going to be okay.”
Mariam Bagadion is a Filipino-American third year SCSU student. She is double-majoring in English and Women’s Studies and has loved writing from a young age. She is excited to use this passion to bring attention to and start conversations about feminist issues surrounding the world of politics and pop culture today. Mariam is an editor for The Upper Mississippi Harvest, SCSU’s literary journal and a writing tutor at The Write Place. In her free time, she writes for her personal blog, scribbles in journals and is the Game Master for her friends’ Dungeons and Dragons games. Consulting editor.