I finished rolling my blunt and just looked at it. I contemplated not lighting it, but then I remembered the voice mail my husband had left me. He had been called into the field for the weekend to play war games, and I wouldn’t see him until possibly Monday night, but no later than Tuesday afternoon. It was Friday night. The moon was just a sliver of its normal full self – I had nothing else to do, so why not get high and reminisce. Reminisce on all the things that I normally keep hidden from myself, but on occasion I give my thoughts free reign, in order to keep them from poking into my day to day life. The day to day life that I’ve tried so hard to perfect. I get up every morning and I make my husband breakfast. I don’t eat, just drink a perfectly dry cappuccino. I love watching him eat. The way his mouth moves – the way he slurps down his juice – the way his lips always look like they’re ready for sex. Ready to kiss me on both sets of lips. Sometimes its enough to make me get on my knees and bless him, he never lets me finish. He hates being late to work. After he leaves I get in the shower and masturbate. Always in the shower, to wash away the evidence of my infidelities. I get dress and decide whether today is a cleaning day or a shopping day. If it’s a cleaning day, I put on a matching panty and bra set under sweat pants and a white tee and get to work. If it’s a shopping day, I put on heels, a skirt, and a low cut shirt and head to the stores. Always the put together lady. I never have a bad hair day. Okay that’s a lie. On the off chance that I do have a bad hair day, I wear a cute hat. Like I said, always put together. Looking like you have it all together on the outside, makes people forget that scars aren’t always physical. I finally lay back and light my blunt. I’m on the roof of our apartment. No one ever comes up here. I’m something like ten stories above the ground and right next to the ocean. I’m so close that I can hear the waves crashing on the rocks and smell the saltiness. Sometimes in the summer, I can hear dolphins in the distant. I always watch really hard to see if they’ll jump high in the sky, but after a year, nothing. It hasn’t dissuaded me from still searching for them. We’ve been on this island for a year. We moved here in the dead of winter, which really meant that it was a blistering 68 degrees on the coldest day in Okinawa. My husband is in the Army. But he’s not the Army, if that makes any sense. Some people in the military make it a lifestyle, he knows it’s a job. So when he comes home the uniform comes off (but sometimes he gives it to me with his boots still on) and he’s the same guy that I fell in love with at the strip club. Crazy, huh? I met my husband while I was dancing on a stage butt *** naked. In my defense, I wasn’t a stripper. It was amateur night and I was just trying it. I have a habit of that – just trying it. Anyway, he was nice. I could feel in my heart the moment I looked him in his eyes… he was a regular nice guy. “Do you want a dance?” “Nah, I’m good.” I’m sure shock was all over my face. He was the person I had eye ****** while I was dancing, and not one time did he look away. Didn’t he want me? “Oh, okay.” I started to walk away, but he reached out and grabbed me by the wrist. I pulled away, quickly and immediately turned to the bouncer. He was already walking over but I smiled at him and assured him that I was alright. “You can’t touch the dancers.” I looked him directly in his eyes. “I’m sorry.” He looked me over, as if he were seeing me for the first time. “I just didn’t want you to think, I didn’t think you were cute or anything. I just don’t do the whole back room thing.” “Oh, no big. Neither do I.” He looked confused and amused all in the same expression. “I’m a new dancer or whatever, and I really don’t think that lap dances are for me. But I figured since you helped me get through my first performance that I owed you.” “Wouldn’t it be more like me paying you to have helped you get through your first night?” I laughed. It was the first time I had smiled all night. “You’re pretty.” I blushed. The rest of the night we talked. I didn’t even make enough to pay the dj and the bouncers. I had to dig into my own pocket. Every day for the next week we met at the club and talked in between dances. After a week, I “quit” and went back to my day job as a barista at a local coffee house. Working at the coffee house was a means to an end. The end being paying my rent on time. I could barely afford the rent on my townhouse, but my name was on the lease and I refused to let my credit get jacked because I got dumped. Hence the stint as a stripper. The two exes before my husband had come and gone through my “mad house”. One a girl, one a boy – not yet a man. I had loved both hard and in return was broken hearted far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The girl… the female… the one I thought I could love forever and ever, brought me to Atlanta. I was a student in DC, but when she told me that we could live happily ever after, I took her on her word and we moved “home” to the ATL. The city helped me to fall in love with her more. She took me to strip clubs where the girls took off all of their clothes and eye ****** me til I came. She held my hand through my first lap dance and then made love to me in the bathroom. I was so unfocused and she was my determination, the fuel that kept me running in every which way. We stayed so drunk and high, I can’t imagine how either one of us managed to hold down jobs, and yet we did. She worked at the airport and I was a promoter/model. Basically I went around passing out fliers, enticing young men to pay $20+ to get into the club in hopes of seeing me. And they did, but I was always with my girlfriend. Her tongue was always in my mouth, and usually held fragrant remnants of me. Our schedules kept us at a distance, but we fought to be together. She was all I knew, and I held onto her as if she were life its self. In fact, she was all I had in the world. My parents had disowned me the second that I dropped out and my sisters, one older and one younger, had no idea how to relate to me. My oldest sister came out to Atlanta once to see me and the “wife”, but she stayed only long enough to let me know that she would always love me, but that my lifestyle was unwelcomed in her world. She couldn’t comprehend it, and yet she kissed me on the cheek before she left and said “one day you will understand”. Because I had no one else and didn’t know anything about Atlanta, my happiness and my world revolved around her. But she didn’t revolve around me, in fact, at one point I felt like I was the Pluto in her solar system – not even a ******* planet, just some distant *** star! Not even a month after we had moved to Atlanta, I noticed she was on her phone more, going places without me, and I spent a couple of nights by myself. I tried so hard to put it out of my mind, because who would uproot a straight girl, and bring her to the south and forget about her. Who could forget about me? She could. She could forget that I was her girlfriend, that we lived together, and at one point, I even felt like she forgot that I existed. And that’s when my drinking became more than social and the cutting came back. I was a cutter way before she even came to me. I had started cutting when I was about 12. Around the same time that I became ashamed of my new breast and the hair I was growing down there. I made blood appear on my legs the same time that mother nature made it appear between my legs. It was all around the same time that that bastard raped me and bought my silence with my own insecurities. Her dismissal brought all those feelings full force at me and I couldn’t deal. Didn’t know how to ******* deal. No one told me then, and no one was around to tell me now. So I found the guys at the club with the pills and I popped them. Every night that she didn’t come home, I popped a pill and put a line on my thigh. She never came home in time to see the bloody show, and by the time she did, I was just so estatic to see her that I forgave her and believed all of her promises to make it up to me. And I should have known that I wasn’t the only one on her mind, when she would go down on me and never make mention of the coke straight lines. And finally one day, when I had had too much to drink and not enough pills to balance it out, I called her phone until she picked up. My phone was in one hand and my blade in the other. “Come home.” “I’ll be home in a little bit.” “No, bring your *** home now!” “I will be home when I get there.” Her angered tone matched mine. “Please.” I begged. “Sweetie, I will be home in a little bit.” She calmed, because she knew she could pacify me. “But I need you now.” I let the blade slice effortlessly over my skin. “What’s so important that you need me right this second?” “Come home and find out.” I hung up and sliced again and again until I passed out. When I woke up I was in the hospital. Tubes everywhere. Bandages on my thighs, and there she was – by my side. Holding my hand. With me, again. “I’m sorry.” I could barely speak. She just looked at me. Her concerned look turned to one of pity. “Don’t be.” “I didn’t mean to take it this far.” She put her finger to her mouth. “Don’t speak. Just listen.” She took a deep breath. “This probably isn’t the right time or place, but it has to be said.” The tears started falling immediately, and neither of us moved to wipe them away. “I can’t do this. I don’t think we’re meant to be together. I called your sister. She’s on her way. I’ll stay until she comes. But baby girl, you need help. Help I can’t give.” “Your love could help me. If you would just be there, I’d be okay. We would be okay.” “Nah, it don’t work like that. You need to work this out, and then maybe. But not a moment before.” “I’m fine. I promise. I just had a little too much to drink.” “They said you’ve been doin this for a while, so you can’t be fine.” “Get out.” The words left my mouth before I even thought them. She was just as shocked as I was. She kissed me on the forehead. “I will always love you.” “No you won’t, you never loved me in the first place.” She walked out, before the reality of my own words set in. I cried the entire 72 hours I was on suicide watch. I cried when my sister came to get me. I cried when I got home and she wasn’t there. I cried. I’m crying now. I rubbed what was left of the scars. Scars of a broken heart. Scars of a broken little girl. My husband is the only one other than me to touch them. He’s caressed them and kissed them. He’s whispered secrets to them and begged them to never disappear. “Why do you have scars on your thighs?” He was running his fingers across each one. We had just had sex for the first time. “Its private.” “They weren’t there at the club.” “Make up.” He starts kissing up each thigh and as his tongue is caressing my ****, his hands are caressing my scars and I know that he is the one that I am meant to marry. But that’s not the first time, I’ve had that thought. Marriage was like a movie and I’ve wanted everyone to play my leading man (or woman). That’s probably why I was barely healed when I got with the man that would both break me down and teach me strength. I met him at a club event. I don’t know why I was back in that environment after all the drama, but I felt like I needed something that was once me and her (and I needed to pay my bills). Even though I had promised my family that I was on the straight and narrow, I did everything I told them I wasn’t. I was in Narcotics Anonymous to appease them, but I still popped the occasional pill. I went to therapy but I never really said anything, just answered her stupid questions, and made mental to-do lists. I drank every night to go to sleep, but it was always after I did my nightly check-in calls to my older sister to let her know I was still breathing. Anyway, we met at the club and I thought he was cute. Didn’t pay him any more attention past that, but then I saw him again at the grocery store near my house. We exchanged numbers but I still didn’t call. I was hoping that she would come back to me. I made it my point to try to be where I thought she would be, but I never saw her. Atlanta was too ******* big for me to be chasing her, but not so big that she didn’t find me. “Hey baby girl.” And to this day, I don’t let anyone call me that. I crumbled to the ground at the sound of her voice on the other end of my phone. “Hello?” “What do you want?” I was never good at faking strength. Either I had it or I didn’t, and with her, I never had it. “I wanna see you? Wanna make sure that you’re okay.” I rolled my eyes, but I still hadn’t gotten off the floor. “So, can I come over?” “Okay.” When we hung up, I immediately got in the shower. I shaved my ***** bare, just the way that she liked it. It was so she could see the tattoo that she had convinced me that I needed. It was an outline of the state of Georgia, because she had told me that I get wet like a Georgia peach. Corny to me now, but at the time I loved it. I took my hair out of the ponytail, and put on panties that matched my bra, it had been a minute since either one of those things had happened. Make up went on and the length of my nails came down. She had taught me how to be a lady, and I knew that she expected me to act accordingly – so I did. Its crazy how someone else trained me how to be the woman that my husband loved. When she came over, we fell into our old routine. I cooked for her, stripped for her, and like always I spread my legs for her. “I missed you.” She kissed on my naval, the spot that she had discovered. “I missed you, too.” I took a hit off my blunt and then passed it to her. In between our non-stop sex sessions, we smoked and drank, like the old days. Looking back now, I realize that she was my biggest vice. Her phone rang and I answered it. “Hello?” “Who is this?” The girl’s voice sounded older than mine, and familiar. I’m sure I had heard her voice before on a voicemail. “*****, who is this?” “Put her on the phone.” “Hell nah. She eatin my ***** right now, so call her back later.” I hung up and then cut off her phone. She just looked at me and smiled. “Still jealous I see.” I looked at her in disbelief. “Are you ******* serious?” I pushed her off of me and got up. “Calm down.” She grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me back on the bed. I pulled away from her again, and she got up and threw me back on the bed. “Leave me alone.” I screamed. “Girl, stop trippin.” She held me down, while I thrashed around. Her calmness was pissing me off more. “Stop, and I’ma let you up.” So I did. And the minute I was up I started throwing every possible thing I could at her. She chased me down the stairs and pushed me up against a wall. “What the **** is your problem?!” “You are! How the **** you gonna say you miss me, but still have ******* callin your phone?” “You trippin.” I guess my neighbors had heard the arguing and glass breaking so they called the cops, who were knocking at my door, right at the moment I yelled at the top of my lungs that I wanted her to let me go and that I ******* hated her. They broke down my door. She was arrested, even though I didn’t want to press charges and I was taken to the hospital for the bruises I had acquired during the struggle in my bedroom. At that moment I should have known that she was the worst kind of drug, but hindsight is always 20/20. They wouldn’t release me without someone coming to pick me up, and the only number I could think of, was the dude I met at the club/grocery store. I figured, if him and I were meant to be, then he would come get me, and if it wasn’t then to hell with him, too. He came to get me. My phone rang, bringing me out of my cloud of memories, and from the ring tone I knew that it was my husband. “Hey honey.” I answered in a sing song voice, that I’m sure he hates, but I like how girly it sounds compared to his baritone. Especially when we are having sex. “Hey. Just wanted to make sure you were okay. I know you hate being in the house alone.” I smiled. I knew that he was just checking up on me to make sure that I hadn’t drank too much and did something I didn’t have any business. I think he gets worried that any little thing is going to cause me to resort to cutting. I never should have told him. “Are you ever going to tell me how you got the scars?” His fingers were tracing them as we laid on his couch watching tv. The first man that I ever just laid around in a t-shirt with. The first man to make me feel comfortable enough to show him every part of me, even the darkest. “I gave them to myself.” I said without even looking away from the tv. He cut it off and put himself in between me and it. “I know that. Kinda figured that out on my own. What I meant is why? Who hurt you that bad?” He was staring straight at me, with no emotion on his face but with hurt, concern, fear, and anger all building up in his eyes. “A man once stole my innocence. A girl once broke my heart. And I ended up having to deal with it all by myself. But its all better now.” I faked a smile, that he didn’t believe, but he accepted it and I knew we would never have to talk about it again. And when I cried myself to sleep that night he held me. “I’m okay. Just laying around the house. I haven’t decided what I’m gonna do this weekend, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.” “Okay. Just be safe. I love you.” And he hung up. He never waits for me to say, “I love you, too”, because he knows that if I don’t say it first, I probably won’t say it at all. I can probably count the number of times I’ve said “I love you” on two hands and have fingers left. We’ve been married for four years. She’s the last person I ever said “I love you” to on a consistent basis. I never said it to the guy, and I wanted him to propose to me. I guess she ruined the phrase for me. Ruined any meaning that its ever had. She ruined me for him, but he didn’t seem to mind. “So, you wanna tell me what’s up?” He had come to pick me up from the hospital, so I guess I did owe him some explanation. “Just an argument with my ex, that got a lil out of control.” “I guess I’m not your type then.” “Huh?” “You obviously like dudes with anger issues. I’m too calm for that. I’ll just tell a ***** to get the **** out before I put my hands on her.” I laughed. At the moment I realized I needed him in my life. Needed someone to tell me the truth about everything – including myself. “Real talk, though, you’re too pretty to be messin with a dude who’ll put their hands on you.” “My ex is a girl.” I could see the gears in his head go into overdrive. That should have been a sign right there. “You wanna go home?” “Nope, lets go to your house.” And we did. For the next couple of weeks I spent all my time at his house. If I wasn’t at work then I was in his space. Trying very hard to be what he wanted and needed, but I was never sure if I was succeeding, because the only affection he showed for me was sex. Our sex life was amazing. He taught me so many things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was far from a virgin when I met him. I willingly gave up my virginity at 14 and had experienced a lot both before and during my time with her, so I thought if anyone would be doing the teaching, it would be me. But he convinced me that I trusted him enough to give him my body to do as he pleased. He convinced me that being on top wasn’t as vulnerable a position as I had envisioned in my mind. He convinced me that sucking and swallowing was an honor. He convinced me that anal sex could be a valid form of birth control. He convinced me that I was a good enough for a title that he refused to give me. But I gave it to him and even allowed him to meet my parents when they came down to check on me. “So, sweetie, we still haven’t received a bill from school. I find it hard to believe that you are paying for school on a barista salary. Unless, your mister here is paying for it.” My dad glared at him. “Daddy, y’all haven’t gotten a bill, because I haven’t enrolled.” “Why not?” My mother smiled at him. I’m sure she was seeing more than what was being portrayed. Yes, he was holding my hand, and yes, he had paid for the family luncheon, and yes, he kissed me in front of them, but as far as I was concerned it was a show. “I’m not sure what I want to major in.” “Why would you change your major? You are one year away from graduating with a degree in Business Administration.” “I’m not sure that that is what I want to do.” “Well, what do you want to do?” “I don’t know.” My parents seemed disappointed, but he seemed intrigued. That night after I had swallowed, he pulled me on top of him, and caressed my body. I just knew that he was about to tell me that he loved me. Was about to tell me that I was the only woman that he needed. Was about to tell me to say “**** you” to my parents and become his housewife and on-call sex slave. Was about to tell me anything but what he did tell me. “Why aren’t you in school?” “You were sitting right there when I answered that question for my parents.” “You are one year from graduating, why not just get it out of the way.” “Why do you suddenly have an interest in it?” “Because I didn’t know you were so close to graduating. You need to handle that. Gotta get your grown woman on.” I had let him put his dick inside of me and was grinding during the entire conversation, but I stopped the minute he said that. “I am a grown *** woman. I handle my business. I don’t need a degree to validate my status as a grown woman.” “Yeah, but I’m sure it would help.” He grinded his hips under me, but I was still unmoved. “Help with what? Don’t you think I’m woman enough?” “Yep. And with a degree and a clear decision on what you wanna do with the rest of your life, you will be a grown *** woman, a great wife, and a great mother.” I smiled and met his rhythm, because at that moment I thought he was committing to me. How wrong could I be? But he was right about something, I am a great wife. The “mother” thing is in limbo. I don’t know how to handle the idea of motherhood, and he’s the reason. I honestly believe that that is the night I conceived my angel-child, but I would never get a confirmation. “I’m pregnant.” I was excited as I bounced on his bed with the pregnancy test in hand. He took it from me and stared at him like it would silently answer the prayer I didn’t know he was praying. “So, what are we going to do about this situation?” It still hadn’t registered that he didn’t want this baby as much as I did. “We’re gonna do whatever it is that parents do.” “See that’s my point. You don’t know nuden about being a parent.” “And you do?” “No, and I have no desire to learn.” I got up and walked out his apartment and his life. I didn’t answer his calls or texts. Ignored him when he came to my house, and never worried about him showing up at my job, because not once in the six months we were ******* did he ever bother to find out where I actually worked. About nine months later I sent him a text telling him I had handled the issue the day after our talk and that he owed me $150 to cover his half the cost of the destruction of our child. That bastard actually certify mailed me the check. I finish my blunt and go back to my apartment to see if its still in the box that I keep to remind myself that I’m in a better place. My husband would probably be surprised to see that I still keep things from my past. Actually, I don’t know if “surprised” is the right word, because he once told me that nothing I tell him surprises him anymore. I’ve yet to decide whether that is a good thing or not. Its still there. Along with the sticky note that she left me on my car one day not too long after the abortion. I don’t know why I allowed her to keep coming in and out of my life. She’s like a wound that I refuse to let heal – I just kept picking it and letting it get re-infected, just so I know that my body can fight off the bad stuff. “Baby girl?” “Huh?” We were laying on the empty floor of her apartment. She was going back to DC to get her Masters. I guess in between our *******, her cheating, and our fights, she had found time to finish her degree. Why didn’t she motivate me to finish mine, the way that she motivated me to be her concubine? “Come with me.” “Nope.” “Why not? Don’t you wanna be with me? And I know you don’t really like it here.” “I love it here.” And that was the honest to God truth. I loved Atlanta in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I had met myself in Atlanta and I didn’t like her, so I was determined to prove that I could be okay all by myself. Prove that all I needed was me, myself, and I… and maybe Atlanta. “So? Come go with me. We need a new place. A new start.” “Nah, I’m good.” I think I surprised both of us with my new commitment to myself. I was trying to figure out this person I was and where she would end up. “So, what about us?” “When I’m in DC I’ll hit you up, and when you come home, hit me up.” I think in that moment, she saw me in a different light. She kissed me. That night we cuddled, and that was enough for us. The most simplistic ending to a relationship that had been filled with so much drama. I strip down to my pretty panties and matching bra and went to the kitchen to make martinis. Might as well add to my high. The way my mind’s been racing, I need to numb out some of the pain that’s flooding my body. I loved both of them in a way that I wish I could love my husband. Its like they broke me and no matter what he does, he’ll never be able to put me back together. And I know the reason. They took pieces of me with them… pieces of me that I will never get back. Couldn’t, even if I wanted too. After I met my husband, everyhing went at a slow pace, and I didn’t care. I didn’t want to fall in love with him, so I didn’t give him the chance to fall in love with me, or even really like me. I pushed him so far away, that it’s like he circumvented me and was right back where we started it. “Why don’t you wanna **** me?” We had been kickin it for close to four months and hadn’t so much as French kissed. “Who said I don’t want to **** you?” “You haven’t tried.” “I thought we were just friends. Didn’t wanna overstep any boundaries.” “You ******* other girls?” “Yeah.” “Well stop.” And with that, I ****** him on his living room floor. I didn’t let him take charge, I called all the shots. Didn’t want to fall back in the trap of allowing someone to control my heart through my *****. I needed things to go my way… at my pace… and I needed to know that that would be enough.