Men first took an interest in me when I was twelve years old. I distinctly remember walking home from a friend’s house on a cloudy, blustery day. My pleated skirt was being blown around in the wind, coming dangerously close to revealing more than I had intended, when a man drove by in a truck. He stuck his tanned face out the window and whistled. I was appalled-I was a child and didn’t know how to feel about the encounter. Still, I recognized one of my conflicting emotions as pleasure.
Over the course of my teenage years, compliments rained down on me from men who were friends of my family (What a beautiful daughter you have!), various girlfriends (Ugh, I’d kill for your looks-you could be a model. Bitch.), and even strangers (You don’t have a boyfriend? You’ve got to be lying.).
Despite all of the positive attention inflating my ego, I failed to have my first boyfriend until I was well into my teens. His name was Eric, and he was my first and last love.
Eric was smart, funny, and charismatic. You know that stupid cliche, “When he/she walks into a room, all eyes are on them”? That was the real deal with him. There was something so alive and genuine about him; he was a human magnet, always attracting people.
He was perfect, except for one detail-he had a problem with drugs. When we first became romantically involved, I knew he smoked a lot of pot, but that wasn’t a big deal to me. When I found the baggy full of pills stuffed into the side pocket of his backpack, my heart sunk. He was doing more than weed.
I confronted him, and that was the source of our very first fight. He swore he’d stop, but, you know about junkies-they lie. A lot. Faster than I could make sense of, he graduated to using heroin. Because I couldn’t stop loving him, I was sucked into a hurricane of destruction that still moves, even to this day.
I followed him to his friend’s house one night. I knew he was buying drugs, and I wanted to catch him in the act. An hour later, I concluded that he wasn’t coming back out any time soon, so I waltzed up to the front door and banged on it. His friend answered a few minutes later, stoned out of his skull and looking as if he saw a ghost.
God damn it, Jane-I thought you were the police!
I shoved past him, and there was Eric, seated at the kitchen table, high as a kite. I yelled and he yelled, and it snowballed into a screaming match. I wish I could remember exactly what I said to him in those moments of rage, but the words uttered in that fight elude my mind. I stomped out, slamming the door behind me.
Eric followed and instructed me to get into his car, so we could talk some more while he drove me home. I wasn’t going to-I really wasn’t. My car was parked there in the street, and he was really high. But he convinced me with one sentence.
It’s just a couple minutes away.
In his car, I sulked, marinating in my anger. I didn’t notice that he’d nodded off at the wheel until his car crossed the median, and we collided head on with a truck. Then there was blackness.
When I awoke in the hospital, I was told that Eric had died instantly in the car accident. My heart splintered into a million tiny pieces.
That wasn’t all of it, though. The car had ignited while the rescue crew was in the process of saving me. My face and body had sustained third degree burns. No one had wanted to tell me of the nightmare that was hidden underneath the bandages wrapped around my face, so I coerced my little sister into explaining just how bad it was.
When I’d finally healed up, I got to see the damage for myself. I gripped the hand mirror in a shaking hand, inhaled, and lifted it up to my face. I gasped and, instantaneously, tears stung my eyes and spilled down my ravaged cheeks.
My face was scarred so extensively that I could no longer recognize myself. No wonder my mom averted her eyes when she spoke with me. No wonder my dad avoided me by retreating into the next room upon my entrance. No wonder I heard my sister weeping one night, after having a short conversation with me.
I’m not a pretty little thing anymore. I no longer sparkle and shine, soaking up attention from every male at the party. Instead, I’m that dark and ugly thing that everybody pretends doesn’t exist. I’m that deformed spot on your arm that you think may be malignant, yet you ignore. I’m that recurring nightmare that gives you the sweats and leaves you nauseated and disoriented in your waking moments. I’m that truth you’ve known all your life, but refuse to acknowledge, lest it destroy you.
What’s more, though, is that I’ve become a monster in more ways than one. My insides have begun to match my outsides. I wish harm onto others. I go out of my way to cause discomfort to strangers and…and even my loved ones. Once, I sat inches away from my father as he watched the game and enjoyed seeing him squirm. I go up to my mother at random times and hug and kiss her. I can see her screams of disgust, even if I can’t hear them.
I’ve even taken to torturing my sister. Sometimes I go to her and ask her to do my hair and make-up, just to get the pleasure of hearing her sob behind her closed bedroom door afterward.
I am tainted with my own bitterness. I feel myself being crippled by my hatred and resentment. And I love and despise it.