shrapnel

February 27, 2009 at 5:37pm

hey m,

today i swam with sharks! real live ones! and it was amazing. i got to go snorkeling, and the ocean is beautiful. everything is so slow paced- everyone drives motorcycles or mopeds, and no one gives a fuck. they feed us booze for beakfast, lunch, and dinner! it rules! our room is amazing- i wake up and have a perfect view of the ocean. it smells of spices everywhere i go. today i went on a cruise and drank rum in the ocean. we got to dance to bob marley and it was perfect.

everything here reminds me of you.

elle
xoxo

i was going through old emails and stumbled across this one- the only email i have between me and m in four years of bullshit. i left in the winter of 2008: the first time his drug-fueled rage took everything over the edge and he became physically violent. i say violent because that’s the only way i remember it… so awfully painful. so terribly angry. we briefly reconnected that summer, but there was no trust and the stress of forcing myself to care about him became too much. we parted ways again, only to reconnect in the winter of 2009- two days before i left for my very first trip, to the dominican republic. he came back into my life as quick as he always left. while i should have been enjoying my first vacation in the sun, surrounded by people who loved me… i spent the whole time stressing over whether or not i wanted to go there with him again. it’s weird- how simple emails can remind me so vividly of exactly how i felt back then. so broken, so hopeful, so fucking vulnerable. i haven’t gone back any further to see if there were more from him…

when i got back from my vacation at two in the morning, i had barely dropped my suitcases on the floor before we were on the phone together. i spent days with him in bed talking, as he cried and cried. we both did. i don’t ever want to feel that kind of sadness again. i don’t ever want to be put into a position where i know i have to leave someone i love. it took me three years to walk away forever… what the hell does that say about my strength? fucking nothing.

this april will mark the two year anniversary of our final separation. it will mark the two year anniversary of the day i woke up, walked to his work, ordered him into a back booth, and ripped him apart. the two year anniversary of the day i called him a monster to his face, told him to eat shit and die, and that if he EVER attempted to contact me again, i’d call the police. it marks the two year anniversary of my sobriety- sober from his sickness, sober from mine.

two years of freedom.

in some ways it feels like such an accomplishment, such an insurmountable feat. in other ways it all still seems so devastating, so tragic. half the time it doesn’t feel like my own story. i have this awful way of remembering him before the drugs, before the partying, before the anger and abuse. he was so young, so pure, so innocent, i thought. i know now that i was blinded by youth, by young love, by the haze of a world i was spiraling into so easily. i was conned, and he knew just what he was doing from the very beginning- and that’s the scariest part. i see now, how calculated our love was. how conditionnal. how ugly. how sad.

so very, very sad.

in any case, he’s gone now. lost somewhere in the muddle of this city. shamefully hiding from everything- all the bridges he’s burned, people he’s fucked, friendships he’s destroyed. i’m okay with that, too. i’m okay with him being here because i know he’s so unwelcome.

i’m not even concerned about how awful and alone he must feel… and after two years of running, of hiding, of living in fear… i’m no longer concerned about what kind of person that makes me.

we’ve seen the sun rise with new eyes

i sat with my friend discussing her latest relationship qualms and her ultimate decision to finally leave him. she cried about it, for the first time, and her pain was so raw, so real. i saw a part of me in her, and it absolutely broke me. she wanted so badly to be angry, to find reasons to be mad at him, but all she had left anymore was sadness. the pain of leaving someone you want so badly to love- someone you want so badly to fix.

it’s weird, you know… to see a situation and be on the outside looking in. i sat there and gave her helpful advice and hints on how to move forward. it’s not easy to get over something or someone, but it’s always possible to move forward. why is it so hard to take your own advice? these are all tools i’ve acquired over the years, and yet it took so long to listen to myself helping other people.

people are so afraid to feel. when you’re hurting it’s so important to go through the motions and let yourself FEEL that pain, if you ever plan to heal. what good does it do to be tough? how are you helping yourself if you bottle everything up? it doesn’t matter how happy you are, or how easily you’ve moved on… we’re only human. and sometimes things happen and we have to relive these awful feelings just so we can be okay with everything again and move forward.

do i still think about m? sometimes. do i still get angry about it? sure. do certain experiences make me re-live past memories? unfortunately, yes. but just because i cry sometimes, or feel sorry for myself, or curse him for breaking me in so many tiny, sharp, irreperable pieces… does that mean i still love him? that i miss him? that i wonder how things could have been? absolutely not. the pain i feel is real, and it’s ever-present, and it’s not ever going to go away. i am human, and just like everyone else out there, if i’ve been hurt, chances are those scars will likely last a lifetime.

however… it’s important not to dwell on the past forever. it’s important to find yourself and learn to be happy again. it’s important to build walls in order to keep yourself safe, as long as you let those walls come down when you’re ready to feel again, to live again.

people ask me what it was like, to love someone like m. how do you feel? how do you breathe? how do you find the courage to carry on? i don’t know how to describe it other than this: i was dead for so long. there’s a difference between inhaling & exhaling, and being alive. and for awhile, there was nothing in me other than the oxygen my brain told me to take in, and my organs functioning for me on their own. i was blood vessels and flesh. i was muscles flexing and limbs bending- that’s all. that’s all i had left.

but that doesn’t have to last forever, and it hasn’t. don’t let yourself go- don’t lose yourself in the sadness. don’t throw in the towel, pack your bags, and go on a mental vacation. i did- and it’s only when i really let myself ache that i truly began to heal. some days i cried for hours, and other days i laughed so hard my sides hurt… it’s important to live those extremes, to find yourself and come alive again.

will i ever look at vintage frames or antique suitcases the same? i doubt it. will i be able to walk down certain streets without feeling a sting in my chest? i don’t think so. will i ever be able to tolerate the smell of rubbing alcohol or iodine without cringing? never. will i ever be able to play-fight again without having panic attacks when someone’s hand accidentally touches my neck? the chances are slim. will i ever be able to listen to ben kweller without bawling my eyes out? probably not. will i fear him finding me? until the day i die. and that’s fine- those memories are his, and they’re mine, and although they’re sad and heartbreaking or awful, they won’t ever be anyone elses to touch or change. i’ve found the strength to associate him to certain things, wrap those memories up real tight, and throw them away. just like him.

for the first time in years, i really feel like i’ve let him go. i feel like i can talk about it, think about it, share details about it, without going back to that awful darkness. i’m in such a positive, stable place right now and it can only go up from here, right?

i hit my bottom, and i hit it hard… and yet here i am. if there’s anything i’ve learned, it’s that you can’t change anyone but yourself. you just need to figure out what your limits are, and decide when enough is finally enough.

…before it’s too late.

adulthood is a synonym for broke-ass-bitch

i move a lot.

i’ve moved eight times since i moved out of my parents’ house when i was seventeen. i’ve painted. i’ve hung pictures and paintings and mirrors. i’ve re-arranged furniture, bought furniture, threw out furniture. i’ve looked forward to new apartments, i’ve sat alone in empty living rooms crying, dreading leaving. i have purged almost every single thing i’ve own since living with m.

except my couch.

i bought it on craigslist for $50 from a middle-aged couple living in quebec. it was a little rough- but it was black leather and it was the perfect size for my small apartment. i got it when i lived with jesse- one of m‘s closest childhood friends. and although m had already come and gone from the apartment we lived together in, we had decided to try to make our relationship work, again. i dragged that piece of shit couch from apartment to apartment. i cringed every time i sat on it. i was numb to the pain then, but i remember the sounds of that night so vividly- the sound of my bare back smacking the cold leather, over and over, as he hurled my body onto it that one january night. the sound of my hands breaking my fall on the hardwood floors in the living room, as i tried to run away from his grasp.

it’s silly to think about that now, i know. but that couch is the one prominent piece of furniture in my house that lingers of me and m‘s nightmare of a relationship. and i wanted nothing more to set that piece of shit on fire.

the couch, not m.

well okay, m too.

anyway…

i bit the bullet, went all out, and bought myself a new couch. no more hand-me-downs. no more used furniture off the internet. i deserve a brand spankin’ new brown leather sectional sofa. and that’s just what i got.

this is the old couch in my current living room(the best pictures i could find…)

khala watching morning cartoons and hiding from the camera

sarahkay and khala eating casserole on the tiny couch this summer

i lived with the couch standing upright like this for two days til garbage day! raaaage!

now, i know my living room is a little narrow for this couch and my giant knight table (heavy enough to throw your back out and sturdy enough to survive a nuclear blast)… but i LOVE my couch, and i LOVE my table, and i’m moving in six months (SURPRISE!) so it’s really only temporary until i move into a more permanent place.

behold! my precious!

and it’s dan & moose approved!

… the only problem is none of us can stop napping

(i’m 100% okay with that)

dark, you can’t come soon enough for me

there’s something to be said for clarity;
the only thing that you took from me

– living with lions

most people fear the dark because of the unknown; what they can’t see, what isn’t there.

i’ve always feared the dark based on what i know all too well.

his shadow moved so effortlessly in the darkness of what i casually referred to as our bedroom. it wasn’t ours- i learned early enough not to call anything ours… it made him angry. ours meant permanence, normalcy. it meant giving in.

i don’t know what made me so damn antsy all the time. for a year after he left the first time, i had recurring night terrors. i knew better than to fall asleep without taking sleeping aids or leaving lights on. i was nineteen years old when i started sleeping with easy accessibility to shoes, and waking up in the middle of the night to make sure the door was locked. i took my phone out back when i needed to get my laundry in the neighbour’s basement in the middle of the night. i never left the back door without looking through the peephole, especially after dark.

i would wake up to his hands on me and his breath on the nape of my neck.

and eventually, so did she.

after hours of arguing over our life together, i’d finally had enough. i flushed his drugs, i told him we couldn’t start a family together and i put him to bed. she had already been asleep a few hours and hadn’t witnessed any of the arguing. all i remember is her walking out to the living room and sleeping on the couch in the middle of the night. while i had collapsed in exhaustion, he took it upon himself to do to her what he’d been doing to me for years. he slipped his hands inside of her and breathed heavily on her neck. she pushed and pulled and told him no, no, no.

i didn’t even wake up.

you know, i put up with the pain of loving this man for so long because i was naive, and the fear of being without him (for some reason) killed me more than being with him. i was strong enough to endure him. i was capable of putting up with the regularity of his abuse.

she wasn’t.

when she finally confronted me about what he’d done to her in the night, i didn’t say a word. i stared blankly at her, turned and walked to my bedroom and sat on my bed in silence. i shuffled in and out of my bedroom as she stood motionless.

say something, she said. what are you doing?

i was doing what i should have done three years prior. i was looking for some damn pants so i could walk downtown and sever all ties with this fucking monster- for good this time.

you look angry. are you mad at me?

i stopped abruptly, put my arms around her, and told her i loved her. she broked down over how she didn’t want to say anything because she knew i really wanted to make it work this time. she knew how much i’d sacrificed and how strongly i believed he could have changed. she just wanted to see me happy, even if it meant keeping this secret to herself.

moments after she’d told me what happened, we were walking together towards downtown. i still hadn’t put on a bra, my hair was a total mess, and i didn’t even have makeup on.

i didn’t give a fuck.

i grabbed her hand, as we speed-walked silently to his work. she stopped about a block away, telling me she couldn’t face him. i kissed her on the cheek, told her i loved her, and that i’d call her later.

the rest is mostly blurry because i was so hopped up on adrenaline. i just remember my ears ringing and my heart pounding in my chest as i stomped up to him and ordered him to the back room. he thought i was kidding, or maybe taking him to the back for a quick fuck. before i knew it, i was yelling at the top of my lungs; calling him a monster, and a rapist. telling him that i can put up with it… that i can take it because i’ve learned how to, but now he’s hurt someone i love. after twenty minutes of yelling at him, and getting bullshit excuses on his behalf, i told him to fuck himself and walked out of there, smirking at his fellow employees.

i didn’t see him for almost a year after that.

after the years and years i put up with that pathetic excuse of a human… after the agony of watching my family and friends try to help me out of that nightmare of a relationship- if you can even call it that… all it took was for him to inflict that pain he inflicted onto me, onto someone close to me.

at what point does that cycle end? i was beaten down so low that i couldn’t even leave him for hurting ME. i couldn’t leave him for destroying ME. i let it wait so long, he ended up hurting someone i cared about.

i still cringe when i think of that night- when i can pinpoint exactly what was going through her mind as he took advantage of her- as he stole the innocence of such a tender, quiet person. as he ripped from her what he’d been ripping from me for years.

and as time passes, i try. i started turning the lights off to sleep, and i check the doors only once. i stopped taking sleeping pills when i lived with andy, and i’ve been trying to get comfortable in the dark. but still- it’s in the back of my mind.

nothing about the darkness is forgiving.

wake me up when september ends

i was seventeen when i suffered from my first broken heart.

m had recently left the province to go backpacking with jesse for a few months to “figure some things out”. it only took me a few hours to pack up everything we owned, call his mother, and have her come pick up his stuff. i kept a few of his things… a broken skateboard, some t-shirts that smelled of him, a necklace and his gym pass. he got up that morning and did everything in complete silence. he didn’t kiss me when he woke up, he showered alone, and he wouldn’t look me in the eye. we stood on our front porch, holding hands and kissing quietly. i stood in the middle of the street as i watched him walk away from me- wearing a travelling bag twice his size, with his red doc martens laced to the top.

i couldn’t cry.

i slowly walked up the 3 flights of stairs back up to the attic, took one last walk around, called a friend, and asked her to get me the fuck out of this nightmare of a home. i moved out of our $700 attic apartment that same afternoon.

the next few months were weird. i worked 12 hour shifts, i walked across the bridge to quebec to get drunk every night, and walked back by myself. my roommate would try to get me to hangout with her but i mostly stayed in bed, listening to records. i received letters from m about his travels and they made me sick to my stomach.

i didn’t know if the nausea i felt every day was from the drinking i was doing at work on a daily basis, or if it had anything to do with the fact that i hadn’t had a period in months. it could have been the stress, the anger, or the dull pain in my chest from being away from m for so long.

i don’t know why i missed him. i was safe, i was in a better apartment, and i was keeping busy. i knew his bullshit letters were a cover-up for the drugs he’d been doing, the girls he’d been fucking, and the money he’d been spending.

in any case… i took a pregnancy test alone in my bathroom while the straightener was getting hot and i had just put on mascara. when i read that positive test i got dizzy, and laid on the cold tile floor to avoid passing out. i cried for the first time in weeks, since m left and it was the hardest, ugliest cry i’d ever experienced in my life.

a friend of mine happened to visit me a few minutes after i’d found out, and he held me while i sobbed uncontrollably into his heavy metal t-shirt. “look at it this way”, he said. “you’ll get priority seating on the bus!”… i laughed and hugged him. “plus, you’re the hottest milf EVER”. my friends were good like that.

i don’t know what it is about m and i, but we were able to have conversations and connections i still can’t explain to this day. two days after finding out i was pregnant, my phone rang. “m’s mum” came up on my call display, so i figured she was just checking up on me to see how i was doing. “hey bee”, m said softly.

my heart hit the floor.

i asked him what the hell he was doing home, and why he was calling me. it turns out his plans crumbled at his feet, he couldn’t get a passport, and he wanted to come home to me. he felt like he needed to be home, for some reason he couldn’t explain. he asked if he could drop off my rechargable batteries i’d lent him for his travels.

i don’t like to get into these details too much because of the agony of remembering destroys me. in a nutshell, we stood in my kitchen holding each other, crying, and kissing, as i told him about the baby we’d made- the baby i’d already decided we couldn’t keep.

the father of my baby was an angry, abusive man with a drug addiction. i decided that i’d much rather live with the consequences of putting my body (and heart) through an invasive surgery and deal with the pain of ending a life rather than give this baby a broken life with broken parents and a broken future. my baby deserved a loving home, healthy parents, and the opportunity to know its father. i couldn’t provide her with any of those things.

m resents me to this day for ripping away his chance at fatherhood. and although the guilt creeps up on me on a regular basis, i know in my heart of hearts that i did the right thing. i know what it is to love a monster like m and i would hate for my daughter to know that kind of pain. i would hate for her to witness anything her father subsequently put me through. the physical violence, the sexual abuse, the verbal hits… no child should be exposed to that.

sometimes my mother cries quietly. “we could have made it work”, she says. and i know. i know i could have raised that baby on my own with the help of my family and friends. i didn’t only hurt myself and m in the process. i took my parents’ first grand-child from them, too. i ripped the opportunity for my brother to be an uncle, and i hurt friends who were ready to help me with whatever i needed.

i know, and it kills me too.

the only memories i have of september are painful. i remember the late nights m would stay over and fall asleep crying on my belly- talking to our baby. i remember having a panic attack during the surgery and the amount of pain medication i needed. i remember being bed-ridden for over seven days and feeling nothing. i couldn’t eat, i couldn’t sleep, i couldn’t feel anything real. i felt like a monster. i felt like an intruder in my own skin. i felt broken.

for days i laid in bed listening to “linger” by the cranberries on repeat. i ignored my phone, i didn’t speak to anyone, and i didn’t go to work for weeks.

m’s birthday is in september, and ironically enough a year ago i’d accidentally made his birthday dinner on the same day as the 2 year anniversary of the procedure. while he was out doing god-knows-what, i stayed at home cooking him a healthy meal and crying quietly as i baked his birthday cake.

i stayed in bed for days after that night.

i’ve felt a lot of pain because of m. i’ve seen things and felt things i wouldn’t hope on anyone. but the biggest heartache of all- the one that still eats at me worse than the memory of m does, is the memory of having a baby inside of me, and then not- in the matter of seconds. i didn’t think i could ever physically feel empty, but i did… and i still do.

i know he still thinks about it. m celebrates his birthday on the 21st and then mourns the loss of his child on the 25th. i knew it would be a big decision that would stay with me forever, but i didn’t think the horrific memories of being awake for such a fucked up procedure would haunt me the way it still does. i remember looking up at my nurse as she held my hand and wiped tears from her own eyes. i guess she wasn’t used to seeing such young girls having a hard time parting with an accidental pregnancy. she stroked my hair and told me i was brave.

that’s the last memory i have of being there. the drugs had kicked in after the procedure was done, anyway.

it’s weird you know? i always look forward to the fall- to wearing sweaters and seeing the leaves change colours. but then september comes and i go back to this horrible dark place and i’m stuck until the month is over.

i don’t care what anyone says… it doesn’t get easier with time.

speak out

there are some things i do not tolerate.

rudeness towards people in the retail/restaurant industries, pt cruisers, the presence of cucumber in my vicinity, loud gum-chewing, bad manners, lindsay lohan, bullying- to name a few. i get cranky, and pouty, and i sulk until these things go away…

but there are other things, other more serious things, that i must speak out about.

there’s nothing i hate more than knowing physical, emotional, or sexual pain was inflicted upon someone i love, someone i know, someone i care about- hell, even a total stranger. the poison that must run through the veins of the people capable of inflicting such violence is dispicable. but the courage that it takes to actually speak out (and get out) of an abusive situation is admirable. i’m lucky enough to know some of these brave people, and i’ve never been more proud to call them my friends, and family.

i stayed.

i stayed for three years longer than i should have. (i wrote about some things here, here, here, and here .) i was young, i was naive, and i’d been beaten down so much for so long that i thought i deserved everything m did to me. i was so blind before he came into my life. the most important lesson i took from that relationship is to never ever judge. i didn’t realise the extent of how seriously fucked up my relationship with m was until i finally stepped out of my selfish little bubble, and saw the pain he was not only inflicting upon me- but the people in my life who loved and cared about me. i look around now, and i see a younger version of myself in the eyes of people i know, and it breaks me. it tears me apart to know that these people won’t realise the danger they’re in until it’s too late. it hurts to know exactly what they’re feeling inside, and know that they won’t break free until they’re ready to.

love isn’t supposed to hurt.

all i can do, all any of us can do, is be there. don’t ever give up. every single person in my life supported me the entire time, and i know for a fact that i’d still be stuck in that mess had any of them left my side, stopped calling, or not helped with a way out.

i never know how to go about writing these kinds of posts without offending someone, being too bold, or sounding pretentious. i have a hard time telling my story, or speaking out without flying into a rage. sometimes the easiest way to cope is to forget.

but what does that say about me as a human being? what does that say about the bravery of my survivorship? the horror of once loving someone like m eats away at me every day- it went against everything i stand for and believe in. and although it may not be as severe as some of the awful stories i’ve heard- it is still my reality. i never had broken bones, and i never called the police. i didn’t need a safe-house, and the bruising was minor. but i know what i lived through every day with that man, and i can finally say i’m safe. safe from him, safe from myself.

i recently ordered the empowerment ring from avon, and it finally came in today

i didn’t know if i wanted to buy the ring- let alone wear it. but it sits comfortably on my ring finger on my left hand. instead of starting my life with this monster… i spoke out, i got out, and i haven’t been back since april 2009- that’s over a year. i felt embarrassed at first, but my friend told me: no, wear that ring. wear it proud. you deserve it.

and he’s right.

i do.

home alone

i used to fantasize about him finding each new house i abandoned after he’d left.

the first one i’d lived with him in. he had the address of the second one because he sent me love letters while he was away, and he showed up on my door step when his dreams crumbled at his feet. the third apartment holds the scariest, darkest memories. i remember looking at the faces of roughly ten confused friends sitting in my living room drinking beer. one of them muted the television, and the majority of them were horrified to hear him banging on my door. i tried to look away- i was so embarrassed. only one person in that room knew about the bruises he’d left on my chest earlier in the week, and she ended up fucking him after i’d left him anyway. he called me a fucking cunt before finally walking away- leaving our photobooth pictures in the snow on my porch. i tried to hide my shaking hands from all my friends in the living room- all of them still shocked that this free-spirited, funny guy who’d loved me so much for so long, could be so angry. that’s mostly how i remember him: angry. brow furrowed and fists clenched. he eventually found my fourth apartment. i baked him a healthy dinner and a birthday cake two weeks before i left him for molesting my best friend, and 3 days after the 2 year death anniversary of the baby we never had. i specifically remember not leaving my bed for days. i finally moved to a big house with a couple of girlfriends- a house he knew of, a house i’m sure he must’ve walked by, a house he didn’t dare enter. i was finally safe when i moved into the two bedroom house andy and i lived in. i had a recurring nightmare that he’d break into the house and kill andy for loving me the way he couldn’t. but andy was so good for that- he kept a baseball bat at the door, and a machete by the bed. i’m not sure if he did it to ease my fears, or if he legitimately believed m. would come after us. thankfully my parents moved, and he has no clue where they live. he does however know where i’ve been staying. he walks by their house every once in a while, drinks at pubs he knows i’ll be at, walks down streets he knows i walk down.

i fantasized of him finding these houses so i could reject him. so i could slam the door in his face and tell him to eat shit and die. so i could call the police and press charges for trespassing, and finally get that restraining order i never got. so i could finally be the strong one. if there is one thing m. loved about me, it would have to be how easily i broke when he tore me down. in an instant i’d go from a tough, five-foot tall firecracker- to an iddy biddy piece of absolute shit. a broken girl who couldn’t stand up for herself, a spineless, worthless excuse of a woman. he loves to watch the colour escape my cheeks, and the fear in my eyes as they fade. he’s twisted like that.

moving into a new house has always brought out the fears i’ve harboured for so long. fears i was always able to store away because i was confident i’d get through it this time. i was confident THIS house would be the one he’d never find. but eight apartments later: i no longer have a big, tall skinhead with a neck tattoo to stick up for me, or protect me when i’m scared. i no longer live with a girl who knows most of my past, and who rubbed my back and told me she loved me when i returned from the hospital and was bed-ridden for over a week because of the pain. i no longer live in a house full of girls who’ll watch over me when i’m out, or come sit with me in bed when i cry. i no longer live with a boyfriend and all his weapons, who used to fall asleep every single night with his big arms wrapped around my tiny body- feet and legs entwined with mine.

i always complained about roommates. but the truth is: at least they could protect always protected me (when they were home). the last time i lived alone, i’d look out the peep hole to make sure he wasn’t there. to make sure i could safely put out the garbage, or access the basement to do laundry without being caught.

i know, i can feel it in my bones… i’ll receive a text message from him around may 1st asking me where the new house is. how the move is going. if he can see the place. he finds ways to slither back into my life and find things out any way he can. the difference is: i won’t stand for it this time. he never found my last house, and he sure as hell won’t find this one.

i may not have a giant man in doc martens with a table leg wrapped in leather and studs to scare him off, or a group of girls to yell at him and lock him out, or even a strong boyfriend who would have done anything in his power to protect me…

but i have my life. i have my strength. and i’m going to do it right, this time.

angel

this post was slightly inspired by la midge’s guest post over at emily jane … although the endings are far different, her story reminded me so much of the love an owner has for their pet. thanks for the post, ladies!

back when m and i were dating, we spent a lot of time with our friends chris and kelly.

kelly was tall, dark-haired, soft-spoken and a whopping 3 months pregnant. chris was tall, bald, covered in bad tattoos, with a soft spot for little ol’ me. it was a bad environment mostly- the drugs were ever present, the liquor was always flowing, and chris and m always had inexplicable anger inside of them. chris and kelly had two dogs- damien: a big, sloppy, happy black lab. and angel: an abused, sad, lonely shephard ridgeback mix.

when they adopted angel, she had broken ribs, cigarette burns, and a sadness in her eyes i couldn’t bare. she was afraid of everyone, mostly males and children. it was to my understanding that the previous owners beat her senseless on a regular basis. this beautiful dog had suffered more in her three years on this earth, than most people ever would in a lifetime. when chris and kelly brought angel home, she was distant, angry, and down right terrifying. growing up with cats, i was always afraid to go near her when i’d stay at their home.

when kelly was nearing the end of her third trimester, they’d realized the safest thing for the baby was to get rid of angel. chris, having grown so fond of her, couldn’t bare to let her go. he asked m if he’d be willing to take her.

m worked a lot. he only ever had tuesdays off and spent over 10 hours a day at the shop. at this point, i was still in high school, living part time at m’s apartment in the city and part time at my parents’ home in the suburbs. on weekends, angel and i only had each other. i started noticing her little quirks- the way she snuggled her way between m and i at night, how she would cry so loud (such a human cry) any time we left the house, the way she would run after squirrels and DESTROY them in under 7 seconds.

all angel needed was a little love. we gave her kisses on the mouth, played with her in the living room and took her for walks. we let her sleep in our bed, eat dinner with us, and come for car rides. we brought her to m’s mother’s house and the beach. she became our little girl. when m would leave for work, i’d curl up on the yellow tweed sofa to watch the price is right, and she would lay beside me. she would let me wrap my arms around her and rest my chin on her head. when m would come home, the three of us would sing in the hallway and hold each other. this dog soon became the most important being in my life.

you see, m was an angry man. and it’s only later that i understood the sadness angel had in her eyes. the sadness of a battered woman, of a little girl who wanted nothing more than to be loved. sometimes when we lay in bed together, i would run my fingers over her broken ribs, or the burn marks on her pink belly. i would pet her softly and whisper to her how much i love her. how much i would always love her. i would take her big floppy ears in my hands, kiss them over and over and tell her how pretty she was. i used to be so scared of her, but i fell in love so fast.

when m and i found a tiny little attic apartment in the heart of chinatown, our landlord made it very clear that angel was not to live with us. although devastated, we thought it best to leave her with m’s mother and two brothers. his mother got off work early, and the boys never worked. angel had a bigger home with a bit of a yard. and as far as we were concerned, this was what would be best for her.

m’s mum fell in love with angel as fast as i did. she had her own spot on the couch, they watched flip this house together, and she seemed to be doing so well. m and i visited often- we’d bring our laundry and stay over night. we’d cuddle our big puppy and give her so much love. she’d jump into our laps, give us kisses on the face. she seemed so happy.

have you ever heard of the saying “she died of a broken heart”?

well i believe that’s what happened to my angel. a few weeks after m and i had settled into our apartment, his mother called me to let us know that angel wasn’t doing very well anymore. she’d stopped eating and she was very lethargic. the happy-go-lucky dog we’d loved so much was dying.

i know she missed us. i know in my heart of hearts that she was so sad from being away from us, that she just refused to go on, despite her new life. m’s mum brought her to the vet, found out the bad news, and gave us another call.

angel needed surgery to save her, and we didn’t have the money.

m’s mum wasn’t well off by any means, m and i were paying $700 for a tiny apartment in the city, and i hadn’t eaten in weeks. we needed to come up with a couple grand to save our baby, and we couldn’t do it.

m’s mother had to put angel down. we cried on the phone in the middle of the street when she called us. we cried in the apartment when we thought of her. we cried in bed when she wasn’t sleeping with us.

a part of me aches when i think of my sweet puppy, but another part of me thinks it was for the best. it was only a few short months after this, that m and i’s arguments became physical. it may sound silly to relate so much of my life to the life of a dog, and i’m fully aware of this. but i like to think when angel and i looked into each others’ eyes, we understood each other. we felt one another’s pain.

rest in peace, baby girl.