"it's like you're angry at yourself just for existing"
and maybe i am. because i
never figured out how to be angry at him. but

today i'm reading through journals from back then
remembering his eyes and his hands
and his lips, snake tongue, honey-dipped lies.
and i find it on so many pages:
my fault. it hides in every syllable, every letter.

and later, more of the same, surrounding
all of the people who hurt me, manipulated me,
shamed me, apologized too many times,
begged for second chances.

and suddenly i realize it: it was always about me,
trying to make up for what i thought was my mistake.
i threw myself into trying to save these people,
fixing them, because i could never fix him
when he begged and begged, desperate
for my seven-year-old body
to be the glue that held him together.
he drilled his mantra - save me - into my mind
so many times. i thought it was my responsibility,
and so i found him reincarnate in other shells:
shawn, kevin, dane. and tried to complete
the task he gave me so many years ago.

and seeing it clearly for the first time,
i realize something: this. is. not. okay.

i didn't deserve
to have my innocence ripped away from me,
ever. he was wrong
for taking that, stealing it,

twisting into something resembling choice,
but laden with "don't you" and
"love me" and "save me" and
"i need you, need you" and
"you're my girl, this is what you need to do" and "touch it,
right here," "where were you," "come give me a hug. now."
and the worst part - silence,
filling the room and my head

until all that was left was his heavy breathing
and my terror

and for this long, i've blamed myself
told myself, you could have tried harder
could have run away, could have screamed
could have told

but it was him, not me
he is the one who took advantage
who guilted me and twisted me and
pushed and pushed and pushed

until i spent every night crying
and my stomach clenched every time
i had to be alone with him

not me

they've spent years telling me
it wasn't your fault
but it isn't until now
that i finally believe it.

and the relief, freedom,
is beautiful