Never Love Me That Way
Hitting rock bottom is far from graceful – it’s plummeting, falling splat on the concrete. It’s feeling like you’ve lost purpose, all understanding or recognition of who you are.
The dollar bill was rolled tight into a thin straw-like resemblance, the hole in the middle small enough to make a mini telescope and look through. I could soak up galaxies looking through it.
White powder was spread in a line across the black tabletop. A pile of star dust, fallen from the sky.
I placed the end of the dollar-bill straw to the top of the table, resting at the start of the line. Dead end, I thought. No turning back.
I looked across at him, the one who thought I was worth nothing, would amount to nothing, could do nothing right, deserved nothing better… and I took a long snort, moving the bill along the pile of powder in a smooth line, a sharp inhale.
My nose burned as the powder soured up through the makeshift funnel. I felt lightheaded from the deep breath and coughed.
I didn’t feel anything at first and then it was like a rush, tingling through my brain all the way to my toes. Close to numbness, close to not-being. Non-existence.
The next morning, I woke up and I felt like my soul was partly out of my body. I felt detached, disjointed like part of myself hovered above, watching as I dragged myself to the toilet where I heaved my guts out and continued to heave for the rest of that day.
I still went to work, afraid of calling out. The manager on duty was the one who sold me the heroin. I told him that it might have been laced, that I was sick as a dog. He didn’t believe me and wouldn’t let me go home. I continued to puke in the lady’s restroom until he finally relinquished and allowed me to leave.
I looked in the mirror when I got home and didn’t recognize her. She stared straight into my eyes, but that wasn’t the girl I knew. The straight-A student, dedicated to her studies, dedicated to her friends, dedicated to her boyfriend.
What friends? I had lost almost all of them. My boyfriend thought I was a worthless cunt, a whore, a slut. He had taken my virginity and still he called me these things.
For him I had thrown it all away. I wasn’t the same person anymore and I had to decide who I wanted to be. Who I would choose. The straight-edge girl with the perfect grades and clean record who had never even touched a pack of cigarettes before she started working her first job let alone considered doing drugs, or the one who wanted to destroy herself.
My mom had a death grip on me.
That’s how I felt up until I was 18, when I rejected all I knew myself to be and became someone completely different.
It took me a few years to realize that it was my mother’s emotional support and love that had largely held me together for those first eighteen years. Without it I slipped and lost my grip on life and on my sense of self, disappearing into an emotionally abusive relationship that I tried to convince myself was a good idea – but I ended up feeling trapped.
My second year of college, things began to shift. Where I sought freedom from my mother’s constant control, I found emotional abuse, rejection, and pain. Not knowing what else I deserved, I accepted this treatment and remained in the relationship off and on for two years. It suited my purpose well – it pissed off my mom and put a fissure in her overprotective guard on me. No matter what she said, I refused to listen. Even though I was becoming more damaged, I treasured the rebellion.
I settled myself on a sure path of self-destruction, not really caring where I was headed. Without my mother having any say in what I did, I felt the first moments of relief. I also began to experience panic attacks. At first, I turned to my mom but as she disapproved more and more of my relationship and told me I needed to end it, I didn’t want to listen to her. I felt I was with my best friend in life and he would never hurt me. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I was lost and enjoying having control over my own life. Or so I thought.
I wasn’t on top of the world as I might believe. I lost sight of all I once held dear. When I finally rattled myself back to reality, I found that I had dug a pit for myself. A pit of homesickness had turned into a bigger pit of self-destruction, loss, fear, and self-disgust. What ruled that pit and kept me at the bottom was terrorizing anxiety gripping at my heart, around my throat, inside my stomach, pinning my limbs to my side and making my organs churn and spiral.
It was my mother who raised me for most of my life. I didn’t realize she experienced the type of anxiety I did until I was a little older. She told me she used to have panic attacks like the ones attacking me, ripping into my body until I could do was quiver. When I felt that way, it was a complete loss of control. Control is not something I could lose – the same reason I thought I could never use drugs. Except everything I used to know about myself changed.
During the throes of emotional abuse I took the first puff and sold myself to a life I never thought I could live.
I felt I had to start over – a clean slate, begin again, a rebirth of my soul and my self. It took a helping hand to break through the clouds once consuming my mind. I came to think of my depression and anxiety as a black cloud over my brain. When I was having a particularly bad day, it was like I was trapped in a hazy fog, unable to clearly think. I sought an escape, some way to break through the clouds. I yearned for warm sunshine on my dark days.
Due to an alcoholic streak in my family, my mom always warned me to steer clear of alcohol, and it stuck in my mind that I have an “addictive bone” in my body passed on from generations. Maybe there is some truth to it because I lost myself to addiction for nearly a year if not more.
This journey led me down a path I never dreamed of traveling. A path of addiction, suffocation, and isolation. Often these three go hand in hand. The suffocation started first, but it was only a glimmer of the suffocation I would come to feel.
I chose the worst possible guy after breaking up with my first boyfriend and stayed with him on and off for two years. When I met him he was in rehab, which should have been a sign to me, but I didn’t listen. He held me emotionally hostage, called me worthless. He told me nobody could ever love me, and I believed him. I genuinely started believing him so that when I wanted to pull myself out of the relationship, I didn’t feel like I deserved anything better. Staying felt easier than going, and I felt trapped by my own lack of self-worth and the feeling that I could never amount to who he wanted me to be so how could I ever please anyone else.
Around that time, I first started smoking weed, desperate for any sort of escape or relief from my inner torment. I stopped talking to my mom for a year and moved in with my dad. My entire life shattered and crumbled, and I welcomed the destruction. I thought it was deserved.
I would visit my boyfriend and we would sit out in his backyard of the apartment his parents paid for which he shared with three other college students. He would smoke K2, or “spice,” because he was still on probation for his stint in rehab. I would smoke weed and listen to the chorus of chirping crickets and a distant television announcer from one of the neighbors.
Weed soon turned to K2 for me as well. Though the trip to get spice was three hours total, my boyfriend and I drove there nearly every weekend, sometimes on the weekdays. It was all we looked forward to – a packed bowl of the synthetic weed. Our favorite was the chemical dusted on real rose petals. When you lit them on fire, it tasted like smoking a real rose because you were, but whatever chemicals the petals were coated in made you soar for half an hour, tops. Then you’d crave another hit.
One night, we were smoking spice while sitting on the back of my car in the parking lot of his house. He started freaking out saying there were spiders crawling up his legs. We were both high and it sent me spiraling into a bad trip where I panicked. There were multiple times when I was smoking spice that I would become super detached, feeling like my mind was no longer one with my body. Like my heart was beating as fast as the wings of a hummingbird and my entire body was buzzing along, moving with each pounding rhythm. I couldn’t focus on anything. I didn’t recognize who was around me or where I was or what was happening. I would say I needed to go to the hospital.
My boyfriend would kneel beside me and cradle my face between his hands and say my name, over and over. “It’s alright, you’re fine, everything’s going to be alright.”
Once he and I were soaring through outer space like individual rockets, without helmets. We could still breathe, surrounded by stars that popped like fireworks before my eyes. The weightlessness wrapped around me like an Invisibility Cloak, like I didn’t exist except to my own knowledge.
Memories of that time disappeared like being sucked inside a blackhole. All that mattered was from one score to the next. My boyfriend started keeping himself occupied by visiting banks and exchanging coins for half dollars. In the wrapped sleeves, you would often discover silver coins that were worth more than their face value.
I started to skip classes, resulting in most of my courses dropping in grades. Where I would have earned A’s, I got B’s. Attendance was a large part of your grade but it was up to you to show up or not and professors didn’t hesitate to knock points off. I didn’t care at the time though later I would.
My boyfriend lived over an hour away from my university. Many times I would visit him and not make it back to school in time for class. I would stay even if it meant being yelled at, ridiculed and belittled throughout the day. He and I would fight so intensely his roommates eventually called the cops for domestic abuse. We both raced off in separate cars and ended up together again somehow, tears stained down my cheeks, hiding from the cops in his car and shaking. My whole body quivering. I remember thinking, I could drive home right now. I could go see my mom. It would be that easy. Except I didn’t think it was that easy at the time. I didn’t think she would welcome me back with open arms. Look at who I had become. Nobody she could ever love. Nobody she could be proud of.
One of the days I played delinquent from school, our fighting became physical. Up until that point he had never touched me, but this time when we were coming inside after a smoke-break, I said something to upset him and he shoved me hard in the small of my back. If I hadn’t caught myself, I would have gone sprawling and bashed my nose into the floor. I pictured the bloodbath and a spike of anger swelled in my chest and burned there, embers to a fire. I turned to face him and pushed myself up close, nose to nose. I glared in his eyes and felt him flinch. I was on my tiptoes but that didn’t stop what felt like electricity jolting off me.
“Don’t ever touch me again,” I said. My eyes flashed their warning. I could see the fear in his face, even as he tried to pull himself together and asked, “Or what?” I could tell I had rattled him. Inside, he was nothing more than the boy who had been abused himself, crying out for help and maybe that was why I stayed so long. I felt for that little boy, no matter how the older boy treated me. I tried to understand him, to help him and forgive him his anger. I tried to change him, and I tried to save him. Two things I learned you are never capable of doing for another person. Ever.
He never physically hurt me again. His wounds remained emotional and he destroyed me bit by bit from the inside until one day after not speaking to my mom for almost a year straight, I found myself sobbing over and over, “I want my mom. I want my mom.”
His words scrawled upon my wall in ink still stick in the back of my mind. Sometimes his voice is there too. You are worthless. Nobody will ever love you. Nobody could love you. Not like I did.
It took me a while to realize he was right – nobody ever “loved” me the way he did.
I never want anyone to love me that way again.
Bio: Tianna Grosch lives in the woodlands of PA and received her MFA at Arcadia University this past May. Her work has previously appeared in New Pop Lit, Who Writes Short Shorts, The Odyssey and Loco Mag, and is forthcoming in Ellipsis Zine, Echo Lit Journal (Paragon Press), Blanket Sea Magazine, and Crack the Spine. Follow her on Twitter @tiannag92.
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