The Third Mistake

Some women are lost in the fire. Some women are built from it.”Michelle K., “Some”

The sun sets its gaze upon my first summer alone,

as I traipse along a beach brimmed by locals.

Time moves swiftly as youth, sensuality, and freedom are returned to me,

just in time for the world to end.

But for a brief moment, I am finally happy,

even in my mask,

even as I live up to the disappointment my father predicted.

After the regret of five years ends,

I encounter three mistakes.

One lasts merely weeks, his face unrecognizable in my memories.

One lasts a couple of months, and I barely recall why I cared in the first place.

The third lingers for almost an entire year, haunting my dreams and fueling my nightmares.

Third time’s not the charm I expect it to be. A seemingly deeper connection turns sinister. I tell him I can’t walk through fire, so he burns me with premeditated touch and a smile.

A lesson not yet learned because I am foolish and in search of passion and adventure in pretty places.

So like I always do, I forgive and forget and pretend the trauma isn’t real.

The leaves change colors and the air cools. Wheels turn down winding rural roads, taking me deeper into the imagery of fairytales.

This is a beautiful place; I can see it with my eyes and feel it in my bones. Beautiful things happen here. I disassociate and float above my existence. I want to be beautiful, too.

I lay on my back on a picnic table, heart hammering as I yell, “Wait!”

Everything turns black – the sky, the trees, the joy in my heart. I wait for the beautiful world to return to me. Yet it won’t until the morning, and now my body is ablaze and I am driving home alone with tears sliding down my face and filling my lungs.

Soon the world is coated in snow, and I hop in my car to drive around all the beautiful distractions.

I’m stuck in an endless loop of begging for rescue from the source of my confinement. The fire I can’t extinguish. The wounds I can’t yet face.

Again and again, I burn. I tell no one but the source of the fire, because this is what I deserve.

It could be argued that while the third man lit the match that burnt me to a crisp, I was his accomplice as I poured the gasoline upon myself.

Months tumble into one another. The setting shifts. I am momentarily set free and find myself in a new city.

One day I will wake up and remember only the fairytale forests, the winding roads, and the ground coated in pristine white. One day I will no longer cry as I sleep at the memories of my body and heart bursting into flames. And I will finally escape the venomous touch and words of the third mistake.

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