IV.
the definitive version

  • in court, the words are slow, subject to a lawyer with sharp green eyes and bulging hands. he questions, you over and and over again. regards your body as evidence, dissects your hazy memories one after another, until they put together a pattern. you know that he would do this, picking it apart until he comes to his own conclusions, and you knew that it would make you cry. it doesn't make it easier to do, in the courtroom, where you wish that you weren't forced into something that makes you look younger and more innocent than you are, as if you do not want to shove your thumbs into your ex boyfriend's eyes, slow and painful.

  • in your memories, without edits subject to a lawyer's fine tooth comb, you can't exactly neatly stitch a timeline together of abuse. that's not how it works. a lot of the time, he smiled at you with perfect teeth and a crooked nose and nothing like abusers on television who reek of alcohol or who look too prim and proper. he used to tease you about being a hacker, he used to shove you when you beat him too fast a a game, and then it suddenly became his hands that used to hold your hips during sex, it became his hands wrapping themselves around your throat and squeezing and squeezing, intermixed with memories of him saying that he was sorry, so goddamn sorry, fox, please, he won't do it again. it mingles with excuses, taste of alcohol, and endless forgiveness you thought that you owed him, over and over and over. there are people who would ask why you stayed after the first shove that knocked you too hard, or after he gripped your arm so tight it bruised, and most would call you stupid for staying after the first time you passed out, and you don't have a solid answer for them. they didn't see him like that, begging you to forgive him, they weren't there when you left and he kept banging on your door, they wouldn't understand what it's like to realize that you're living with someone you love and hate.

  • in your dreams, his eyes glint, cold, without depth. in your dreams, you start running from him before he can sink to his knees. your run and run until your lungs can't give you any more breath. in your dreams, you feel his hands wrap around your neck, feel him slowly crush your windpipe, and you can't give him forgiveness fast enough. in your dreams, he doesn't beg for that anymore, and you're not sure when that started to happen.

  • in his version, he says he doesn't remember it. he doesn't remember drinking so much, he doesn't remember how loud you were arguing. he swears to the court that he doesn't remember how his hands had found that sacred, easy place around your throat, the way he always had after awhile. he swears that maybe you had a fetish, that maybe you did it to yourself or you got confused or you lied.

  • he doesn't know that sometimes you reach up and touch your neck. sometimes you have squeezed your own neck to deal with the nightmares, the aches, the fact that a part of you still wanted him after all this time. he doesn't know that when you realized you were doing this, that you kept reliving going to parties with him, and feeling afraid when his hand drifted up your collar, you started wearing turtlenecks, you started staying in the house.

  • the court declares that your version, edited by lawyers, backed up by friends who were more sober than you, who were the ones that pried his hands away from you, is the truth. it's what they use to put him away, for years to come, among the other allegations against him. it puts him away, and you give no victim statement, you provide no emotion when he looks at you.

  • you still have dreams to haunt you: his teeth bared, his fingers stubbornly wrapped around your throat, and the edge of your vision fading.