“I kept arguing…why is this happening to me? I don’t want to deal with this. I don’t want this to be my life.” – Dr. Sarah Neudstadter
“Belly of the Beast”
Fiction. Based on a True Altercation.
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
I read, often. More often than not. Which means, I am in a constant state of being in love and being heartbroken. I listen a lot. Podcasts. Audio books. My friends. My mother. I am full up on other people’s stories. And that suits me fine. I used to be so loud with my own story. But now that beast sleeps.
That beast sleeps at the end of a ill-lit alley. Key to his awakening laced between my fingers. I am prepared. He remains. His snores rumble my belly, but nothing more.
A long time ago that beast sat up and exerted all my energy bellowing. Morning to night he’d cry and howl. I was crafted in the belly of a dragon. Dripping with bile and sulfuric acid. Unleashed unto the Earth with no direction; only fire. The Sun’s flames pumping through my veins. Daughter to volcanic rage. Bones ground from ash. I was born to see love as chaos. Love as gut-wrenching, painful and passion.
Growing up this way hurt. It was lonely. Most of my life I looked away from that belly rumble and stared straight into the Moon’s pale visage. She saw me. Pitied me. Each night, on my knees, praying she could heal me with cool waves of stardust. Prostrate, begging to be taught a calm, peace, water love. I grew up studying rippling tides, blossoming flowers, raindrop kisses. I danced in the rain and ran from the Sun.
Eventually, all that running wore me out. Dislocated my hip. Ran the joint down to the bone. That’s what the doctor said. He sat me up on the examination table and told me due to long distance running, that ball joint rubs raw against your hip bone. Therein lies all your pain. Bone on bone. All of me is bone on bone. So, my body forced me to stop.
From then on, I lied in thunderstorm soaked dirt. Basked in fresh brewed tea vapors. Collected dew drops in glass vials. Painted with berries and ground leaves. Swam in moon glittered oceans. When I finally stopped running, I was able to sink into Earth. Ground myself.
The pain never really goes away, though. It’s still pricking my bones. That beast sleeps, but still rumbles. No matter how tightly I wrap ivy around my arms, my veins will always contain ferocity.
There is nothing like southern sky. The vastness of southern skies is nothing like I’ve ever seen. Nothing like I’ve always loved. I have always loved mountains and oceans. But, southern skies are all to their own. A sky that big makes life seem small. Seeing forever washes away the deep sadness everyday life can inflict. At least for me.
And don’t I miss it. I miss the warm, moist air and deep, sighing green foliage. The thunderstorms. And the wildlife that stares directly into your headlights, daring you to move first. Southern skies give me a sense of peace I have never known in the Pacific Northwest. Well, not in my daily life. Arkansas skies remind me of Washington coastal peace. Quiet, overly rocky beaches, and the islands. Those are potentially equivalent spaces. At least for me.
While we were in Arkansas, my heart yearned for Texas. Another southern sky that stitched its way into my heart. Arkansas was horses, and Texas was newborn calves. Washington is traffic, a bad job, and never enough time. A previous Washington was coffee on driftwood, running in the rain, and kisses in the forest.
There is nothing like the feeling of not belonging. Wherever I go, something is amiss. Awry? Off? Not right. I blend into the background, or I stand out. Never a happy medium. I know how to fit in with all kinds of people. I know who I am. I know what I want. Yet, things never fit quite right. History veils the present with potential and what-ifs. It’s lonely, and painful.
When I look at you I often wonder if you are happy. Sometimes I see you being happy. Or at least, you are smiling at our daughter, which makes me happy. Nothing has ever made me happier than knowing my daughter is your daughter. Sharing her life with you brings me to tears. But even that, I feel like I don’t belong. Often I imagine how much nicer things would be for you two, without me. Hearing how you two play together, how you interact with each other, reaffirms that belief. Some days I believe that I lived this long to bring you and her together. My imagination clicks on the film reel of the life you’d have. And I smile. I am not sad.
Thinking about Arkansas, I imagine the life you had there. Seeing the places you lived. Standing on the roads you stood on in that other life…it hurt, and it didn’t. You’ve told me many things about that life. I’m fairly certain you don’t miss it. You probably don’t regret anything, either. But, I imagine for you.
In that previous life you had a love. A BIG love. She hurt you just as big. You’re over it; that’s what you say. I choose to believe you. Nonetheless, she was there. A scar, mar, dent in your heart. The kind of wound that I see when you ask me who I am talking to on the phone. I see it flare up when we hear people talking about getting married. My heart knows what we will and will not have. You know, I have seen pictures of you two. Heard stories, not just from you, about the two of you. Maybe she scarred me too, inadvertently, by hurting you.
Christmas Eve your ex-sister-in-law asked the fated question:
“How do you feel about ——?” She meant as in, “How do you feel about letting —— back into our lives?”
Your ex came to your niece’s house. Your brother’s old house. Left a Christmas present on the front steps for your family, with the expectation to see them. She did not know they wouldn’t be home. Intentionally she went there to reinsert herself into your life, vicariously through your family. Every insecurity in me screams.
Sometimes, I wish we had not gone to Arkansas. Then maybe it wouldn’t be so real, so close… the life you had with her…but how much would I have missed, otherwise… Our daughter wouldn’t have ridden her first horse. Or bonded with your dad, her Grandpa. Mom and I wouldn’t have had margaritas and hushed conversations in the driveway. I do not regret going to Arkansas. The scared part of me wanted to stay behind.
DEAR YOUR EX
Please go away. Please? I talk a big talk about how I would handle an encounter with you. But honestly, your presence in my life wears me out. It frustrates me, which exhausts me. Frankly, I have more important people and projects to use my energy on. Honestly, you cross my mind and make me sadder than my own damn ex.
She hit me in the face. And cheated. But the years I gave to her almost never tug at my heart strings. While your time and years weigh on my heart. Your ex, now my person, means so much to me. She shares a child with me. The very thing you left her for, betrayed her over, is what we share and cherish.
Also, while I am on the tangent. How dare you? You strung her along for all those years, wore a ring and for what? Because she loved and took care of you? Hid your secrets and let you walk all over her family? Then left it for a baby? You realize children are not hardwired to love you, right? Children may share genetic matter, but unless you earn it, at some point they grow out of needing. Why’d you throw it away? Why’d you throw her away?
I see the damage. Carved in her heart are scars of you. The very heart I hold so dear to my own, punctured from your selfish deeds. I know your love story. Seen the photos, heard the details. What she gave you are things I could only ever dream of. Things I doubt, very much, she will ever give to me. I get to accept that, try to be okay with it. Thanks for that.
You know, when I was very small, and still not clear on this whole “gay” thing, I often dreamed of a wedding. I would pretend two gal pals were going through the motions. Like “practice kissing.” You’ve been married before, to a man, so I am sure this means nothing to you… also I am sure this is why you weren’t really on top of setting a date with my person, your ex.
Anyway, I would imagine the dresses, cakes, tulle. All of it. Draw pictures of cakes and dresses. Cut out pictures of various flowers and glue them to my drawings. This latchkey kid watched countless hours of “Say Yes to the Dress” praying I would be skinny and pretty one day. Pinterest was my best friend. So were those wedding rescue shows. My tiny adolescent heart bubbled over with fantasies of forestry gatherings. Now all that shit makes me sad. So sad.
With all my past people, I never genuinely saw it. I always knew they were temporary. Those who tricked me into thinking otherwise, hurt. A lot. But, man, your ex – my person – I could see it almost instantly. Over the past year, I have learned to unsee it. Have you ever tried to erase something from the fabric of your heart?
I am not sure if you have real feelings. I’m not sure I’m really upset with you.
I’m not angry. Well, maybe just a little. You hurt someone I’ve grown to love immensely. Deep down, though, I’m scared…and fine, jealous.
I’m scared you might be a better mom than me. With your annoying hashtags and inappropriate oversharing.
I’m scared you’ll always be in the peripheral of my life.
I’m scared my partner, your ex, will never love me as much as she loved you. Let me make it clear, she doesn’t miss you. She wouldn’t go back to you. But that doesn’t mean she’ll ever love me as much as she loved you. She was ready to marry you within a few months? I am coming to grips with the fact she may never want to marry me. And still working through why marriage means so much to me.
I don’t want to live my life with a nagging sensation that you’re close by.
I don’t want this to be my life. Where I worry. Fear. Sweat. Look for you, a stranger, around the corners of my life. And that feeling doesn’t belong solely to you.
I also feel that way in terms of the monster that gave me my baby.
My lungs stop breathing when I see that certain, rusty truck on the highway. I close my eyes, tight – even when I’m driving- when I see a tall skinny man with a lot of facial hair. Sometimes, I cry when my daughter goes to sleep because somewhere in her face, he’s there.
I think some of my anger towards you has nothing to do with you. Rather it’s the fact you rile up a fear in me that used to be reserved for him. It’s a double whammy now. I don’t take it out on my partner. Your ex. I fight it all by myself. Because that’s how I fight everything. But let it be known, if I ever have to meet you… I will meet you with kindness. I will meet you with understanding and push my judgments aside.
You are just a person. Your past and history is none of my business. I know one side to your story. While that story is full of pain and hurt towards the person I love, it’s still only one side. I never want to be your friend. Don’t even want to speak to you. But, if the time arises, I will meet you with my weapons down. But please, please don’t come around.