One day, I open the trunk in his hallway, searching for a lost book. Hair extensions in a familiar shade of platinum spill out of the top.
“You are the most attractive person I’ve ever been with,” he always says, or, “I am so glad you are not like her.”
So I try to understand why her things still sit, gathering dust, in the entryway. She hasn’t been here in nearly four years, but her presence still hangs in the air like the smell of mold. Her old Jetta, now sun-weathered and leaky from years of neglect, sags onto flat tires in the parking lot.
He told me about the time she sliced herself up and left blood in the bathroom for him to find, about the times she would smash glassware and scream. “I will kill myself if I can’t have both of you,” she would insist when he spoke of leaving.
I used to be in an abusive relationship, too. I remember the lingering urge to repair, to fawn, to roll over with your belly exposed because it is the most ingrained reaction — perhaps one of the only ones. Abuse teaches you to defer, to keep your head down. It’s no surprise to me that he hasn’t thrown her things out of the window in a rage.
And yet, the smell of burning hair sounds like it would be comforting right now.
Still, I recall something from CPR classes. They say that the worst thing to do for a drowning person is to jump in — in a panic, the drowning victim will attempt to claw and climb their way to air, injuring their savior in the process and potentially pushing them underwater as well.
Until then, I just clip her fake silver locks into my black hair, a stark trophy of perseverance, and I extend my arm from the dock, my hand held out, until my love is ready.