*Trigger Warning. Please proceed with your heart held close.
When I was a little girl, maybe eight years old, I was chased from the swing set on our neighbourhood playground and tackled in the bushes by a fourteen year old boy. Troy was pretending he was in a trance, and that he’d become possessed by a demon. He sat on top of me and wrapped his hands around my throat, and there was no pretending in the strength of his grip. Troy made me realize for the very first time that I could die.
The only thing I remember once Troy started squeezing was looking up through the branches of the bushes and watching the way the light played across the leaves. I left my body, moving towards the green and the sun, and suddenly Troy decided to let go, or someone pulled him off me. I don’t remember how it ended. I don’t remember walking home. I didn’t tell my parents until I was 36 years old.
Troy is the reason why I feel safest in the forest. Why I feel alive when I’m near a lake, surrounded by trees. I guess I should thank him for that.
I’ve been searching for Troy for years, and it’s only now that I realize why. I’ve been on a quest to try and stop him. To help him see that he could be interesting without having to hurt anyone. To show him that there’s a reason why he zeroed in on me that day, and that this reason is because I am good, and full of light, and not because he could see all the ugliness inside me.
For years I have believed that I am full of something ugly that drew Troy to me. A putrid fog that hung around me, and enveloped us both.
I didn’t have to look hard, because Troy has found me over and over again:
In the four strangers who tucked themselves around corners so that while I was walking home at night, or walking through the school yard, or riding at the back of the bus, or browsing the toy department, I would see their purple-veined penises gripped firmly in their hands.
In the twenty-year-old brother of a friend who grabbed me at a birthday party when I was 12 and held me on the erection in his lap until my friend threatened to tell their mom.
In the boy I dated in college who decided to strangle me the first, and last time, we ever had sex.
In the ex-boyfriend who lied about a simultaneous relationship with another woman for the entire four years we were together.
In the friend who I passed out drunk beside, only to wake up to him going down on me.
Troy has found me, and I’ve always searched for Troy because for a long time I believed that I wasn’t meant for anything else. That the ugliness inside me was clear and obvious, and therefore I could only be met by a partner with the same kind of darkness in them. That the body and soul violation of lies and deceit were a part of love. That everyone was dangerous, and it was only a matter of time before their hands were around my throat.
I believed that those people who radiate goodness, sincerity, light; they made great friends but they could never really love me. Never understand me. I believed I couldn’t love them because I would tire of them. I would find excuses like ‘we have no chemistry’, ‘they aren’t deep enough’, and the one that really breaks my heart – ‘they’re too good for me’.
Every time a loved one lies to me, feeds me a half-truth, hides their real emotion, or avoids transparency, I am laying on the ground beneath Troy, fighting for my life. Deception unleashes the fury of a freckled little girl with spindly arms and missing teeth who is drowning in her loss of control. Because I’m not eight anymore, I fight back in a way I never could when I was too weak. I fight with words, I fight by shutting myself away, I retreat from love and light and allow the raging darkness to consume me.
Here’s the worst thing that Troy did, and what all the future Troys consistently tried to reinforce:
He convinced me that my intuition was paranoia, and my gut could not be trusted.
That the damage he inflicted would make me mistrustful and make me treat every future lover like they were Troy.
Troy, and all the future Troys justified their lies, their violations, by telling me they couldn’t be honest because I would react in a way that made it difficult to share their truth.
As if truth should have conditions.
As if my anger wasn’t justified.
As if I couldn’t feel the lies, or the unspoken realities swimming beneath the surface.
Now I sit beneath light-dappled leaves and I choose not to fight anymore. I don’t need to show Troy anything. I don’t need Troy anymore. Allowing the light to filter through doesn’t take a struggle. It requires stillness, and faith that those illuminating rays will reach down into the roots and feed what needs to be fed.
It’s not easy to move towards uncomplicated love. To allow myself to share heart space with someone who feels guileless and sincere. To silence the part of me that wants to run towards what I know is unsafe. To consciously move away from the stranglehold of the last Troy who tried to love me. But I made a promise to an eight-year-old girl that I would listen to her. She was the one who got the closest look at Troy. She can spot him from a mile away now. I promised her I would listen to her, and jump off that swing set. That I’d race home as fast as my legs can carry me.
Because I know it’s better to be alone than to be on the playground with someone who would take the breath from your body and then tell you that you’re overreacting.
That you haven’t even tried to see their perspective.
That you somehow asked for it.
That they don’t remember doing it.
That you shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
That you’re paranoid.
That you’re damaged and unclear.
That you have anger issues.
That your anxiety is taking over.
That they lost control.
That they were caught up in the moment.
That they couldn’t feel safe being honest.
I see you Troy, and you can’t hurt me anymore.