It wasn’t until the last week of May when I finally decided to move out of my apartment. I figured it was the best time, for the holes in its ceiling were already screaming repair. For three years, that place was a witness to my delusions – a union that wasn’t intended to last like how I expected it to. The walls in the entirety of the room were the ears that heard my weeping as I succumbed to my body’s pain from endless beatings. My door was like a friend who waved, then told me I should go out from this abusive situation. It was a hard moment to swallow. I was always on the verge of running towards the door to finally let myself be unchained from this man. To say that I won is a lie. All along, up until now, I am still living under the shadows of what I’ve always feared of.
A few months ago, the government decided to place the whole city in lockdown. People were prohibited to go outside and do the normal things they do. Policemen were dispersed in every city, every town, every province, practically around the whole country. They only gave us specific days to do what’s necessary – groceries, bank business, and other important matters to be dealt with at that specific time. There is a curfew to follow – 8 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon. The pandemic stole each of us the very thing that kept us all alive – freedom.
Before everything started, I was living a normal life. I go to work. I prepare a meal. I water my plants. I watch. I browse. I workout. Everything else “normal” is pretty much what I do. When the pandemic hit my city, I was left without any option but to keep my feet firmly planted on the floors of my 550 square feet apartment, located at the heart of the city. It was a nice change for me at first. I don’t enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life, and more often than not, I despise the noise I hear around. So when I realized that I will be spending my time at home, taking naps, watching movies, and having myself for myself, I was elated.
After three weeks, my elation turned into boredom. I guess it’s true when they say that a routinary life is not worth having. This is why sometimes people seek adventure. They look for an “out of the box” idea. They search for something interesting to do. They move out of what’s comfortable. I tried. So, I went to an online dating app and I scoured the city by swiping left and right – a few giggles came out of my mouth as I busily swipe my phone screen. It was an exciting adventure and it even got more exciting as I hear the sound of “ping,” which indicates someone likes me, too. He is me. We have the same eyes, the same curve of lips, the same height of noise, and even the soft features of our jawlines are similar. Well, I guess I found my match. His personality is quite the opposite of mine though. He is chatty. He breathes confidence and bravado. And the best thing about him is that he lives in the same building where I am. The chat turned into deep sensible talks, often stopping almost as day breaks. He visited me a couple of times and we surely had a good connection. I love him. That came after a few more weeks of delightful interactions.
But I guess, all good things must come to an end. I had my fair share of wonders with him, and I wanted out. I reckon it’s because it was never in my nature to stay loyal. It was never in my nature to stay with someone for a very long time. I stand for myself. I rely on myself, and I do not need anyone else to help me get through my life. But it was a different tune for him. He wanted to stay, and this became my struggle. My nights were full of visits from him. He would normally knock on my door and would loudly scream so that I would let him in. Without any choice, I always resort to allowing him step foot in my realm – something that I would always regret doing. He will start hitting me, making sure that my ear would hear the ringing sound of that slap. Then, he will allow me to stand only to be pushed to the wall, cornered, hopelessly telling him to let me escape. He would pull my hair and drag my whole body to the bed where his hands won’t stop letting me feel the heat of the pain slowly climbing up my body. I would normally feel the room’s movement. Focusing my eyes on the worn out ceiling, I would nonchalantly whisper, “Please, stop.” I guess I’ve already ran out of interest after a few weeks of the same routine. Who would’ve thought that my simple wish of living in peace would turn into a nightly nightmare upon the hands of someone I know so well.
The daytime was the worst. I wake up only to find myself unable to move, not even an inch. My whole body, numb from the pain of the night before, would feebly try its way to function as if a thread pulls it up to do what it was told. Had I not been drained from the beatings of last night, I would’ve been on my feet by now – doing what I would usually do when the **** crows. But every day after I told him to stay away from me, I would often find myself playing a deadly game. A game that I never for once understood. A game that only he knows how to play. A game that only he can win. I always lose. I always give up. I always try, but it would eventually lead me to my deepest despair – being locked up in my room, contemplating how sad my life has been.
After I managed to stand up from my bed, my hands would often hunt for my phone. I would strike a pose. Deliver a smile. Take a shot. Caption it with a “bright and positive” quote. Post it. And wait for the likes to come in. I always try my best to mask the bruises he happily painted in every corner of my face. I smiled because it will somehow take away a part of that dark, frightful moment I have with him. I post it online because the people deserve to know that I am okay. That I have to be always okay. That there’s no room for any mishaps. Drama is just drama, and I am not to curate such. I guess the pain in my body has no match to the pain in my pretenses. Like a prey lead to its predator, my days would always devour my nights.
This is what I thought as I ceaselessly go through the same bludgeonings. But I was wrong. Way worse than day and night is when my mother would call me up. She would ask how I am. She would tell me stories of how they are. She would flash a sweetest smile as she said, “Sweetie, we miss you here.” In an instant, my eyes would attempt to betray me by shedding some tears. I guess I am stronger than I thought at that moment. And I wish I always have that same courage to fight my own monsters. After I gathered myself, I would usually reply, “I miss all of you, too. But don’t worry, I am doing fine. I guess I’ve always needed some “me” time.” That was a lie. A lie I perfectly mastered saying. My family will never know because they told me I am a strong one. They told me that, like them, I can survive the cutthroat competition of the city. What they don’t understand is that I needed the support from them right at that moment. Why I didn’t tell them is part of my showing them that like what they said, I am strong. This is the worst of all. His beatings, my pretensions, they are all but crumbs when compared to that lump forming in my throat as I try to ease my way in my chichats with my mother. I was like a mute trying to find his way in expressing how lonely he is because he cannot even listen to a sound. This is what kills me. This is what slowly takes away the air I so ardently fought to breathe.
When I decided to leave my apartment, it wasn’t because of him. It was more of a promise – a promise that I will let myself be repaired, like that ceiling which was screaming for it. So to keep that promise, I planned my escape.
Creeping out slowly from the bed where we lay, I tried to pull away from his embrace. It was tight, and for a split second I thought he’ll be awakened. My insides were trembling because I understand the gravity of what I am about to do, but my promise to myself was stronger. It screams inside of me. It tells me what to do. Its push was more powerful than my fears so, like a thief in the night, I moved quietly towards the door. As I step my foot one after the other, the faint sound it creates, rattles my whole system. I was like traversing a path dangerous enough to merit my death. This went on for a few more minutes until I finally reached my destination – the door. I placed my hand on the knob and gripped it with all of my heart, as if this is like a lifeline – a thing I obsessively wanted. I said my goodbyes. I motioned my hand towards my face as I felt my tears racing their way down. The weeks of torments are over. I am going out. I am entering a new world – a world that I only dreamt of all this time.
“You are not leaving. Stay.” I heard him say as I twisted that knob. He howled like a wolf. Then, he stood up and braggingly walked his way towards me. But I was reminded of that promise I gave myself.
“This is the end. Goodbye.” Then, without even a flinch, I mustered all my strength to push the door wide open, sauntered my way out, and breathed in that air which for so long, I only envisioned of having. At last, I got out. I am free. I am done. I am happy. At last.
Local writer was found dead below the balcony of his city apartment. Witnesses said they heard screaming and fighting the night before. A man is now a suspect for the death of the said writer.
But they were wrong.
There was never a man.