run river run

“They are killing Christians in North Korea” my hand interjects.

Another rash move of the pen taking me with it.  Ok.  What? 

I stare out the window onto Hennepin into another space, giving in to contemplation.  The word “persecution” crawls in. 

Do I have any idea of what it really means to be persecuted? 

Perhaps.  But I don’t want to go there.  “Yeah, well we’re going anyway,” the pen shoots back. 

My hand moves reluctantly across the page.  I was married to a man who refused to kiss me when my hair was curly.  Pause.

Who ridiculed what I put on unless he chose it.  Forbid me to watch TV.  Stop. 

Denied approval of purchases as small as a cup of coffee.  That’s enough. 

Used me as a pack mule until I collapsed then left me alone in the hospital with the words “this is not what I signed up for” —

And unfortunately, this did not mean he was done with me. 

It’s true, no one took me by force and threw me in prison then tortured me for gazing heavenward.  I walked freely down the aisle and I was free to leave.  And yet.

The prisons partially of our own making are often the hardest to bust out of alive.  And people who thirst for a kind of pleasure that can only be quenched by inflicting pain seek out and count on the complicity of others in their own torture.  This is inconceivable until you live it.

When I think back to the crazy confusion in my head before I got this straight, I could almost laugh out loud.  But I am weeping as I write this and I know recalling it will never leave me without some form of welling up.

Once I connected the dots, it made perfect sense.  If you really want to inflict pain, you place the blow where you know it will hurt the most.  The process of intimacy is like writing the complete guide to the best places to plunge, kick, bite, tease and withhold.  In this way, telling an abusive person your deepest wounds, fears, hopes and dreams is like offering a vampire your jugular. 

“I told him how much pain I was in and he insisted — I cried when he said that and asked him to please stop it and he said it again — He said he wouldn’t have to punish me if I would get his permission first — He said I needed to face the fact that I just wasn’t as good as I thought I was.

“Please tell me what I can do to change this.”

She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Nothing.”

“Oh yeah?  We’ll see about that,” is what I thought eleven years ago.

Returning to the present moment, I stop the pen in its tracks to listen to Loggins & Messina singing one of my favorites, “Watching the River Run” — yes, time is a good thing.

” — further and futher from things that we’ve done — leaving them one by one.”

Author: Julie Ann Stevens

My art flows from the patterns & paths of my lived experience which ⏤ like yours ⏤ are at once deeply personal and entirely universal.

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