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If I could ever teach my kids only one lesson it would be this: Be careful what you say and how you say it, because language is the most powerful thing in the world. However, this story does not take place in a time where I have kids, or even a wife. The time was when I worked in this law firm as their mailman and I, like every other 24- year- old I knew, would go out after long work weeks to get drinks and hit on girls. Instead of getting hammered or getting laid, my life changed this one Ffriday, November 9th. I remember that night like it was yesterday, there was a brisk aAutumn breeze flowing through the streets of a loud New York City. I had just pulled my overcoat out of the closet considering that it was November. I guess Autumn came late that year. Anyways, my friends and I pulled into this dark and unpretentious bar, which had been very unusual for us, and I saw a blonde chick hunched over the bar. All the guys separated, and I walked over and grabbed the seat right next to her. She didn't even look over to see that I sat next to her. She just kept sipping her scotch and twirling the ring on her finger. It was not until she finished her drink and the bartender brought over another one she even noticed me.
“Married?” I asked when she glanced at me.
“Oh god no. It's a promise ring,.” She practically spit out.
“Well from the looks of it, someone broke a promise. I'm guessing that your totally ugly ex-boyfriend broke up with you and now you've come to the bar to be saved by your scotch and well now that I've arrived…”
“That since day one she’s already had anything she needs within herself. It’s the world that convinced her that she did not.”
“Milk and honey. Rupi Kaur.”
“So is that your thing? Quoting poetry?”
“Well I am educated unlike some of the trash that walks into this bar.” She says as she distinctly looked at me for the first time that whole conversation.
“In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes, For they in thee a thousand errors note; But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise, Who in despite of view is pleased to dote.”
“Wow. Shakespeare. So tell me, is that the only poem you use to pick up chicks or do you have more?”
“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
“Wow. Neruda. “
“Listen i'm not just a guy that learns shakespeare and neruda just to hit on girls. Would you like to tell me something about yourself? We can do it AA style, hi my name is insert name here and I, insert fact here. I'll go first. Hi my name is Augustus and not even my best friend knows that I read poetry. Your turn.”
She placed her glass onto the bar and turned so her body was facing mine. She deeply inhaled and then went for it “ Hi my name is Caroline, and I’m in a toxic relationship.”
My droopy ,grimey, d*****bag face instantly hid back behind my concerned and stern expression. I was at a loss for words, which was ironic considering the amount of language left in the air from our previous conversation.
“Shocker right? Blonde, daddy issues, toxic boyfriend. No wonder you came straight here when you walked in. It's like you could smell the loneliness on me.”
I tried to hide my shell shocked expression while I turned to face the bar and asked for a beer. Once I got the drink I took a cold sip and faced back to her.
“So is this just a regular friday for you or is this night somehow…..” I left my sentence in the air forever as I tried to find the right word to finish that sentence.
“He hit me. Tonight was the first night he hit me. It's usually just the fact that he yells at me and tells me I'm stupid and a slut or even worse. That’s actually why I love poetry. It contains all the words that I never hear from him. Anyways, today it started as no different. I probably looked at a guy the wrong way like 3 months ago and he remembered today. I told him everything, I loved him, I only ever wanted him, I didn't check that guy out. I tried everything. I had even showed him the poem I wrote for him a couple hours prior. That’s when it happened. He slapped the poem out of my hand and then hit me. Once on my arm and then on my face. I had yelled at him after, and he punched the table with the poem with it. He yelled at me and screamed “You deserve this! You deserve it. Don't tell me that you don't deserve this. And after about 30 more mins of that, I left. I should've grabbed that poem but besides the words with half empty meanings, there's probably blood and teardrops on it.”
I cleared my throat before I even attempted to reply to that.
“So is that it? Are you broken up?”
“Well why not?”
“He knows my heart. I’ve loved him ever since I’ve known him and I could never leave him. It’s as simple as that. I just need a break for a couple hours.”
“Well if you mean ‘simple like that’ like how simple it was for him to leave marks on someone he ‘loves’, then yes. He loves you. “ I finish my sentence and then realize that sarcasm is the last thing she needed in that moment. “ ’m sorry I just don't get how you can just stay in this relationship simply because it's familiar.”
“Everyone accepts the love they think they deserve.’ “
I interrupted her before she could finish, “ Perks of being a wallflower.”
“And trust me I deserve it. I deserve it. Don't tell me i don't deserve it.”
You can tell by the way her gaze is fixated on a nearby object that she just keeps replaying the argument over and over again in her mind. As soon as she snaps out of it, she pretends she’s perfectly okay again and continues our conversation.
“If you couldn't tell, I am a woman that appreciates language, not action.”
“Is that really your excuse for an abusive relationship?”
All she does is take a sip of her drink and look at her phone. He hasn't even attempted to contact her and anyone in this bar can see that it hurts Caroline.
“Look, I just don't get it, I know it's familiar and maybe at one point he really did love you, but this isn't love. Don’t you want to be free? Don't you want to pour your soul onto the earth and let it leave behind sunflowers and dandelions and peonies instead of all this dread and poems with half empty meanings covered in blood and tears? Free to fly in the sky like a bird flying on it's own for the first time? Purely simply happy and free? There’s this poem called “I’m Free” by…. Ugh… A- something”
“Adam Hubert. That’s my favorite poem. ”
“Yep, that's the one. The things he describes about being completely independent and having no boundaries, don't you want that?”
“Well when you put it that way…”
“Then go, go up to your apartment or house or wherever he is and set yourself free! Rid yourself of anything or anyone that is holding you back. Go, Go!”
She stood up with an expression across her face that hadn't felt familiar, a smile. She tipped the bartender, gave me a hug and walked out of that room more determined than I could've ever imagined when I saw her first. Sadly, the next time I saw her was on the 10 o’clock news. Later that night I had read that poem and fully absorbed it, the poem was about suicide. She had marched into her apartment building like I had told her to, but she marched all the way to the top. She had marched all the way to the top and jumped off.
I guess all she’s ever wanted to do was fly.