The thing about words is that they can go either way. You could save someone or you could destroy someone using them. Some words are spoken quietly, calmly, and they flow like water, soothing someone and saving them. Some words are spoken loudly, short and to the point, and they erupt from nothing like fire, and these words hold the power to burn and destroy people. The thing about my words is that they always burst forwards, sometimes against my own will, in an explosion of emotion like fire. That day, I destroyed her with my words, despite knowing it was wrong to inflict emotional damage like that. But is destroying a person truly “wrong” if you do it to save another? The person I was saving just so happened to be me.
Someone once told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, then say something clever but devastating. Up until this point of my life I didn’t realize just how devastating words can actually be. And I found out the hard way. Because wounds inflicted by words aren’t like physical wounds, they don’t appear on a person’s skin, they don’t go away very easily, and they are about 100 times easier to inflict onto a person. My words were always sharp, they still are, and sometimes they were insulting, degrading, or just plain mean, even when I was talking to friends. But there was always something underneath the words themselves- a layer of affection or fondness or a small smile on my face that made the receiver of the words know that I loved them and I was just joking around. When I cut her off from my life, I said some of the nastiest things I have ever said. I could see her struggling to find the layer of affection, of anything, underneath the words to make them untrue. But there was none. All that was there was silence and coldness and hatred. When I told her why I didn’t want to be friends with her anymore she flinched back, as if my words had burned her. In the time, in that moment, I hoped that they did hurt her. I had hoped that she had a glimpse of what words did to other people, of what her words did to me, of how her words had surrounded me like flames, the smoke closing my throat and making me unable to breathe, to see, to talk. When I had tried before to cut her off from my life, every time I had tried I had seen my words hurt her and I had felt bad. But in that moment, as I watched her burn, all I felt was a deep feeling of satisfaction.
She was one of the worst people I have ever met. I don’t know why I befriended her in the first place, although I have a sinking suspicion that some part of me felt bad for her. When I first met her she was crying and yelling at someone through her phone, I later learned she was breaking up with her boyfriend. I had asked her if she was okay and we ended up talking. We got closer and closer and eventually I thought that she was one of my best friends. It took me five months to realize that friendship doesn’t mean harsh words that sting when you hear them and mental instability from being too nervous to hang out with other people, for fear of her wrath. It took me another month to finally break away from her and cut her off from my life.
There were lots of warning signs, there always are. I was just too stupid to perceive them, too happy with the fact that I made a new friend. She was possessive, needy, clingy and petty. She hated all of my friends, she spread rumors about me and then denied them when I confronted her, and she stole from me. A lot. My homework went missing, my eyeliner and mascara, and even a pair of jeans. She denied it all, and then the next day wore my jeans to school.
“Look at my new jeans, Roya!” She had said to me. Those were my jeans. The ones with the paint stain on the left knee.
“Roya? Roya. Look at my jeans! They make my legs look really good, don’t you think? I would’ve gotten you a pair but they wouldn’t look as good on you as they do on me. Your legs are too long.” Then she walked away, leaving me standing there, my shattered self-esteem slowly burning and shriveling into non-existence.
All of a sudden I was hanging out with her 24/7, sitting at her lunch table, and I wasn’t talking to anyone else but her. One day, she bounced up to me holding something behind her back.
“Roya!” She called in the hallway. She dragged me away from someone I was talking to and then excitedly handed me a small box.
“Open it! Well hurry up!”
I opened the box and make-up fell out. She had gotten me foundation, blush, eyeliner, mascara, and other make-up. The only problem was I didn’t wear any make-up. I didn’t even like it.
“Why did you-” I began but she cut me off.
“It’s for the dance that’s coming up, silly! You’re so ugly that no boy will ask you, but if you wear a bunch of make-up, then maybe someone will ask you!”
I could feel myself burning, the meaning behind her words, and this gift, hitting me full force. Whenever she talked to me I felt like I was in a burning building, the smoke from the fire making me unable to speak, unable to even breathe. The meaning behind her words hurt me, and they made me feel like I was slowly burning.
I destroyed her that day, taking her own weapon of words and turning them against her, so that I no longer felt the flames but she did. I yelled at her and insulted her and let my words crash over her, because I was done being the one who was slowly burning under the weight of them. I was done pretending to be this person I wasn’t, and I was done being friends with her. Being in a relationship with her was awful. But it wasn’t just that.
Being in a relationship with a toxic person- be it a platonic friendship like mine was or a romantic relationship- is like being trapped inside a room with a burning fire. The fire roars at times and burns you, but when you try to escape it becomes small again, and the warmth becomes welcoming. You hesitate to leave, because maybe it changed, maybe it's different now, maybe it can keep you warm instead of burning you. But as soon as you take a small step forward, it roars back up again, and becomes even bigger than it was last time. And do you know what happens then? I'll tell you what happens then.