Wooden Panels

And here we go again, another day. Rubbing my eyes to see the wooden frame of my life. Wood—no changed future, scratches engraved forever. My body is a wooden sculpture, with scratches and bruises accompanied throughout my pale skin, serving as reminders of him. Each window panel draped with white curtains, and one tied with rope. Each fragment of my life is now paneled out by someone other than myself. My mother always taught me that it is essential to take care of yourself before you can love and tend to others; but when someone has you tied by a thread and surveillances your every move, you feel nothing but a loss of control.

My vision is blurred, not from bright lights and lack of sleep, but distorted by expectations and unnecessary responsibilities. A clear sight from prescription glasses cannot

I wipe my residue of mascara out with the backs of my hands and clearly see a nightmare. I see him now. I see his forehead shriveled into a blank canvas, smooth enough to place closer to mine to greet me good morning and grant with a peck. This routine is repetitive. Day in, day out, compliment in, order out. I’ve been married, no– I’ve been trapped here for three days now. Of course, everyone told me getting married at twenty three wouldn’t be easy, heck, I tried to believe myself otherwise.

“You’re too young to get married.”

“You have the rest of your life to make this decision.”

“Enjoy your twenties. It only happens once.”

All these were from my mother. Not mom, mother. She’s a too military focused, disciplinarian, so calling her mom would be too condescending. She warned me about marrying young but little did she know, it wasn’t my choice to begin with. My mom has always been on my case. I’m the youngest of three and the other two didn’t quite pass my mother’s satisfaction level—they both ended up as drug addicts and delinquent alcoholic adolescents who are somewhere on this planet today, but no where in our proximity.

When I met Stan three years ago, my mom was happy that it had altered and distracted my thinking from the chaos of yells, thrown broken objects and fights that summoned our apartment. Living with two older siblings who cared for the types of drugs that were getting that night to their pathway of clubs later, my mother turned a tad bit crazy. She became centered around helping them improve their lifestyles but only got fists and vulgar language in return. She wasn’t the best mother, I can admit that, but she cared and listened—and sometimes, that’s all you really needed.

I met Stan at my part time job in this Mexican restaurant located underneath our apartment and I know burrito folding and grilling isn’t the most attractive thing in the world, but Stan’s presence just made it a little more meaningful. Stan had the brownest eyes that brought out the bean stain on his shirt after he ate his first burrito. He was a tall—taller than me anyway—Spanish blooded man with a full throttled beard. Although he looked like most of the guys who walked in on a daily basis, his youth outshone and he just seemed different.

Stan was a regular customer, and by regular I mean, every Friday night after a full day of class, he would grab a bean and beef burrito filled with everything but tomatoes and head to his apartment near campus and spend the whole night studying. Friday night studying seemed unheard of and anyone else saying it would sound life a pad of lies but not from Stan. His regularity at the shop turned to Friday night study sessions together, coffee dates in between classes and actual out-of-school-thinking dates. In a short matter of two months, he became my best friend; the one who was there to listen to my family problems, the one who would bring me a cup of tea during my all-nighter sessions at the library and the one whose only voice I wanted to hear. I didn’t need him to be my savior, but instead, one that could experience all of life’s greatest struggles and successes with me.

My mother was happy that I had Stan to distract me, but her preoccupation with my brother and sister left no one to notice the evolution of Stan’s mishaps. He hated when I would cry extensively every morning and night because of my lack of family ties and my sky rocketing school anxiety. I was once the soundtrack of complaints and cries and now he just needed a new tune. I threatened to leave him on multiple locations if he wasn’t ready to deal with me for the rest of my life. On days where we’ve fought, it escalated so quickly that funny pats on the backs turned to pretend punches, actual scratches and slaps across my pale skin.

“He’s just joking around.”

“He’s just joking around.”

“He’s just joking around.”

I repeated this every time it happened. I tried to believe every bodily hand function was his way of showing his humour and kidding around but boy, was I blinded. He was aggressive and power hungry. Anything that was said that wasn’t up to par with what he wanted would lead to a consequence. I wanted him to replace my mother, for being a stronger a support system, but the only way he replaced my mother was through violence and bossing me around. I became submissive to his every demand. I was scared to stand up for myself because by doing so, it only made it easier to bring me back done. Stan was not the intuitive man that strolled by for a burrito anymore. He was a monster who was hungry for superiority and taking control of what was already is.

Three years of roller coaster-esque memories that were fading and no longer important were toppled on with an engagement order. Stan didn’t ask me to marry him like any other love-obsessed freak in this world, but instead demanded me to. “I need you to marry me. No ifs, ands or buts. I need to stay in Canada and the only way would be to get married. If you don’t let me do that, I will kill you.”

It sounds silly doesn’t it? Who on earth would make that deal? How would he even kill me when he’s already killed every living emotion and purpose inside. My body was alive but I was dead from inside out. I had no choice. I didn’t matter if I was buried away. My life was embodied by someone else’s vision, as through they are puppet masters with a show to perform every every hour, every minute, every second of the day.

“Of course.”

What was I supposed to say? He could have killed me right then and there if he wanted to. The only way to get my life back was to enjoy what was rightfully left of my life. I wanted to travel the world, find my older brother and sister, rekindle my relationship with my mother, finish my degree, have kids and maybe own something one day that didn’t involve salsa or tacos. I had a long list of unfinished aspirations.

Our wedding was special– if you count wearing my second-hand torn apart prom dress, wearing a rusty brown ring and a bouquet assembled two blocks down from city hall as special. Stan was nice enough to plan a honeymoon– not a romantic getaway but to the cottage we would go to every weekend in every summer. I loved adventure but he loved the wild and untamed. The night we arrived was torturous. Stan forced me to welcome him sexually into the married life. I restricted the best I could but when no one else can hear you, your voice becomes rather pointless. It was after three days of being tied up to the bed, waking up and noticing the white rope wrapped around the wooden window panels that he was laying his hands around my neck forcefully. I was ready to be with God.