Love and lies
“Not a victim.” These are words said every so often. I am not a victim. I went into a relationship willingly, with eyes open. Every so often, when a red flag smacked itself against my face, I would turn away and pretend it’s not there. The sting on my face, the hurt I would feel, I’d push it aside and say: “I love him.”
“Not a victim.” Even as the lies became truths and truths became lies, I steadfastly believed in what I thought I could see beneath. A good man. A strong man. A man I love. And I would declare my love to anyone (or in this case, no one) who cared to listen: “I love him.”
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. We graduated from jeepney and tricycle rides to train rides, to long-haul bus rides, and soon we found ourselves flying with the clouds. From being strangers in a concrete cage, to twirling and spinning off into different places, living separate lives, but making plans for a tomorrow together. We were in love. I thought I was in love. He said he was in love.
“Not a victim.” Victims suffer from low self-esteem. Victims are this and that. Victims have a mentality of feeling sorry for themselves; it’s said victims crave attention. What is attention but an unwanted spotlight on a relationship I kept so dear, so sacred, so hidden in a corner of my heart where even my brain would not be able to shake it violently into truth and reality? How can love be wrong? I shake off the dust from my knees, throw the tear-soaked tissue away, take a deep breath, and say to myself: “I love him.”
“Not a victim.” How can I be a victim? He wanted me. We were weaving dreams together, looking up at the sky, and painting our future life together. A victim does not escape from one place to another, happy, cheeks rosy with joy. So we skipped. We danced. We went wherever we could go, where there would be no prying eyes, no wagging tongues. I was happy, somewhat content with the words I’d say at the end of each day: “I love him.”
Emotional abuse stems from control. He never tried to control me, or so I thought. Because, in reality, by not trying to control who I was in the relationship, by keeping me on a loose leash, he controlled me. He consumed me by challenging my emotional frailty, by pushing the right buttons.
It was a carefully constructed giant set of lies, seamlessly blending with the truth I refused to see. Even if the truth stood there, stark naked, he would steer me away from it with words, flowery words; with affection, sweet affection; with a look that made me believe in anything he said—that I was lovely, loved.
“Not a victim.” As another day, another week, passed without hearing from him. As movies came and went, and as I felt the love slipping away. Other aspects of my life began to be affected, and I was lost. Suddenly the constant was inconsistent. In my mind, a victim will never do what I did, which was to look the other way and string along others in hopes that their attention would fill the void of his loss. As I stared at the ceiling, a whimper would come up, my eyes would fill with tears. And still I said: “I love him.”
“Not a victim.” Texts, messages, e-mails, calls went unanswered. But suddenly, one day he came back to me. Over coffee and cake, we talked. Apologies were made, and life went back on track. Our life. Our story. He was back, and he loved me. All the time lost was for us, our future, my heart stupidly told my brain. As he kissed goodbye, I thought to myself: “I love him.”
It untangled, unraveled, exploded beyond control. Truth became truth, and fiction remained fiction. With the lies exposed, suddenly the years built vanished as quickly as clouds shift in a storm. And my mind logically fought to preserve the heart. Enough, it said. Enough. Love does not lie. Love does not hurt. Love does not go behind anyone’s back. Love is not a pin that draws blood at each touch. Love is not plane rides and park strolls. Love is not easy, but love cannot be built on lies.
“I am a victim.” Stated between sips of coffee. Understanding that he played a flute, and I came dancing and followed him. Even without the music, I danced. I played along. I made a decision to be this person for him. I lost myself in the time we spent together, immersed my person in just one goal: his happiness. Making walls, building façades, storing memories, and keeping it all in. We were each other’s secret. It hurt to break free. It hurts. I think, and wonder, how can he ever do that to me? “I thought he loved me.”
“I am a victim.” The thought formed between swigs. Laughing, smiling, and genuinely enjoying myself. When do I be me again? Maybe when the sun rises again. When I can breathe and say “Hey, I love me” instead.
Nikki Blanco, 27, has notched five years in marketing, and is “enjoying every minute of it.” She says that “when I’m not busy in my corporate job, I busy myself with checking off my ‘30 before 30’ bucket list,” which includes writing articles.
Stories from the young Filipino
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