In this piece, Taylor Finn explores memory and forgetting, forgiveness and acceptance. How can the forgiveness once directed towards the partner now be redirected towards the self? It’s a process, and Finn explores it while using powerful imagery to explain the complicated details of their experience.
I wanted to feel your warmth, so I let you set me on fire. Now I am ash, and you don’t think you did anything wrong.
by Taylor Finn
I was a kid, and you weren’t the adult I thought you were. I wanted to be cool, to be something more than what I was. You said you saw potential in me, and I wanted you to be right. You said you saw someone special, somebody who could be somebody. So, I let you take that body, MY body, piece by piece.
You started small, trimming my branches, taking those low hanging twigs to stoke your fire. I was more than happy to give you those things you wanted, to keep that fire going. I gave you everything, and when that wasn’t enough, you started to take things, things I didn’t say you could have. I know you saw me burning away, but you didn’t stop…. It didn’t end until all my bark had been stripped away, and every one of my branches turned to cinders.
But maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe I’m projecting some of my current anger and fears into what we had. I know our past must not have been as bad as I remember it, that you can’t have been as bad as I’m remembering you now.
Or maybe I’m just trying to protect you, to protect me.
I can admit I didn’t like everything we did. I didn’t like how fast things seemed to progress, but I don’t recall every telling you to slow down. I didn’t enjoy being laughed at for wanting to go to my friend’s roller-skating birthday bash, but I can recall ditching them to go looking for an “adult” party with you.
I didn’t enjoy the taste of alcohol. Every drink, even a sip, would make me gag. I thought I would throw up every time, and I know on many occasions I did, but that was just another part of the fun, the cost of a good time, right? The memories are fuzzy, but I can still remember you offering me drink after drink, never telling me I had to, just saying how happy it would make you if I would just relax, chill out, have one more drink, because it would be the next drink that would really loosen me up, and then I’d be having the time of my life.
I didn’t enjoy the smell of cigarettes. I hated the smoke, hated that little dot of heat so close to my mouth, but most of all I hated the taste. It felt thick, like I was swallowing honey. Only that honey was a bonfire. And the bonfire was missing all the elements that make them so great, like slow burning wood, clear summer nights, and friends who never shoved the bits of smoldering bark down your throat. A fire like that is no bonfire. If left alone it’s a wildfire, but when it’s set with clear intent, with a target in mind, I believe that is called arson.
But you didn’t technically shove those cigarettes down my throat. No, you just calmly pulled out your pack of Marlboro Reds, stuck one in your mouth, then dangled another in my face, like it was some sort of treat. And you wouldn’t just place it between my lips. You made me beg for it, like a fucking dog. You would put it close and pull it back, blow some smoke in my face and let out a little laugh. You could tell, your friends could tell, anybody with eyes or ears or an IQ above one could tell that I didn’t like this game.
Because it wasn’t a game.
I know my mistake, and I hate myself for that mistake. But I’m also able to admit that it wasn’t just me. I was naive. I wanted my old life and you. I never thought they’d be mutually exclusive. Even when I felt the tugging, I just convinced myself it would all work out. I’d smoke a few cigarettes, to look cool, but then I’d stop. I would drink some when you took me to parties so that I would fit in, but then I’d stop. I would kiss you, and let you get to second base in your car because I didn’t want to be a prude, but then you’d stop. I would let you talk me into staying the night in a hotel over a holiday weekend, I would let you join me in the shower, and I would let the hot water wash away my arguments, because after a few minutes you’d stop. And when I decided to stop drinking at your birthday party, you said you’d drink enough for the both of us…. and I fell asleep on your couch…. and I somehow woke up in your bed…. and it was dark, but I could feel you trying to position yourself on top of me…. and I was still buzzed…. and I wanted you to have a good birthday…. I wanted to be a good lover…. I didn’t want to think about not wanting it…. because I was so sure you’d stop….
I didn’t say no. I didn’t cry or scream, punch or kick. I didn’t do a damn thing. I might as well have been a fucking baked potato, for all the difference it would have made to the situation. So it was my fault. It had to be my fault. I was wrong to feel betrayed, because it was my choice, my lack of action, my inability to tell you to fuck off.
But I was a kid, and now I’m not. I might still blame myself and hate myself for everything, but I’m grown up now. In fact, I’m still growing up. I learn more every day, and accept more of myself every day. I’m far from being wise, but I’ve gained just enough knowledge to see the past for what it was.
It wasn’t all a waste. There were some good days, mixed in with a lot of ‘meh’ sort of days.
I know it wasn’t all bad.
But you…. are just as terrible as I’m remembering you, and probably even worse.
I’ll still blame myself because that’s part of who I am, but I am done making excuses for my memories.
And I’m sure as hell done making excuses for you.
Taylor Finn is “Just another person trying to find themselves. It’s taken a lot of time, but I’m learning to love myself again.”