In the eyes of a child, the world is perfect. We are oblivious to flaws and tragedy. We have no concept of war or humanity. We are innocent. We are happy. We are blissfully ignorant.
Eventually, though; we grow up.
It is an unavoidable pain. Our blind eyes are opened. We see the flaws in those we once thought to be flawless. We experience tragedies and become aware of our sinfulness. We embrace it. We start to see war; we experience our own battles. All innocence is gone.
However, there is a concept that some of us never understand. This is sonder; the realization that each person has a life that is just as vivid and complex as the one you are experiencing. It is a concept that, throughout the earlier years of my life, I did not understand.
I could barely comprehend the complexity of my own life. Not until that day.
If people were animals; she was the wolf and I was the domesticated dog. I would have liked to believe I was the sheep of the situation. I wanted to believe that I was the victim. We were both victims; she was just a little more vicious than I was.
There I stood in the middle of an empty room. It was there that I realized that we were both dogs. It was there that I realized that I had won the fight. It was there that I realized that I was no better than she was. All it took was one moment of weakness. One moment where we both abandoned all that enraged us and just embraced that fact that the fight was over.
At least that’s how I felt. It was a brief moment of peace. It was a moment of freedom. It was the moment where I looked into the eyes of the wolf and saw the dog inside. That was when I realized that it wasn’t just my reflection anymore. I couldn’t expect her to be me; she wasn’t me. Neither of us knew the other anymore. It was like meeting again for the first time.
As I walked away, I bit back the tears from my own eyes. Not because I was going to miss the pain I experienced at her hand. I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t miss it for a second. I struggled to hold back my tears because of the person I saw behind the glass. It was no longer the torturer, but the tortured.
I felt sorry for things I had never done. I felt sorry because I understood. I understood the reason she felt the need to hurt everyone—someone hurt her. For one brief moment, I thought it might have been me. For one brief moment, I felt like the wolf.
I told myself that she was just trying to get into my head. I told myself that none of it was my fault. I was innocent until I proved myself guilty. That night as I drove away, I let the rain drown out the way I was feeling. I wanted to drive home and lay in my bed, but my thoughts took me elsewhere.
A lake. I found myself standing outside of my car in the reflection of the headlights. The rain pelted my skin and drenched my clothes—but it didn’t matter. I looked out over the lake and took a deep breath. I used the last fifteen seconds of light that I had to walk town to the edge of the lake. As I reached the edge, the headlights turned off. Suddenly, it was just me and the moon. I stared down into the dark water. It was too dark for me to see myself. The moon was covered by clouds.
My mind seemed to be filled with the same dark rain clouds as the sky. The same fog that covered the surface of the lake clouded my thoughts. I squatted down and took another deep breath. I was exhausted. All of this fighting had taken its toll on me. I wanted so desperately to relax. I couldn’t. I realized that I had let my thoughts become a slave to her.
All I did was think about what she did to me. All I did was think about how trapped I was. Neither of those things mattered anymore, though. That’s why I couldn’t think—because this heartache that was once a huge part of my life was now unnecessary.
I picked up a stone and hurled it into the water. I should have been happy. I should have felt free. Part of me did—but I still felt trapped. I was safe, right? I watched the rain hit the water. I watched the ripples where the rock sunk down into the water. I thought about the rock sinking to the bottom of the lake.
I did that. The rock was never going to fly out of the water. It was never going to be in the place I took it from again. It was going to be in that spot at the bottom of the lake until the lake dried up and some other person picked it up again. I couldn’t rewind the things I did. I couldn’t magically reverse time. The past five minutes happened and they were never happening again. The same goes for the past five days; years; decades.
Suddenly, time didn’t even feel real anymore. I had gone numb to the feeling of the rain on my skin. Time felt frozen; nonexistent. It all felt like some kind of dream. It was a dream in which the dream was waking up. It was a dream where you started your day only to realize you hadn’t even woken up yet. I felt like a puppet. It was like I had lost control of my thoughts. I lost control of what I did. Someone else held the strings, and I didn’t know who it was.
All I knew was what I saw, and that’s what scared me.
I couldn’t see what was next.