The Cadence of Pain

She didn’t know how it had happened, not exactly. All that she knew was that it had been a slow change. The pain had been drawn out over the years. The transformation so subtle that she hadn’t even known it until she’d looked in the mirror one day and not recognized herself at all.

It had started with a double pink line, the swelling of her stomach, the realization that she’d created life with someone she didn’t love.

What options does a woman have in this world? There had been shame and fear. She had wanted her baby, but she could never quite convince herself that she wanted him.

He’d said he loved her. When he had talked about his future, he always spoke of her, of them. So she had convinced herself that this was what responsible girls did, that she wanted him too. She tried to do what it was a woman was supposed to do. She cooked. She cleaned. She chased the baby.

When he said he didn’t like her career, she gave it up for one more suited to a mother. Her heart bled at the loss, but she ignored it. When he said he didn’t like the curl of her hair, she straightened it. She took out her piercings, quit dreaming of tattoos, stopped wearing lipstick. Each year she read fewer books, pursued fewer interests, and spent less time with friends.

Over time she had convinced herself that she was happy.

Until the pain became an incessant companion and the loneliness yawned inside of her.

Until there was so little left of her that she couldn’t remember who she’d been or who she’d wanted to be.

He said he loved her, but how could he when he didn’t even know who she was. She’d convinced herself that she loved him, but how could she when she didn’t even love herself.