8

Tip of the Iceberg, Broken into Bits (Trigger Warning)

*******GUYS, please: Serious trigger warning is serious, as is the mature content filter.  They are there for a reason.  DO NOT go into this read if triggered by: sexual abuse/assault; emotional abuse; suicide threats; self harm.  Do not be alarmed:  I AM NOT with this guy any longer. But I got to thinking about this poem tonight, and how much I wish people could understand that it’s not always as easy as “just leaving” when it comes to abusive or toxic relationships, and I felt the need to share.  This is my story; please take a moment, if you’re willing, to read, to think, to try to understand…and to be kind.

Copyright Elizabeth Mathis, 2015; originally posted on deviantart right HERE.********

he’s I need you, I love you,
zero to engaged in less than a week,
your family’s approval already in hand
when the festivities stop
and he drops to one knee
no chance to think, no chance to back down–
he settled for second best all through high school,
there’s no chance he’s letting you slip by him now

he’s don’t let me go tears
when you’re dropped back at school,
the strokes of his fingers
smeared invisible over your skin,
the mark of his lips a painting only you see,
his ring a branded burden you’re not sure how to share
because when you left for home a month ago
you belonged to someone else

he’s handcuffed and carted away
just down the block from the theater over spring break
and you, already a mess of dependence
cheeks streaked with the weight of your heart,
wonder just what you’re getting into…but let the thought go
smoke on the wind
like the breaths of the cigarettes
you’ve become second-hand addicted to

he’s talks to people you don’t know
about your size, your shape,
the way your curves dip and hollow
because there are things he wants to do
but he’s not sure how
and he needs to know
to make it good;
he’s secrets told to people you don’t trust
because in his search for confidence
the only thing he knows how to focus on
is your body
and the places
only he can see

it’s he asks an online friend of yours
if she’d be the final piece
in a threesome
and you, uncomfortable
and burning red,
cross your fingers
and squint your eyes
and pray that she says no
because you can’t refuse him anything
but she can

he’s all smiles summer break,
hand holds and inappropriate public gropes
you can’t help but giggle over
discomfort be damned, discomfort go to hell,
he pushes shirts above your midriff
and calls you sexy, babygirl, doll…
stomach-flips and heart turnovers, please always stay!
but somewhere between the Wyoming/Colorado border
on your way to visit Dad and fam in autumn Vegas
something subtle shifts, shuffles, slides
into something worse

the first time you doubt the crazy stranglehold love
you leave blood on white carpet
in little sister’s bedroom,
ice and paper towels and panic at midnight
until it comes out

he’s tightening his hold
on the leash you didn’t know you were wearing,
nights spent at home, fits and phones thrown
at the floor
when you speak up, take a stand, change your mind;
friend lists growing smaller,
black abyss opening

you define codependence returning to college,
red-rimmed eyes and hiccupping sobs
when the car pulls away;
the summer is over
and so, you find out mere weeks later,
is the honeymoon

can’t sleep up all nights
calling despite your classes, your work, your lack of dreams
because he needs you–
the manipulation starts quiet, innocent, innocuous
and then it isn’t

“send me sexy pictures, please?”
and you do, countless baths
and phone on silent
because the roommates are just outside the door;
“tell me when to cum, babe”
ragged breathing, gasping words,
and you whisper
because the roommates are all in bed
and they can’t know your shame;
“get on webcam with me”
and you glance at the clock
and count the time you have,
is it long enough?  what if it’s not?

it’s he wants to send your pictures
to men from magazines
because you’re sexy enough to make the spread
except really
he just wants to sell you
because he can’t find or keep a job

and it goes on
and it gets worse
and you
break
down

first time:
“I’m such a jackass, babe.”
“why do you say that?”
“I went over there for friendship, and slept with her instead.
I’m sorry.
I’m sorry.
I won’t do it again.”

he’s apologies and sorrow
and a thousand missed texts when you forget your phone;
you let it slip, forgive and (try to) forget,
the voice in the back of your head
whispering, whispering, whispering things you ignore

second time:
“I didn’t mean to, I swear.
I just miss you.
Maybe if you send more pictures,
got on webcam with me,
got me off again
I wouldn’t be so tempted.”

he’s flowers and gifts, voicemails and emails,
and you try harder, you do what he says,
you spend nights at home on your computer and phone
and forget there’s another world
outside your relationship, your school, and your job

third time:
“I told you this would happen.”

and he yells at you:
you’re a bitch, you’re a slut,
you’re a whore opening her legs
to every guy in that dumb college town
and then he falls asleep,
ignores your calls until morning
and the world moves on

fourth time:
“if you don’t do
what I’m telling you to,
I’m going out and finding someone who will.
I did it before,
I’ll do it again.”

and he rubs it in every time you make him angry,
how easy it was to slip between her thighs,
how good it felt to forget you for a while…
for the first time since this started, you wonder
if this is the reason he keeps “single” on his facebook,
if this is the reason he avoids going out
when you’re home with him

fifth time:
“you stupid fucking slut,
all you women are the same,
can’t keep your zipper up
and your thighs closed”

he yells at you for talking to your mom,
he yells at you for talking to your ex,
he yells at you for talking to your friends,
he yells at you for talking to your roommates,
he yells at you for going out with your roommates,
he yells at you for having friends,
he yells at you for your roommates having friends,
he yells at you for your roommates inviting people over,
he yells at you for having a life outside of him,

he
yells
at
you
for
being
you

and you’re leaving your phone at home,
silencing it to get two hours of sleep,
ignoring texts and sobbing when nobody else is around
because you aren’t sure when things got so bad,
you aren’t sure what you’re doing wrong,
you aren’t sure what more you can give up to make him happy

connections made over the holidays
turn into paranoia, jealousy, anger;
choking on the end of your thread,
his marionette, you make a stance
and flee his company for just one night
because your mom told you to strike it on your own,
your mom thinks you’re in too deep,
your mom is concerned
he’s taking you over
and drowning you

hours later, his brother finds you laughing:
“he said you’d know where to find him,”
as he slips the wedding band,
a heavy burden you’re being strangled by,
into the palm of your hand
“said you’d know what to do with it”

you find him in the basement
smoke in mouth, eyebrows furrowed,
knife in hand and drawing across his skin,
a portrait of pain
he knows how to wield;
when you lead him to bed,
you make sure he leaves the knife
on the dryer

“if I ever find out we break up
because of that bitch mom of yours
I’ll kill her”
and your heart stops, just a moment,
before you let it go,
a moment of unbridled anger
hurled into hurtful words

“one month,”
he says the end of Christmas–
“if you can go one month
without talking to that bastard ex of yours
I won’t say anything more about it”

so you promise (sort of)
and you stick to it (for a day)
and you decide to sneak around
because damnit, if he can be friends
with all the girls he’s dated,
with all the girls he’s slept with,
with all the girls he knows
or doesn’t know
or wants to know
then why can’t you keep just ONE THING
for yourself?

your birthday
and he’s morose because it’s 21
and your roommates want to take you out,
to get you drunk,
to get you to at the very least have fun
but no, he doesn’t like that,
you can’t drink unless he’s there,
your first drink has to be with him

he’s quiet excitement, a manic happy
you can’t puzzle out over the phone
and someone knock, knock, knocking
at your front door

SHIT, you panic, SHIT
because he’s telling you to answer it
and the ex is coming over
to hang out, to celebrate, to give you five seconds of sane
in the insanity your life has derailed into
and if he finds out, if it’s HE at the door,
how are you going to handle
the blowup?

“go open the door!”
and you aren’t sure what to say
because there’s the ex
but he on the phone hasn’t explained,
hasn’t exclaimed,
hasn’t said
anything
and you stand, stupid, mouth open
eyes wide

“happy birthday, babygirl”
“I… what?”
“I’m giving Bau back to you”
“…I don’t understand?”
“he’s your birthday present”

as if people can be presents,
as if his friendship was up for the giving
just like that,
as if HE has any say
in who you’re friends with
in the first place

no, look deeper:
HE contacted the ex
(numbers he stole out of your phone
without permission,
you find out–numbers for the ex,
and your roommates,
and anyone else he thought you might
like to contact,
numbers he used
to manipulate and abuse
the people who were close to you)

he’s angry again, he’s angry all the time over
you no longer know what about,
and this time, he won’t let you explain;
“maybe I’ll just go throw myself
into traffic”
and the phone clicks
and the phone rings
and rings
and rings
and rings
and
r
i
n
g
s

the night is desperate, hourless,
you a wreck of nerves
and heartache
and the click of his voicemail;
in the morning, the sun dawns
and the world turns on still…
almost a full 24 hours later
you learn he was fine the whole time,
passed out and ignoring you

he’s kicked out of your moms house–
the last straw, the final nail in his coffin of hate–
and you, miles away, book a ticket
to his parents
because now that he needs them,
he’s willing to forgive, he’s willing to forget,
he’s willing to put his faith back in them

it’s your mom and brother ransack the bedroom
he was staying in
to get the stink of his stuff from their sight
and find your shame laid out:
packages stolen from strange mailboxes,
jewelry swiped from your mom’s drawers,
boxers knicked from little brother’s room;
pictures printed off college campus computers
you naked and baring all;
blow up doll shoved into the closet,
rubber mouth an O of deflated desire;
toys and swimsuits and lingerie and little blue pills
he never got around to giving you or using

and it’s almost finals week
and he’s planted his feet,
fingers digging into your neck
despite the miles,
jaw set in determination

you’re plans set to move to Colorado with him
his mom and stepdad excited,
looking into bus tickets, wanting you there;
your family, unstable and buckling,
calling to convince you not to go
because once you get there,
you’re stuck,
no job no friends no help no nothing but him
and that can’t be what you really want

the beginning of the end,
you’ve reached the frayed edges of the rope
you’ve been clinging so desperately to
he yells at you again
for calls to your mother, for advice listened to
that wasn’t from him
and you call his stepdad to try to understand

only one line stands out to you
from the mess of conversation that followed,
his stepdad cool and confident on the line
convinced you’ll do the right thing

“it was wrong of him to tell you
you can’t speak to your mom; she’s family,
it’s something we’re working on
but once you get down here,
you aren’t going to know anyone
it’ll just be you and him
and that’s all you’re really going to need”

five seconds of talk–
a new spin on the life you thought you were working for

you panic–SHIT–
what did you get yourself into
and how the hell
do you get yourself out of it?
because once you get down there,
you’ll never leave
and you realize it now;
no back to school in the autumn,
no going home to see mom,
no anyone you’ve ever known
or anything you’ve ever needed

you’re type 1 diabetic
and you know you haven’t done your best by yourself with it
but what if you get down there
and can’t afford your medications?
your test strips?
your supplies?
what if you get down there
and can’t afford to pay
for your right to keep your life?

it’s a burden of a different sort,
a stroke of epiphany you can’t shake off,
a sudden understanding that you’ve put it all on the line
for a guy who can’t handle treating you well
and what for
but heartache at the end
of a very long road

and you

f
i
n
a
l
l
y

leave

everything

in

silence

6

Blog Tour, Giveaway and Review: Girl on the Brink

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girlonthebrinkcover

Girl on the Brink by Christina Hoag
Genre: YA Romance/Thriller
Release date: August 30th, 2016
Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books

Summary:

Sometimes the one you love isn’t the one you’re meant to be with.The summer before senior year, Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce. But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire, and Kieran turns violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up. Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.

Add to Goodreads

Buy Links:
Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo

Advance Praise:

“An engrossing tale of a dangerous teen romance.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Girl on the Brinkis a must have for every high school and public library.”–Isabelle Kane, Wisconsin high school librarian

ABOUT TEEN DATING VIOLENCE

Abusive relationships are widespread, cutting across socioeconomic, racial and ethnic, religious and gender preference lines. One in three high school girls experience dating violence, while more than half of college-aged women reported experiencing controlling behavior in a relationship. Eighty-nine percent of female college students said they were unable to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship, and a third of teens involved in intimate partner violence ever told anyone about it. For more information, see http://www.breakthecycle.org/dating-violence-research.

christinahoagauthorheadshotAbout the Author:

Christina Hoag is the author of Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults (Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books, August 2016) and Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld (Martin Brown Publishing, September 2016). She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets including Time, Business Week, Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. She is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention (Turner Publishing, 2014). She resides in Los Angeles. For more information, see http://www.christinahoag.com.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

GIVEAWAY:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Penguin2.3

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: trigger warning–physical abuse, emotional abuse, violence; this was hard to read, but so cathartic at the same time; my life in book form!; emotional, harrowing, heart-wrenching read; poignant and powerful; all girls/women need to read this book

Huge thanks to Christina Hoag, Fire & Ice Young Adult Books, and YA Bound Book Tours for sending me a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Okay, penguins–it’s time for a tiny confession. Heading into this read, I was very worried. You see… I am a domestic abuse survivor. He never got the chance to take it farther than emotional and psychological abuse, but the scars–invisible as they may be–are very, very much real. I knew, when I read the synopsis for this book, that that was EXACTLY what was waiting for me with this read. But something about this book called to me, regardless. I decided to take a chance, triggering content be derned. (And yes, I meant to say derned!)

Christina Hoag took a very important, very challenging subject…and made it relatable. Personable. REAL. I know the statistics, penguins–so, so many women have faced, are facing, or will in the future face this exact situation. The problem is, hardly none of us actively talk about our experiences–it’s been drilled into us to keep silent, to keep secret, to keep hidden. Christina Hoag knew that, I believe–and used that to weave an emotionally harrowing, daunting story of first love…and the many ways it can go wrong or destroy the soul.

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What I’m trying to say is, this book is super important, and I feel every girl/woman needs to read it. There is emotional turmoil. There are some very difficult scenes to read and digest. But there’s also a raw, unbridled honesty laced into every word–and, at the end, something I feel we ALL need to hear more of: the reminder that we can get through it, that we can stand tall, that we deserve better. That we are loved. The characters are complex and well-written; the prose is subtly poetic and altogether beautiful. The journey is heart-wrenching, and terrifying, and hits home so hard–but it’s so important, all the same.

I have so much admiration and respect for Christina Hoag, and this book. She achieved something that many struggle with: a fine mixture of blunt honesty and raw sensitivity, a way to reach out of the pages and into readers’ very souls. I recommend this to lovers of contemporary fiction, poetic and poignant prose, and heart-wrenching journeys…but please, if you’re easily triggered by abuse, be careful going into this read. I will be keeping an eye out for future Christina Hoag novels with bated breath (I know, this is perhaps a weird choice of words following such a heavy read, but I’m going with it); I cannot wait to see what she tackles next.

 

Blog Tour Organized by:

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4

Stained: The Book May Be Short, But it Says SO Much!

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Stained

174 Pages
Harvard Square Editions Publishing
Expected Publication Date: October 3rd, 2016
Preorder a copy here!

Selina, a beautiful, British-born Pakistani young woman recently lost her father, and finds herself struggling to cope with life, in particular with some aspects of her studies. Matters go from bad to worse, when a trusted family friend from the mosque offers to tutor her, and rapes her instead. With the threat of dishonour to her family at her back, Selina goes to extreme lengths to avoid scandal, and prevent shame being brought to her widowed mother’s door. It will take all the strength and courage Selina can muster when her life travels down a dangerous path, from which there may be no return…

4Penguins
Quick Reasons: the prose is a bit stiff and awkward in places, but PENGUINS, this book is so important; diverse read; hard-hitting, emotionally-charged subject matter; super short, but SO SO heavy; Selina’s story is one of strength and poise in the face of adversity, of finding yourself despite the darkness threatening to swallow you; this book touched me deeply

Such a HUGE thank you goes to Abda Khan and Harvard Square Editions publishing for sending me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Okay, let’s get this out of the way first: this book is SUPER short. Perhaps, in light of everything that happens within these pages, a bit too short to really do the emotions justice. The prose was a bit stiff and awkward throughout, though not enough to slow down my reading or confuse me. In spite of these things…this book is SO, SO super important.

 

BUT. The subject matter is very heavy. Relevant as it is–especially for other women who have, or are, or will in the future experienced such trauma–it is not a read I would recommend to just anyone. There are triggering topics brought up: rape, miscarriage, emotional abuse, self-defense, and murder are just a few of the bigger ones. If you are a sensitive reader, or are easily triggered by such heavy topics, I recommend seriously thinking on picking this book up. It’s important…but so is your safety as a reader.

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That being said, I fully appreciated–and was deeply touched by–Selina’s story. Throughout this read, she remained strong and poised in the face of adversity and trauma. She picked herself up; she tried her best to move on. Even when the world was at its darkest, she brushed the dust off and kept moving forward. There’s a lot to be said for a character who can stand so tall despite the things life throws at her; there’s a lot to be learned from such characters as Selina. More, though–her story was of finding herself DESPITE the path life set her on.

 

The prose throughout was melodic and, though dark at points, maintained a poetic beauty I admire. Though this is first person narrative from Selina’s perspective, I feel Abda Khan painted the rest of the characters in ways that made them live and breathe from the pages. The “uncle”–the villain–in particular both chilled and absolutely disgusted me, the testament of a well-written and effectively portrayed character. These characters are SO real…and it only helped to drive home the fact that there are, in the world today, people just like this walking around. That we, on a daily basis sometimes, come into contact with them without ever realizing.

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This is an important, emotionally-heavy read, and I am so honored to have been given the chance to pick it up. It is obvious Abda Khan knows and studies people–her characters were realistically portrayed and effectively written. Human nature, and the ways we deal with trauma and adversity, are two of the largest resounding topics, though I say again: this read is NOT for everyone, given the sensitive subject matter. I recommend this to readers of hard-hitting, intense, emotionally-charged stories. This book is short…but it says so, so much.

0

Ocean Swept (original poem)

the ocean is quilted with goodbyes,
a patchwork trove of heart death
breathless and beat lost

lungs rip in the breakwater,
breaks creak in the cracked masts
of stair stepper spines
because the strength you siphoned
from dead haunts and graveyard poets
left warped handholds
and treachery in the falling:
a host of hesitant admittances
you refuse to put your name to
even now

instead, you bask in anonymity

Lucky Laura from Classic Lit
will take the strappy heels you slipped
beneath the fringe of two-ply sheets
home with her, leaving antique heart rust flakes
tucked like treasure payment
into half-empty Advil bottles

it was a swap and shift, a bliss inconsistent
in its reverent impotence–

years from this moment,
you’ll lick your lips after champagne
and swallow the whispers of his name

he was never more than saltwater
in all your open wounds
and
you’ll never break the same