Linette Reeman

Linette Reeman is a queer writer from the Jersey Shore who is majoring in history at Rowan University because she wants to build replica pirate ships. Linette has won a plethora of regional and national high school awards, is currently a contributor to the online magazine Bitchtopia, and recently represented Loser Slam at the 2014 National Poetry Slam. In her spare time, Linette enjoys judging her restaurant experience off of how good their grilled cheese is.

 

The Moat: A Coming of Age Prose (September, 2014. Issue 46.)

High school is a time to shed the vestigial skin of your childhood and blossom into a capable young adult, so it makes sense that every non-fantasy coming of age story I’ve ever read has been set in high school. Sometimes the story is set at the end of the high school experience, right before the narrator graduates and heads off to college, but my personal reminiscence occurred during the beginning of my high school career; one of my most definitive coming of age moments was the last time he hit me.

Sometimes I imagine how it would look if it were scripted for a movie: there I am, running across the street, heels hitting the backs of my shoes when the screeching snarl of a car engine comes too close. I am aiming for the safety of the moribund field on the other side of the road; once I reach it I bend over, laughing; cut to a shot of him running over after me. His eyes flash obscurely, but from where I am, I can’t read his expression. He gets to me and I might’ve looked up to say something, maybe to touch his face and coax a smile out of the corner of his mouth, but instead he draws one hand back and smacks me across the cheek. I am so dizzy I have to sit. “You could’ve been killed,” he spits at me, before stalking off. The entire scene is shot from my point of view, showing the back of my head; you don’t see my face until I’m sitting amongst the weeds, shaking fingers caressing a welted cheek, trying to figure out what I did wrong this time.His tag-a-long friend slides hooded, sympathetic eyes over my face. “That’s fucked up,” he says. “Why do you let him do that do you?” The rest of the scene would be shot quickly: me running away in the opposite direction, him chasing after me, trying to catch me, hold me; I scramble out of his arms and he at curses me: I’m a bitch, I’m a slut, I’m the worst mistake he’s ever made. There’s a shot of me having an internal struggle with myself: do I call my mom and ask her to come pick me up, or do I follow him and try to make amends; try to apologize for all the pain and suffering I have brought upon him?

He finally starts talking to me about a half an hour later, when the three of us are prowling the corridors of the local mall in search of some fresh new fun. His friend’s eyes lock on mine periodically, and I purposely flick away; I am an intermittent flame, an unyielding fire escape, and he, the accelerant; I have no answers for anyone’s questions.

Later that evening I stain my knees in the name of reconciliation; there is a patch of woods behind the mall marred by our bodies, by tenderness-turned-hair-tugging. He grunts and gasps into my neck, pulls out after less than a minute, and I feel disgusted. He used to grip me like I was the last crack in the universe and his words would get stuck in the shell of my ear and melt me like spring snow under the heavy hotness of them; I can’t remember how we ended up here.

I suppose I didn’t leave him because loving people is complicated. Even if you love someone, you don’t just love that one person, you attempt to love the plethora of people living inside of them. You love their kisses and quirks and phobias and annoyances and excitements, the people they were and the people they want to be. Sometimes, besides all that, you love your idea of who they should be; if you grow up hearing adults talk about God and Jesus often enough, you’re going to latch onto the first unbridled deity you meet who tells you that you’re beautiful. Had I known I would write this memoir having not talked to him in over a year but still burdened by the bruises he left, still writing poems about the exquisite roughness of his hands, maybe I would have converted.

But I digress—that was not the first time he hit me, however it would be the last. He still pushed me around after that, but I didn’t trust him anymore; I would push him back, tell him to stop, kick him where it hurt the most; I stopped believing in gods, started believing in myself. A film of the night he left me would show my hands shaking harder than he ever held me, him lashing, gums swollen, at any insecurity he could put his tongue on; smirk twisted sharper than the metal I used to tear up my arms and thighs with—but it would also show the aftermath.

When I woke up the next morning, with the empty, hollow feeling of abandonment sinking in my chest and with blood on my sheets, I was vaguely optimistic; I would be an untamable forest fire, a deity of my own; I would fall in love with myself. Inside the empty, I would build new castles and bridges, doorways and staircases to lead anywhere I wanted; never again would I cross a busy street, shoes slapping the sidewalk like a mother chastising an unruly child, unless it was of my own accord. I would be queen of myself, and he would drown in the moat.