I met Ed the end of April my freshman year. I was outside, surrounded by people who didn’t really like me, but let me eat with them anyway. He came up, full of charisma and happiness, and struck the most intense conversation I’ve ever been apart of. He made the world seem brighter and he made me feel special and beautiful. He came at the perfect moment, with how stressful school and family had become over the winter. Our initial meeting was brief but incredibly memorable. Ed made me feel better about myself then I had for a long time, and I’m forever grateful for him. He made me recognize my goals and made me want to achieve them. He sat with me everyday during lunch, talking about nothing and everything at the same time.
“What kind of apple is that, Hanne?”
“Want to hangout with me after school?”
Ed and I became fast friends. He was there for me through all the ups and downs. We were attached at the hip; where one went, the other wasn’t far behind. Then I met my first love. I heard from Ed less and less, until I barely heard from him at all. I was so wrapped up with how in love I was, that Ed faded almost completely out of my life. But then my first love broke my heart and left. Ed came right back. He rushed to my side the instant he knew. He was different however. He was harsher, more controlling. He’d tell me what to feel, what to think, how to act, and what to do. In the vulnerable state I was in, I let him. I followed his every rule, his every command. He was my puppeteer, and I was attached to his strings. One pull and I was there. One tug and I did what he asked. I was his submissive. The following year I wasn’t in control of myself. I didn’t want to be.
“Why are you talking to her? She’ll only drag you down.”
“Don’t stand next to her. You’ll look fat compared to her.”
“Don’t eat that, Hefty Hanne.”
“Don’t eat that. You don’t deserve it.”
“Don’t eat that.”
One day he pulled my strings too hard. I weighed 99 pounds, and I hadn’t eaten in three days. I was driving my friend home, when Ed took over. My lungs were full of lead, my mouth was laden with dirt, and I saw the stars of the milky way. My head felt like it held the weight of the world. My eyes closed and I took a deep breath. I was unconscious. Ed had taken all of me and wasn’t satisfied, so he tried to take others down with me. I passed out behind the wheel, with my friend in the car with me. I could barely walk. I was so weak, that getting out of bed felt like a herculean task. But that was the final straw. I had nothing left to give.
One by one, I started cutting away his strings. Some were thicker, harder than others. The first string cut had been coiled around my eyes. He had blinded me from the beginning, shielding who he was and who I’d become. The second string cut filled my lungs. He taught me to believe that I couldn’t breathe without him. There wasn’t a reason to do so without him. Next, I cut the string that bound my hands. My bones cracked from the lack of use. They could finally reach for help, hold myself up, and take back what was mine. The final string was the hardest to cut. It was hard as metal and thick like concrete.
It was my heart. For so long it was locked away, behind miles and miles of barbed wire, metal fences, and fear. This was Ed’s favorite toy. One could saw away at this rope and get nowhere. Or get so far and come back, with the string tighter and larger than before. But I managed, because he was not going to win.
Now, his strings are gone, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of Ed. His scars cover my body; they’re deep and painful. Some days I look at them like one would look at their own baby photo. With a tender familiarness of better times. Other times, it’s with a look filled with shame. That I let him sink his hooks so deep into my very soul. Ed will be with me forever. In the backseat of my car, at the end of my lunch table, at the spare desk in the back of the classroom. It’s hard to love a spare desk or a backseat driver, but I thank him everyday. Without Ed, I wouldn’t be the strong woman I’ve become. The journey is far from over, but Ed’s time with me is through.