My finger moves up and down the center of my love's chest. My eyes follow the traces.
I see all my torn up places. And so I distract myself. I excuse myself from connecting to his eyes.

But my heart isn’t absent of the desire to gaze into them. Rather, it's fear that prevents me from actually seeing him.

Eventually I succumb. I do all that I can to rid myself of the feeling of numb.
I allow the magnetic pull to draw my forehead closer to his.

I lift my lids.

I wince as I would at the sight of the sun because his eyes remind me of what can't be undone.


His eyes are so familiar. When we finally lock, I see more than I’d hoped for.
Like my own and my father’s, his eyes I adore.

They are dark and brown and soft yet serious. For a moment, they are my father's distant eyes proclaiming mounds of endless lies.

And they mirror back to me.

These windows tell me who I am. They scream to me where I’ve been.

His eyes.

Like a fake form of nostalgia, I somehow long for a better time. I long for the love that was never there. A better time of the past that never existed. I've wanted love,
but it seems that somehow I've missed it.

When I finally come to, his eyes help me to realize. I now understand what’s never before been understood. Perhaps what was numb can someday be undone.

Never have I believed the words, "I love you." So I sigh and I cry. I cry and I sigh.

I do my best to cup my hands around what cannot be seen. I attempt to hold onto this newly acknowledged dream.

Tears well up.

"You really love me?" I say.

"Yes!" He assures me. "I loved you then. And I still love you today."

It's funny what our pasts can do to us. This happened. And on that day I believed him.
Other days I'm not so lucky.

Some effects of sexual abuse are obvious. Like the loss of security and the perceived loss of beauty. And fear and pain and numbing are all expected. But other consequences aren't and even when they are, they often go undetected.

Why have a failed to believe that I am loved?

Love is gift that cannot be earned. And conditional love isn't really love at all.

The idea that I cannot earn a husband's love is so very foreign to me. Through soul-searching, researching, and counseling, I know I've developed some sort of complex that revolves around elements of perfectionism and people pleasing. Over the years, love has become a prize, a hopeless and wicked need.

"Over time, patterns develop in our relationships where we subconsciously feed on one another as we make our decisions or as we allow relationships to unfold. You're not openly thinking about it, but quietly the need to feel connected or approved can cause you to take on a reactor's approach to life. You do what you do in order to impress or gain the approval of someone who has taken on a significant role to you in that moment," says the author of When Pleasing You Is Killing Me.

A keeper.

Someone who conceals the family caveat, someone who cradles someone's catch. She is someone who lies for the sake of love. She safeguards a secret. Oh how she’s a keeper, for how safely she guards it.

She’s a keeper to the one she saves by safeguarding his secret. She is rather precious. Yet when she releases that secret, she is no longer a keeper. In that moment, she instead becomes a seeker. She searches for another to save. She'll do anything for love even if it leads her to her grave.  

I was his keeper until he needed me no longer. I bore a certain burden that seemingly saved him...

...seemingly saved me. Mommy loves daddy. And daddy loves mommy. This was everything that I ever dreamed. But of course, everything was much different than it had seemed.

Was it his fault or mine...for I elected me as keeper. I was not chosen. I volunteered. Accepted, admired, adored.

I willingly sought to serve as my father’s keeper all for the sole reason of wanting to be kept. And when those things didn't come, oh how I wept.

He was supposed to die last night. I learned this and much more from the echoes of that trembling phone. No air. No light. Yet somehow he lives.

“Ma’am, his lungs collapsed. No one expected him to…make it. He’s breathing but barely,” said the woman on the phone who should've been me.

I said nothing. But my silence spoke for me.

“Ma’am, you don’t have much time.” Click. An eerie hum. And that was it.

Of course I’ve no time. I’ve never had much. I’ve always known this: Each of his breaths strip away the seconds. I’m reminded of the nature of time and how it’s always working against me.

This notion of a deathbed sends screams of only one shot. I’ve only one more, a single opportunity to create a new snapshot. I will try. I will save. I will…wake up. And I do. Twas all but a dream.

Perhaps a symbol of the things to come. Perhaps a pointing to my former "failure" that cannot be undone. In telling his secret, I opted not to be his keeper.

I would no longer feed the façade of a lie so much deeper than a shy little girl who hoped to appease her peeper.

I was not shy. No, no. I was someone’s loyal keeper.

Drinking, sinking, straining to breath, yet alcohol’s not my real drug, my ecstasy. My self-proposed prescription contains perfection, performance, and putting others above me.

Only not for their good. I do these things with the hope of being set free. Never to give, only to take. Acceptance, approval, and no longer need to fake it.

Like a military child, I’m used to a commander. Only difference is my drill sergeant is me.

And so I've finally realized that this isn’t about OCD lists left un-ticked. It’s about the constant striving to be someone’s—anyone’s—keeper. It’s about wanting to be fixed, needing to be picked.

Organizing outside because I can’t seem to rearrange inside. Wanting to be kept. Needing to have love. Wanting to be swept...

© Kara Rodriguez

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