the catwalk to the gallows

when I met you,
you were brave
smart
strong
bold.

I didn’t understand you and you didn’t understand me
and we never pretended to try,
and maybe in the end that was more honest
than most relationships end up being

I didn’t love you and you didn’t love me,
but maybe that’s where we went wrong
Maybe if we had loved
I might have tried to sew you back together
and you might not have shattered me.

they say you should love someone
exactly as they are
but what if they’re hateful, spiteful, cruel?

they say everyone should keep their promises
but what about the promises you made
to hang yourself from the catwalks
if I left you alone for an hour?
should you have kept your promise then?

they say to hold on to things you’re afraid to lose
but what about the claw marks down my back
and bite marks over my ribcage
and rings around my throat
where you used teeth and nails to grip hard?
should you have held on like that?

they say going on adventures together bonds you
but what about that night in a stranger’s house
crossing a field of tall grass to the shed for the spare key
laying on the living room floor, passing the bottle
the telescope and easels you knocked to the ground
should we have adventured there?

they say you should call friends when you’re upset
but what about the sixth time you called at 3am
and threatened to dive into traffic
if I didn’t get out of bed and save you?
should you have called me then?

they say blood is thicker than water
but what happens when the blood is dripping down my neck
because you lost control and I could have died
but you’ve got me so numb I don’t care?
does blood matter so much to you then?

I left you when the police came for you.
It was my chance,
and I took it,
and I am not ashamed.

when I left you,
you were weak.
you didn’t take it like a man
you refused it like an angry, vengeful child.

leaving things on the roof of my car at 1am
so I’d know you’d been there watching
fifty calls in twenty minutes
and telling me my address to show me
you’d find me anywhere
and then “knock, knock”
and I thought I’d have to kill you myself
just so my family would never know
how many mistakes I’d made by knowing you.

But I got away from you
and glued the shattered pieces of myself back together,
and you’d hate how happy I am now
because you never understood joy, or love, or freedom
kept in a prison of your own making
and pulling people in to join you

I wake up with a smile
go to sleep on a laugh
and every breath is a victory
that you never managed to steal.

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