Wisdom Born of Pain
by Helen Beer
You were twenty, he was twenty-two. You fell for his charming,
can’t-quite-place-it, but probably Slavic accent, and his
constantly mangled idioms. And, yes, you fell for his physicality—
the slim hips, broad shoulders, flat stomach, mess of dirty-blonde hair,
brown eyes framed by impossibly long lashes, olive-toned skin, and
that tiniest of detours to an otherwise perfectly angled nose, a
remnant of his boxing days. You told yourself it was the passionate
political discussions that were a turn-on, their heated nature
a challenge to you, like a game of his beloved backgammon. But
you were deluding yourself, blinded to the clues of what lay
beneath the attractive surface, denying the meanness and absurd
jealousies he’d revealed in tiny increments, like some perverse
preview of the next chapter. If only you’d opened your eyes;
but you were young, and too easily swayed into the complacency
of temptation, the gravitational pull of dependency. He had you
where he wanted you—you loved him, and naively thought it
reciprocal. But he was only after the Green Card, and the pragmatic
opportunity, the easy, uncluttered path, to a win you presented.
You were his blot.
You were twenty-five, he was twenty-seven. You had
married the Serb, bore his son, witnessed the endless
parade of family members arriving from the Old Country.
You listened silently as he berated you for the smallest of
infractions, his voice taking on a sinister tone—even in whispers—
that made his physicality, once such a turn-on, seem daunting,
threatening, ominous. You wondered just how much the “nature”
element of “nature-nurture” would impact your still innocent child.
And when the impact of his tightly closed fist upon your jaw
left an indentation in the sheetrock behind your head, it wasn’t
entirely unexpected. You stared at it, even as the pain washed
over you, even as consciousness fell away, like the focal point
you’d clung to during labor, seeking sanctuary from the brutal
reality of the moment. From that point on, you refused to delude
yourself any longer. You fled—taking your son with you,
saving him, saving yourself, invoking the assistance of strangers,
embarrassed as that made you feel. You had failed miserably at
first love; hell, you’d failed to even recognize it for what it was.
You were forty-five, your son was twenty-two. Your jaw had
been surgically reconstructed to correct its improper healing
from twenty years before. You were safe. You were remarried.
Your life was calm. You were convinced “nurture” had won out
when it came to your son, and that gave you peace. Your
scars reminded you, though: gaining wisdom may hurt, but it trumps
delusion. You had traveled far from your younger self; you no
longer believed the violence raining down on your body and soul
was deserved, punishment for some unknown imperfection—even
though it was a fate, a sentence, you’d once considered inevitable.
Distance had made it all so clear; the cloak had been removed, the
monster revealed. Your own metamorphosis could begin; it continues
still, as you struggle to tamp down the insecurities that once betrayed you,
and held you in their web. You need only close your eyes, and feel
the tightening in your jaw, to remember the descriptor he flung at you,
more than any other, the moniker you were expected to wear as
some cruel, efficient summary of all you ever were to him. No,
you tell yourself, I am not a stupid bitch. Yes, you were once a child
who believed in the existence of charming princes—until you learned
you could remove all the pieces from the board, out-strategizing even
the most calculated of foes; you didn’t need a prince for that.
About the Author
Helen Beer sells for a living, as a sales engineer for an industrial foundry--not a bad gig for an English major/Russian history minor. She’s had success in short story contests, with multiple placements in both Moondance Film Festival and the Screencraft Cinematic Short Story competitions. She’s had two feature screenplays reach the quarterfinal rounds of both Scriptapalooza and Screencraft’s drama category. Her prose has appeared in Literary Potpourri, FRiGG, Typishly, Flash Fiction Magazine, Persimmon Tree, The First Line, 101 Words, Sky Island Journal, STORGY Magazine, Haunted Waters Press, The Write Launch, and Twisted Vine Literary Arts Journal. When not working or writing, she enjoys the Zen-like tranquility afforded by time spent riding her horse and mucking stalls.