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What Lies Between Crushed Ribs

("Happy Valentine's Day.")

I don't see love in a two dollar bear from Walgreens.

Love doesn't lie in its fluffy stuffing

Or its cozy, comfortable fur.

I think of love as more of a lesson.

Not to say that I was taught well.

Love festers in the freezing corner I rock in.

When I hear his sharp words stab my ears, and when my chest becomes hollow like his skull, I can be reassured—this is love.

Because love isn't a feeling it's an idea.

Not to say my ideas are sane.

As I look at my thighs with blue and purple splotches of color painted in my flesh, a tsunami of thoughts rush in.

But I'd never say it out aloud.

So instead, I try to fake a smile when I see him come through the garage door.

And from one corner of my lips to the other, what lies in between is a toothy display of cracked teeth and misery.

This is love, he said so himself.

But as I look up from my bruises and see him place a fuzzy teddy bear on the dresser,

That shiny-eyed bear doesn't deceive me.

It sits there prettily, mocking me, reminding me that his red hand raised above me in anger is a projection of fear—a fear of the person he supposedly cared about the most, me.

That bear sits there as if to distract me from my crushed ribs.

As if to repudiate the feeling of my body collapsing in upon itself.

Right there, I know,

I know without a doubt that love isn't a feeling, it's a lesson,

And I was taught wrong.

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What Lies Between Crushed Ribs
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