Prologue to my novel Broken
| They say lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice -- lie. I knew this was a lie as I thought about the number of times lightning had struck my life. Twice. The first time I had been stripped of my childhood and the second time stripped of... everything else.
I had just watched my trainer storm out, in the middle, of our workout. He’d had enough of my “half-assing it,” as he’d put it so eloquently, and had given me an ultimatum... “Either figure out who you are and what you want, or don’t come back. It’s that simple.”
It seems like bad things are always crashing down on me. I’ve already survived two blows in my life. No, that’s not true. I have survived one blow and am just barely hanging on after the second one. There will be no surviving a third, if I can’t pull it together. For the past four weeks I have been coming to this musky gym, with it’s sweat soaked blue mats and stench of dirty socks and stinky arm pits, doing the same thing over and over. Kick-boxing. Self-defense. Fighting the demons. Working to get my mind and body stronger.
I thought things had been going well, I thought I’d been working hard at putting the pieces of my seriously messed up self back together. But maybe I’ve been wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe I am just going through the motions? Is this what getting better feels like? Because even though I’ve overcome my fear of the monsters of the world, I still haven’t been able to open myself up. To let go and let others in. Even today, I’d still take a can of Empty and Lonely over Pain and Rejection. I can tolerate self inflicted misery any day, but when it’s someone else doing the inflicting — it’s freaking excruciating . No thanks. Not for me.
“Closed off and alone are not ‘normal person’ feelings,” I think to myself, as I mull over what is real and what I am trying to pass off as real, “What else have I been in denial about?”
I sigh and plop myself down next to the punching bag dummy that I had just been seriously assaulting with my roundhouse kicks. Someone had, long ago, drawn a frown face on the dummy, with a thick black marker, and for some crazy reason that damn frown face always seemed to comfort me. I don’t know why, maybe because when I look into its sad face it reminds me of me. Or someone like me? Worse off than me? Hell, I don’t know. But right now, looking at the sad dummy face, I realize I feel just as comforted today, by it, as I did on my first day in this gym. Nothing has changed. Nothing… and that’s when I finally get it.
“He’s right, I’m screwing this up,” I whisper to the dummy bag.
It took one seriously ticked off trainer and a faded out frowny faced punching bag to bring it all together, but there it is and I get it.
I finally understand, for all these years, I’ve just been going through the motions. All those years, I thought I was the strong one who was able to let the past go and move forward. They were the ones stuck, not me. But, if I am being honest with myself -- which is apparently what I am supposed to be doing -- all I’ve been doing is hiding my broken pieces away in some closed off place I created on that horrible night six years ago.
Broken lives have to be mended, otherwise they shatter and are lost forever. With open eyes now, I can see how close I am to never finding my way back.
Realizing that for so many years it wasn’t a strength to live that had pushed me through life, it was the strength to survive. And once my strength to survive had gone, too… I think that’s when I lost everything.
Starring at myself in the mirror, that covers the entire back wall of the gym, I know it’s now or never. I can stay frozen in this miserable life, alone and weak. A victim to the evil that cut so deep into my soul, it left me slowly bleeding out. Or, I can stop the bleeding, grow some balls -- as my sister would say -- and start living my life.
Ugh! How am I supposed to do that, when all of my memories of how to live come from a past full of loneliness and pain? What if these fractures in my soul are too deep to heal? How will I ever move forward then? And what about my heart? Jeez, my heart. Is it too broken? Is it too hard and closed off? The kind of closed off like lock it up and throw away the key kind of closed off? I know I can love others — hell, I already do — but can they love me back? After all, a damaged heart still loves, but how can someone love a damaged heart?
All these questions are making my head hurt. There’s just too many and I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be strong enough to find out the answers. I feel defeated and I don’t want to think about it anymore. I push myself up off the mat and turn to my frown face dummy opponent. The once red bag is mostly gray now from all the duct tape holding it together. This bag has taken more than it’s fair share of hits. I wonder how many more it can stand until it finally busts apart for good.
I rub my eyes with both of my hands, I need to snap out of this funk. It’s time to refocus and get back to business. I shake my head to clear my thoughts and droplets of sweat trickle down my forehead. I wipe away the sweat with the back of my hand and think to myself, “You’re being crazy, Cassie. The dummy bag is just a stupid bag and you’re supposed to be working on your kicks not trying to Dr. Phil yourself.” So with all the power and determination I can muster up, I turn and swing my right leg up and land a hard kick to the dummy’s head, “One thing’s for sure... I’m strong enough to kick your ass.”