The girl from a broken home is a mysterious creature. She can be as fragile as porcelain and as tough as kevlar at the same time. She can break you down and build you up. She deserves to be taken care of, but she doesn’t need anyone’s help.
Ernest Hemingway famously said that “the world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.” The girl from a broken home may be broken herself, but she can be stronger because of it. She is mysteriously alluring, and I fell in love with her when we were just teenagers. I knew not where we would end up, but I longed to begin the journey anyway.
She was stunning. Her long brown hair fell carelessly around her soft face, framing her gentle but prominent features. She had high cheekbones that were accentuated by her beaming smile. That smile, it was like the sun rising on the horizon, flooding the land with breathtaking colors and light where there once was only darkness. Looking upon her made me feel as though I were a careless child, knowing nothing of true sorrow, and everything of pure joy.
Her eyes told a different story, however. Through all of her grace and civility, there was a great pain dwelling in her.
Deep within those rich brown eyes there lay a demon, holding her back. That demon sat in her mind pulling strings attached to her heart like a puppeteer of emotional trauma. As hard as she might try to be in control, she simply could not. As bright as that smile was, it was a false summit. Like the oil in a broken lamp, she was in a constant battle to stay bright.
She built walls around her, hoping to keep others out. Not only did she not trust them, but she did not deserve them. That is what the demon had convinced her of. She didn’t deserve love or happiness. Everyone that she touched, everyone that even lay eyes upon her, was flooded with bliss, and yet she enjoyed none of it herself.
The girl from the broken home thought herself selfish, but in a way, she was anything but. She bestowed such beauty upon the world around her, she lit up every room she entered with her smile and intrigued those around her with her wit. And yet, she herself experienced none of that. She gave such wonderful things while receiving nothing in return. She didn’t even expect it, since she didn’t deserve it.
I knew not what I wanted of her, but I knew I wanted her. I wanted her to see how enchanting she was. I wanted to give her what she gave everyone; happiness. The road ahead was not an easy one, that much I knew. It wasn’t even the road less traveled, it was the road that construction had halted on all together. I would have to forge my own way, and hope to come out on the other side without losing my bearings.
We met in elementary school, and even then I knew she was different. I didn’t see the demon, I didn’t see the pain, I just saw a girl that wasn’t quite like the rest of the crowd. She didn’t decorate herself in designer pieces, she wasn’t the most popular, she wasn’t the star of any sports teams, but she still had an impact on my life. The girl from the broken home was a fish in a pond, but she was the only fish to make lasting ripples in the surface, ripples that eventually echoed down into the depths of the water.
The dreaded four-letter word…
Honestly, I can’t say exactly when I fell in love with this girl, but I can remember the day we first said that word to each other. We were sitting in my Mustang, working on a school project. She had been kind of off all day, and I had no idea why until she finally blurted it out.
I love you. Like, I’m in love with you.
Those words enveloped my heart and still resonate with me to this day. It’s funny, though, how those words can affect you in different ways. I can remember the bliss of saying it for the first time there in my car. I was overcome with joy and excited for the future. I also remember, though, saying it as she left for college.
The words stung, like the wind on a bitter winter day. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We wanted to be hopeful, but we were also terrified of the unknown. I can still remember leaving her house for the last time, the night before she left. I stood outside by my car, staring at her home in the darkness, holding back tears. It tore me apart. I knew not where we would end up, but it was a journey that we needed to take.
Fast forward seven years, and we are engaged to be married.
I wish I could say it’s gotten easier, but it hasn’t. Fairy tales exist, but not as we know them. What I can say, though, is that it’s gotten more worth it. The more in love I’ve fallen with her, the more important it’s gotten to me to make sure things work and that it lasts. Nothing good comes easy, and nothing easy is worth having.
A year ago, she went to the hospital with leg pain. What she thought was nothing turned out to be something very serious. I left work in the middle of my shift and spent the taxi ride to the hospital reading about her diagnosis. I read that as many as 30% of people with one instance of her condition will die. She had two.
As much as this news affected me, I can’t even begin to imagine how it affected her. It forced a sense of mortality on her. It showed her that life was a gift, and not a right. It also woke up that demon puppeteer in her mind, and he started pulling on her heartstrings once again.
We took a good, long look at our life together. Either of us could drop dead at any moment. If we did, would we be happy with the life we had lived? That was the question that was thrust upon us. That was the question we spent many dark, stale months answering.
We talked, we fought, we became distant. I clashed with that demon in her mind. Maybe we rushed things. Maybe we got together too early. We were engaged, ready to spend the rest of our lives together. How could we possibly know that that was the right decision? We had only ever been with each other. Maybe there was something better out there.
Honestly, we were both pretty sure that there wasn’t. But it was that unknown gray area that was causing the hesitancy. We wanted certainty. Was it too late to gain what we could have had if we had gotten together later in life? Of course it was.
So I learned to dance…
In a perfect world, we would have taken some time off, explored ourselves, and come back to each other, picking right back up where we left off. Perfect worlds don’t exists, though. Even in literature, where an author is able to create their own world, they often create tragic ones. Humans thrive in tragedy.
So, I learned to dance with that demon in her mind. Honestly, he isn’t really a bad guy. Pulling on her heart is just his lot in life. We all have one, for better or worse.
As for the girl from the broken home, we are going to Rhode Island next month to look at wedding venues. You might wonder if we found that certainty. We didn’t. That certainty doesn’t exist, and that’s okay. The unknown will always be there, lurking just beyond the periphery of our love. To this day, I still do not know where we will end up, but it wouldn’t be a journey if I did.
When you love someone, when you truly love someone, you love every part of them. You love their smile that lights up the room and their intriguing wit, but you also love their intimidating walls and demon puppeteers. We are attracted to the pretty parts. It isn’t until you see the entire person, though, inside and out, that you can truly fall in love with them. That is what happened to me.
The world breaks everyone…
That Hemingway quote I mentioned earlier has an important second part that I believe more people should remember.
The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills.
Love can be a tricky temptress. It can give you the joy one day and misery the next. It’s important to remember that the misery is just as important as the joy, though. You learn from the misery. The hard times make you stronger, and make the good times that much better.
I love the girl from the broken home. Will we spend the rest of our lives together? I have no idea, but I long to continue this journey anyway.
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