I Wear Blue
East Brunswick, NJ
East Brunswick High School
I dream of leeches. Millions of them, as dark as blood. They’re swimming in the salt water that submerges my eyes, sealing them shut, like two welts on my face.
He calls me a slut.
I hear his voice above the water as if it’s sounding from behind a thick sheet of glass. Then, a million black, deadly lips clamp down on the ribs shifting underneath my thin, almost transparent skin. I am submerged in agony, kicking against it like a wild animal. Panic fastens around my legs and pulls me down. I feel the water accumulating mass above me. I am blind. The leeches spit at me. Each one muttering that same word. It becomes my anchor, the only thing I am able to latch onto with desperate, swollen fingers. Slut. Slut. Slut.
I awaken encrusted pain, the worst it’s ever been. My right side demands most of my physical and mental energy, like a magnetic pole. It is pulsing. The only solution is to move gingerly, formulating each motion before it becomes a reality. I am never more rawly aware of my body than in moments like these. It feels frail, fleeting.
I catch a flash of blue in the mirror as I’m combing my hair. This always eases my nerves. Perhaps it’s the repetitive motions, the separation of each strand, the illusion of untangling. I breathe through my nose, nostrils flared, a serious look on my face. He would laugh at the sight of me.
The blue is a royal color. A rich shade of silks and expensive pigments. For a second I have a foolish thought as if he arranged it that way just for me, so I could show it off during our brunches and outings and other appearances, like all of his gifts. I rid myself of this delusion immediately, blinking as I look away from the glass, not allowing myself to see any more. I pull on a sweater and go down to the kitchen, eager to keep myself busy with the house. I’d have it perfect for when he comes home tonight, just the way he likes it, with a hot dinner greeting him from the kitchen.
He brought me my favorite flowers as an apology, white roses. At least, they were my favorite once. I think because they reminded me of myself when I was younger: pristine, commanding attention, even alluring to the eye.
It was a good day at the office today, he said. Everyone behaved as they should have.
I make sure to change into my nightgown in the bathroom, so he doesn’t see it.
The new pool is finally ready today, after a week of installing. It’s the best of the best, he promised, something to keep me occupied while he’s away. I put on a new one-piece and invite some of the other wives over. We drink wine, also the best of the best, and lounge, and discuss absolutely nothing for precisely an hour. Then they leave. Neither one of us climbs into the water.
A few days later the blue has grown pensive. Deep ink blotches bloom on the surface of my skin. I grip the edge of my sink and stare at myself in the mirror. This is the brief moment of my day before the layer of creams and powders and neutral tones. I notice the bags under my eyes, they’re a similar color, a contemplative shade of purple. Without looking away I lift my right hand up and brush it against the surface of the skin covering my ribs. A forbidden pressure ripples against the tips of my fingers. I embrace it, caving my body around my hand, providing it with shelter. Very slowly, still focusing intently on my face, I draw a pointer finger and press. A tenderness presses back. I smile in the mirror and watch the wrinkles on my face fold over themselves.
I’ve developed a morning routine for myself. I live for the water. It’s the first place I visit when I wake up, before the bathroom or the kitchen or anything else. I dive into the pool, my body as sleek and narrow as a well-crafted argument. I push the water surrounding me, feel the strength of my thighs, the power of my lungs. I’m fast, faster than I thought I’d ever be again. I used to swim for a team up until the end of college. He doesn’t remember that, but I do. The old alma mater paws at my legs in between my thoughts, until I end up humming the tune underwater. Or sometimes shouting the words to myself around the house, hearing them echo through the halls.
When I’m underneath the water, my mind begins to wander. I think about how much I despise those hands, that pale patch of skin where he unbuttons his collar, the sudden bulge of his brow. I fantasize about what he would look if he was brought to his ruin if he had absolutely nothing left, not even his bouquet of roses. I allow myself to turn these thoughts over, consider every buried flavor, just as long as my head is below the surface.
There is a green ellipse, about a centimeter thick, as if a fairy ring had erupted on my skin. I know this because I stare directly at it, right underneath the top of my bikini. I figured I’d try it on since the yard is fairly private, with the wall of juniper trees I’d picked out the summer we were remodeling lining the perimeter. No one would be there to see. I squint at it, brush off beads of water to marvel at the fungus colored growth.
Today he comes home unsatisfied, his shirt collar unbuttoned before he even reaches the door. The dinner is too cold and too salty. My dress is too revealing and too cheap looking. I’m not eager enough or accommodating enough and he deserves so much more, considering all the horseshit he has to put up with on a daily basis, back at the office. He could find someone better than me in an instant. I am replaceable. A few hurriedly served drinks later and I am a bitch. A few more dribbling down his chin and I am a slut. That word. That precious word that grips my gut in a way that, after all of these years, almost resembles love. I smile weakly and reach over to wipe his chin with a table napkin, knowing what will come. The wrist is seized before I can even reach his face, the arm pinned behind my back. I stifle a cry of pain, and it seeps out of my mouth like a prayer. As his body presses up against mine, strangling me with the stench of alcohol and sweat and hunger, I focus on forgetting.
Before I could even recognize it, some part of me revolts until I don’t know whether the defiance is directed at myself or him. And then it is directed at him, and I see my free arm raised in the air, then lashing at his face, again and again, a reel of flashing images. Strangely, I feel no fury, no fear, only serenity, a blue expanse stretching out to the horizon. He pushes my arm down to my side, and I am suddenly on the floor, staring up at him, a position I am so familiar with that I could fall asleep in it. I let my eyelids fall shut, expecting the blow, the fresh red welts. Except the blow never comes, only a drawn-out groan and the sound of lumbering up the stairs. So I do fall asleep in it, letting the humming of the refrigerator and the crickets outside of the screen door lull me to sleep, more at ease than I’ve ever felt in our own bed.
Now it has soured, a pale yellow discoloration the only evidence remaining. I can knock against a piece of furniture or even force a thumb in between the two ribs without any unbearable pain, and I make sure to do both whenever I please.
I decide to go for a second swim today. Something inside hasn’t been satisfied, and I can’t bear to ruminate in my agitation any longer.
It’s one of those peculiar coincidences, two things alining to occur simultaneously in a way that makes one a firm believer in the power of nature. Just as my head breaks the water, right before my lungs expand to inhale the thick summer air, the certainty strikes me.
I take my time climbing out of the pool, savoring every second. Sunlight slips under my eyelids as I tilt my head up at the sky, wallowing in the scent of the manicured lawn, the feeling of hot marble underneath my bare feet. I’d miss moments like these, the calm, made all the more precious as I awaited the storm.
In the nude morning light filtering in through my bathroom window, I catch my skin unfurl like a dew covered bud. The bruise has completely disappeared, leaving behind a pristine patch of flesh its place.
This piece provides a harrowing account of a young girl’s experience maneuvering through a life of luxury while in a relationship of toxicity and abuse. As a means of survival, she learns to conceal her bruises with silk and blunt her sadness with roses. Only later does it become apparent that stashing away her feelings will not stop resentment from bursting at the seams of complacency. Finally deciding to capitalize on her pain, she confronts her husband in an act of cathartic defiance, and in doing so, experiences character transformation. While this story is one of pain, it is also one of grace—the kind that offers unconditional forgiveness, leading to ultimate self-reconciliation.
Eva Vesely is currently a freshman at Princeton University. She enjoys weekly Target trips, making playlists, breakfast, and her cat.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR