By Leticia Darlina Tanguma
I loved looking into his eyes. I saw the universe in their deep brown richness reflecting nebulas and fleeting comets. I saw infinity. As he looked back at me, it felt like he saw something, too. His eyes filled with tears. The moments passed with gentle impatience and with a mixture of shyness and sacrifice. He looked into the future knowing with innocent absolution that every wish would come true, and I saw a child. He caressed the side of my face with one hand, his touch soft and strong, and with the other, he felt the thunderous beat of my heart. He, in that moment, kept a promise, and I saw a man.
I love you.
I love you.
We had both fought for our lives as children, literally kicking and screaming to get away from monsters. From knife attacks and acts of murder. With vicious reflex, we retaliated with ruthless scratches and hits of our own: pulling hair, kicking where it counts, punching noses, slamming the hand down—our stamp of victory on stunned and stinging and beet red cheeks. Absent, automatic, ruthless control.
We barely existed with ever present memories of the assault of accusations and belittlements –
You stupid, what’s wrong with you-- wounds deeper than knives and that lurk in dark corners like shadow phantoms, stalking us, waiting to pounce and claw our hearts out. It’s the scheming utterances that leave atoms of traumas and tragedies. It’s the contorted perceptions and conclusions that linger in currents, suffocating and strangling empty throats with rotted, wasted blood that distracts us from living life.
When we found each other, when he recognized that which is me, and when I recognized that which is he, we defied the damage and death. For a while, we discovered lasting true love.
It’s the truth of that moment that echoes for infinity.
I try to remember that when I ask what went wrong. But I know. The shadow phantoms, the looming, greedy, callous beasts, ate their bounty in him, in us. They had spewed doubt in me and in the certain impossibility of dreams coming true. We swallowed those mumblings because we suspected that we didn’t deserve purity. We became monsters, attacking, retreating, retaliating against each other.
The beasts buried pieces of us in cold, suffocating dirt so they could come back and completely devour us later. I saw something far in the horizon before the dirt covered my eyes. A strange, distorted, ugly reflection, but that shone with light, albeit fading. When the beasts left licking our blood from their chops, I gathered what I could and climbed out, shrieking in pain.
I reached back for him, but he looked at me, and I saw something I had never seen before. With glazed eyes, he growled and gnashed his teeth. He grabbed me and yanked me back down. Before I could utter his name, he struck me.
I’ll kill you if you leave me
His claws slashed my heart. He strangled me.
Don’t leave me here alone I hate you
I looked at his dark, unrecognizable, demonic eyes. I lost my breath. The disbelief collapsed and hollowed my soul into the deep, bottomless hole that is -
I’ll kill your daughter
With all my might, the child I had been, wild, impervious, primal, and the mother I was, broken yet capable, I kicked his chest with both my legs and threw him off me. He gasped, his eyeballs protruding like frog’s eyes. The air knocked out of him, he choked and coughed. I took the moment to escape.
His shock did not last long. He caught his breath and lunged at me. I kicked his face from the crest of the hole.
I ran for dear life -
Over the hill and through the woods
To Grandfather’s house
I ran into midnight’s path. An occasional street light and a few porch lights lit the slumbering neighborhood. The inky black sky seeped between mazes of twisting trees and groaning alleys. The windows of neighborhood houses morphed into malicious effigies defending secrets, gold, and tarts from the likes of me.
It didn’t cross my mind to knock on doors to beg for help, because I was on a race. He now chased me from a block away, howling insults, swearing to kill me the moment I stopped or slowed down.
I’ll kill you if you don’t come here
I knew he would murder me. I ran blindly, anticipating the searing pain that would be worse than when he dragged me in a chokehold, when he beat me as I kneeled before him, when he sucked my breast and my life force with savage greed. This time he would kill me, and I was more certain of that than motherhood.
F’ing come back here
I ran, panting, out of breath. Hopeless.
Just when my pounding heart exploded, suddenly, underneath a street light, there sat a wolf, its fur illuminated by the light. An actual wolf! It looked at me with odd recognition. This wolf, real, humongous, breathtaking, in the middle of the hood, stood beautiful, strong, defiant! I couldn’t believe it - but it was a real wolf that would chase me and rip my throat open!
I knew, that on that night, I would die an absolute death one way or another despite my desperate yearning for my sweet little three year old girl, despite my own hunger for life.
I had no cards, except for one. The way I would die. Would I let the wolf kill me that instant, or would I run back to the man I love and let him murder me?
A tear fell from my eye - for him - memories of his eyes in kindness, of his sweet caress, his thoughtful words. Now lost forever to the beasts. He killing me would be what would cement him into an eternity of hate. Someone who I cherished: finished. My God.
I would rather die by the wolf than to be murdered by someone I love.
Though brutal, within the circle of life I would die with some kind of dignity. I came to an immediate stop and took a deep breath, careful not to look directly into the wolf’s eyes. I awaited its charge and its fangs to pierce my throat.
I took a step. Something magic and powerful happened. On that lonely night, I accepted death, and for the first time in my twenty-seven years of life, I felt peace. I felt light as air.
I dared to look at the wolf and felt a mysterious connection. Its brown golden eyes sent me the unspoken answer that has taken me a lifetime to understand. It began with the whispering wolf
You are part of the universe
Tilting its head, the magnificent being watched over me.
I reached my daughter and held her extra tight. In the early morning hours I dreamed of looking into a pond’s reflection of dying and living stars, and saw a wolf stare back at me.
The next day, I looked through the neighborhood, and found no sign of the wolf.
I wonder what the wolf had whispered to him.