I am center stage. All eyes are on me. I look out and take a calming breath. The room is intimate. I can hear whispers in the back. I can smell the cologne of a man in the fourth row. My heart is pounding in my chest. I wonder if they can hear it.
I have been waiting for this opportunity for a while. I am anxious and I am eager. I am ready to own this moment. Finally, my story will be heard.
I open my mouth to speak the lines I have rehearsed many times. But as the words begin to cross my lips, my voice is drowned out by another. Someone else has begun to tell my story. Except it isn’t my narrative.
I am the villain.
From behind the scenes, he is controlling the audience. They digest his lies. They gasp in surprise. They grow angry with me. I can feel the heat of hatred rising in the room. It is unsettling and I am uncomfortable.
I stand awkwardly, hoping that they will realize that this narrative is untrue. I try to speak louder, so my words are heard. As the volume of my voice increases, the more my sound is drowned out. I am being dubbed over.
Another outrageous lie booms through the room. I can feel eyes collectively glaring at me. I wonder for a moment how anyone can believe this. Then I recognize that nothing I say will change the way this audience sees me. I am no longer the hero. Maybe to them, I never was.
I lay, crumpled on the floor as the audience looks on as sharks drawn to blood. I am broken. They are glad. They think they have beaten me. I am still. The narrator laughs and declares to the crowd that I am weak. He claims that his strength has brought victory over my evil ways.
This act was never about truth. It is about humiliation.
I feel the tears well up in my eyes and the cool floor is soothing against the warmth of my face. My frustration grows. His lies will not control me. His untruths will not defeat me.
I lift my head and summon all the courage within me. I rise to my feet. I inhale deeply and regain a courageous stance. I hold eye contact with a woman directly in front of me. I want her to hear my truth. I want them all to know my reality. In that moment, I realize they haven’t earned the right to hear any of it.
Exit stage left.
Writer’s note: If you are a victim of domestic or emotional abuse, please seek help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1–800–799–7233.