Yesterday was my third anniversary.

I adore the fact that it’s one day before Valentine’s Day so the pressure is off — we go out to eat a day early, someplace nice. My husband wears his wedding suit, showers, shaves, removes any stray back-of-the-neck messiness, and let me say — he cleans up good.

I put on a dress, which is a rarity — full makeup, beautiful heels. I even curled my hair once, back when I had more of it, though trying to curl what I’ve got going on now would certainly be a fun experiment (any advice?).

This all went according to plan. I looked beautiful, my husband looked handsome, and we hustled our way through the cold and the block and a half to Our Place.

Tapas 177, bar upstairs, restaurant downstairs, dance floor adjacent to the dining room. We considered having our wedding there before we pulled the killswitch and opted for Vegas. Everything is lit up in red, a romantic version of ladies in Amsterdam windows. Usually we sit upstairs, chat with the bartenders and the waitresses while they’re waiting for their trays to fill. They let me smoke my e-cig up there, they’ll let Nate smoke after hours up there. We scoot our barstools together so we can lean on each other, and some of the drinks come for free and we hassle the owner for one of the black and white employee shirts. It’s the first place we ever went on a date — the owner, Demetrio, remembers. We’ve been up on the roof past 2AM, seen the light on, and walked straight in to free drinks and sincere hellos.

It’s Our Place.

I didn’t want to go.

I was exhausted from work and the week, and I felt anxious, edgy. I just wanted to exchange cards, little gifts, and be together — but we went, and we sat downstairs. It felt proper that way.

But we were all the way in the back, next to the wine cellar door, and near enough to the kitchen to hear every shout of “coming in!” and next to a trio of remarkably underdressed Asian kids who kept pulling out their iPhone 6+s to watch YouTube videos and take selfies. We might have been right under a speaker.

I started with a Midnight Manhattan — bourbon, lavender tea syrup, and orange zest — because it felt comforting, classy, a piece of a larger event, and we toasted to three years together, four months married. But as the courses arrived, and we began to talk about our weeks, our stories, the ambient noise became a cacophony and the talk became ridicule, and I couldn’t stand to be wearing a dress, or being tipsy, or wearing make-up and I had to get out of there.

I hated pleading with my husband through the beginnings of a panic attack. Please, I need to leave — he tried to calm me, to focus on my breathing, to meditate, but it was too much, and too loud, and I was about to fly out of my skin, so I left.

I went home and scrubbed off the make-up, but not the shame or the anger and I laid in bed, waiting for him (unaware that the waitress had been watching and offered him a shot for having to deal with that crazy girl — I could kill her), trying to breathe deeply instead of wading through the shallows that never give you enough oxygen, trying to quiet myself, and find solace in Spring Fashion magazines.

It wasn’t ten minutes before he was home, sitting beside my curled body on our bed, and I was so afraid he was angry with me. But, with my head in his lap, he told me he was only upset that I was going through this, and he held me until I could fall asleep on my own.

We didn’t exchange presents, or laugh as much as I would have liked, or even have the dessert-coffee-scotch combination I love so terribly. But we were close, and understanding, and so completely in love that, to me at least, it didn’t matter.

And that, to me, is a happy anniversary.

I Had Never

I don’t like to write about Him. I shouldn’t capitalize that pronoun. He’s not that powerful. But he is.

I had never punched someone until I punched him.

We were in a fight, and I don’t even remember what about. The problem is that I can’t remember the first time — there were so many. But I needed something from him, some validation of hearing me, or having any feelings besides frustration, besides stop talking get away from me I’m tired this is exhausting you’re exhausting, and I followed him and yelled and cried and begged and — snapped.

I started hitting him over and over, trying to find some point of vulnerability because I wanted to hurt him, or to wake him up out of this zombie stupor of indifference and — what? He would see me? He would start to care about the girl gone crazy, feeling frustrated that she couldn’t hit hard enough?

Don’t feel sympathy for me. It wasn’t a mistake because that’s something you do once. Afterward, no matter how reflexive the action feels, it is a choice, and I continued to choose to want to hurt him and to act upon it. It doesn’t matter that he was emotionally abusive, or that my parents had each hit me once, but hit each other countless times, or that I never managed to hurt him. There is no excuse.

I had never cheated until I cheated on him — and then with him.

It was against my nature, my morality, the kernel of heat in my belly and breastbone that knows when I’ve done wrong — the first time, I didn’t feel it. I drank enough to give me the bravery to be bad, and kissed another guy in the afternoon in my mother’s side yard. Later, I held his hand, and traced his collarbone tattoo, and wanted badly,badly to have sex with him, but we were in a tent with two other people — that’s the only reason why. He put his hand down my pants, and we later had phone sex, long after I had left my boyfriend because he didn’t care that I had cheated, he just wanted to move on, as if something irrevocable hadn’t happened.

It’s like losing your virginity — once it’s done, it’s easier to do again.

When I started dating the next boyfriend after him, I actively seduced him because he didn’t seem to care that I was happy with someone else. He went on a date, and something snapped. I met him for lunch and made the subtle choices I knew he would like, and that he knew that I had made purposefully. I refused to take no for an answer, and preyed upon the fact that I was far too good looking for him, and we had sex between some bushes and an office building next to the highway, and I convinced myself this was a good decision for another six months of cheating, always cheating, and lying, and telling myself this made me interesting.

I don’t feel sorry for cheating on him, but I for cheating with him — one instance of cheating with him — I do. I didn’t care if I did bad things behind his back, unless he found out and I didn’t have a better option at the time. I was selfish and so lost and only 23.

Then again, I was 23. I wasn’t 15 or 17, or whatever age some people say that cheating means nothing because at some point the slate is wiped clean and you start over. I don’t believe in that. You wipe your own slate, and I dirtied mine for a long time, feeling like a goddamned graffiti artist, but I was spray painting junk over my entire life.

I never hurt myself until him.

It started with pinching my arms and legs, to make myself not feel numb — but numbness is the absence of feeling — I wanted to feel. Being around him was like inhaling second hand smoke and then one day getting cancer that eats up your entire body. Like Where the Wild Things Are: I’ll eat you whole I love you so, but I was the wild thing and I ate myself.

The last time was using the corkscrew of a wine bottle opener to open up my wrist, scratching slowly over the course of days, planning to tell someone that my cat had ‘gotten me laugh-laugh‘ if they saw, until the thin red line became liquid and my now-husband came and took it out of my hands, sucked the poison out, took the pain away.

I never wanted to do it until I wanted to so badly that I couldn’t not do it and then I hated myself for it. I hated him for it more because I never felt so small and insignificant, like stepping on an ant, even a line of ants, which happens all the time — no one sheds tears for the ants, and there were no tears when I first picked up a screw that fell out of my apartment wall — nothing but quiet intention as I learned in concentration over my wrist.

I was never emotionally abused before he emotionally abused me.

I see so clearly: an apartment parking lot at twilight, and my arms are wrapped around my belly, trying to hold myself in as he backed away from me while I begged him to come and hold me — I was coming apart.

I see his eyes, cocky controlling eyes, knowing he could make me dance like a puppet on strings with elaborate eyelashes and a painted on smile. Rosy circles for cheeks. I was only in control when it came to sex, and eventually he stopped caring about that because he knew he held more of the cards — my desperation was showing, like stuffing coming out of my puppet’s stuffed wounds, and he grabbed it, held it, and dragged me around by it — I thought I had a choice.

That’s the shit of it — it’s a slow burn. Slowly, you are shrunken down into a pocket-sized thing and then you wonder why you’re picked up, flung around, bruised, and left out in the rain.

It sounds like I’m hung up on him — I’m not.

I’m a vengeful person, and I still want to hurt him like he’s hurt me, then rub the salt of my marriage in his sick-fuck wounds.

Because of him, I became the worst version of myself — even though it was totally and completely because of me.