by: Sarah Baran
She has never been like anyone else.
This isn’t solely because she is a woman, but also because of what sleeps inside of her, a dormant beast, that makes her different from those who have captured my interest before she thrust herself into my life. Her eyes are large, and deep, and dark, and perfect to get lost in, like the mouths of tiny caves. She has a confidence, a sternness that doesn’t match her tiny frame but is unyielding to the comments and opinions of others. Unseen by most, held safe inside of her, far away from the dark cruel grasping fingers of the world, is a malleable heart of warm gold.
When we first met more than three years ago, she had a passion and a fury unmatched by anyone I had met before. Her words captured my attention and held me transfixed. Even now, she has mastered words in a way only the writers whose volumes grace my bookshelves have mastered them. She holds them in the palm of her hand, carefully sifting through and picking out the most meaningful, the most powerful, precisely, with a surgeon’s touch. I fell in love with her almost immediately.
She was the ocean and her emotions were tidal waves. In and out, they moved in conjunction with an invisible moon that only she knew. For the first year we fought, we argued, I cried, she screamed. Back and forth, up and down, over and over. We made the same mistakes and blamed each other for them. But at the end of every day, we apologized for our wrongs and forgot about them. We cast them aside like old newspaper clippings. They were all yesterday’s news.
“Abuse! Abuse!” was shouted into my face, but I knew that wasn’t the name of the black-toothed creature lurking inside of the woman I loved. The thing that took control of her at night, that spewed hateful words from between her perfectly straight teeth and forced graceful, agile hands to cut and draw blood from herself and from others.
I dedicated myself to helping her combat this demon, to learn from my own actions, to alleviate her mental, emotional, psychological pain and suffering. We read books, did research on the many names of these debilitating black figures — Depression, Bipolar, Manic-Depressive, Borderline. We lurked the Psychology sections of bookstores and digested everything we could get our greedy hands on, my head nestled against her chest on the carpeted floor, listening to the triumphant beating of her strong, capable, battered heart. We learned together.
She promised me she would see a therapist when the threats of suicide came up. Tears stained cheeks and sheets just the same, and she made a promise that I held her to. I never break my promises, and she has learned never to break a promise to me. The cutting had become more regular, the scars tracked over arms and hips and legs and wrists. Each white mark against her caramel skin ripped out a piece of me and used it to cover itself, as a shield from prying eyes.
I wanted so badly to protect her from herself, from this demon inside of her, from whatever it was that couldn’t see the beauty I saw. The thing that wanted to destroy the woman I loved more than life itself. As she continued to see her therapist, she improved. The black creature became more docile, or at least retreated deeper into her brain.
I can no longer use my hands to count out her good days, as they have increased along with her attitude. She smiles more often now, which is a joy to me and to her family. Her smile is a light, the way her eyes crinkle when she laughs, the way her teeth shine, the way she hides her face in my neck. Green — the color of my eyes — is her peaceful color. She looks at me to calm herself down, to bring herself back to reality. “Think green, mi amor.” But now she has a sign attached to her forehead. A diagnosis which will nail itself to her, a cross for her to carry, a ball and chain for her to bear, for the rest of her life.
As the years have progressed, we have begun to understand. What this means for us, our life, our careers and the way others may look at her and at us as a couple in the future. We still hit the lows. The black beast still wins, still takes over from time to time, still makes us both miserable and threatens her happiness — and as a result, my own — but never does it threaten our relationship. Never does this shadow-creature threaten our love or our dedication to each other.
Instead, it stitched us together, made out of us a seam, and with it, we keep each other warm. My strength is her strength, my happiness is her happiness and we learn to keep each other going. Like the Little Engine That Could, “We’re almost there, we’re almost there.”
And we can.
I work with the suggestions her therapist makes, and we work together. We are a team, and if there is anything I have learned through the deep, intense, selfless love I feel for this beautiful mess of a human, it is that love truly conquers all. Her psychological disorder, her demon will never leave her. She will carry it inside of her forever.
But it does not define her. It is not her physical beauty, her Mexican mother’s thick wild curls of dark coarse hair, her father’s noble Eastern European nose. Nor is it her intelligence, her dedication to fighting for those marginalized by society, her refusal to be content with the world so long as the people within it are suffering.
This is who she is. This is who we are. And we refuse to hide. We refuse to allow ignorance and wrongful accusations to force us into becoming refugees from our own relationship. Psychological disorders may exist, but they do not have to cripple. They do not have to maim. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and carrier of a demon or not, my partner is the most beautiful creature I ever laid my eyes on.
Sarah Baran is a third-year undergraduate student at DePaul University studying Art History, Painting and Spanish. She volunteers with the Intercambio program at DePaul and is excited to be doing more intensive community service during her Study Abroad trip to Mérida, Mexico during Winter 2012. She has a deep love and appreciation for Latin American culture and hopes to spend the rest of her life making the art museum more welcoming toward and inclusive of the Latino community in the United States. When she is not getting overly-excited about institutional racism, she enjoys painting, doing crafts, being an introvert and playing cat-whisperer to/babying her partner’s Himalayan, Boobie.