by Jossary Padilla


         I fall in love with every person I meet. Whether or not I’m still in love with them after twenty minutes is an entirely different issue. I tend to see the most attractive and comforting attributes to a person without acknowledging the danger of my desires. For example, I fell in love with grown men who loved little girls. Thirteen-year-old me didn’t understand why those men were seen as pathetic and disgusting. I just knew that I loved them. I was comfortable with husbands, whose hands were larger than my father’s, touch me and tell me that I was beautiful. I grew used to deep voices whispering into my ear, telling me that my age didn’t matter, love was love.
          I found humor in telling a man about my homework assignments after he complained about his ex-wife. I looked up to a man who had his hand up my shirt as he dealt with his overdue bills. Yet there was eventual discomfort hidden underneath calloused skin as people mistook my boyfriends for my uncles. I was aware this was wrong. I was aware that going to bed with fathers who have had one too many divorces was wrong. I was aware that hiding hickies given by men who were frustrated with their office jobs was wrong. I was aware that having to tell my boyfriend that I didn’t want to drink because I wasn’t even sixteen yet was wrong. But I continued to let it happen until I realized I was no longer in love with them. It continued until I stopped myself from dying each time a man kissed me and told me he loved my innocence. I stopped myself from being afraid to say “no.”
          After that revelation, I decided to give myself a break from my illegal nature of relationships. It started with an English boy. He was eighteen, I was sixteen. His father came from England to America for a short period of time. I met Oliver during a quick Stop-N-Shop run. I remember him approaching me, him telling me that I was beautiful. I fell in love with his green eyes that were full of misery.
         We were together for about six months. Oliver was a broken boy. He abused himself and failed to recognize the self-worth that has always been a part of him. I couldn’t keep him from crying every time he looked at a mirror or apologizing as he told me he couldn’t get the blood stains out of his towels. I was broken too. I told myself that the person who woke up every morning had no right to exist. I was never physically hurt, but I told myself that I was someone who deserved to be hurt. Oliver’s constant reassurance of his affections and his never-ending support didn’t keep me from killing a part of myself each night.
          After I realized we could not use each other to solve our mental illnesses, our love grew stronger, but our relationship collapsed in on itself. What followed was a toxic string of anger and compassion. We continued to be in each other’s lives, but our friendship was poisoned with the realization that no matter how much we loved eachother, we could never get back what our relationship once was, innocent. I stopped talking to him. He stopped trying to talk to me.
          Perhaps my tendency to fall in love so often has taught me that I have lost touch with reality. I believed the men who told me that if they could, they would leave their wives for me. I believed that earning the love of someone who had already destroyed me was my proudest achievement. When a man would grip my thighs and tell me that he owned me, I believed it. When a boy would call me at 2 in the morning and tell me he had a bit too much to drink but he still loved me, I believed it. I was lost. I was lost in the darkness of my own chest. I couldn’t see that cleaning up blood from a boy’s sink wasn’t love. Shredding taxes and contracts for a man who spent most of his time with his lips on my chest wasn’t love. Picking up tossed clothes after having sex with a boy who refused to wear a condom wasn’t love.
          I learned that in order to come back to reality, I needed to love me. I told myself that my body wasn’t a crime scene tainted with the touch of pedophilia. I loved every part of my skin that was held in the hands of men who knew what they were doing tome. I kissed every inch that was destroyed by self-inflicted hatred. I told myself that my mind wasn’t a graveyard that came to life every time a boy with sad eyes spoke to me. I

told myself that I loved me. And one day, I will.


Author Biography: Jossary Padilla is a senior currently attending the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts who loves to write, read, sing, play music, and obsessively shop. She is aspiring to somehow find a career in which she can both write and sword swallow. She does not know how to sword swallow.