I am the child of scientists.
I analyze, I rationalize, I plan and I plot. I like charts. I like lists. I like numerical data—black-and-white, unambiguous, unemotional.
And when I think about what I like about myself, it’s not my soft voice or my gentle words. It’s not my accommodating nature. It’s not my kindness. I’m not an inherently empathetic person—it’s terrifyingly easy for me to hate people—frustratingly difficult for me to love them.
After years upon years of feeling inadequate—emotionally stunted, broken, defective in some way—I made a conscious effort to change. Someone made me change. Brandon made me change. I felt an emotion that didn’t come naturally to me, welcoming the bone-crush, the inevitable fall from grace.
I was seventeen. I played lacrosse. I loved my friends. Getting a five on the AP US History exam was probably the most pressing issue in my life. I laughed loudly. I felt myself move beyond mindless crushes, silly infatuations that filled a sucking void, and I fell in love—unconditionally, unrelentingly.
I used to tell people it was perfect until it wasn’t—but that’s a lie. I was discouraged from dating him by mine and his friends alike, saying his sweet words and kind tone masked something.
He told me he loved even the worst parts of me.
He’s too nice. Where are the red flags? You don’t know him that well.
That’s just how he is. He has none. We’ve been friends for a year!
I don’t think I can love the worst parts of him.
The truth hit me like a fucking train six months in. It started semi-innocently. We’d fight. I’d cry. He’d sit there and laugh.
Then the fights became one sided.
Then the punches were mental
and then they were verbal
and then they were physical.
And I took all of it.
The same fingers I kissed pressed bruises into my neck when I cried.
He wanted me quiet.
It went on for half a year. I lost twenty pounds. I cut off all my friends. I couldn’t listen to music. I didn’t sleep.
After months of bending myself misshapen to salvage a relationship that nearly killed me, dismissing my instincts in order to be palatable, compassionate, and caring—the perfect female victim—I allowed myself to be angry. Passionately angry.
And because I am the child of scientists, I sought rationalization. I began planning. Plotting. I made lists—of people. I lived out the last months of my relationship at war with myself—the parts of me that hate, that burn bridges and spit fire clashed with the parts that consumed me wholly for the better part of a year, the parts of me that loved blindly through abuse and destruction.
I systematically went through those lists, telling people what he did to me—starting with my closest friends and moving wider and wider until there wasn’t a single person at our high school who didn’t know. Until there wasn’t a single one of his college classmates who didn’t know. Until even people at his old schools had caught wind. I sent the evidence to his family, our high school, his college, his employers. I posted screenshots of his violent text messages on Instagram, put all the evidence in a 20-page long document that I sent to absolutely everyone who knew him. I wanted to take, and take, and take more— take everyone from him until he was left to deal with the wreckage alone, just as I was.
People began rubbernecking. DMing me on Instagram, calling, texting. I got a “hey, how are you?” text every few hours from random high school friends I’d, for lack of a better term, ghosted. It was a template. It was horrifically cookie-cutter. I’m sorry this happened to you. You’re incredibly strong. You’re going to do great things. He’s a horrible person. I’m so sorry. I wanted to scream and cry and tell them that he’d ruined me and explain that the one time I allowed myself to open up I was quite literally beat down again. But I plastered on a soft smile, gave out hugs like candy, and comforted others about my trauma.
Self care supposedly meant not fighting fire with fire, not seeking revenge, to gracefully forgive and easily forget, but how? How am I supposed to let him live his life? How am I supposed to let him be free?
After the revenge bit was over, after I was satisfied with the destruction I’d created, I was comfortable in beginning to self-destruct. I contemplated smoking cigarettes, but could never inhale without my lungs convulsing and my mind echoing my asthmatic father’s disdain. I considered becoming an alcoholic, but my brain cycled through futuristic scenarios of liver failure and leaving my hypothetical children motherless.
I realize now that self-destructing would be letting him win—I’d be finishing what he started.
Maybe someday I’ll cry tears of bereavement—pretty, societally feminine tears I can romanticize and write poems about. Tears men will want to kiss away and protect me from. But for now, I’m content with my tears of fury. The ones that sting and burn, that scare those around me, because that’s self care. Feeling ugly. Feeling disgusting and horrific—navigating through the antediluvian and withstanding the flood. Independently. Viciously. Because my self-care wasn’t pretty: my self-care
involved casting aside the love I’d nurtured for a year and destroying the boy who destroyed me. My self-care was reverting back to the worst parts of my personality I swore to leave behind. My self care was realizing that I wasn’t defective—I still try to find the balance between the parts of me that loved and the parts of me that hated, between the parts of me that yearn to be a victim and the parts of me that crave revenge.
I’ll try my hardest, and when love finds me again, I’ll welcome it like an old friend.
I know I’ll heal someday.
I’ll learn to love myself.
I’ll love myself.
Naviya Kapadia ’24 is a staff writer
Hantong Wu ’23 is a staff artist