• Natalie Harrell

The Scars Love Leaves

Updated: May 5

He stared at the door. Behind it he received his tattoos; the marks left permanently by the hands of his lover, painful and

nonconsensual. We are addicted to the pain derived from drugs. His feet planted in the grass before her door. The freshly

cut grass had been drenched by the rain from the night. His feet

became wet. We are cleansed of our sins at the altar. His shadow grew longer with the day. He told himself if

it reached the door before he did, he would leave. By five

o’clock he remained only as a ghost. We run away when we are scared of the unknown.

We run headfirst with a sword when we are ignorant of the


Let’s hope to forever be ignorant.

August 23. How does love start? Does it start in the middle of a party when two strangers look across the room and only see the other; spotlight on both; breathless, the both of them? No. Love begins in the simplest of ways: through friendship.

Both of us sat staring at the water. It was a Friday afternoon, and everyone decided the beach was where they wanted to be. “When do you think it will start to be cold?” As a born and raised Wilmingtonian, I should know better than he would, but still I asked. “The water or the weather?” “Both.” “Probably late September. Maybe sooner.” “Well let’s go in the water before we can’t anymore.”

We raced each other to where the shore met the sand and beyond.

I never wet my hair at the beach, but he pushed me in. I

laughed like I had never laughed before. So unapologetically me. I got out before he did. His afro shone in the sun, glistening from the water, like a sponge that soaks up the whole ocean. I looked at him differently that day. But he has a girlfriend, I reminded myself.

August 31. Why do we stay away from those we love and stay with those we do not? We become entranced with the idea that someone could never love us the way we were loved the first time it happened. But what is love? Love is not controlling. Love is not hurtful. Love is not manipulative. Love is warm, love is kind, and love is comforting. It is


“She what?” “Yeah, see this mark?” He turned his neck to show the

scar. The stark contrast made it seem much worse. The small patch of skin her nails hooked into only a few hours prior left a white mark on his dark skin. The only thing separating him from the incident and the present moment were a few hours of restless sleep. “And you guys didn’t break up?” Bewildered, he replied, “no.” “Why not?” “I’m scared no one else will love me as much as she does.”

September 1. Why do we need romantic relationships to feel whole? Why do we jump from one to the next, or more importantly how could we jump from one to the next so seamlessly? When we find something different and exciting, we are thrilled. We leave the old for the new.

Behind his house on the other side of the gate he walked by my side. The amount of confidence one has to confess their

secrets coincides with the amount of alcohol in their bloodstream. I had none. “Natalie, can I be real with you?” “Go for it, bud.” “I have a thing for you.” Looking at him, a foot taller than myself, I said, “you need time to figure out who you are first.” We walked back in the party like nothing had happened.

September 2. Why do we trust the untrustworthy? Perhaps because they give us no choice but to trust them. Why do we fall for the broken? Perhaps because we wish to break as well.

In Mikey’s dimly lit kitchen the boys played poker. He and I were on the other side of the room. “She might show up here.” By then they had ended things. He had ended things. “Why?” “She has my location on her phone.” Later that night we stood alone in the kitchen. I tried to ignore the elephant in the room, what he had told me the night before. Then, as we stood two feet apart, he leaned into me. He pushed a strand of my hair behind my ear and as he leaned in, he said, “do you mind if I kissed you?” My head violently shook to the side and as I walked away from him my throat produced a, “no,” heavy with tears. I felt violated. Like a rebound. Like someone to be used and thrown away. I had no intention of being with him, no hopes to be his. Not at that time.

The next night we kissed. I regret it now. The thing about regret is that you cannot do anything about it except to just move on.

September 8. When we feel anxious our hands shake and our heart race, we may even sweat a bit. When we feel love our hands

shake and our hearts race, we may even sweat a bit. So how are we supposed to tell the difference between anxiety and love?

Leaving the party from right down the street, we ran to his front door, laughing the entire way. I promised myself not to drink in front of him, I do not enjoy the feeling anyhow. He did not make a similar promise to himself. He grabbed my hand and led me the entire time we ran. On his porch he held me like I have never been held and kissed me in a way which felt so new yet so familiar. We forgot our situations, our trials and tribulations. We were only us, pure and true.

September 14. Why do we want those who want us to be who they expect us to be, not who we are?

“Natalie, can I be honest with you?” We stood on the porch of Mikey’s. Everyone else calls him Mike, I like Mikey. It was midnight and everyone else was inside partying. He had just smoked a cigarette and I hated it, every part of it. That is how my grandfather died, granted it was sixty years of cigarettes, but sixty year’s worth cannot start without the first. But I stayed silent, it was his decision to smoke it and I would tell him later what I thought. “Sure, what’s up?” “I’m really surprised you didn’t say anything about that cigarette.” “I didn’t love it, but what can I do but tell you it’s bad for you, I can’t make your decisions for you.” “That’s wild.” “Why?” “If you were her, I would be in a screaming match right now.” “I don’t scream. Anger doesn’t die when met with more anger. I choose to use my words, not my hands.” I looked at the scars on his neck, on his arm. “You’re so different.”

“I would hope so.” “I really like it.”

September 20. How do you know what a feeling is when you have never felt it before?

I realized what I hold for him in my heart is love. True love. It’s terrifying. September 29. We claim we want joy yet remove ourselves from those who bring us the most joy. Why? We are told to be fiercely independent, but no one can escape the reality of needing human connection, it moves society forward. When we find the best form of human connection, why do we run away? Perhaps because we are scared of the unknown.

Behind the wheel with heavy tears in my eyes. I looked away from him to hide the pain. We pulled into the parking lot and walked around the dock. The sun set and we marveled at it, my wishes still unsaid. We waited until every star that was bright enough to be seen through the light pollution was out. “When I was a kid I thought when the sun went down it was like a giant fort. The sky is just a tattered cloth and the stars are where the light shines through.” He nodded, not knowing what to say to that. “I think we should just be friends.” “Hmm,” he waited for me to finish the thought. He knew there was more to my words. He knows my mind works in complex circles. “And I think it would be best for me, and you, to not speak for a little while.” He agreed and we walked back to the car and we drove home. We walked to opposite sides of the street. When I closed my door, I thought it would be the final time for a while. He still reached out for days to come, not respecting my space.

I have not spoken to him comfortably since that night under the tattered cloth.

October 8. Why do we say the things we do? Why do we say things we do not mean, sometimes the complete opposite of what we mean? We are scared of the truth, but what terrifies us is what would happen if the truth came out.

He held me in the middle of my kitchen, gave me a hug because he knew I was broken, and he knew he was one of many who was handed the hammer and decided to take a hit instead of setting it down. I believed he would be the first to set it down. He held me like I have never been held before. Our breathing synced. I was scared. “I hate you.” My words came out seamlessly, but so did my tears. He looked at me, knowing I had to say it as protection. He hated to hear it. “You don’t hate me, Natalie.” “Don’t tell me how I feel. I hate you.” Through small sobs I managed to tell him, “get out of my house.” Then he left.

October 18. What happens when the truth comes out?

Neither of us were in the right headspace. We stood, holding each other like a lifeline, in the middle of my room. The colored Christmas lights lit up his face. I said his name. He said, “hmm?” I said, “I need space from you. I need to not be around you.” “Why?” “I love you.” The truth finds a way. “Natalie, I love you, but I cannot love you in the way you need to be loved right now.” He kissed the top of my forehead. He walked out the door.

The next day at work, Sarah asked him what happened.

He told her, “Natalie said she loves me.” Sarah asked what he

replied with. He said, “I told her never to say that to me again.”

As you wish, Mr. Taylor.

Natalie Harrell

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