40 | in which he tells her he loves her

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It's okay to be brave.
It's okay to get up and walk away.
Believe it or not,
Leaving takes courage.


Ryan Falls

| in which he tells her he loves her |

Looking at Crystal as I spoke, I couldn't read her expression. I didn't know what she was thinking or what she saw when she looked my way. All I knew was fear.

Every word I uttered tore a piece of me from my being like I was cutting bit after bit of my flesh and laying it flat on the table for everyone to scavenge. It wasn't easy, baring my heart and soul, exposing all that I have kept hidden for so long.

With every breath I took, I felt it would be my last. I had to force myself not to give up, not to shut up, get to my feet and run out without a backward glance. I might have quit speaking at all if she blinked. I might have changed my mind, seeing the slightest bit of hesitation.

She watched me like she was seeing me for the first time, and I hated every bit of it. I couldn't take it, unable to bear the sight of her changing expression. It was as if she was seeing the real me, the coward hiding behind the façade, the broken boy hiding in the perfect body. That's what I have been told all my life -- that I'm perfect.

I'm not, and for the first time, I feel like someone can see that.

It took all my strength to keep talking, to force each word up my throat and out of my mouth. My lips trembled and I clenched my hands into fists, not wanting her to see the shaking of my fingers. I was afraid of what she'd say, but more than that, I was afraid of breaking down in front of her.

Boys don't cry. Boys aren't weak. Boys don't get raped.

Boys are strong. Boys fight. Boys hold their heads up high and show no weakness.

It was never just about me. It was more about my identity, the standards of the society, about the masculine stereotype and about how well I fit into it. How could a boy go through all I went through? How could I?

Martin's voice echoed in my ears and my mother's face flashed before my eyes when I talked. It wasn't Crystal I saw when I was talking, for it wasn't just Crystal I spoke to. I spoke to the world, everyone I wanted to tell about it but couldn't. It wasn't Crystal who saw me but it was only Crystal who heard my cries. She heard me and she embraced me.

Every time I imagined telling someone, it was always the same reaction. I saw pity in their imagined eyes. I saw judgment and heard whispers, blaming me for what happened. I allowed it to happen, being the weakling I was. Why did I put up with it? I was clearly enjoying it, that's why.

My therapist tried, calling child services to my house and telling them what I had told him in our private sessions. The woman in black and the elderly man who accompanied her had asked me if it was true.

'Is it true you're being sexually abused by someone?' the woman had asked me, as politely as she could have.

I wanted to tell her the truth. I wanted to fall to my knees and cry until the heavens heard my pleas. I wanted to hold on to my therapist's feet and kiss them for trying to save me.

'Tell them, Ryan,' my mom had perked up. 'Tell them you lied to get attention. Tell them the truth.'

Her eyes were cold but her smile didn't show it. She repeated the mantra over and over until I knew I had no choice but to repeat it too. She loved me, after all. Why else would a mother want her son to be abused on a continuous basis? She was only doing it to protect me. She would lose me otherwise, as the service-providers would take me away from her. She didn't want to lose me.

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