I stand in the shower and let the water pound against the knot in my neck until the spasm seems so strong I register pain before terror. Every possible nerve I can find rests against the jarring freeze of the granite. Water drenches my arms, face, and stretch-marked body – kissing parts of me I used to reserve for your masochistic ego.

I’m here. I’m right here.

I repeat this to myself over and over, like a chant I hope to someday believe.

The granite sparkles with specks of orange, gray, and black, and I feel the cold seep into me like a salve slowly easing the symptoms of a disease I can’t quite shake – dormant, but ready to resurface and attack at any moment.

These are translations of a post-apocalyptic love. The kind that destroys everything in its path, but still begs you to revere the person it helped you become.

Some days, the terror sits so close to the surface, I believe I’m back there, crawling away in tatters and tears praying you don’t follow. The panic rides my shoulders tearing at my throat as nonchalantly as if it was really you.

I lean over and press my hands flat against the granite floor, while the water beats against my lower back driving away air and breath. My hair mixes with the tears and torrent resurfacing my face, and I scream “You won’t break me.” so even the figure of the bare naked woman in the next room can hear.

My breasts sag against my knees, and I hug myself as closely as I can.

I’m here. I’m right here.

…Searching for grounding in the cold, solemn corners of a space I used to love you. How ironic.

The anxiety claws at me, so I beg the floor to take me as its extension. Meanwhile, my mind circles, hovering just above the question, accusation I never answer and rarely survive. How terribly worthless are you? Crying in the floor of a shower I used to love you, so you could orgasm with the masochism of pretending to love a person as broken as you pretend not to be.

I keep trying to turn off the shower because I have work and life and things to be besides to terribly worthless, but I can’t pick myself up off the floor without remembering how effectively you taught me love could echo pain. The handle twisted somewhere around 11 o’clock looks so far away with its bronze mocking.

Outside of the shower lies a tile floor, then carpet, a Keurig coffee pot I never use because coffee snobbery gives me something to focus on, slung clothes, strewn shoes, books, bags, paperwork, research, and memories. Outside of the immovable wooden door is a walkway, then a car, and eventually an exit marked by palms; all merely physical identifiers of a post-apocalyptic world where I used to love you. Where each step I take and each step I took is marked by before and after you.

Jessica Ciccarelli is a southern, gothic memoirist from Dry Creek, Louisiana. Her was most recent publications include “Origami Dragons” in the Berfrois, “On Becoming a Storyteller: a Memoir” in Burning House Press, and a memoir trilogy in The Learned Pig. Twitter: @therecoverypoet

Image: Spider skin by Ian Mannion (Creative Commons)