Phil and I don’t speak much about the attack. Every once in awhile, he’ll ask a curious off-handed question, but I don’t really mind. I can see how worried he is about me. Sometimes, when it’s late and we’re sitting in front of some marathon or another, I’ll notice him watching me instead of the screen. Whenever I catch him, he’ll lean forward to brush his lips carefully against mine before turning away. In those moments it’s not necessary for him to communicate with words. I understand Phil perfectly. Every little unnecessary touch, every kiss, every extra second of sustained eye contact is another way he tells me he loves me.
Slowly but surely, the bruising fades from my face and thighs; the cut in the back of my head heals and the staples are taken out. I’ve started to push away some of that all consuming fear and make room for normality to fit back in. My physical wounds are healing quite nicely; it’s my emotional wounds that are taking time.
I’ve gone back to joking around with Phil, and throwing things at his face when he’s not paying attention to me and doing all of those little things that I know he only pretends to hate, and sometimes they’re forced, but they’re natural most of the time and whenever I do something small like that he smiles. Which is reason enough to do anything, really.
Phil and I walked back to the hospital to get my stitches removed. I kept a death grip on his hand and when we got back into the hospital, my face was pale and I was shaking, but I made it. That was the first time that I really felt I was going to be alright.
About a week after that, I get a call from the police station saying they’ve arrested someone and can I please come into the station to identify him. Phil and I walk there too, but this time I have determination infused into my very bones.
The police bring me alone into a room with a one way mirror. They usher in a line-up of men, and instantly I spot my attacker. There is no mistaking that face. For the first time, I understand the purpose of my fear. I understand why I had to see his face painted on my eyelids, why I had to see him every time I rounded a corner, why I couldn’t sleep at night without knowing Phil is by my side. Every second I felt the tiniest ounce of terror was for this moment when I meet the eyes of the officer by my side and say, “That’s him. That is the man who attacked me.”
When I leave the station a mere half hour later, Phil’s fingers interlocked with mine, I am not afraid.