“That’s a lovely shirt,” a friend says to me and I glance down at it briefly, saying “Thanks, I got it from one of the shelters I lived in briefly after I left the Ex,” and I can see her inwardly rolling her eyes and hoping that I don’t get set off on a tangent about life in the shelters versus life with that horrible man. I’ve told her a bit about it before, mostly after she commented that I was a difficult person to get close to and I can’t help but wonder why she wanted to get close to me if she didn’t want to hear my truths. But this is the way it is sometimes, sometimes what’s on the surface is so much easier to accept than what lies beneath it. She smiles a tight lipped smile and quickly lowers her eyes back to her phone’s screen, scrolling furiously. I take the hint and do the same. The truth can be so painful but in this moment it brings me no pain, it’s like watching a movie for me, watching a slide show. They’re just images, images that don’t make me feel anything. It’s not always like this, sometimes the nightmares are just as vivid as the reality of the events were, but I cope with them better these days. It’s difficult to appreciate the present without reflection on the past. I hold the past close to me so that I never forget what I rose from. Like the mythological Phoenix, I was reduced to ashes but I was reborn from those ashes. They are a part of me. They will always be a part of me.