This image is a photoshopped work made cropping half of my face and half Miriam’s face. The half and half brooch have been made by an italian artist in honour of the following story

NOTE: ” FROM DARKNESS TO SISTERHOOD “  IS THE LAST CHAPTER OF “MONDONAUTA” THAT WILL SOON COME OUT IN ENGLISH- HOWEVER AS I BELIEVE IT’S URGENT AND NECESSARY TO SHARE SUCH MESSAGES I’M HAPPY TO SHARE IT WITH YOU HERE AS WELL. PS. IT WON’T SPOIL THE BOOK (AS IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED WITHOUT THIS STORY)

EPILOGUE: 

It is difficult, if not impossible to really know ourselves, it is much easier for a stranger to meet us and to get an idea of ourselves more truthful than what we built in a lifetime.Then certainly we will not even be the same person for life, experiences change us according to their nature and our reactions and we are likely to be the last ones to realise it, to understand and assimilate our inner changes.

10 years ago I though I was somewhat naive, but with a strong personality, in short, someone easy to fool but not to overpower.

10 years ago I did not know myself at all.


Before him it never happened and therefore I could only imagine how I could react if it had happened. I thought a betrayal would have been enough to leave a partner, I thought I would never be able to accept any kind of violence on me.

My mother had accepted the betrayals of my father and my respect for her has always been affected by it. I’m a daughter of a sexist society, instead of despising treachery in itself, I despised the acceptance of it.  I thought you should not set aside dignity for love.I thought it was the woman who was wrong in forgiving and not the man who was wrong in cheating.I thought I was strong compared to my mother. I thought I’d be better.Now I know that I was neither stronger nor better, I was simply young and arrogant.

The first time I found out I was been cheated on it was on October 28th, 2009, the day of my twenty-ninth birthday and I behaved exactly like my mother.

I put my pride aside and tried to forgive. I’ve never succeeded. Not even my mother, I believe, has ever succeeded at that. It’s strange because love does not go away with betrayal, it stays there, but it is flanked by a sense of nausea, you enter a precipitous vortex that throws you into the unbridgeable need to feel loved and get even. Unfortunately, that desire for revenge, always and only harms ourselves, it’s like salt and ice on our limbs, and he wouldn’t even notice my smile was fake and that I was agonising.

 

Relationship’s studies discovered how unconsciously each of us is not prone to look for the partner that will make us happy but rather for the one who will give us a familiar pain, a known suffering. I was very familiar with betrayal and that pain was so recognisable that it strangely made me feel at home, even if I was on the other side of the world.

Over time I discovered he had cheated on me from the first day of our relationship and had never stopped. All this travelling through 3 different continents with many women, and men alike. Yet after the long journey that I have just finished telling you (Mondonauta) I came back to him and I voluntarily stayed 3 more years, basking in the limbo between forgiveness and revenge.

I had never loved so much in my life. I had never suffered so much in my life.

Of that period of my life I keep blurred memories. There was the restaurant we owned together, in the morning there was a smell of fried chicken skin blended with the fragrant scent of frangipani, there were always people around, it often rained heavily and it was never cold, there were always fans on , and in the evening there was a stink of cold cigarettes, there was too much alcohol, there were lots of parties and there were many quarrels.

The morning after “the party”

A lot of quarrels and with the quarrels began the first pushes, the first spits, the first slaps, then the punches, the kicks while I was often already on the ground, the black eyes, the make up to try to cover them, the crying alone under the shower, the handfuls of hair that remained in my hands. The smell of hatred and the broken clothes. Waking up stunned by alcohol and fists and the more I got them the more I drank to forget thet could have happened. And the more I drank the more I thought I somewhat deserved all the shit I was going through, and that it was all my fault.

The naive girl I thought existed in me was dead and the one I thought was strong I discovered had never existed.

There was only shame, the only thing that mattered was to hide from everyone but especially to myself what was happening. Did I really let myself be beaten? I? No! I’m too strong to let anyone put his hands on me, I must have made it up! My mind is tricking my conscience! And yet … Yet my smile is broken and the more I try to put it back together the more I can’t find the pieces.  Yet the lip is broken, yet there is blood on the bed sheets, but… He? Did “he” do it? How could he? He loves me, he says that, I must have made it up. I must have started it, I must have been wrong, I’m crazy, nothing happened. He says he’s the only one who accept me for who I am, he understands me.

Maybe he’s right, but the other day I woke up at the bottom of the stairs and I don’t think I ended up down there because of my doing even if he says so.

Why don’t you leave? I wonder and, if you are reading this, you would ask me that too. All victims of domestic violence are stereotyped as self-destructive and masochistic. We are somehow blamed  for not having gone soon enough as if we consciously opted for a partner whose sole intention was to destroy us. As if love could be turned off with a button. As if he transformed from a generous lover into a monster from one day to the next. The change is gradual and like frogs inside a pot of water that heats up at low heat we can not perceive the danger as the temperature rises, we remain numb and immobilised like floating in an oppium high.

Fortunately, my frog jumped before the water started boiling. Do you want to know what happened the first time I tried to leave him? He took my credit card and cut it in two, right in front of my eyes.

75% of the victims killed by their abusers are killed only when they try to leave or have already left. Why? Because only once he realises that he no longer has any power over us he will no longer have any reason to restrain himself.

After falling back and back again into his charms and empty promises I made a run for it.  I bloody changed continent and ciao ciao.


 

Bali, 5 years later…

We talked intermittently in the last 5 years but only recently he started to get in touch more and more often. He said he read my first book, he said he became a “fan” of mine. Love and Hate in 5 years had waned into indifference, I heard his words and nothing really happened inside me. I was finally immune! I found myself responding coldly but calmly, I wanted to pay attention to that piece of advice that, thanks to him, I had tattooed on my arm: “remember to forgive”.

the two sides of the same coin- brooch created by @gnamgnamcaprets

I knew he met her immediately after I left. I spied on her on social media, and I knew she was beautiful. Many had told me that she was a younger version of me, I honestly thought they were exaggerating, I’ve never been that beautiful.

He told me on the phone that they had split up. He wanted children and she did not, and by mutual consent they decided to separate but still remained good friends.

Strange, he must have really changed. I thought.

A flashback. I’m back in Luang Prabang, towards the end of our relationship.  We’re on the balcony of a 5 stars hotel, in one of those free rooms he was getting because of his job in tourism. He got me pregnant against my will. My first and only abortion. The nausea returned, but it passed quickly.

He told me that she had always been jealous of me, because I was impersonating what she had always dreamed of being.  I did not tell him that I had always been jealous of her because I imagined he had been with her all that he had never been able to be with me.

Yet, despite everything, that angel  face that I had only seen on facebook has always inspired sympathy and I could not help but hope that he really was different with her, because nobody, fuck, really nobody would have deserved to re-live my nightmare.

A part of me has always wanted to warn her, to tell her that she would have a friend with whom to confide in case the past was going to repeat itself but obviously I never ventured to do it. I was afraid of going through the usual “Out-of-her-mind-jealous-ex” kind of situation.

I never contacted her … Never until now.

I’m on an airplane to Bali, I know she’s there and I know she’s been single for a few months, I know she’s beautiful and it’s because of the beauty that I’m traveling. I’m going to Bali to take some photos for my aunt’s fashion brand.

Miriam in Lakra’s 2018 collection

Taken from the euphoria of a couple of bloody mary at 5000 meters and a free wifi connection, I write her a message.

A simple thing, like: “hello, I hope this isn’t going to be too weird, but would you like to be my model? He doesn’t know I’m writing to you, it’s my own idea. ”

Enter.

Fuck….

I watch one movie and than the second…  I’m too excited to fall asleep, I start thinking that she will never get back to me… Maybe I made a mistake writing to her in the first place…  The icon of a new incoming message mutes my futile thoughts: “Enthusiastic about your proposal and can not wait to meet you!”

Fuck!

My heart is beating at 6000 bpm but I have to try to stay calm, or at least I have to be able to make her believe that I’m calm and cool.

We are meeting at the “Favela” the beautiful location for our photoshoot. She will arrive in the afternoon and I’m armed with handkerchiefs to wipe away the sweat that blurs the lenses in the tropical heat. I start shooting away with the speed of a professional. We have more than 60 models to do in a day, there is no time to waste.

She arrives and she looks like a madonna, radiant smile, porcelain skin, the eye color of “forget-me-not” me and shocking orange hair. Perhaps she must be the only woman in the world who looks good with orange hair. It’s a fact: I’ve ever been that beautiful.

There is no time for small talk, just shoot and shoot and I try my best to put her at ease, this is objectively something I can do well behind the lens, indeed it is my only true technique.

We finish and finally start talking. I immediately realise that our friendship does not start now but 5 years ago. We already know each other well, in a few hours we discover that we have practically everything in common, from the most serious things to the passion for Bloody mary and horror movies.

We can’t stop talking, we are a river in full swing. One beer after another the conversation inevitably ends up on the subject that has led us to be here, now, finally together.

Within a few minutes the lies he told her about me and the lies he told me about her, start flowing out like pyroclastic avalanches left under pressure in the volcano’s chamber for way too long.

Perhaps he has never cheated on her but his press of violence and manipulation hasn’t left her unharmed.  Discovering it touches an internal string that I did not think would sound anymore. It echoes in the space that was once occupied by my innocence.

We hold hands both in tears, I am lost in her eyes and her pain and I feel I’m watching her through a time warped mirror. I feel I’m listening to myself, 5 years back. I know her pain like it’s mine, I know her doubts like they are mine, I know her love and struggles because they have been mine.

Today, my stolen innocence lives in her and I can hold her tightly in my arms with sincere love.

In the pool at dawn among the lush palm trees she tells me that he is trying to win her back. It’s no surprise. I know his techniques well, they worked with me more than once. He makes you forget the evil with his irresistible charm and then throws you back into it just after you’ve lost another piece of yourself to him.

the two of us, the morning after

In bed together hugging each other we take a picture of us, smiling and send it to him.

I moved on and she is ready to do the same.

The only real vengeance towards those who abuse us is to live our life to the best of our ability, to show that we have been able to go on, despite everything, that all the hours they spent dismantling our self confidence have only made us stronger than we’ve ever been. That keeping  us locked away and isolated from the world only made us sprout wings and desire to explore it.

Shame becomes strength, the scars heal and even what I though was forever gone can be regained.

In Miriam I have not only found my innocence but also a soul sister I did not know I have.