“My War Zone" by Maribel Pagan

Most of the time when people look at me, they don’t suspect anything. They only guess that I’m still too young to have seen any of the horrors of life. Too innocent to have been beaten up, bruised, starved, sexually assaulted.

The terrible part of that is, probably, that I wish it were true. Because inside, it feels like a never-ending battle where I struggle to get away from the person who’s trying to gain pleasure from my body, or else wants to see the red blood rolling down my eyelids.

I always fail to get away.

And then there’s the shame, the lack of sleep, the lack of eating, the hair stripping off my head, the panic attacks, the loneliness, the thoughts persisting in my head—“Do you remember this?” Even in my sleep the nightmares appear. There’s no escape. Ever.

But the hardest part isn’t that the memories keep persisting. It’s that no one will ever know what it’s like for me to relive it every moment of the day while I wear a smile on my face the whole time. They don’t know how it feels to have the whole world crashing down and still have to smile your way out of it.

They don’t know how it is to control the war zone by keeping it all inside and never telling a soul.