He thinks I’m beautiful. But all I see are marks welded into my skin by sun, rain, wind, and age. He thinks I’m beautiful. But all I feel are lacerations of the soul inflicted by those who could not see beauty — only opportunity.

He says I’m beautiful. But instead of hearing his life-giving words, they slip and plummet from my marked body to the ground. I reach for them, I tilt my head, I try to pour them in. But it’s too late. They’ve already faded into the air around us because, surely, that is the “you” he is referring to.

He insists I am beautiful. More words plummeting to the ground. Where can beauty be in this maze of scars in my soul? He knows this maze: a maze that can be intriguing, bewildering, and infuriating. He also knows I am trapped in it. He has seen my mind and heart endlessly search for an opening in the scars. He has seen me scream in pain and throw myself into them. He has seen me fall into their craters and scrape them bloody in an attempt to get out — a person trapped inside herself desperate to find a way out or at least a pattern to explain them.

And yet, sometimes there is comfort in the scars — a place to remain hidden, untouched, and silent. Perhaps I’m not always trapped. Perhaps they are so familiar now that I choose them over the overgrown path weaving around them. It is so hard to maintain your balance and footing on that path. It is exhausting. There is safety in sliding into the scars of the soul, I tell myself. I am hidden.

“You’re beautiful,” he says, “and I love you.”

I am loved. I hear his voice in the maze. It’s so distant and I can’t understand the words, but I know they must lead to an opening somewhere. Maybe someday I will find it and return to the maze on my own terms. Until then, I am loved. And I love him more than words can ever express.

Photo by Arto Marttinen on Unsplash