Five years of my life. Five years of deep diving, gasping, drowning, trying to be OK, or at least look the part, while losing absolutely everybody and almost everything... Remaking myself.
It began one day, in a sunny classroom. He walked in. I was transfixed - there was something about him that seemed familiar. I knew him, I felt it. I remember that moment so vividly.
I fell in love with him slowly, over the course of one or two years. It became my obsession - I loved everything about him. I wished for us to be together, but felt it was impossible. He knew I liked him at some point, found out, and showed that he thought this was quite funny.
One day, he invited me to hang out with him. We meandered around the area of my high-school, and all along the valley, and over large waterpipes, and he lifted me up and twirled me around. I was happier than in my dreams. Later, at the movies with my grandparents, heart in my mouth, I texted him, the light of my phone seeping out into the dark theatre from behind my fingers... I asked if he liked me. His reply was something along the lines of "I guess so."
I was going out with another guy, a sweet young hippy who was very kind. I was only fourteen, soon to be fifteen. I broke up with my boyfriend the next day, told him we needed to talk, sat by the statue in the town center and told him everything.
Then we were together. Me and Scott. I felt lighter than air.
We would go on so many adventures, me, him and our two closest friends. Our favourite adventures always took place in the nearby golf course, where we would go hunting for lost golf balls. Sometimes we would all sneak onto a rooftop, just to sit and watch the world. I remember hanging about by the junk yard near his house and being chased out by the manager. We ran as if our lives depended on it, through the back of the junk yard, down into a river, back up again and into the trees. I remember kissing so passionately in that forest. I remember when he snuck me into his bedroom through the window and locked the door and set his drawers against it so his family could not come in. I remember the first time, my first time, and the rush to get the plan B pill afterwards, running up the hill to the pharmacy. I remember biking all the way from my property to his, one afternoon. I remember daydreams on the grass, the sweet taste of his mouth on frosty mornings, the feeling of watching cartoons in bed together, the way he taught me to make tea and noodles. I remember going to local fairs with his family, or sitting and talking with him as he cried and revealed his deepest secrets.
It began early: the manipulation. When he was mad, he would threaten to leave and go back to his hometown in the countryside. Then suddenly he would start crying and hint at terrible skeletons in his family's closet: secrets surrounding his father and sister and mother. He cried a lot, needed a lot of love and attention and care, which I gave so freely. I wanted to help and heal his heart, I knew this from the beginning. Nothing hurt more than seeing him upset.
He would get mad. At his mom, at his sister and brother, at his dog. I saw him scream at that dog many times, or push her old body out of the way. The screams cut like a knife, I felt for her, wanted to hold her like she was me.
Then he began to try and change me. He taunted me, acted disgusted by my stories. Before getting together we had talked for hours and hours on the phone, me in my sister's room pouring my heart out. He saw me at my most vulnerable. After a while all my secrets were thrown back in my face, he told me he felt sick that I had kissed my close girl friend. He also started to make comments on my clothing - my own creations were "weird," and my skirts were always "too short." He would point out that guys were looking at me and that it was not OK.
He gave me all his songs, they became my own over time. My music taste has been forever shaped by his: 80's and old style rock and roll. He took nothing in return.
He hated my mum, called her terrible names. Once, he came with us to Australia as a guest for our family reunion. My family paid for his airfare. Somehow, he got in a bit of an argument with my cousin, and ended up kicking him, then hid in a room and cried and told me all the reasons my family were bad, implying I had to choose sides. When my father tried to talk with his mother about what had happened, he ran off after flipping the finger at my poor, confused dad.
I used to go on family vacations a lot, but he would call and call and call, racking up hundreds of dollars in phone bills, asking where I was, why wasn't I with him, then laying out all his woes. While I was on one of these vacations, he wrote me a letter that hit me like a tonne of bricks, telling me he was so disgusted by my relationship with my brother, implying there was something more to it, because I had hugged my brother one day after school. I immediately pulled away from my little brother. More slowly, but ever so surely, I pulled away from my whole family.
My family would talk in hushed whispers about us at my grandparents house. They told me several times that they did not like the guy. But, as with everything, the situation was more complex than first meets the eye: my relationship with my mum was already strained for reasons that went back to childhood, and the teenage hormones racing through my body told me I was VERY ANGRY a lot of the time. With no real rhyme or reason, I resorted to blaming my family, and things would flow from 'good' to 'not so good' all the time.
Knowing that my family now disliked him, I felt like a modern day Juliet! I would sneak out at nights, and go hang out with him and a few friends in the park.
Now, if this was the end of the problems, I am sure the relationship would have eventually fizzled out and I would have moved on, cutting my losses and notching it up as just another teenage love affair.
However, it did not fizzle out, it got waaaay more intense and tangled. He began to isolate me from my friends. He had already convinced me, within the first month or so, to cut ties with a group of 'undesirable' friends, and now he began to weed out the remaining ones. When we hung out as a group, everything was fine, but when we were alone, he would point out all their flaws, their hang ups and bad behaviors, (actually, this was not unusual, as he would do this even to his close friends). A rumor started at school about one of the girls in my group because he made it up. Then there was the phone stealing. He would confiscate my phone for hours and I never knew what he was doing with it. I learned, only years later, that there were numerous nasty and mean messages sent to my friends during that time! Not surprisingly, my closest friend and I began to fight. He was overtly jealous when I would spend time with her after school, and would call and complain, even though I spent almost every afternoon at his house. Slowly, I saw her, and the rest of my friends, less and less, with my time taken up more and more by him. The straw that broke the camels back fell one day, when I decided to change some kind of plans that included my best friend to instead invite him, (I forget the details, it is all so foggy now!!!) She had had enough. We were no longer friends.
Now my only friends were his friends.
Meanwhile, we were inseparable. He took my necklaces and wound them around his bedpost. He made me think I was wanted, needed. He loved me, and I felt my life would be so dull and unfeeling without him, I had not much else.
I felt needed in a practical way; I began to pay for most of his stuff: clothing, groceries, soccer games, school outings, takeaway foods, scooter and repairs, treats, anything I could. I got an allowance of around 60 dollars a week for petrol, but my car was almost always empty. I would beg for more money from my parents and would spend it on him. He began to feel that I owed him money, if I had already said I was going to spend it.
I have calculated a minimum possible number, and found that I must have spent over $6000 dollars on him in those five years.
In a fit of madness one day he threw his phone while screaming at me and it broke on the ground in his room. Then he cried. Then he asked me to buy him a new one. This was the first of many phones I bought him. I pulled the money out of my savings in secret.
He threatened to break up with me all the time, but would get so upset if I ever mentioned it. It was quite bittersweet. I listened to so many tragic love songs during this time! In fact, part of me still chuckles at the melodrama of it all, I was a very soulful romantic, even back then. You know, there is a little bit of humour in everything.
Our days were still filled with lots of fun. Although I no longer had my own friends, I had his, and I have many great memories from this time: of racing down steep streets on scooters, our shoes melting on the brake pedals; of teaching one of his friends how to drive my car, with everyone else squashed into the back seat; of after-school trips to the river, swimming under a small waterfall, and how they urged me to jump in from the cliff just as they did. We would always be going to somebody's house to make food or play Halo on the Xbox. However, I was never able to become close with any one of them. In fact, I was not allowed to hang out with the guys past a certain time! He always told me to go home.
As we grew up, I was told to go home a lot - either to my house or his. I felt sad, at missing out on some of those adventures or parties. I remember, on the night of my first prom, I was told to go home and wait in his room, while he went to the After Party without me.
I still loved him so much. He began to stop saying he loved me.
He asked me to do his school work for him. Being a top student, I got him 'Excellences.' In my last two years of high school, I achieved more excellence credits than anyone else in my year, by far. Yet, I would have had even more, had they counted all the assignments I wrote for him. He would be so so stressed, it would break my heart to see it. Moreover, his slowly dwindling affection for me was driving me mad - all I wanted in the world was to be loved by him! I had nothing but school and Scott, and because I hardly had him I began to give everything to school. I worked like a dog. My anxiety worsened, I had panic attacks, cried myself to sleep every night for over two years: deep sobs that racked my body... But I had to stay quiet because I never wanted anyone to question what was happening.
The few times I tried to tell his friends or the girls at school what was happening - about any of it, from the normal relationship difficulties, to our fights, to little jokes about our sex life - he would find out and go bananas, effectually censoring me.
The group of guys began to take my car without asking me, during the school day. There were quite a few times when I went out to grab some bit of homework or lunch, only to freak out, thinking my car was stolen! I must say, though, they were kind people, his friends. They were always nice to me. I think they saw the way I brought him sandwiches for lunch everyday, and how I cared so much, and went to his soccer games, and helped him with school work.
At a certain point, he decided we were no longer officially together, and tried to break up with me but could not go through with it. He had lost all sense of love for me but still needed all my help and financial aid. His mom had left home, and he would call me all the time telling me he was sick or starving, or sore, or needed help. We would still have sex. He knew I still loved him deeply. He never said it now.
There were times early on, and this is so hard for me to say, I have only ever told a few people, but he did hit me - not in way you think, but he would hit me with a golf club, while I hid in fear and confusion under the bed covers. It never hurt but it scared me a lot! When he did that he had this maniacal look in his eyes, and a huge smile on his face. I talked to him about it and the hitting stopped, thank god.
But his taunting never stopped. He would sometimes chase me with a kettle of hot water, cornering me, laughing. He would talk of hurting animals, or abuse his dog in front of me. I had to give back a small puppy my mother had bought for my sixteenth birthday because he told me jokingly he was going to drop-kick it. I was willing at this stage to let myself go through such horrors but was not willing to let an innocent animal suffer. I gave the dog back.
Sometimes, when he was really mad with me, if I was acting too clingy or sullen, he would get up and push out his chest in front of him like a peacock, pushing me with the full force of his body weight, his chest against mine, and he would point one finger at the door and yell "Get out! Get the fuck out!" over and over again until I left. Most of the time I had nowhere to really go, and until I got my own car, I simply had to sit in the lounge by myself after such an episode.
I tried to share with him some of the spiritual wisdom I had learned over the years, tried to share my little stories and he told me outright it was bullshit and I was wrong: compassion was crap and loving yourself was unnecessary. He pushed all those words away like they had burnt him. Furthermore, I began to feel embarassed by my own beliefs, as if they were silly secrets that would get me in trouble.
He would go through periods of completely not talking to me, which was worse than the screaming or anger. He would tell me we couldn't talk for a week or two. Then I would retreat into my painting, doing nothing else for weeks, or I would put all my energy into school work.
He made fun of all my interests too.
He even made fun of me. Just plain old me. It began with the text messages: he would send me these emojis that showed his boredom at all my stories. Even if I talked about my day, or something I had found interesting, I would get a -_- face, and nothing else, in response. The longer the mouth, the more bored he was of my stories... so -____- meant I had to just shut up. Instead, we bonded more through a hatred of other people; through judgement and cynicism. I found that I could make him laugh when I talked badly of others. Or, if that wasn't enough, I could always make him laugh at me, if I acted silly. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and it has taken a LOT of hindsight to see the subtle ways in which he had pruned my behaviors, like a gardener carefully trimming his small bonsai plant. I acted dumb and clumsy for him, just to see him smile. Years later, when a new friend told me I was funny, (bless her, she pulled me from my friendlessness towards the very end), when she laughed at my sense of humour, I was so confused and even abashed.
He would get me to go get him things. Birthday presents for certain amounts of money, that I 'owed' him. I would owe him even if I had said I was going to get him a pair of shoes, and did not, he would equate that amount to something else. I remember a time he even got mad when I was not giving him this money on time. Once, after a particularly large shopping spree, he even told me to go return one of the items I had bought for him, while he lay in bed and watched a movie.
When we were intimate, he would hardly ever kiss me. There was nothing more I ever ever wanted than to be kissed. I felt like a prostitute. I craved and yearned for love so much it ached. All those aches would build up during the day, and at night I would release all of it by crying, it seemed to come out through my tears. I was so scared of telling anyone what was happening though, and did my best to always act normal around other people.
Then something AMAZING happened! One of his friends decided to speak out, on my behalf. This friend confronted Scott for his actions, told him it wasn't right the way he was so uncaring, leading me on. I will never forget that. I have wanted to thank this friend for so long, but have never been given the chance.
The next day, at school, Scott decided to deal with the confrontation by laughing about it, making fun of the very idea! He degraded that friend in front of everyone in the group, and sadly, I remember laughing feebly alongside him, while wondering if he might be right, and if I was betraying this person's beautiful act of kindness.
A few weeks later, during a period of 'not-talking,' when Scott had decided to shun me and things felt so bad I couldn't stand it any more, I got in my car and drove to this friend's house. I sat outside, in the car, trying to work up the courage to go inside and tell him everything. But I couldn't do it, so I drove home again.
It was at about this point that I began to truly 'see' little chunks of the relationship, like pieces of the puzzle falling into place. I was feeling somewhat ashamed and angry. It had always felt a little off, but also confusing. I could never put it all together, the way a normal person could, it was like every bad event was scrambled between all these bits of good stuff and love and pity. I felt stuck.
Now, instead of excitement I felt dread every time I got a text message. I dreaded his response to anything I said. I would ponder what to say and exactly how to say it for minutes, or even half an hour. Fearful of displeasing him, I would pretend to be enjoying myself all the time.
He told me once at school that he hated everything I did, every little thing, even the precise way I clicked my pen.
He broke up with me properly one day, casually, out by the car, giving no explanations. I was devastated. Soon I got a text telling me he was with a new girl at school - an exchange student from Germany. That night I drove to my old friend's house and told her some of what had happened, I was distraught. Then, slowly, miraculously, I began to get over it! It felt like I was opening up to the possibility of a new life! My mum helped me through this time, and my family were all relieved it was finally over.
Unfortunately, the whole thing was not over, it was far from over. A few weeks after getting together with the German girl, Scott messaged me telling me he missed me, saying things he had not said for years, everything I had wanted to hear so badly. He told me he needed me - he was bed ridden due to a soccer injury, and wanted me to come over and help out. While I was there, he seduced me. I was so mad! I told him "fuck you" and meant it! He cried and said he loved me, and that was how I became his secret lover. He stayed with his new girlfriend while also being with me. Eventually, just like old times, he stopped saying he loved me.
When she had to leave back to Germany, he and a friend took my car to say goodbye to her at the airport while I waited in his room. At this point I felt a deep brewing sense of anger, a spark that said: "This is just not right!" While he was gone I did something very daring: I looked around his room, snooped through his shelves... There I found so many tokens of her presence, and in the weirdest way I felt this kind of admiration for her - because he was able to love her, I could see her as someone worthy of love. By this point I had learned how to let go of so many hurts and had found that the pain was eased when I wished them both well. Whenever I felt grief, I would move myself to wish them both happiness. It gave me a sense of peace that kept me going. Back to the story, though...
As I looked through his items, with a sense of deep reverence and care like I was in a museum of priceless things that would never be mine, I came across a card and a few notes written between them: they spoke of beautiful memories, times when he would take her around the city on his scooter. He even showed her the proper way he liked his tea, just as he had shown me. I sighed, it broke my heart to see how he could love her in this way, that he could show up for her at the doctor's office, or make her a video as a present. He had given all my presents back, put them in a paper bag and shoved them in my car.
She was gone now though and I was unsure of what was to happen from then on. We were finished with high-school... I didn't go to several of my exams, I was unable to do much at this point, the panic attacks and anxiety were at an all time high.
When he returned, I tried to talk to him about the situation only to have him laugh at me and avoid any answers as to the future.
He still saw me.
Still asked me to teach him how to drive in my car.
Still asked me to search through my parents belongings for Euros when he booked a trip to France without telling any of his family.
Still asked me to drive him to the airport, then sent one tiny email to let me know he was ok while he was there.
This was the very first time I tried to leave the situation. I didn't know what to call it at this point - we were not labeled, but everyone still knew we were together in some way, and we still slept together and I still supported him for a long time till he finally got his first job. He showed so much contempt for me it made the fire brighter in me: the anger. I began to see everything that had happened, as if I was finally able to understand it. I knew now that I didn't deserve it.
I remember when I decided to stop loving him. I was reading a Harry Potter book, of all things, and I was up to the part where Dumbledore and Harry take the fake horcrux from a cave by the ocean. Suddenly, I was hit with this wave of emotion! I put the book down, and started sobbing, realizing I couldn't do it anymore. After four+ years of heartbreak I was so worn out. I felt like I couldn't torture myself anymore, and knew I had to give myself a break. It took me over two hours of breath-work and deep thought to finally make the decision. I decided I no longer loved him. In that instant, I felt something snap inside me, and it was done. I did it for nobody but myself, and it helped immensely.
I was having imaginary arguments with him almost daily now, trying to piece together everything that had happened, trying to understand. I was just so mad that somebody could do that to another person! Then he would invite me over and I would act normal, but behind the mask I was defiant, seething!!! I felt more free now than ever before.
I began to try and leave.
I told him I wanted to stop having sex. He agreed and then broke that promise to me, even pushing me into the act through loving words, till I repeatedly said I felt it wasn't ok, that it felt wrong. That was probably one of the worst moments of the entire relationship, and of my life. I felt I had broken something inside of me by letting that happen, like I had betrayed my own body, allowing it be taken by a person I no longer loved, and whom I had clearly told I didn't want to do it.
I met a girl in Nelson whose words rattled my life. She was the second person ever to put it straight, not a friend but a stranger. She told me that his behavior was abuse, and that I could leave him, no questions asked. I didn't agree quite yet, but her words reverberated inside me. I felt I had a tiny hand of support. A hand in the darkness. I wish I could thank her now.
I tried three times to leave...
THE FIRST TIME:
I told him the first time I wanted out - right before he went to France. He wanted me to drive him to the airport. I didn't want to, and said I wanted to leave his house that very day and never speak again. But he would not hear of it! He said I was being silly, it was my fault, all of it, and that I could let it go when I dropped him off because I had promised him. I felt so stuck. I dropped him at the airport, and to make matters worse, my mother was there that very same day. I wanted to curl up and die... I had told my family it was over, and now I had to hide from them the fact I had been seeing him in secret. I was so ashamed.
He came back and we were still friends, although barely. He still needed my help, he said, and I was not ready to let it all go, not yet. I was in a great state of shock. After years of having nobody but him, I was beginning to make a few friends: they were all people I had admired from afar in high-school. I was slowly building myself up brick by brick. It felt like a tornado had devastated all parts of my life.
We were going to the same University. I remember, he would make fun of my chosen field of study, saying it was 'fake history,' and was thus 'totally unimportant.' Everything I ever did was unimportant. We would even argue the point and he would laugh when I tried seriously to defend my interests. Inside, I became even more angry.
THE SECOND TIME:
I tried to leave the situation again. I told him how I felt and that what he had done was unfair - he went through all kinds of emotions, laughing, crying, justifying everything. He wanted specific details for every point I made about his unfair behaviour. It ended, finally, with him screaming and throwing things in the kitchen, telling me if this was it, then I could never come back! I ran out, went to a new friend's house to try and calm down. I was worried that he would either kill himself, or me and my family. She talked me through it with such kindness. I felt a bit better and a week went by where I thought it was finally over.
He started texting me, though, saying he missed me and that he didn't understand what had happened, and 'could I come over to try and explain it to him again?' He wouldn't let up. I went over, to try and get closure, but he convinced me to stick around a tiny bit longer, to finish the driving lessons I had promised him. Seeing him again was the weirdest thing: I knew him so well, his every move, his heart and thought, he was the most familiar thing in the world to me.
THE THIRD (and final) TIME:
A short while later I finally did it. I knew it would happen that day. I was excited, angry, filled with nervous butterflies. He had begged me for another driving lesson. I knew that would be the day, the final day I would ever see him. I could feel it. Every bit of doubt, every small lingering line connecting me to him was gone. I wanted to wait for the right moment to tell him.
I arrived and he opened the door, said not a word, then turned away and stomped back into the house, ignoring me as if I had arrived there uninvited. I went into the living room and sat nervously on the couch. This was not at all unusual. He stomped around slamming doors and went to the kitchen for half an hour. Then he realized I wasn't playing his game, came in and looked at me and asked why I was ignoring him. That made me happy. I think it was the first moment of true control I had experienced in the longest time. I sat in the kitchen as he ate. He tried again to tell me why my degree was worthless. I, feeling brave, told him at least I had much better grades than him, (with a full range of A+s). He was flabbergasted at that, and asked me how I could be so rude, and 'did I want to leave?' I kinda laughed. I had nothing left to lose anymore, I had nothing to give, nothing to be taken, it was all gone. We went on the driving lesson, and he got mad as usual at his inability to change gears, and I waited patiently as he cursed. Then I told him I was never going to see him again after that day, when I dropped him off. I said it very calmly and seriously. He said nothing for a while, then I remember him saying the funniest thing that has ever been said! He said it was silly and selfish of me to do so. I actually burst out laughing at that one! It was such a beautiful irony. My heart was racing but I had done it! Moreover, Scott seemed to accept my decision, and was finally ready to let me go in peace. I dropped him off and that was that. On the way home I punched the steering wheel and screamed in joy and cried and did all manner of things.