I’d marry you again…

4 Sep

It got to the point where I didn’t want to go home anymore. There was always an issue, we always had to talk about something. The sadness that filled my apartment was suffocating. My growing fear of him, it was maddening. As soon as my key turned in the door I was ready to be interrogated and attacked.

Teddy was home all day. Alone. There was no one to distract him from the world he’d created in his head. In this world he was always the victim. Someone was always wronging him, usually it was me. I was the fraud. I was the liar. I was the cheater. Had I not been so worn down, had my reality not been so distorted, I would have seen what was going on.

The apartment was always dark. Even with a wall of windows, the natural light seemed to be muted. It was Teddy, his negativity made everything black. “What’s in those boxes? I was going to move them. They’re in my way,” even the most innocent of his question dripped poison on his lips when he spoke. The boxes, 33 years of memories contained in corrugated cardboard, sat next to a wall in the living room. Unbeknownst to me, he had already been through them.

“Oh, that’s picture albums and yearbooks…and stuff,” I answered. I hoped that he would stop the questioning, but I knew he wouldn’t. I wasn’t allowed to have a past, nothing that showed any evidence that I existed prior to meeting him. “Yeah, I saw them. Did you not have any friends in High School? No one signed your yearbook. We never would have dated then, because you weren’t popular. There were only like 20 signatures,” Teddy laughed.

Most people graduate and move-on, Teddy didn’t. He was perpetually stuck in 1992, it was apparently where his life peaked. I started to defend myself…but it was as if all of my thoughts tried to escape my mouth as once. “What…we…um…did you really count the signatures in my High School yearbook?” With the days events still rustling around in my head, I couldn’t believe that he wanted an explanation for the lack of vapid sentiments from nearly 20 years ago. “Yeah, I wanted to see who your boyfriend’s were. Your picture was awful.” He walked towards the box and retrieved the book, flipping through it, he stopped…”Who’s Kyle?”

“I don’t know who Kyle is,” I responded truthfully. “It says here he would marry you, again.  WHO THE FUCK IS HE!!??? Is he your ex? Did you guys go to FOOTBALL GAMES together? Did YOU WEAR HIS JACKET???!!!” Teddy’s voice was booming one minute and totally calm the next, he was shoving the pages in my face. I closed my eyes, everything went silent. At this point in my life it was hard to tell if my senses were being affected by fear, like maybe I went deaf as a defense mechanism. When I could no longer feel the pressure of the book against my face, I opened my eyes. Teddy stood in front of me holding the book open and pointing at the script written in blue smudged ink. I had forgotten all about Kyle up until that moment, but I  never will again.

Kyle sat beside me in my Economics class my Senior year, he was a tall ginger with an unusually deep voice. He talked about bowling a lot. The teacher arranged our “marriage” as a class project. We were both absent on the day everyone else chose their spouses. The project was supposed to teach how to budget effectively, make us think about our future. The teacher made it sound so easy, he gave us a base salary and told us we had to do with it. It was all so black and white. I never imagined that my life would turn into this technicolor clusterfuck.

“Well?” Teddy said softly. I tried to process what had just occurred…there really wasn’t any use in that. I knew if I spoke my voice would shake, I knew if my voice shook he’d continue to yell. I didn’t budget for this. I don’t know how much insanity is worth, but it nearly cost me everything.

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The things you think you need.

30 Apr

“How many times would you say you’ve broken-up with him?” I didn’t want to answer that question. I didn’t want to be sitting on that couch. I didn’t want to be holding on to a moist tissue like it was a security blanket, with tears streaming down my face. I responded truthfully, “Once.  He’s ended things with me, many, many times.” Too many times to count, Teddy was always threatening to leave me. It was his way of winning.

“Do you think that’s a sign of a healthy relationship?” Until my therapist asked me about Teddy, I’d never stopped to think about the many times we’d parted ways. We didn’t separate for very long, it was usually just a few hours. “No, it’s very unhealthy. I never thought my life would turn out this way. I’ve watched some of my girlfriends go through this. I always thought it was so stupid. Life is teaching me a lesson.”

He didn’t know I was there. I’d mentioned to him before that I was going to see a psychologist, his reaction was unpleasant. He wanted me to rehash the therapy session, making sure nothing negative was said about him. “Why you goin’ to therapy, anyway?” he asked. The man spent 90% of his waking hours telling me I was crazy and needed help, I wasn’t sure where he was going with this line of questioning.

“Sometimes I just need someone to talk to,” I responded, with the hopes that he would drop it. “You’re being shady, Penelope. You’re up to somethin’ and I’m gonna find out what it is. Can’t you just talk to me? You can pay me 75 bucks an hour to listen to you fucking bitch about how everything is wrong in your perfect fucking little world. You know what’s wrong with you, you don’t appreciate nothin’. You’re ungrateful for everything people give you.” I wanted to punch him in the face, hard.

“This is something I’m doing for myself, Teddy. You have even told me I should go see someone,” my tone was assertive, but calm. I had gotten used to him lobbing insults at me, it didn’t matter how I reacted to them, they’d still hit their intended target. I had stopped yelling back at him, I needed to save my energy. “Don’t you ever use my own fucking words against me, Who in the hell do you think you are?” he was pacing in front of the coffee table, and rapidly running his fingers through his long, dark hair.

I could almost see the neuroreceptors in his brain flash with activity. “He’s just going to tell you to leave me,” as these words exited his body, his threatening posture changed, he became childlike. This emotional display would have been fascinating to watch on T.V., the fact that it took place in my living room was terrifying. I didn’t know what was coming next.

Teddy had forbidden me from discussing our relationship with anyone, he claimed for privacy reasons. “I’m just a really private person, I don’t want anyone in my business. You always tell people too much.” I am very open, but I’d never looked at this quality in a negative way before. I honored his request because I respected his feelings.

I stopped sharing the details of our lives together. He then began to chide me for talking about my son. “Penelope, no one cares that he lost a tooth. Stop telling everyone, you’re turning into that mom. Are you going to start showing strangers his pictures next?” he’d say.  These were the people at the center of my universe, the one’s I devoted all my time and energy to…if I wasn’t allowed to talk about them, I was basically rendered mute.

“He’s not going to tell me to leave you, Teddy,” I mumbled, as I watched him move about the condo. “Yes. He is. And you’re so fucking stupid that you do anything anyone tells you,” I was shocked by this statement. Is this really what he thinks of me? It was exactly what he thought of me, and I had given him no reason to think otherwise in the final months of our relationship. I was, after all, his puppet.

The therapist wasn’t going to tell me to leave him, because… he already had. It was one of the first things he said to me when I finally opened up about Teddy. Even is the privacy of the office, I was apprehensive about discussing him. I felt like he was sitting on my shoulder, no matter where I was…like an insane Jiminy Cricket. My therapist picked up on my trepidation. He didn’t force me to talk about him, he cautiously pulled the information out of me. I began to let my thoughts trickle out, then the dam burst and my mouth flooded him with information.

“Who’s paying for this?” Teddy was demanding answers. Since I was the one actually making the money we were living off of, I didn’t feel like this was any of his business. “You don’t make enough money to pay for this.” He was right, I didn’t. “It’s not costing us anything,” I replied, waiting for him to fly completely off the handle.

“You expect me to believe that a doctor is treating you for free? Are you fucking this guy?” he stopped pacing and now stood with his hands on his hips, glaring at me. “No, I’m not. It’s covered by the insurance,” I answered. “You don’t have insurance,” the tension in the room caused everything to go silent. I remember feeling like someone accidentally pushed the mute button on the Universe, and the only audible sound was his angry, booming voice.

I didn’t have insurance, my son and his father do. The psychologist is a family therapist, he treats my son’s father, Jack. He had noticed the changes in me and was very worried. Somehow he convinced the doctor to bend the rules a little, so that I could get the help I desperately needed. He arranged this without my knowledge, all but carrying me over his shoulder and sitting me in the office. I’m forever indebted to him for this act of kindness. “It’s a family therapist, Jack’s taking care of it,” I said.  His reactions were always loud and unpredictable.  “OH, SO NOW YOU’RE A FUCKING FAMILY!!!!!???????” The veins on his neck were bulging.

I hit the laminate wood floor in a series of three deafening thuds, my knees were first to make contact, my head was last. My arms failed me somewhere in the middle. Teddy lunged at me, but his fist was unsuccessful in connecting with my body. I fell as I tried to get out of striking range, the plastic bumpers from my son’s toy truck pierced my flesh as my body fell around it.

Teddy stood above me, he was smirking. “If you made him put his fucking toys away, you wouldn’t have busted your ass,” he said through a clenched jaw. “I don’t want to hear about Jack anymore. I don’t want you going to this therapist, either. We’re a family. Jack is nothing to us. One of these days I’m gonna wind-up beating his ass in front of the boy. I don’t want him in our lives, do you understand me?”

I said I understood, but I continued going to therapy and I continued speaking with Jack. My thinking became less crowded. My perception of what was really going on changed. Teddy did all he could to stop it, but eventually all tricks begin to lose their magic. He’d have to come up with some new way to control the puppet, and he needed to do it quickly.

Looking out for number one.

23 Apr

No one agreed with my decision to move in with Teddy. Not even me. When my grandmother died in May, leaving my condominium empty…Teddy relentlessly pushed for cohabitation. He kept saying, “The problems we have are because we don’t live together,” I knew that wasn’t it. “I’m just tired of being away from you. I’m the only one in this relationship working to make us work. I’m not waiting around for you forever, Penelope”.  It’s funny how people perceive themselves.

“I’m going to school, I can’t have a full-time fucking job. You need to work harder. Lots of people have kids and work two jobs,” he was screaming at me. His logic, even in this violent exchange made me laugh.  (Yes, of course!  I should spend absolutely no quality time with my son, while you sleep in.) “This part-time shit you got goin’ on ain’t cutting it. We’re not goin’ anywhere. You’re gonna lose me. From now on, I’m looking out for number one”.  I had been working part-time for a yacht broker.  They were very nice. I liked it there. I was really starting to blossom professionally.

I had gotten the job there at Teddy’s urging. Under the guise of “help” he took over my life. He became very interested in my employment status.  He’d quit working at the bar…or that’s what he’d said.  He didn’t go into a lot of detail. He’d been fired for threatening the manager, I found out later, and forbidden from ever entering the establishment again.  He was angry with the manager, I knew this much. Johnny became the target of Teddy’s anger.  How much of that anger, I had no idea.

He set-up a Facebook page to mock the establishment and it’s employees. He showed it to me, laughing. I thought it was a bit childish…but it wasn’t the most harmful thing ever. I knew no one was going to join it, so I didn’t say anything. I had no idea how far he’d taken his retaliation. He stalked Johnny. He drove by his house, his work, called him and continuously threatened him. Eventually, Teddy was allowed back into the bar. His intimidation wore Johnny down, I can relate.

Without a source of income Teddy decided he was going to return to school to be a boat mechanic, for us, of course. “If you don’t wanna work for lawyers, you should get a job in boats,” he’d said to me. “I don’t know why you ain’t workin’ for ‘em, you could make a lot of money”. I’d explained to him many times that I didn’t care how much money I made, I didn’t like the work. I didn’t like taking people’s homes away or trivializing a family bond over houses and sports cars.  I’d even gone back to work for an attorney while we dated, I quit about a month later. It made me miserable.

Teddy was less than understanding, although he claimed to support me. It was at this point that the obvious, verbal abuse started.  Although he’d been escalating it with comments that made me feel unstable, it was now that I became fearful. “You didn’t even give it a chance. You knew you were gonna quit before you started”. When I tried to explain my position, he cut me off. “GET A FUCKING JOB!!” he snarled. “You’re so used to having things handed to you.  You can’t even keep a job for more than a month. I like a strong woman, not a weak free-loading bitch”.  Yes, my parents provided a very comfortable life and I appreciate the things they’d given to me. I’m not a Rockefeller, I didn’t have things handed to me. He was always trying to re-write my past, to make me sound like a spoiled brat.

As hard as he’d made his life sound, I would discover that his upbringing wasn’t any less privileged than mine.  Kids that grow up poor, on the streets, and selling drugs in the cold of New York to feed and clothe themselves don’t typically get trips to Europe as a gift for graduating High School.  Teddy never mentioned his trip to Spain, his sister told me.

“Tomorrow, you are going to get in the car and hand out resumes to boat places. I’ll go with you to make sure you go to the right places”. I didn’t fight him on it, I wanted the argument to stop. I wanted to go back to being amazing and beautiful.  There was no going back. No, we had switched courses abruptly, and were now headed straight into hell.

Even though he’d enrolled in school and had a textbook with a small watercraft on the cover, it soon became obvious that the only thing Teddy knew about boats was…that they float…in the water. The area that I live in calls itself the “Yachting Capital of the World,” I’ve never read the census, so I’m just going to have to take their word for it.  I grew up here, I had a lot of connections in the industry, but I was unwilling to use them. I think I subconsciously knew he was destroying me, and I didn’t want people I knew to watch. He hand-picked the places we stopped…wearing a dress, makeup, and a smile, I went in and introduced myself. It was a very intimidating experience, but not nearly as scary as the person in the passenger seat of my car was.

Teddy boasted that he was going to be the “Best Damn Boat Mechanic in the World,” he was so excited about school that I didn’t want to burst his bubble. I wondered how a man that asked me what a “propeller” was, was going to achieve this status. It was simple really, he wasn’t. He was going to have a falling out with the instructor, fail the class, and blame the school for his lack of knowledge. Then he was going to try to sue the school and ruin the teacher’s career, I didn’t know that though. That was still 9 months into the future.

I walked into the yacht brokers office and they basically hired me on the spot. I was relieved. Maybe Teddy would get of my back. I was excited to enter a new field, and up for the challenge. I was to be in charge of the marketing and advertising. He pretended to be excited for me. On my first day I stopped by his house on the way into work. I was hoping for some kind of “Go get ’em, tiger” pep talk. What I got was “Don’t fuck the brokers”.

That pretty much set the tone for the duration of my employment there. Since the office was very close to where he lived, he constantly checked up on me. I could see him ride by on his motorcycle and peer at me through the large window panes. If he didn’t see my car in the parking lot, he’d call or text me. If I didn’t respond in minutes, he’d call until I did. Everyone in the office could hear him yelling at me over the phone, it was humiliating.

I’d done marketing and advertising before, worked with the software…it wasn’t a new thing for me. I’d learned to keep things from him, but this new job…he demanded full disclosure. “I’m the Graphic Artist, Penelope. You don’t know anything about this. You think you do, but you don’t,” he said to me…completely disregarding all my prior experience. “I went to school for this, you just sat in an office, looked pretty, and went to lunch”. He behaved as though I was born the day I met him, that my mind was and empty, although small vessel, and it was his responsibility to drill information into my head.

Teddy decided that I should have the most technical and updated graphic design software, and lots of it. He downloaded it onto my computer one night, he didn’t pay for it…he stole it from one of those illegal websites. I didn’t ask him to, he just did it. He suggested I spend an hour a night familiarizing myself with the programs. I didn’t, there are other things I wanted to do with my minimal free time. The software was so complex, I felt as though I needed a physics degree to use it.

His suggestion wasn’t really a suggestion at all, it was an assignment; a required computer course for my degree in Sociopath Romance. He began to quiz me on what I’d learned, I lied. When he sat the computer on my lap and forced him to show him what I had worked on, I told him I didn’t save my practice work. He didn’t buy it.

I lost my job at the brokerage shortly after my grandmother passed. I can proudly say that my tenure there ended without engaging in any sexual contact with any of my co-workers. When Teddy demanded to know why, I told him half the story. “They said I was hard to read,” I confessed. This of course led to a profanity laced diatribe about my “shitty people skills and lack of work ethic”.

What I didn’t tell him was that they noticed I was preoccupied with something other than work, my weight loss concerned them, and they couldn’t have a stalking boyfriend driving by the office distracting me all the time. Some of the male clients had complained that he’s spoken to them in the parking lot in a less than friendly manner, after he watched them speak to me through the windows. I also didn’t tell him they’d offered to let me stay in a cottage in Rhode Island for the summer, so that I could get away from him.

I didn’t take them up on it, I wasn’t sure it would have helped. I should have, they saw that I needed to get away. They saw that I was afraid. I’m not sure why I didn’t see it.

You wouldn’t understand…

10 Apr

“I had to have proof he was cheating on me, if I could get proof…then I could leave him,” she confided in me as we sipped beer in the dark.  The summer air was moist and hot, and the security light on the side of her house provided just enough light for our quiet chat.  The only thing around to eavesdrop on our conversation were the mosquitoes   “I always told him I wouldn’t put up with cheating”.  Carol was one of my closest friends, as I listened to her I didn’t judge.

It was the summer before I’d met Teddy.  Although she is happily married now, Carol had previously been in a horrifically abusive relationship.  I didn’t understand how a victim’s mind worked, yet.  “Why didn’t you just leave?” it seemed like a pretty obvious question.  I could tell by her expression, that the answer was more painful than words could ever describe.

She couldn’t verbalize the reason.  She couldn’t tell me that everything in her life had been distorted, and reality was not a place where her mind resided, how it was impossible to flee because her sense of self had been manipulated and rearranged to suit the needs of a callous monster, or that her insecurities and fears were picked apart, as if vultures dined on the rotting carcass of her soul.  Up until this point in my life, I had yet to be held face down, in a vat of gelatinous misery…allowed to come up for air only when on the brink of drowning.  No one had ever tormented me for their own viewing enjoyment.  I understand Carol, now.  I understand her completely.

I had boundaries,  I had standards.  There were behaviors within a relationship that I considered deal-breaking.  Teddy seemed to agree to these limits, and acted as if he would adhere to my “code of conduct”.  “I will not tolerate infidelity or drugs.  If these are things you do…then I don’t want to know you” I said to him very early into meeting him.  He was a bartender, I don’t know about you…but that doesn’t send visions of choirboys skipping through my head.  “I don’t cheat.  There’s no point in being in a relationship if you’re going to cheat,” his response sounded like something that would have come out of my own mouth.

“As far as the drugs, what do you mean?”  We both knew I wasn’t talking about aspirin.  I felt comfortable enough with him to tell him about my early 20’s, when I was in college.  I didn’t tell this story a lot.  I used to be embarrassed by my past.  To pay for school I worked in a bar and did some modeling on the side.  Life was great until I discovered drugs.  Eventually, I stopped going to school, my agency dropped me…and I had a drug habit that should have killed me.  I tried just about everything..

My favorite ways to test my mortality were cocaine and prescription pain pills.   I worked to support my habit, until my habit got me fired from work. It wasn’t until then that I realized what a mess I’d made of my life.  I changed, I cleaned house, and rejoined society.  “I do not want to be around cocaine and pills,” I said, and I meant it.  “Well, some of my friends do coke. I don’t do it all that much. If it bothers you, I won’t do it at all,” he was lying, but I didn’t know that yet.

He lived near the beach in a very nice condominium, he knew a lot of people, there was always some sort of gathering.  “My place…it’s in foreclosure,” he told me.  His expression was indifferent.  “The guy that I rented it from, he didn’t pay the mortgage with the money I gave him.  I started getting all these notices.  I called him up and was like, “Yo, what the fuck is going on?  You motherfucker, you trying to make me homeless?  I ain’t paying you another dime, don’t come here and try to collect it”.  Ever since then…FREE RENT!” his expression went from indifferent to jubilant.  “I got a nice house that I ain’t paid for in a year and a half”.  I was taken aback as he told me this, and assumed he had peppered his exchange with the foul language to sound tough.

I had worked as a foreclosure paralegal for about 10 years prior to meeting him, I knew people did this…refused to pay rent when their landlord went into default, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.  He was proud of this, beating the system.  I put my misgivings aside and rationalized, he wasn’t hurting a person, he was really screwing over a bank. Banks don’t have feelings.

For the first six months that I knew him, Teddy was in perfect health. We didn’t live together, but I never questioned his whereabouts.  I trusted him, he volunteered information…things were normal.  Sure, people randomly offered me hard drugs, but I politely refused.  Looking back, it made me uncomfortable, like I was being tested.

When he began to complain about joint pain, I didn’t think too much about it.  I tried to help him, I brought him ibuprofen and massaged his feet.  He claimed he had gout, and it was hereditary.  His father had it, his uncle, too.  He didn’t know what triggered it, but the pain was so bad he could barely move.  His condition worsened, he was irritable and difficult to be around.  He said horrible things, but attributed his outburst to the pain.

I encouraged him to seek assistance from his uncle, who managed his condition quite effectively.  I even went to his uncle’s home to retrieve medication to help Teddy.  When I arrived his uncle was welcoming, he handed over the medicine and sent me on my way.  His parting words troubled me, “I told his father the same thing, these only work it you quit the other things,”  I was confused.  I didn’t know what the other things were, I laughed, assuming that he was referring to alcohol.  But, logically I knew this wasn’t the case…I’d drank with his uncle.

The gout flare-ups always seemed to occur after I’d gone a few days without seeing him.  After he’d gone out with friends, one friend in particular.  He blamed beef and certain kinds of alcohol.  I ‘d seen him consume large amounts of dead cow and everything behind the bar…I knew that wasn’t it.  I put the pieces together,  I didn’t like the way the puzzle came together.  Teddy was doing drugs.

When I confronted him with my hypothesis, he reacted. “How could you accuse me of doing coke?” Can’t you see I’m in pain? What is wrong with you?” He was laying on his couch, he grabbed a pillow and hid his face. I felt awful as he threw me out and told me he never wanted to see me again.  I’d attacked him, he was weak.  What was wrong with me?

When he called me later, I felt so bad about kicking him when he was down, I didn’t even address it.  When he absentmindedly left little empty baggies on his coffee table a few months later, he mocked me as I looked at him questionably.  “What are you? A bloodhound? You love to accuse me of shit”.

When I found a piece of looseleaf paper coated with a powdery, white residue on his bathroom vanity a few months after that, and confirmed it was cocaine after rubbing on my gums, he blamed his friends and called me crazy.  I had stupidly ignored my instincts for so long, that I couldn’t dispute his diagnosis.

His gout attacks were constant at this point,  they lasted for weeks on end and required trips to the emergency room.  I dutifully took him.  He blamed me, and our relationship.  “The stress is killing me.  You and your suspicions.  I can’t handle this”.  I should have let him limp home, logic told me he was lying, but like Carol…I actually had to see it to prove it was real

He was willing to expose himself to this pain so that he could enjoy fooling me, forcing me to change my standards.  I wasn’t a person.  To him I was a bank, I didn’t have feelings.

No one likes you.

8 Apr

I saved them all, initially for legal reasons, but now that that’s over I can’t seem to part with them. I keep them in my phone, always just a swipe of the finger away. Everyone moves at their own speed, I guess. Sometimes I read them, the emails, the text messages, the Facebook messages…although I know I shouldn’t. They bring back the fear and anger. It isn’t healthy.

I’m still trying to make sense of it, but I’m having very little luck. Logically I know you can’t rationalize the actions of an irrational person. My brain just won’t accept this fact; I keep replaying events, wondering why I didn’t pick up on the obvious clues. The messages that I received, “you are a fucking loser,” and “I will spend the rest of my life trying to destroy who you are.” This was the real Teddy.

The man I met and fell in love with, he wasn’t just gone.  He never existed. I’m mourning the loss of a fictional character…like a child, crying over Santa. Only Santa visits once a year and doesn’t abruptly stop bringing presents and begin sneaking in to your room at night to notify you that you are a failure in every sense of the word. He doesn’t try to ruin you after you figure out he’s not real. He doesn’t tell all the other children not to believe in you, and falsely victimize himself.

When it did end and he was forbidden from ever contacting me again, I received messages from his friends and family. Some of them echoed his sentiments, they clearly believed the lies he told. The one’s from his mother were probably the most hurtful. “He’s given up everything for you, and you’re just tossing him out like garbage. This is not fair to my son. You’re a drunk and a liar!” She defended him, and his erratic behavior. The woman who confided in me that she was sometimes afraid of her son and his explosive temper, now chastised me for escaping. She knew what I was dealing with, she raised it and enabled it.

His sister was far less harsh. “I’m sorry about my mom, I hope she didn’t make things worse. I know that Teddy has a lot of issues since we were children that impair his communication skills . And, I think he blames himself for our father’s death. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call and he and my mother will get the therapy they so desperately need.” She wrote to me after seeing the messages their mother sent, at least I wasn’t the only one who thought it was out of line.

I wondered what kind of issues Teddy had as a child that followed him into adulthood, but I didn’t ask. There wasn’t any point, knowing wouldn’t undo the damage he’d done. From the tone of her letter, I gathered that this was not the first apology letter she’d written on behalf of her family. I wasn’t the special, once in a lifetime love he claimed I was. He’d left New York abruptly, he claimed on a whim…but he was running from something.

I’d slowly been isolated, lost contact with my friends, stopped seeing my family…he’d become irate if I spent too much time on Facebook or on the phone. Excluding his friends, I had very little contact with the outside world. This was done by design, I didn’t even realize it had happened.

He never wanted to socialize with my friends, he was either suspicious of their intentions or felt that they didn’t like him. There would always be some issue about it. A few months into our relationship Teddy started saying things like, “I worry about you when you go out alone.” I was 32, I owned my own home, and had a 3 year-old son. I was very capable of taking care of myself. I thought it was sweet, but I assured him that I would be just fine.

He became more aggressive in his persuasion, “You lose control when you go out, I don’t want you to get all drunk and wind-up raped or dead in a ditch.” I didn’t agree with him, but I respected his wishes in order to keep the peace. This man loved me, right?

As time went on I began to develop friendships with his friends; I liked them, for the most part. Sometimes, they would invite me out. Teddy never admitted to taking issue with this, but eventually he sabotaged my bond with them.

Like everything he did, he made it look like I was at fault. “You create so much drama. EVERYONE HATES YOU!” Teddy screamed at me over the phone. “NOT ONE OF MY FRIENDS CAN STAND TO BE AROUND YOU!” I was completely caught off guard. “I can’t take you anywhere with me, because I never know how you’re going to act. I’m warning you Penelope, don’t you ever embarrass me like that again.” I had no clue what he was talking about, he hung up on me before I had the chance to absorb everything he’d said to me.

I can’t begin to describe how it feels to be told that the people you think your friends with loathe your presence. I had been excommunicated, completely alone. When I saw his friends afterwards, they acted as if nothing had changed. They were still welcoming, but I doubted their sincerity. I wanted nothing to do with the people I perceived as being two-faced.

I didn’t realize until much later that I had been manipulated. No one disliked me, Teddy hated that. He resented me for being likeable. He couldn’t make himself out to be the victim if I didn’t look bad.

Before Teddy, I never worried if people liked me or not. I couldn’t care less about popularity now, but while I was wrapped up in this mess it really affected me.   After all, I had no one to talk to that wasn’t telling me what to think or how to feel. I became withdrawn and suicidal. I started to believe Teddy was right, and I was a loser.

Eat, drink, and be miserable.

2 Apr

I was skeletal. It seemed like it happened overnight. The confusion controlled me, it controlled everything. My body couldn’t even tell me it was hungry anymore. I would honestly forget to eat. One of the most basic human functions, simply overlooked. People noticed. Even though I would smile and say everything was great, I couldn’t hide the fact that something was very wrong. My slight figure irritated him, I was showing off my misery. It made him look bad. “Eat,” he said, placing a bowl of ice cream in front of me. I didn’t want it, it didn’t matter.

“You should get yourself some cookies, too. I like a girl with a little meat on her bones”. His accent was thick, exactly what you would expect someone who grew up in New York City to sound like. It flowed out of his mouth the way air bubbles out of a pot of thick, simmering marinara sauce. Like most severe American accents, it didn’t present a refined or intellectual persona. It made him sound tough, sometimes it was really pronounced…especially when he was angry.

I used to love the sound of his voice, not anymore. It was either judging or scolding me. He never said anything nice. “You had a gut when I met you. Your ass is gone. What happened? Do you have an eating disorder? You need to eat,” he said from the other end of the couch. I didn’t have a gut when we met. It made me so mad when he spoke about my body, it wasn’t like he was a fitness model. He had a gut when I met him, he had a gut as he criticized me, he has a gut now. He didn’t acknowledge his flaws, but he pointed out mine every chance he got.

He slid over, closer to me.  He was trying to show me he was concerned. “God, I can’t even sit next to you. Your hip bones are stabbing me.” I didn’t want him to sit next to me, I was thankful that I repulsed him. “Maybe you should go to that therapist. You’re acting all crazy”. I had been contemplating going to a therapist for a while. Maybe I was crazy. Maybe I did need to speak to a professional.

“What are you thinking? I can never tell what’s on your mind. I feel like I’m always walking on eggshells around you.” He had been really concerned about my thoughts lately, he made it sound like I betrayed him if I didn’t share every idea that popped into my head. I smiled, it was involuntary. “What’s so funny?” he barked. “Nothing,” I mumbled. I knew what was coming, it wasn’t going to be pleasant.

It didn’t matter what I was thinking, whatever I said would be used against me. What I was really thinking was, “You’re the one with the family history of mental illness. You’re the one with the sister that voluntarily committed herself to a psychiatric hospital for shock treatments. You’re the one who’s moods cause everyone to walk on eggshells”.  But, if I said what I was thinking, I’d just be pouring gasoline on a raging inferno.

“You’re projecting,” slipped out from between my lips. I don’t know why I said that…why couldn’t I have just thanked him for the ice cream and be done with it? “I don’t know what that means, Penelope.” He always called me by my first name when I displeased him, making me hate the sound of it. I wanted to take it away from him and forbid him from ever using it again. There was no avoiding his wrath; I wouldn’t be able to diffuse the situation, I knew this. “Google it, Edward,” I spat back. “You always use those big words to confuse me. Why do you have to be such a bitch? You do it to make me feel stupid,” he was yelling.

He positioned himself a few inches from my face. I stopped listening after he called me a “cunt”.  I hate that word, almost as much as I hate him. I knew he’d start throwing things next, this was the way our arguments went. I closed my eyes and tried to pretend I was somewhere else, the chill of melting chocolate ice cream that puddled in my lap brought me back to reality. “Look what you made me do?” he screamed. Involuntarily making people throw food at me was a talent I didn’t know I had.

I didn’t think “projecting” was a large word, nor did I feel I had to homogenize my vocabulary to communicate. This is a man that would proudly announce the many college degrees he earned and claimed that one of them was in social work. In his studies, he should have amassed a vocabulary above a third grade level. Surely, you must be required to take a psychology class or two to earn this degree. Even if he was absent the day they discussed “projecting” he could have fallen asleep on the couch during an episode of Dr. Phil and absorbed the definition. This degree was fabricated, just like his accent.

Teddy is from Upstate New York, not New York City. There are no skyscrapers, there are no subways, and there is no accent. He was playing a character, and he was doing it poorly. I wondered how many people he tried this out on before me. I was starting to see through his facade. He knew it, he was growing more violent by the day. He stormed out of the house and slammed the door, leaving me to clean up the aftermath of his tantrum.

As I wiped the sticky residue off of my legs, I fantasized about getting a phone call telling me he’d been in a fatal motorcycle accident. I had to get away from him, this relationship was killing me.

Rude awakening.

14 Mar

It wasn’t always bad. How it went so bad, how I became so…powerless, I’ll never understand. He was kind. He made me feel secure. There was a sweet, tender side under his rough exterior. It seemed like I was the only one who was able to see it.

When I was with him, I was perfect…I did no wrong. It felt a little strange to be placed on such a high pedestal. I suppose that’s why it hurt so much when he kicked it out from under my unsuspecting feet, and then viciously beat me with it. He seemed to accept things about me, I opened up to him; honesty I had previously not allowed.

From the very beginning no one liked him. I noticed he was different around my friends and family. I assumed it was nerves. I defended him, I shouldn’t have. He was super sensitive to everything they said to him. He wanted them to like him. He tried too hard. It was uncomfortable.

We didn’t have very much to fight about, it’s not that I fear confrontation…it’s that there was no reason for it. People are who they are, why try to change that? I didn’t see the jealousy, it didn’t occur to me that he was trying to control me. I see it now, but that doesn’t do me any good.

His compliments, his “Baby, you’re so hot,” turned into, “Baby, you’re hot…but you ain’t that hot,” at some point. He constantly accused me of infidelity. No one could speak to me without him commenting on their true intentions. “That girl just wants to fuck you,” he’d whisper if I had a friendly interaction with another woman.  He outright threatened men who tried to engage me in conversation.

I was so wrapped up in the drama that it was impossible to find my way out of it. I kept trying to convince myself that this was a phase. We’d get through it. Sure, he’d accuse me, but then he’d recant his statements. He claimed that he loved me so much that he lose it in the heat of an argument. I’d rationalize and forgive.

I’d never seen him attack anyone, I never imagined he’d attack me. I vividly remember the morning he did. I opened my eyes and tried to adjust to the early morning light. A soft purple dawn covered the room like a fine powder. I wasn’t sure why I was awake, since it was unplanned I didn’t try to get my wits about me. I wanted to undo the awakening. I was at his apartment. This was his bedroom. He was next to me, sprawled out on his king-sized bed. For a moment I took comfort in his presence.

I rolled over and attempted to go back to sleep; as I did, I noticed a warm, wet sensation. Assuming I had fallen asleep with my mouth open, I was glad Teddy wasn’t awake. He wouldn’t see that I was prone to human things like…drooling.

I positioned myself closer to him, the heat from his body radiated. I felt warm and safe. My head throbbed. I was trying to ignore it, thinking it was a direct effect of the Jameson I had consumed the night before. Having spent most of my 20’s nursing a hangover, I am no stranger to this kind of pain.

The pain grew more intense, it battled the groggy feeling of sleep. I sat up. My hands involuntarily met my face and wiped the sleep from my eyes. I grabbed for one of his well used pillows, cursing the lumps, as I silently debated moving to the couch so that I wouldn’t wake him.

It was dangerous to startle him when he was sleeping. I learned this quite accidentally when I leaned into to kiss him goodbye and he’d nearly taken my head off. You can tell a lot about who a person is deep down inside by the way they react when you startle them. A violent spirit attacks. Hindsight…always 20/20.

As I laid back down on my side, my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of something out of the ordinary. It was dark, in the muted light it looked like chocolate syrup. My clouded brain tried to navigate around the context clues. I wiped my face again, the pulsating pain I assumed was a hangover began to amplify. There was a warm and sticky sensation on my palm. I became aware of an acidic, rusty taste on my lips.

“Blood?” I whispered. Panic set in. I threw off the sheets. I scanned Teddy’s body for wounds. My thoughts immediately went to the worst possible scenario. “Did we forget to lock the door? Had someone come in, in the middle of the night and hurt us?”. There wasn’t a drop of blood on him. He didn’t even flinch when I uncovered him.

I stumbled out of bed and down the hall to the bathroom. I didn’t even bother closing the door as I turned on the light and looked in the mirror. Somewhere under the stains of last night’s mascara, matted long blonde hair, and blood…hid my face.

It was my blood. I could see it leaking from my mouth and nostril. I’m not sure if it’s primal instincts or the viewing of too many horror movies as a teenager, I felt compelled to wash it away immediately. The water wasn’t even warm in the shower before I was behind the curtain.

I was fixated on the drain, waiting for the water to run clear. I faced the shower head; letting the water hit me squarely on the forehead, and scrubbed my body forcefully. I felt as though I would never be clean. I noticed that pain in my wrists and knees now accompanied the twinges in my head.

I wasn’t sure what had happened. I searched my memory for the details of the night before. Teddy and I had fought, I remembered him yelling at me. I knew I had cried. This is where my memories of the night ended. It wasn’t unusual for he and I to disagree when alcohol was involved. It was when our dysfunction was most obvious.

I always blacked out when drinking with Teddy. I assumed that I did this because I tried to keep up with him. It hasn’t happened since I ended things with him, I now wonder if he drugged me.

I wanted to stay in the shower forever, I didn’t want to come out and deal with what happened. Eventually the hot water ran out, and I was force to leave my soapy cocoon. I stepped out of the tub and wiped the steam off of the mirror. My lip was swollen, but the bleeding had stopped.

I made my way down the hallway in a towel, still dripping from the shower. He was asleep. I grabbed my clothes and got dressed as quietly as possible. I wasn’t quiet enough, my back was to him but I could hear him stirring. “Where are you going?” he whispered. “Home,” I said curtly. “Wait, are you mad at me? How could you be mad at me? I didn’t do anything! You’re impossible,” his tone went from sleepy to angry. As I turned to look at him, his eyes were pleading with me. “Teddy, you hit me in the face,” I said pointing at the bloodied pillow.

He looked to his left, and fumbled for words. “Oh my God! I didn’t…baby, you have to believe me! I’d never hurt you. I must’ve been dreaming,” he seemed sincere. He got out of bed and came towards me. I should have kicked him square between the legs and ran, but I found myself in his embrace. He never apologized, but because I wanted to believe him, I stayed.