Hysterical

Almost everything I own is new. This choice made sense both financially and from a sense of “Fuck everything that happened before this. Let’s start anew.” From moving back and forth across the country in the last ten years, I learned that shipping boxes via UPS and ditching furniture is cheaper than hiring a moving company. By the time I had everything packed and in a Uhaul van to take to the UPS store, I had 39 boxes and three suitcases. And a cat carrier with one cat.

“You ran away back to Chicago. That’s what you do,” he said to me over the phone weeks later. When every survival instinct inside of me is screaming, “Get as far away from this guy as you can.”, yes, that is what I do. I go back to the city I lived in and had a life in before I met him. I left, and I left quickly not because things ended, but because of how horribly they ended. Even 2,000 miles away, I still allowed myself to be dragged into his shit for a few months. Every time I catch myself doubting my decision to move back, I remind myself, “You would still be wrapped up in his shit if you stayed in Seattle.” Then I feel relief.

I moved back without a job and without an apartment. I nearly drained my savings account on moving costs, being unemployed for three weeks and rebuying everything I needed. I gave away as much furniture away to friends as I could before I left. Most of it I left behind, even though the thought of leaving his house furnished killed me. “He deserves nothing from me,” I’d tell myself. But getting out of there quickly was more important than taking a dining room table and office furniture.

Money flew out of my account for bills and rebuying household stuff as I looked for a job. I didn’t have basic shit. Most of it was jettisoned over the last two years because his was better. I had no bath towels because mine were thrown out after his parents bought us (or him) brand new set of towels. And I couldn’t take those because his parents bought them. Tiny stuff like that. But it didn’t matter. Since I believed he deserved nothing of mine, I wanted nothing of his. Every time I think about my dwindled savings, I remind myself, “There was no better way to spend my money. I literally bought happiness.”

Myself and my cat slept on my friends’ couch for almost a month with my 39 boxes and 3 suitcases stacked in their hallway. That first night back, I looked around and thought, “I’m in an apartment I lived in two years ago and I’m sleeping on a couch I bought with another ex-boyfriend seven years ago. Isn’t life fun.” The cat instantly recognized the couch and scratched happily on the arm. “That’s nice.”

Inbetween all the moments of planning and organizing and job hunting and spending, the reality of the situation would hit me. I would be walking to interviews and think, “Did that really fucking happen?” When I wasn’t distracting myself with minutiae, like buying fucking towels or “hmmm, memory foam bed or traditional spring?”, I would think, “Did that really fucking happen?” Did my five year relationship really go down in flames like that?

As time passes, I don’t think that anymore. I know it fucking happened and it’s not such a mystery that it ended the way it did. The signs were always there, but I never acknowledged them.

The first morning I woke up in Chicago, I woke up feeling like someone was crushing my chest. For once, I didn’t wake up with dread like I had on so many mornings while I was with him, but I woke up with grief instead. The relationship didn’t end because of a lack of love, although love has a way of eventually evaporating, but because of addiction and so many terrible things that come from that. I was grieving the end of a relationship, but also a person. I knew one version of him, the version that I had started out with, but that was eradicted because of his alcoholism. He was still out in the world, actively destroying himself. And I couldn’t do anything about it. He made sure of that.

That first morning in Chicago, I woke up not only with crushing grief, but with a Alice in Wonderland feeling. For a moment, I felt like I was shrinking but the room was getting bigger. I felt that way once before, weeks earlier.

I stand in the middle of our office, crying. The smoke from his cigarette wafts in through the open window from the balcony directly below. It’s late. I open the closet and yank out empty boxes. I throw them in the middle of the room. Is this fucking happening, I think? Is this really fucking happening? I reach in for another box and it jams itself against the door. “Aaaa! Fuck!” I scream. “Fuck!”

I slam my hand several times against the closet door. I basically slap the shit out of a door. The box pops out onto the floor. “Is this fucking happening?!” I slap a tiny shelf off the wall. I shove my desk chair into my bookcase. “Fuck!” I yell. I cover my face with my hands.

“What’s going on here?” I look up and he’s walking up the stairs. He’s fully dressed. At one in the morning, he had gotten fully dressed. Jeans, jacket, hat and even his watch. A half hour or so earlier, I emerged from the office and found him dressed. He was in his pajamas when he told me I had to move out as soon as possible at midnight – twenty minutes after I came home from the airport. “I don’t even know why you came back,” he had said.

“What, you going out now because you’re single?” I had snarked at him, throwing my clothes into the dryer before I disappeared back into the office and fought with boxes.

“What’s going on here?” he says, as he walks into the office. He looks at the flattened boxes on the ground.

“Don’t worry,” I say, facing away from him. I’m too furious and hurt to look at him. “Your house is fine. I threw my shit around. Leave. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“I’m outside and I hear all this noise,” he says, waving his hands. “What the fuck.” He doesn’t look like himself. He’s drunk, obviously, but his face is blank, lost and somewhat frantic. He doesn’t want to do this – kicking me out. But he thinks he has to.

“Please get away from me. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“What’s going on? You’re being hysterical.”

Incredulous, I look at him. “What’s going on is my boyfriend of five years is breaking up with me at midnight and telling me to leave our home.”

He looks at the ground, pursing his lips. “You talked about me.”

“I asked our friends for help! I don’t know what else to do!”

“You handled it the wrong way!” he says, angrily.

“How was I supposed to handle it!” I sob. He says nothing for a moment, my sniffling filling the room, then:

“When can you be out?”

I shake my head. I can’t believe this is fucking happening. I turn and face him. “We’ve been together for over five years and you’re kicking me out? Really? Why do you get to call all the shots? You think kicking me out is going to shut me up? You don’t think I’m going to tell your family?”

“My family knows.”

I step towards him, pointing at him. “Yeah? Your family knows you drink a bottle plus a day? And they’re fine with it? If they knew, they wouldn’t be fine with it. If they know, where are they? Why aren’t they out here?”

He looks at me. He pulls his phone out. “Well, I just talked to my dad. That’s why I’m dressed.”

“You got fully dressed to talk to your dad on the phone?”

He holds his phone out for me and shows me the screen: ‘Dad 12:46am’. “I called my dad and he said I should I get a restraining order against you and change the locks. Because you’re hysterical.”

Here’s the Alice in Wonderland feeling part. I feel myself shrink and I feel like he suddenly shot away from me. Like he and the room both grew wider and longer, but I stayed the same. What I felt was fear. My name wasn’t on the mortgage. I didn’t have family or close friends in Seattle. I moved there to be with him. The guy I trusted most in the world up to this point was irrevocably fucking me over.

“What?” I say. I instinctively take a step back.

“Yeah, you’re hysterical and you’re talking about me.” he says. “I have to protect myself. My dad said I should change the locks and get a restraining order.”

I cover my face with my hands, horrified. “Holy shit, you’re sicker than I thought.”

“What!” he says, insulted and pissed.

“You’re sick! You want to get a restraining order against me? Am I threat to you? Did I threaten you?” I ask, sincerely.

“No, but you’re talking about me. You’re hysterical,” he repeats. Apparently, the word hysterical is still used in 2016 to demean women’s emotions. In some circles.

For a moment, I’m speechless. My whole body feels like it’s on fire. My mouth is open, but I can’t form words. Until I can form words.

I throw my hands up, pretty much surrendering. He wins. After months, or years, keeping me at arm’s lenth, he has finally pushed me away for good. Jameson has KOed me.

“Okay, you got it. You’re sick. I’m out. But before you try to get a restraining order against me for talking about you, for asking our friends for help for your drinking, you should know that’s not how restraining orders work. I know because I’ve had to get one before. You know this,” I tell him.

I say, “I have to be a threat to you. A physical threat. You know when we were downstairs in the kitchen when you were screaming at me and pounding your hands on the counter in front of me? Technically, that’s physical abuse. And I have photos of what you’ve been drinking in the house for the last month. I have screenshots of the insanely angry messages you sent me while I was in Chicago this past week. That’s how restraining orders work. Not because someone is talking about you. And your phone says you talked to your dad at 12:46. It’s 1:30 right now. I didn’t get “hysterical” until just now. I didn’t know he could tell the future, that he would predict I would become hysterical and tell you to get a restraining order and change the locks. But it doesn’t matter, you’re sicker than I thought. You got it. I’m out.”

I pick up a box and start to tape the bottom with packaging tape, terrifed. He watches me for a moment. As I tape the box, from the corner of my eye, I watch his face crumple. He turns and rushes out of the room. The door closes. I’m shaking and sobbing. I call my friend in Chicago, waking her up, still full blown sobbing.

“How does someone do this to someone after five years together, after I moved, after everything…how does someone do this?” I sob into the phone, pacing with my hand holding my forehead.

Yes, this really fucking happened. And this is just the middle part.

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