But was that love? In hindsight, it felt more like hate. How was I supposed to like myself when everyone I ever loved hated me? I was lost. My life was empty. My heart was too. The only thing I loved was my job. It wasn’t enough. I sighed. Taking my phone, I opened my social media apps. They all felt superficial. I didn’t belong anywhere. How had I let it get this far? Sam had ruled me and my life. Everything I had done in the last three years was for him. Nothing for me. And now I was lost.
There had to be something for me to do. There had to be a way for me to find myself. There had to be a way to understand who I was without Sam.
“Family emergency. My son had to have surgery. His appendix was removed.” Matt’s message took me by surprise. I hadn’t known that he had a family.
“Sorry to hear it. Who is with him now?” I dreaded the answer. And it came faster than liked.
“His mother is with him.” I didn’t want to feel betrayed, but I did. He had asked me on a date. Twice. But he had never mentioned a family.
My friendship with Matt was shallow. I wanted to ask if he was still married, but I didn’t dare. What was allowed and what wasn’t? I didn’t know. I was an intelligent woman, working in a social job, without any notable social skills. What I had for myself was contempt, and I didn’t want to go on like that anymore. I didn’t need a man in my life. I needed to understand who I was. I needed to find ways to love myself, to accept myself. And only if I were able to succeed in this, I would be ready to love again.
I started by treating myself to a couple of new clothes. Out with the old, in with the new. I disregarded every notification my phone sent although it was hard to ignore it and I made a conscious effort to think positive thoughts. Some days I hated my new self. Some days I remembered Sam and the way he had said my name. I remembered the pictures he had sent me too, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he wasn’t thinking about me once in a while too. After all, three years were not easily forgotten. I had a long way to go to find a way to live without him.
“Do you think about us sometimes?”
“I miss us.”
Three messages from Sam and my heart went like mad. I knew that I lost control every time he came back into my life. And I knew that he liked to play with me and my mind.
“Sweetie, this is ridiculous. Say something.”
I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to keep my distance, but I also wanted him. I would always want him.
“How are you?” I messaged back.
“I miss us. I miss the pictures you sent. And I miss your dirty mind. I miss how you did everything for me.” I swooned. Until I realised that the things he missed most were the ones I didn’t want for myself anymore.
He was playing with me again. Sam knew exactly what to say and which words to use to win me over. He knew what I needed. But as I progressed with my self-love, I realised that I needed new things.
“Tell me you miss me, Sweetie!” It made me wonder. Did I really miss Sam as much as I told myself that I did? Did I really need him in my life? Or was it just that he saw me and that I thrived with his affection.
“I am busy now.” I tried to deflect.
“Let’s stop it here then. I don’t want you in my life anyway. Don’t ever get in touch again.” I looked at my phone and was in shock.
It hurt, and it took all my willpower not to beg him to stay. But this was exactly how our relationship had been. I had not given him what he wanted, and he blew up in my face. While I would have crawled on my knees and asked for his forgiveness in the past, I merely shrugged it off now. I was angry. But I knew that he would be back. It was what Sam needed. I had what he wanted. Not giving it away freely anymore made him want it even more. I knew how to push his buttons. Two can play that game.
For once, I didn’t let Sam’s behaviour negatively affect me. It felt like a small victory for me. Only, I didn’t have anyone to share it with. Apart from one person.
“Matt, are you there?”
“Sure. What happened? 🙂 ”
“Nothing, I just wanted to have a friendly conversation,” I tried to play it cool, but I wanted more than just a short back and forth tonight. I wanted his attention.
“And you thought of me? You are the cutest.” I smiled with pride.
“I have my moments.”
“You are amazing, Shelly. And you know it. Men must be running down your door all day long.” I did not expect that.
“No. Not really. You are overestimating me.”
“I don’t think I am. I really like you.” And I liked Matt too. But I remembered his family. I didn’t want to break up a family.
“How is your son?”
“He’s good. With his mom this weekend.”
“Are you married? Separated? Divorced?”
“We are separated, I guess. We haven’t lived together in months.”
“Okay,” I didn’t know what else to say. Matt came with a past, so did I.
“Share some music with me… I need some distraction.” I smiled to myself, he had guided us back onto safe territory.
For the better part of the next hours, we sent links of songs back and forth, discussing them at length. I liked it a lot and time seemed to fade with Matt on the other side of the screen. His words made me laugh. He made me feel good. But I wasn’t satisfied with that. I was the maker of my own bliss. I should have been the one who made myself happy. And I understood that as long as I needed someone else to be happy, I would never really feel true happiness. Was I turning into one of those New Age people?
I decided it would be easiest to go with the flow and get rid of the pressure I was putting on myself. After all, I had a good life. I had a home, I had a job, I had a car. Materialistically speaking, I was well off. I severely lacked in the emotions department though. I shed my clothes and slipped into a hot bath. I exhaled and closed my eyes. I was my own worst enemy. Maybe I had the power to be my own best friend too? The scent of the foam that had formed in my bathwater was clouding my senses, and soon, I was out of thoughts. My mind became a blank canvas.
But as always, my serene state was disrupted by my anger. Anger that was fueled by new messages Sam sent my way. He had left me, why didn’t he stay away. Why did he enjoy torturing me this much? The truth was, he didn’t know how I felt.
“It hurts when you get in touch just to have sex. I am not your toy anymore. I am not yours.” I hit sent and got out of the tub. Dripping, I padded to the bedroom.
“Who cares? I don’t. Tell me what I need to hear!”
“I don’t have anything to say,” I replied and muted his number.
Muting Sam’s number didn’t bode well with me. For the life of me, I couldn’t ignore him that way. I unmuted his number and went on with my day. Work was the usual. The kids were great, the colleagues were bitching about each other, and I tried to do my job.
“Hey, you. Listen to this song:”
“Later. At work now,” I replied in between changing messy diapers. It was nice that Matt thought about me at random. And he rarely demanded anything from me.
“Tell me about your day when you’re home.” I smiled, Sam had never asked me to share my daily life with him.
Once at home, I changed into comfortable clothes. Comfortable clothes meant getting rid of the socks and bra and getting into yoga pants and a flowy top. I put my hair in a messy bun and made dinner for one. With my eggs and rice and spinach, I trotted to the living room. My phone was waiting for me. The TV was flickering on the wall, my attention was divided between my food and my phone. I listened to the song Matt had shared and smiled. It was an artist he loved to share with me.
“What are you doing?”
“What are you doing?” Matt asked again.
“Sitting on the couch. Having dinner. You?”
“Sitting on the couch. Having dinner.” I smiled.
“Copy paste, stealing my words.” He replied with a photo. He had never sent a picture of himself before. I had never seen his face. But now I knew that he was wearing a black T-shirt and shorts. His hairy legs were crossed at the ankles, and his feet rested on a coffee table. He had nice feet. The TV was on at his place too, and in the corner of the picture, I saw a plate with food. For a moment I wondered if I should reply with a selfie too.
And I did. I sat up straight and pushed my breasts out, sucking my tummy in. My legs were resting on the couch, the plate was on the floor next to me. I just checked that I didn’t have my face on the picture and hit send right away. No time for self-consciousness.
“Nice” came the prompt reply.
“Thank you. What are you watching?”
“Big Bang Theory,” I starred at the phone, then at my TV. The same show was playing in my living room.
“Awesome.” I wanted to reply with ‘Bazinga’, but that would have meant that I was joking, and I wasn’t.
“Must be fate,” Matt added. I nodded.
I didn’t want to believe in fate, but this was weird. I decided to change the subject.
“How is the writing going?”
“Oh you know, not well. Writer’s block.” I felt for him.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“You are at once distraction and inspiration, lol.” I knew he didn’t mean anything by it, but it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to keep him from work. I poured myself a glass of wine, deciding what to do.
“Don’t overthink it. Everything is alright.” Matt wrote before I even had a chance to reply to his message.
“What gave me away?” I wondered.
“You did.” And again, I smiled.
That night I went to sleep with a smile on my lips. Matt was a nice man. If I weren’t careful, he would be my last thought at night and the first in the morning. I didn’t want it to happen, but I couldn’t prevent it. It was like an infection. And I had just fended off my last almost deadly love bug. I wished I didn’t feel this deeply. I wished I was less sensitive to feelings. But I was not. It made me good at my job. It made it hard to lead a normal life.
Human interaction almost always led to tears. At least when I was concerned. I wanted Sam. I needed him. It felt as if I had Matt, but I wanted Sam. My tears were soaking my pillow. My heart was racing a mile a minute. And my thoughts refused to make sense. One step forward and two steps back. Maybe I was more comfortable being miserable than stepping out of my comfort zone. I ignored Matt. I didn’t reach out to Sam. And life went on. I was the maker of my own destiny. And right now I didn’t give a damn about change or anything else.
I showed up at work, went through the motions and got home. There, I stuffed my face with whatever I found in the fridge and binged on unfunny sitcoms on TV. I read that it took twenty-one days to form a new routine. If I kept this up, I could as well lay down and die. I was in my mid-thirties, mentally unstable, and I was isolating myself from the outside world. Every invitation from family or work colleagues was declined. I hated myself. I hated who I was turning in to. And the feeling of being obsolete grew from day to day. No positivity left.
To be continued…
(Thirty minutes ago, I finished this story… all 100 chapters are done. I exceeded the planned wordcount of 10k by 300 words… oops)