I tried to write a list of things that had gone well these last weeks, but apart from my job, the list stayed empty. There was the concert that hadn’t happened. The date that hadn’t happened. Sam who had tried to manipulate me once again. I looked at the list, ripped the paper from my journal and balled it up. What a shit list. Again, I was blaming other people for my state of mind. I didn’t take responsibility, and I knew it.
“Hey, Sweetie.” Sam. The only man whose Sweetie I was. I should have told him to get away from me. But I didn’t. I was too broken. Too weak.
“Do you sometimes think of all the things we could have done?” His usual narcissistic way of starting a conversation made me shake my head. There used to be a time, even after our break-up, when we had talked. Small-talk. But now, all he wanted was to get off on a fantasy I seemed to embody.
“How are you?” Just like he repeated himself, again and again, I did too. I tried to have a different kind of conversation.
“Fine. I met a girl. She is perfect.” I didn’t want to know anything about it.
“That’s great, Sam. I am happy for you.” And it was the truth. But I was jealous too.
If Sam’s girl was so perfect, why was he texting me? Why did he try and have sex with me, if his new girl was perfect?
“She doesn’t want to sleep with me. And you were the only one who could ever satisfy my needs.” For a moment, I felt proud. Sam needed me. And even though he pretended not to love me anymore, he came back again and again.
“Are you there? I am in need of a friendly person. Xx,” Matt.
Weeks went by without any news from both men, and now they were both demanding time simultaneously. I smiled. I felt loved, even if it was a fake emotion.
That night, I tried juggling both men at once. I wrote sensual words to Sam, pushing the buttons I knew he needed to be pushed, and I was a bantering friendly with Matt. I felt loved. I felt appreciated. Both of them sent the sweetest messages. My spirits were lifted. And while I embraced it, I also knew that it was wrong. I was once again falling for Sam’s trap. His pattern had been the same for months now.
“Sam, why can’t you let go of me?” I asked out of the blue. Usually, intimate questions like this made him flee.
“Because you are the only one for me.” My heart pounded in my chest when I read his words.
“What about your girlfriend.” I sounded bitter and jealous, maybe I was.
“She’s not you. Shelly, we can stop this here right now if you don’t stop the interview.” Sam’s usual threat.
I got too close, and Sam ran. I wanted to keep him back but thought better of it. The more often he acted like this, the more often I was devasted. Some days, I pretended to be okay, but I really wasn’t. And when Sam left that evening, I ignored Matt too.
I was a terrible person. And I knew that as long as I had a negative outlook on myself, I would mess up everything else I had. Sam had to go. Once and for all. I needed to find a way to push him out of my life and keep him away from my soul. The only tools I had was blocking his phone number and his email address. It was a start. A start I hated. Blocking someone was the purest form of rejection. Rejection meant hurting feelings. I didn’t want to hurt anyone.
My weeks became a blur of work and sleep. I didn’t eat well anymore, but I slept like a baby. Waking up every two hours. I made a point of not logging on to any social media sites. I needed to find my own inner balance. I needed to find out who I was when I was on my own. In my limited spare time, I began to write more again. For myself. I wrote pages upon pages in my journal, describing my inner landscapes. I wrote about missing parts of me that were never really parts of me. I wrote about myself to get to know myself.
My words were for my eyes only, and I began to see where I was always going wrong. I knew all the right things, yet I didn’t act on them. My choices had been made consciously. And they had brought me to this moment in time. If a choice appeared right when I made it, was there any point in feeling regret or guilt over it? I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I was a stranger to myself. I had always defined me by the way others saw me. I was bummed.
“Shelly,” I said to myself. “Time to become who you are supposed to be.”
I was free. And as long as I kept Sam out of my life, I felt free too. I couldn’t explain why he had so much control over me. I couldn’t tell why I jumped on the phone when I saw it was him. I just knew that it was not love anymore. We had been a couple for almost three years until he had decided that he wanted to move on and explore life with other people. I was too shocked to fight for his love or to beg him to stay. I just let him go.
Sam had been gone for three months before he started texting me. Shallow things at first. But it drifted off into sexting quite fast. And although he wasn’t there physically anymore, he was mentally with me. He was continually manipulating me, getting me to make emotional decisions based on memories we had. His texts were never about me or my well-being. They were always about his instant gratification and the power he felt over me. And I knew it. But I let him walk over me. In my mind, having Sam like that was better than not having him at all. He made sure that I became damaged goods.
It would have been easy to blame it all on Sam, but I played my part in it as well. Every time he called, I felt like a million bucks. Some days he even asked how I felt. I was not his victim. It was almost as if I had Stockholm’s syndrome.
He hadn’t been in touch in a while, and my determination was strong to keep ignoring him. Although, I unblocked his phone number again. The thought of rejecting someone by blocking him seemed wrong to me. My mind worked in mysterious ways.
I deserved a new start, however. And I had found it. I packed my few belongings in boxes and moved to a new place. It was closer to work and a bit bigger than the apartment I had shared with Sam. Most importantly, there were no old memories in these new walls. I treated myself to new furniture too. Everything new. Blank canvas.
“Hey… it’s been a while. My fault, I apologise. I had to deal with my life. Got a divorce. Moved. New contract for a novel. All that shit. Here’s a song for you:”
Matt’s message took me by surprise. I was not the only one who was rearranging their life.
“Is it time to meet in person? This is me. No filters.” I looked at the screen and saw a handsome man in comfortable clothes. He seemed soft around the middle, but that didn’t bother me. His eyes were dark, and the lines around them made me believe that he had laughed a lot in his life. His beard was showing some grey streaks. I liked what I saw. His hair was shaggy, and maybe it was time for a haircut. He was normal. Not overly styled. Not neglected. Normal. Approachable. Someone I would like and could feel comfortable with.
“Handsome. How old are you anyway?” I had no idea. We had never really talked about private things.
“I am just myself. Born that way. 😉 34 years ago.” I smiled. Matt made me smile a lot. And he was younger than me. I didn’t give in to the anxiety that was threatening to roll over me. I didn’t listen to the self-doubt.
“I want to see your face too.” He was impatient. I snapped a quick selfie, made sure that I didn’t have food on my face or shirt and hit send. I worried my lower lip while I was waiting for his reaction.
“Holy hell. You are beautiful. Wow. I did not expect that to be honest. Wow.” I laughed out loud and shook my head. It took a lot of willpower to stop myself from sending a contradictory message. I was fat. I was old. My shirt had holes, and my hair was a mess because of the humidity outside. Not to mention that I wasn’t wearing any makeup.
“I am 35.”
“I’ll be too, next year.”
“By then I will be 36.”
“Thanks for the lessons in mathematics but I will not take it back. You are stunning.”
I didn’t feel stunning. I felt like my ordinary self.
“Text me your address again. We are going out. I won’t take no for an answer. I know Matthew Ryan didn’t happen, but this time I will show up. Please?”
“Matt, you are cute and all, but I am not sure if this is a good idea.”
“Let me decide what a good idea is and what is not.”
“Ok,” I exhaled. “When?”
“But, that’s too soon,” I tried to deflect. I wouldn’t have time to overthink and… no, I couldn’t. And so, standing in my own way again, I declined.
“I am sorry, I really can’t meet tonight.”
“No worries. Another song?” Matt sent a song, and then an awkward silence spread on my screen.
I was in need of a week away from work. I was in need of sleep. Lots of it. And I needed to apologise to Matt.
“How is your son? Your wife? You?”
“Eddie is great. My ex-wife is okay too. And I am exhausted from this damn writer’s block. Tell me something worth writing about!”
“Well, everything is inspiring,” I replied and felt condescending at once.
“What’s your deal?” Matt pushed. I wasn’t sure if it was a friendly push or an annoyed shove.
“I don’t have a deal. I am average. Just like most people are.”
“Shelly, you are way above average. Send me another selfie.”
I put my head against the glass window to cool myself. A smile on my face. Matt wanted a picture, and he would get it. I pulled my top down a bit to show some cleavage, licked my lips, and faced my phone most seductively. I hit send and waited for Matt’s reaction.
“Shelly, I love every inch of you.” Yeah right, I thought to myself.
“You haven’t seen every inch of me,” I replied, and he was quick to write his next message.
“Every inch, babe.” A warm and fuzzy feeling spread inside of me. This was nice.
“Gotta go,” was the next text from Matt. It was okay for me too. I put a pizza in the oven while the TV was softly glowing on the wall. I put my hair in a bun, changed from the tight clothes I had worn at work into something comfortable and set my camp up on the couch for the rest of the night. Honestly, I was overeating, drinking too much, and I had a smoke or two. Whenever life went well, I got a hollow feeling in my chest. As if I was missing out, although I wasn’t. And I turned to self-destructive behaviour.
My stomach hurt, my head hurt, and my home stunk of stale cigarette smoke. I looked around myself and felt ashamed. It was dark outside, and once again, I was slipping into a dark mood. For no reason at all. If Sam had called at that moment, I would have given in to him. I would have done everything he would demand, and I would obey like a dumb sub. Just so that he would love me again. Tears stung my eyes. I was pathetic. It would never change because no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t change.
I took the bottle of vodka out of the freezer and didn’t bother to get a glass. Out of the bottle or out of the glass, it didn’t matter. The liquid tasted awful and burned my throat. I groaned. I had a vision of me as a drunker and fatter Bridget Jones. All by myself. Until the doorbell rang. I tried to ignore it, taking another sip and having troubles staying upright. My thoughts went in circles. Everything was turning. My thoughts, my world. My stomach. And the doorbell kept ringing.
“Sam?” I slurred into the intercom and buzzed the door open. Finally, he was back. And if he were back, I would be complete again.
To be continued…
(Final wordcount, after shallow editing: 11344 words… I am proud that I was able to do this in such a short time… Leave me your thoughts, please)