Our timing was off from the beginning. We met in high school when I joined academic team to spend more time with a cute guy from the cross country team.
He held up a sheet of paper saying something to the effect of ‘you’re hot.’ I quickly learned cross country guy had a girlfriend, but I had already lost interest in my pursuit.
My sole focus was the bold and quirky AJD with his unabashed proclamations of attraction.
He was handsome in an unconventional way with a pearly white smile,
a few crooked teeth and a perpetual smirk and thick chestnut hair and an ever changing beard complimented by a perfectly rosy flush. Those are the features I fantasize about to this day.
I was fourteen when we started dating. I fell in love hard and fast and I pictured us being married and raising a family from the beginning. I flourished under his love.
After years of depression, I finally felt whole and stopped cutting my wrists and the frequency of anxiety attacks lessened.
I started using less makeup and wearing clothes I liked, not just what was deemed cool by others. I felt like I could be me in his gaze, which extended positively into other areas of my life.
As we learned, the changes were only on the surface.
My deep rooted fears of abandonment and lack of self esteem could not be healed by any relationship other than that with myself.
I did not feel worthy of his love and constantly worried he would leave. I also couldn’t say no to male attention. I viewed my salvation by love as a game of probability.
If I slept with every guy who expressed interest, surely I wouldn’t end up alone. In the days leading up to intercourse with X, Y, or Z, I felt wanted and needed.
The initial emotional boost from the start of my relationship with AJD was rekindled.
I was addicted to the high of his love and I sought out that high from everyone but him as my underlying issues became apparent in our relationship.
Eventually I couldn’t hide the cheating or lies anymore and he left.
For the next two years, I thought of no one but him. I dated others casually, but every winter and summer break he was home from college, I begged him to see me.
I saw him two or three times during those years and the visits comprised of brief conversation, sex and then radio silence for months at a time.
I felt overwhelming guilt for what I had done to him in our relationship and in turn, I felt like the game of hot and cold was my due.
By all appearances, I had moved beyond teen angst by the time I graduated valedictorian of my high school, interned in Germany, and entered an Ivy League university.
That fall I felt high on life, without a gentleman caller, and was ready to take on the new challenges of adulthood.
One night after a few drinks, I felt the need to contact AJD to tell him about my growth. What began as a drunk dial, morphed into a soul pouring session and ended with a declaration of love.
The calls and messages continued for weeks and after many weepy promises that mistakes wouldn’t be repeated, the relationship began anew.
As the months turned into years, our love intensified despite the hundreds of miles separating our corporeal forms. Our lives were inextricably tied together and he was my world.
I thought of him every morning when I awoke and every evening when I fell asleep and most of the time between the two.
This growing dependency was the next manifestation of my fear of abandonment and lack of self worth. I became paranoid that he would leave at any moment.
I started cheating again to soothe the ever imminent loneliness.
A vicious cycle of lying and cheating, fueled by alcohol, followed by near breakups and feeling bereft thereafter, which triggered more cheating, continued for years.
He stood by me and battled my demons when I was too weak to fight, but eventually, they defeated him too. On my 20th birthday, he left.
In the absence of his love, I attempted suicide that summer.
In the fall I returned to school feeling healthy again. I recommitted to academics and promised myself I would not make the same mistakes in the next relationship.
A couple of months later, the most handsome, intelligent, and charming man I had ever met strode into my life.
As before, I fell in love hard and fast and we began living together a few weeks later.
The constant proximity accelerated the relationship and it felt like the best part of a roller coaster ride extended into infinity.
It was euphoric, but like all roller coaster rides, it came to an end.
I kept my promise to absolve the sins of my relationship with AJD.
Even after he cheated, I stayed.
Even after the abuse started, I stayed.
Even after the child unwanted by him was born, I stayed.
For years, I stayed and never strayed.
Each year I grew a little stronger and pulled a little bit further away until my child and I were finally free.
Afterwards, I wanted to waive my hands like an eager child waiting to be called upon to tell AJD what I had done.
‘Look! In five years, I never cheated. I did it! And I can do it again. With you!’
Instead, when contact was made, I let him believe the carefully crafted Facebook narrative of a happy family.
He was lovely, I said.
It just didn’t work out, I said.
Leaving AJD to fill in the blanks from our own relationship implosion, he viewed me as unchanged.
But the late night messages turned in phone calls and the drunk dials turned into hour long conversations. The declarations of love on both sides soon followed.
At the time, I was preparing for a cross country move to start fresh and further escape the abuser. With AJD back in the picture, I couldn’t leave.
It could be our last chance I told myself, so I stayed.
Then he told me about his girlfriend and he left.
For months, I heard nothing from him as I threw myself into new projects after the sidetracked move.
I can’t remember who reached out first, but the contact was rekindled as if no time had passed.
He was taken I told myself. Off the market. No need to get emotionally invested.
But I had always been emotionally invested. I had never stopped being emotionally invested.
We talked on a almost daily basis for the next year about everything from the mundane aspects of daily life to deep seated hopes and fears.
I fell deeper into love with each passing day all the while quietly reminding myself that he had a girlfriend.
This time I was the one remaining faithful in the nonexistent relationship.
I didn’t tell him I had changed
and then he left.