“Because, I die a little every time I set foot in that house”. That was the last thing I said to my own mother before I cut her and her husband out of my life forever.
I know what you’re thinking.
What horrible thing could they have done? What could warrant cutting your own family out of your life?
Well, there’s a few obvious reasons that I won’t list. We’ve seen it all already in the news and media. Movies and televisions show have been made ad nauseam about the types of abuse that destroy relationships and families. Of course, my reasoning isn’t obvious.
I cut them out of my life because every bit of my words rang true. I did feel like I was dying a little inside every time I was around them. The amount of love they showed me couldn’t outweigh the stress and the anxiety and the anger and the resentment and the melancholy that I felt every time I failed to live up to their expectations.
Anyone with a heart and conscious would know that disappointment is a terrible feeling to have and to cause. So, getting the third degree about something small like a low grade point average or forgetting to take the trash out right after you already beaten yourself up about it feels an awful like getting kicked when you’re down.
It gets even worse when you grow up and learn that life sucks on the daily and on top of trying to figure who you are and what you want to do in life, you have to navigate all of life’s beautiful and unexpected twists and turns it likes to throw your way. For example, debt. Or the divorce you never saw coming. How about the car accidents you never planned?
I never plan anything because what’s the use. Something unexpected is always going to happen whether we like it or not. I’m the type of person who likes routine. I like knowing what to expect, but a big part of growing up is letting go and realizing that you can’t control everything that happens to or around you.
I tried steering myself away from the problem. I turned down a college I really wanted to go to and completely changed the course of my life in the process. I spent four breathable years after high school getting to know myself again, away from my parents.
There was a part of me that died after puberty, though. I can barely remember because I was so young, but I used to smile a lot and have fun. I never took anything too seriously. It was almost like the world was mine for the taking. Then as I got older, my body changed. Then my mind changed, and I started hating my body. Then I started hating myself for hating my body. Then I began hating my parents for not understanding me the way I needed them to. Then I started hating everyone because it became clear that finding love wouldn’t be as easy for me as it would for other people. I had known that fact about myself for years, but it wasn’t until I got older that I realized how debilitating being lonely was. That’s when I learned that the world wasn’t mine for the taking. I was for the world’s taking.
And it did take me.
I tried assimilating. I tried to be normal, or what I thought was normal, but I only ended up dying a little bit more.
I learned a lot about myself in the past three years of my life. I’ve done a lot of uncharacteristic things, trying to fit in where I clearly didn’t belong. That’s all we want as humans. Is to belong. To fit in and be accepted and loved.
The strange part about that is, as I look back at all the times where I was surrounded by love from my family, I can’t stop thinking about how out of place I felt. It’s fucked up, but for years, I felt like I never really belonged with them, as if I was an alien that fell from outer space into their backyard and they had to care for. I wish I never felt like that and I wish that some part of me still didn’t, but I do.
So, after my last fuck up at adulting properly, I turned to the only thing that could numb it all. Alcohol. It was the only thing that ever got me to do things that I never would have normally done and I needed some of its magic now.
I went to the bar alone, something I rarely ever do. I don’t even like going to the movies by myself, but I’m slowly coming to accept that being alone doesn’t have to be lonely.
I order a few drinks and then hit the dancefloor, dancing on my own, feeling my fantasy for however long it lasts.
A man slithers his way behind and starts dancing up against me. His warmth feels nice, so I let him have his way as the music and alcohol drown out all reason.
He pulls me close and yells “you’re hot!” into my ear.
I turn around to face him. My eyes scan him all over, picking apart the things that appealed to me. He looked older, which I liked. The scruff was also a bonus. I loved how it felt against my skin. He also wore glasses, which gave him that nerdy hint of intellectuality that I craved. He was muscular but a bit thin, which is something I try to avoid. I’m a bit on the thick side and for some reason, the thought of a guy being sturdy enough to carry me was always an item on my grocery list. He was also a bit short. We were eye to eye and for me that was short enough, but drunk me didn’t mind the negatives. The positive was that he was interested in me. For that alone, I should count myself lucky.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and thanked him, still dancing to the beat of the noise.
“I want to make you mine!” He yelled.
It took me a minute to figure out what he said, but when I did, I couldn’t help but grin. It was the kind of confidence that I admired and craved in a significant other, and hearing those words directed at me made my heart flutter.
Unfortunately, my inner saboteur had this to say. “You don’t want me. I’m a complete mess. Plus, my baggage is too heavy to carry.” My eyes wandered away from his, not wanting to see his reaction.
“Drop it! Take a chance on me,” he said and my eyes flew back up to his in surprise. I still wasn’t convinced though. I’ve always had a problem with want and need. I wanted him. My body wanted him, but I knew I didn’t need him. Unfortunately, as the night went on, my body began making all the decisions.
I was too drunk to drive myself back home, so I spent the night with that same man against my better judgement. Come morning, I was surprised I wasn’t dead, but even more surprised that this man wasn’t kicking me out of his place.
I rolled over in bed and noticed the empty space, but then he came out of the bathroom in seconds, towel wrapped around his waist as beads of water slowly traveled down his bare chest. He walked over to me and planted a kiss on my forehead, as if it was normal.
“Good morning. The shower is free if you need to use it,” he said as he busied himself around his room.
“I should probably get going and call an Uber,” I said as I climbed out of his bed and fumbled with my clothes.
“No need. I can take you home. You want breakfast first? I can make you something,” he offered.
“You don’t have to trouble yourself, I’m good,” I reassured him. I reached for my phone on his dresser and pulled up the Uber app.
He then came over and set my phone back down. “You know, I meant every word last night. I want you to be mine.”
“I meant every word too. My life is a mess. I can’t afford to let someone else swoop in and get caught up in my storm,” I told him.
“What if you could afford to?” It seemed impossible to me he was saying all the right words, but here we are and I was falling for them all.
“You know nothing about me,” I argued, but my body was already reduced to jelly in his arms.
“That’s part of the fun,” he shrugged. “Besides, we all have a past. I want you to be in my future.”
“As yours?” I asked, and he just smiled and nodded. “What would that even entail?”
“Me, a little happier with you around to keep me company and you worrying a little less about life,” he suggested, and I swallowed hard. It all seemed too good to be true, but I was running out of options.
“Sure, why not,” I said.
“Great! Welcome to your new life,” he said and went over to his desk and pulled out an envelope and handed it to me. I didn’t need to open to know what was inside and it took all I had not to rip it open then and there and look at the amount, but the part of me that still craved love and belonging had questions. I didn’t just want to be comfortable. I wanted a happy ending too.
“What’s your name, by the way?”
“Am I enough for you?” was the question that ruin everything. It was the key to Pandora’s box and the beginning of my unraveling.
I’ve never asked that question to anyone before. I never had the courage to. In retrospect, it’s the only question that really mattered to me. It was the source of my belonging problem, perhaps.
If I felt adequate enough and truly accepted, then I would have no need to ask it, but here we are. I forced my eyes up from the food I was twirling around on my plate and stared deep into his eyes, confronting a fear I wasn’t quite sure I could face, and repeated the question.
“Am I enough for you?”
Mark looked at me, surprised, an answer not readily available, but he managed, “Where is this coming from?”
“It’s been eight months since we first met. The longest relationship I’ve ever had; the only relationship I’ve ever had, actually. Would you even call it that? A relationship?”
“Of course, but—” he answered, but I needed to get it all out before I lost it in the storm of my thoughts and it no longer made sense.
“It was a whirlwind at first,” I began pouring out my heart. “You truly did change my life for the better. I didn’t count on growing so attached to you. The mystery was fun and normally I would’ve welcomed it, but as my life became less of a burden, I found myself wanting. I wanted to share everything about myself with you and I did, but you never reciprocated. You stayed a mystery. You probably wouldn’t have offered your name that first night if I hadn’t asked and I still don’t have the slightest of clues as to what you do for a living. You know everything about me; why I had money problems, why I stopped speaking to my own mother, why it’s so hard for me to look into people’s eyes. You know all of my hopes and dreams for the future and yet I don’t even know why you chose me that night in the club. I have this uncontrollable urge to say I love you every time I wake up in your arms, but I hold back every time because I just don’t know if you’ll say it back or not. That’s why I asked if I was enough or not, but if you can’t answer me that question, then answer this one, please. If it wasn’t for our little arrangement, would our relationship even stand a chance?”
I stared at him as a spinning wheel of emotions rotated on his face and he clearly didn’t know which one he felt the need to express the most.
“Are you unhappy with our arrangement?” He finally said, of course, answering a question with a question.
“Are you even listening to me? I just want to know how you feel about me. Am I enough? Am I too feminine, too masculine? Am I fat? Should I lose weight? Am I good in bed? Should I learn how to cook? Are you alright with how I dress? How I talk? How I act? Do you want more from me or less? Am I good enough? Am I just a doll for you to play with? Is there nothing about me that you adore? Even if it’s the tiniest of quirks. Something? Anything?” I began to feel the tears streak my face as the words sputtered out.
“Are you giving me an ultimatum?” He asked, it seemed that he settled on anger.
“Of course not. I would never do that because I would hate it if someone did that to me, but I do want to know what you want so I can decide what I want to do,” I replied.
“What I wanted was someone who was obedient and loyal and didn’t ask so many questions,” he finally answered me. “I thought we could both runaway and start fresh.”
“I wasn’t trying to runaway when you met me. I was trying to heal. And it sounds an awful lot like you wanted a dog and not a doll,” I retorted.
“I would think a dog would be a step up,” he offered with a hint of sarcasm.
“A dog still has feelings. At least if I was a doll I wouldn’t be hurting so much right now,” I said as I got up with my half eaten plate and walked over to the other side of the table and offered to take his plate. He just sat there, knife and fork clenched in both of his fists as he just stared up at me. “Fine.”
I headed towards the kitchen to wash my dish, but the sound of him slamming his fists down on the table spun me around to face him again.
“You really want to know more about me?” Mark huffed. I just stood there, frozen in time, as I waited for anything real and true to fall from his lips. That’s all I’ve been asking for this whole time. “I used to be married. My wife and I weren’t exactly the most compatible of matches, but we tried to make it work. I tried anyway. I eventually came to learn that she was living a double life. I got so mad when I found out, not because she was unfaithful, but because she was doing something I wanted to do the whole time and here I was suppressing a part of myself and she couldn’t even be bothered to do the same. I pushed her hard, and she ended up falling down the stairs. She died. Little did I know that she was also pregnant at the time. It was mine. It had to be because she was cheating on me with another woman. Her death was deemed an accident, but…”
“But what?” I found myself asking. My eyes trained on him like a starving predator. I didn’t want him to answer the question, but a part of me did. That’s what I wanted all along, wasn’t it? To find someone who was slightly more messed up than me so that I didn’t feel completely alone in this darkness.
“I guess…part of me wanted her gone. It’s that same part that I didn’t want you to get to know,” Mark confessed. His eyes pleaded with mine to understand, but I already did. The problem was, I just didn’t want him to see just how understanding I was. Maybe that would scare him more.
I half turned to go into the kitchen, but words I hadn’t yet found held my body in place. Instinct took over us both and not in synergizing ways. He quickly rose from his chair and started for me and the only thing my mind was thinking about was how he just confessed to essentially killing his own wife. Did that make me expendable, too?
Next thing I know, my dinner knife is plunged into his abdomen. His hands were empty and his arms were still frozen in the air, inches away from pulling me into him if I hadn’t panicked.
“I just didn’t want to lose you,” he choked out as his gaze fell down to the tainted space in between us that was bridged only by my hand and a blade.
“We’re married,” was the lie I told the doctor to let me see Mark. After looking me up and down and wondering whether to investigate further, he finally caved in. I followed him down the hall of the recovery wing and into a room where I saw Mark laying defeated on a hospital bed.
He looked over at us as we entered the room and said, “well isn’t this ironic?”
“Could you give us a moment,” I told the doctor as he checked on Mark’s vitals. He gave a quick nod when he was finished and left the room, closing the door behind him.
“That’s quite the lie you told the staff when first arrived. It’s about as impressive as everything you did to get me here alive. The doctor said I was minutes away from death,” Mark told me and for the first time, it felt like we were finally having an honest conversation.
“A wasted talent, I guess,” I replied back, thinking about how I ripped the knife out of his body and tried to slow the bleeding down with a tablecloth and a scarf wrapped tightly around his waist. I helped him into his car and sped to the hospital. It was a miracle not a single cop saw me with how many stop signs and red lights I ran through, but even more impressive that I didn’t get into another wreck.
When we showed up to the waiting room, I was near hysterical, trying to get us immediate attention. When a few nurses rushed to us with a gurney ready, the questions flew from their mouths instantly.
It was an accident; I told them. I was at home fixing dinner, and he came up from behind trying to surprise me. I already had the knife in my hand. By the time I saw his face, it was too late. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was genuinely bawling my eyes out and screaming for them to help him, they might have questioned my story further.
“You’re a quick thinker and resourceful, too. It’s one of the things I really like about you,” Mark said, trying to console me.
It was weird. I was the one that stabbed him and yet he’s lying there trying to make me feel batter. I should be making him feel better, on my hands and knees, begging for his forgiveness, but I could only stand there petrified at what I had almost done.
I looked down at my blood stained hands for the first time and finally moved toward the sink to wash them. “Is this what it felt like?” I noticed his confused reflection in the mirror above the sink. “Is this what it felt like when you—you know—your wife?” I pumped at the soap rigorously and washed my shaky hands so hard, as if the water was holy and my hands were tainted with sin. I just wanted to wash away all of my mistakes, including this one.
“Not quite the same. Probably worse, actually,” Mark answered.
“And how did you deal with it?” I asked, still at the sink. The blood was long gone, but it still felt like my hands were dirty.
“It’s been three years since, but I still am dealing with it and I’m probably never going to stop dealing with,” Mark reasoned.
“I can’t even imagine…what my parents would say…the disappointment…if I had actually…,” I blurted out in a panic. I was beginning to spiral. “I’m a fucking mess!”
I didn’t even notice or hear Mark come up behind me, but when his arms wrapped around me, my whole body tensed up, and not because I was scared of him, but because I was scared of myself.
“It was an accident,” he spoke softly, and I slowing relaxed against him like I normally would. He then spun me around and took my face in his hands. Our eyes were locked and our lips only a breath away. “I never wanted to hurt you.”
I couldn’t stop the laughter that followed his statement because I was the one that actually hurt him. “I think that’s the problem. People like us never want to hurt the ones we love, but we do anyway. Even now, with you saying that, it strangely just makes me love you more,” I confessed, as a new stream of tears fell down my face and over his hands. “It takes a very strong constitution to bury such immense darkness inside one’s self and then carry that burden alone. It’s all I’ve ever known, though. You could never hurt me, the way I hurt myself.”