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Alteration

Passing Ships Challenge

By Jenna CallowayPublished about a year ago 4 min read
4
Alteration
Photo by Akshay Paatil on Unsplash

I remember little of the woman who changed my life; her name and appearance are lost to me. But her words, delivered with a magical depth that wove itself into the entire fabric of my being, are forever with me.

"Why do you allow it?"

I was on a near empty bus, heading home after a visit with my family where I pretended everything was fine. But the lie of it, the heaviness of it, had settled into my chest and I spent several of those solitary hours staring blankly out the window. I was startled when she chose the seat beside me.

Our conversation moved quickly from the small talk of strangers to something deeper. Sometimes, it is easier to unburden with someone who holds no attachment.

I felt trapped, caught in a repetitive cycle - one I didn't know how to leave, one in which I wasn't sure I wanted to, one in which I believed it was entirely up to me to fix. They didn't have the vocabulary for the cycle back then (or, if they did, I wasn't aware of it). They do now.

Love Bombing: A practice of lavishing attention or affection on someone, in order to influence or manipulate them.

He loved me. I knew it. Whether it was remembering my favorite flowers, cooking my favorite meal, daily emails and calls to tell me he missed me, the consistent shower of compliments - smart, creative, pretty - that I was admittedly starved for, it all added up to love.

Gaslighting: using psychological methods against someone else in order to make them question their own intuition or powers of reasoning

He loved me...but... I'd be smarter if I would just take his advice. I'd be more creative if I stopped playing around with words and took up photography like he did. I'd be prettier if I'd just lose a few more pounds, get in better shape, maybe tried dying my hair blonde because he generally prefers those to brunettes.

I'm the reason he's angry. It's selfish for me to take the martial arts class right next door when I know it is on his favorite TV night. I can't possibly care about him as much as I say I do because he's left to watch Friends and That 70's Show by himself, especially after I promised that he'd always be my priority.

I'm the reason he's being distant. He's embarrassed that we can't afford to take his friends out to dinner and I need to stop pressuring him to get a job - he can't possibly work for less than $20/hour and, if I got in even better shape, I would have the energy to work more hours at either one of my two jobs.

He loves me but he needs a break. He didn't mean for the other woman to phone our apartment but I haven't been spending as much time with him as I should, so its my fault that he sought out another companion. Still, he can't afford an apartment on his own so we could just be roommates for awhile until he figures things out.

Emotional Blackmail: a process of making demands and threats to manipulate another person and get what you want.

His camera equipment is set neatly on the table, alongside the watch that once belonged to his deceased father. The note says he loves me, that I'm the only one for him and he's sorry for his behavior (he's sure I exaggerated some of it) but he still can't believe I want to leave. He can't live without me. If I cared about him at all, could I make sure his mother gets his items. She'll be devastated by his death and its the least I can do. Or, if I still have feelings, I could stop him and call before 11pm so he knows that I'm willing to work things out. We could just talk.

I am, after all, his everything.

We talked, this woman and I, through the long, dark hours. I told endless variations on the cycle, all starting the same way, all ending the same way. I lost count of how many times the camera equipment wound up on that table.

Until she asked that simple five word question.

My body trembled under a light but numbing vibration and I had no response. Maybe I mustered up an 'I don't know,' but I don't remember. There was a fugue that descended over me with the question, one that carried me back to the apartment, back to him.

But the question slowly took on a life inside my cells as the cycle restarted. The response came as the awareness of my warped reality increased and I cringed under the answer. Because even his exaggerated cries, threatened suicides, and entreaties to change provided a temporary balm over my lack of self-worth and overwhelming loneliness.

That revelation opened up the only change, the only fix really required of me.

I gave my notice not long after, exchanging the apartment for a few months on a friend's futon while I looked deep into my own sense of worth and ignored his calls.

To this day, I wish I could thank the woman who sat beside me on a near-empty bus for altering the trajectory of my life with one simple, but not easy question - why do you allow it?

humanity
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About the Creator

Jenna Calloway

An insatiably curious and ordinary human who enjoys a good rabbit hole and writing.

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Comments (4)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a year ago

    Oh Jenna, I'm so sorry you had to go through this but I'm so grateful for that woman who asked you an eye opening question. So glad you found the courage to leave. That definitely wouldn't have been easy. You should feel proud of yourself!

  • Grz Colmabout a year ago

    Very thoughtfully expressed Jenna. I’m glad you were able to unlock yourself from this situation. 😊👍✨

  • Mariann Carrollabout a year ago

    Very sad story , I am so glad you met this woman . I am sorry you got manipulated by a no good person. I am glad he is no longer with you. You deserve better ❤️

  • This is excellent and I have seen so many people stand for this sort of thing. Very intense and well written, I am there with you

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