I should’ve known what your intentions were from the jump. It wasn’t like you romanced me with candle-lit dinners, kind words or flowers. No, you slid into my DMs on Instagram and in a moment of my post-birthday in Vegas weakness, I entertained the idea and responded.
“Is this like a normal thing for you to do? Direct message girls you don’t know on Instagram?” I asked.
“No. You’re the exception,” You said.
I rolled my eyes at your response because it was obvious it wasn’t the first time you’ve attempted this move. Yet, I was feeling optimistic and trying the whole “go with the flow” thing, despite the overwhelming feeling I should run away as fast as I could.
We exchanged numbers and started the usual text banter. On our first date, we realized we had a few mutual friends which ultimately gave me a false sense of comfort.
Ok. He’s not a serial killer. Another drink pls.
One date turned into two and two turned into seeing you three times a week and talking every day for months. It was fun, carefree, and easy. I liked you. You liked me. No games, we both said.
On the last good night that I remember, you held my hand as we walked down a snow-covered street, and in the midst of a light New York rain, I remember looking at you and actually seeing you for the first time. Not as a guy that reached out to me on social media, but as someone that I had really grown to care for.
Later that night, I sat on your bed while we tossed a basketball back and forth and talked about how music can change lives and how sometimes, the only cure for a bad day was a bowl of Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream. Each time I passed the ball back to you, I felt my walls fall down just a little more.
“I want you to trust me, Rachel. You need to trust me.”
That was hard for me.
When I told you that I did, I meant it, and you assured me I was safe. You told me that disrespecting me was the “last thing you would ever do.” You held me tight in your arms and kissed me on the forehead. For the first time in a long time, I fell sound asleep in a bed that was not my own.
Yes, I knew I was entering the danger zone. I never told you that my feelings were growing, but I’m sure you saw it. I was less sarcastic, more open, and had completely let my guard down. I wear my heart on my sleeve and like many immature guys, you read that as a warning label.
The second I showed you a sliver of real emotion, you were out and everything between us changed.
Overnight, the tables turned and your true colors came out. They were ugly, harsh, and contrasting. Somehow, you made me feel bad about being vulnerable. You made me feel like I had overstepped an invisible emotional boundary that we had set, and that I was acting in some way that we did not originally agree on.
As soon as you realized you had me, you started planning your escape route. The second you realized I was no longer just some fantasy, the reality became too much for you.
I should have walked away as soon as I felt things change between us, but I wanted to prove myself wrong. When you reached out again, I made a decision to let it roll and give things another shot. I thought maybe you had something else going on, work had been busy, or you were distracted and would snap out of it.
The last day we spent together was a game of push and pull. For the fourth time, you canceled our plans of going to grab drinks and told me to come over instead. I had quickly gone from the girl you loved to show off to the girl you call when you were bored and turned on.
Under normal circumstances, I would have refused and told you that I was sick of doing that and that I deserved more. But despite my better judgment, I came over anyway because I was tired of being someone that had to give you a list rules and standards you had to abide by to be with me.
I gave you the benefit of the doubt and put my faith into the universe’s hands. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you’re young and trying to figure life out?
I was tired of second guessing and I was ready to free fall. I just wanted to be with you that night.
“So I’m going to be really busy for the next few weeks.” You said as you got dressed, rolled over, and checked your phone.
I’m sure you could see the disappointment in my face. Not because you were going to be busy, but because I knew all too well what that actually meant. You had conquered me, both physically and mentally, and were ready to put your pants back on and slide into another girl’s inbox.
It didn’t matter how great I was or how much fun we had together. I knew at that moment that that was the last time I would see you. You were over it, got what you wanted, and now I was just another obstacle in the way of your next conquest.
The whole thing was a charade and that night was the final act. You weren’t even interested in staying around for the credits.
I left your apartment that night feeling so small. I felt dirty, used, and stupid. You would never know that, of course, because I looked dope in those 3-inch thigh high boots you loved and gracefully gathered my things while you stared at yourself in the mirror. It wasn’t like I was trying to hide how hurt or disgusted I was, but I knew that you didn’t care about what I was feeling.
The truth is, you never did.
In the days following that night, you kept communication to a minimum. You removed anything emotional that was going on between us and replaced it with sarcasm, a crude comment, or a sexual joke. By doing that, you made it clear that you wanted to have control over where the “relationship” was going. You and I were at a never-ending yellow light and you got to decide when it would turn green. Some days, you would act like you did when we first met and other days you spoke to me like I was a piece of trash. Instead of being upfront with me about your feelings, you punished me for being vulnerable with you.
Because I wouldn’t “come chill” at your apartment every night, you assumed I wanted commitment. Because I wouldn’t sext you at all hours of the day while I was at work, you thought I was boring. Because I didn’t laugh when you made vaguely racist comments towards me, you told me I needed to lighten up.
Because I surprised you with court side tickets for your birthday, I was planning too far into the future of our relationship. WHO KNEW YOU COULD GET PUNISHED FOR WANTING A SICK VIEW AND FREE POPCORN AT A BULLS GAME? The horror!
See, this is where you went wrong. Actually, this is where most 20-something guys go wrong.
The second you discovered I was not a heartless, blasé, free-spirited, free-love chick, you slammed your foot on the breaks and categorized me as someone needing assurance, a boyfriend, and a shoulder to cry on.
For a long time, I was mad at myself for how hard I tried to keep you interested. I was like a motion-sensor nightlight; the only time I came to life was when you were around me. It was borderline pathetic, but I did everything I could and I gave you my all. The more I felt you pulling away, the more I wanted to fix things and jump in to pick up the slack. I planned insanely fun nights out for us, watched your boring favorite show, and wore killer lingerie to get your adrenaline pumping just for the hell of it, but none of it mattered to you.
The game you played with me was emotionally damaging, painful, and intoxicating all at the same time.
You strung me along for a few more weeks by sprinkling your emotional breadcrumbs all over the floor for me to pick up. A few Snapchats here and there, tags in memes that reminded you of me, and comments that were too vague for me to take as either flirty or friendly. You made me think there was a possibility something would still happen between us by leaving a trail of memories of you and I so that when you decided you were ready, you could find your way back to me.
Sometimes, there is a foggy space that exists between love and hate. One minute I was over you and the next, I found myself defending you and your actions to anyone who would listen. In my moments of weakness, I let my mind go to the places we once were. Places like that little wine bar around the corner from your apartment when you told me you were all-in, or to our first date when I kicked your ass in foosball and you were embarrassed because you weren’t prepared to lose to a girl in a miniskirt.
I think back to these small moments that once brought me so much happiness and I wonder where I went wrong. I think about scenarios in which I could have said, done, or acted differently. I’ve replayed many moments in my head, looking for a sign I missed or a red flag I overlooked.
Every time, I come up with nothing.
The truth is, no amount of schooling could have taught you to appreciate someone like me.
As a woman in 2017, I’ve been groomed to make myself less-than. Less-than confident, because I need to remain feminine and soft. Less-than brilliant, because I don’t want to come off too strong. Less-than bold, because I need to keep an air of mystery about me.
The only thing less-than in 2017 is the amount of fucks I’m giving about what other people think about me.
I’m sure you tell your friends we don’t speak anymore because I went crazy or got too attached, and I don’t blame you. That’s a whole lot easier than telling them that you lied about who you were and manipulated me into thinking I meant something to you just for fun. Now THAT is crazy.
One day, you’ll wake up next to your 113th like on your most recent Instagram post and wonder about me. Wonder what I’m doing, what I’m wearing (which you always loved to ask), and what I’m thinking. Emotionless, you’ll call 113 an Uber and mindlessly turn on Sports Center. The Bulls game is on.
“Fuck. I was supposed to be there,” you’ll mutter to 113. “This girl bought me tickets for my birthday but she turned out to be a total psycho.”
The camera pans to the left and you feel that familiar, unsettling feeling of an opportunity lost.