I never break up with anyone. I will stay in a relationship even as it veers off the rails, flies off the end of a lakefront pier, and finally tumbles into the icy waters of Lake Michigan where I drown and freeze to death simultaneously — that’s how much I hate it. I hate every part of breaking up: I hate dispensing sadness, I hate transitioning into being a (tragically common and neglected) single male, and, most of all, I hate people hating me. It’s like a splinter in my mind, and inevitably brings up questions about my self-image I’d rather not examine. For these reasons and more, I deliberately wait for the other person to break up with me, and thankfully/ unfortunately, most of the time, I don’t have to wait long. I get to be the victim, the one who has been terribly wronged by the perpetually callous and emotionally destructive female. Yes! I’m the big winner in this transaction, and she’s the inhuman monster! Nothing about me could have provoked the severing of our association, only her pure irrational malice, her dementor-ish hunger for human misery.
There have been only two times I’ve had to break up with someone. The first time was perpetrated via instant messenger, and oh my, was it a smooth and painless operation. I typed, “I don’t think this is working for me.” Then she typed, “WHO ARE YOU CHEATING ON ME WITH?!” And I said, “Nobody. I just don’t want to date you anymore.” Then, an hour later, her sister started IMing me: “What the hell is your problem? My sister’s crying here! How could you break up with her over AIM? Why are you such an unbelievable douchebag?” On some level, I relished the drama of it, the excitement of being the center of a crisis, and — bonus — because it’s all over AIM, I didn’t have to confront the stark reality of a crying girl making me feel bad and stuff. Awesome!
The next time was a live-action real-time break-up, and that one was The Worst Break-Up. It occurred in several horrifying stages, each worse than the last. The most pivotal incident (as best I can recall) however was this:
It started when she threw her cell phone at my head. I got out of bed, saying, “That’s it! I’m leaving!”
Realizing she’d unwittingly activated the evacuation sequence, she panicked, grabbed my arm. “Please don’t go! I didn’t mean to hit you! I was just throwing it out of frustration!”
“I don’t care.”
“Please sleep here! I just need you to sleep here! Just for one night!”
I, however, had an indescribably intense need to get out of that apartment like a bumblebee trapped in a soda can. The notion of staying struck me as unthinkable, unfathomable. “No, I’m sorry. I have to go.”
As I made for the door, she zipped in front of me, turned the lock, and grabbed my arm. She continued to chant about how if I’d sleep just one night with her, everything would be fine, she wouldn’t bother me again, things would be different, she wouldn’t throw anything else at my head. But I couldn’t hear her over the voice in my head, screaming, “GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE OR YOUR SANITY IS FORFEIT!” I kept trying to unlock the door, and she kept relocking it.
“Please stay! I can’t sleep without someone there with me! Just one night!”
I appealed to her sense of reason: “My dear, you’re acting like a crazy person. Look at what you’re doing right now — this is how a crazy person acts. Be reasonable.”
In her defense, I had just slept with her, a person I’d ostensibly broken up with, someone I happened to know could be extremely unreasonable and emotionally fragile, and now sought to flee the scene of the crime. I wasn’t exactly the model of sane intelligent behavior. In fact, one might describe my actions as “morally reprehensible” or even “evil.” Without question, “psychologically abusive” would cover it.
She allowed me to exit the apartment, and, as I stepped out onto the landing, I savored the sweet taste of freedom. She, after all, was not wearing clothes. She couldn’t follow me. She was trapped by that most insidious of social contracts: thou shalt not walk around naked in the outdoor public place. But she did follow me, followed me into the world of the clothed. And worse still, she began shrieking at the top of her lungs and sat down in a huddled ball, crying. She cursed herself, me, the universe itself. I would depart her life and be fine, but she would still have to go on living as an emotionally unstable person plagued with various sleep and personality disorders. I was a momentary visitor to madness while she was a prisoner there.
After many attempts to placate her and lead her back to the apartment, I finally abandoned “being compassionate” and began walking to my car. Halfway there, I turned to see her behind me, running, chasing me. So I started sprinting to my car full speed. I had just spent at least an hour watching her soul disintegrate before my eyes and couldn’t bear to witness the final nuclear meltdown. It made me feel bad and stuff. Like ew, gross, feelings are gross. Breathing fast, heart pounding, I raced across the parking lot, to the confusion of any witnesses in the vicinity. Being chased by a naked girl was not, in fact, as amazing as all those Axe commercials indicated — it was pure mind numbing terror. I fumbled for my car keys, threw open the car door, dove inside, started the car — and she blocked me from backing up. ‘Oh God,’ I thought. ‘The likelihood of being murdered seems high.’ Before I could lock it, she opened my door and plopped herself in my lap.
I thought, ‘I am never leaving this place.’
I pretended to go back to her apartment with her. I recall sighing in an exasperated way and saying, “Okay, let’s go back to bed.” I felt like a police officer leading a shell shocked trauma victim, a woman who has just discovered all of her children lying face-up in the pool. She seemed zombified. Dull yellow parking lot lights illuminated the self-inflicted cuts along her legs, ones she said she’d discovered upon waking up in the bathtub. She had bruises all over from falling down or smashing into blunt objects while blackout drunk. Under eyes bloodshot from crying were gray circles from chronic insomnia. Who could guess what sinister concoction of antidepressants, alcohol, sleeping pills, and general psychosis had resulted in this sad creature? Who could guess how much of this she would even remember tomorrow?
When we arrived at the entrance to her apartment, I waited until she had unlocked the door to go inside. Then I sprinted across the landing, down the stairs, across the parking lot, hopped in my car, and drove away. I put my head out the window and took long deep breaths. At a red light, I clicked a mental photograph: this is liberty.
My phone started ringing. I didn’t answer it. It continued ringing, over and over, endlessly. When I got home, it was still ringing, so, though I used my phone as an alarm clock, I turned it on vibrate. The next morning, I woke to 65 missed calls. ‘I’m safe,’ I thought. ‘She can keep calling all she wants, but I’m safe.’