The first time I saw a picture of you, I didn’t hate you. I really wanted to, but couldn’t. You weren’t one of those women who caked on makeup or had a boob job. We shared similar physical characteristics, being petite brunettes with distinct noses and smiley eyes. Upon further investigation, I learned you help homeless dogs find homes, while I have a sweet spot for special needs animals. You appear to enjoy hiking and the outdoors, along with mimosa-filled brunches with friends. We even have similar taste in music based on recent concerts you attended. Given different circumstances, I thought maybe we would be friends.
Don’t get me wrong though, I felt what the expression “knife in your heart” truly meant because of you. It wasn’t the picture of you in a long, black shimmering dress at a New Year’s wedding he told me he was attending alone that did it. Or the picture of you jumping in a white bikini on the beach when I couldn’t take time off work to travel back to his home state, so you replaced me.
No, It was the pictures of you in our favorite spots that hurt the most. Our ritual sunrise hike to the cliff he used to hold me tight for warmth at as we talked about our future over whipping winds. The beach cove we had spontaneous sex in, laughing as waves pulled and and pushed us into the sea naked, struggling to get back to shore without anyone seeing us. We could match identical pictures in multiple locations; it was bone chillingly eerie. As I’m sure you know, each picture is a unique memory in time. But that was all a facade, and you don’t know it yet, but to him we are merely stupid pawns in his game, and I don’t know how to eradicate what I thought were cherished moments from my mind. And for that I hate you. Even though I know it’s not your fault.
When I was sixteen, my mom finally divorced my dad after years of his infidelity. Subconsciously, it destroyed my trust in men and I learned how to have my cake and eat it too during relationships throughout my twenties. I believed it was inevitable that a man would let me down eventually, so if I beat him to the punch, it wouldn’t hurt as bad; we would be equals. I hurt a lot of good guys with my protective shield. Until I met him.
The only reason I’m telling you this is so you know how deeply I loved him, even through his abuse, because he was the one that helped change my self-destructive pattern. Unfortunately, he replaced it with something even more destructive by instilling self doubt until I no longer recognized myself. He had me wrapped around his finger, just like he wanted. Instead of running to someone else, I let my guard down for the first time. I learned that vulnerability could be beautiful, and was so very proud of myself of the growth we built together. Or so I thought.
When I confronted him, he tried to lie his way out of it. I have to admit, I loved watching him squirm and nervously bite his fingernails as I felt the power shift to me. He called you ugly and that it didn’t mean anything, that he was just reaching out to talk to someone neutral about his problems and it wasn’t physical. Honestly, I’d rather he just fucked you. It’s the emotional cheating that hurts more, the thought of sharing all our intimate conversations.
Three months later, I received a message from you asking if we could talk. I brushed you off coldly, replying that it’s not worth it; you wouldn’t believe anything I told you. After all, I thought his ex-wife was crazy after hearing all his stories about her, until she reached out to ask if I was okay after what he did to me. It brought back many horrible memories of their marriage she told me. I couldn’t sleep that night because I was thinking about you. Were you okay? Did he hurt you like he hurt me?
I’ve never understood women being vicious to other women; we have enough problems as it is. The next morning, I felt a sense of responsibility for you that I couldn’t shake. I sent a follow up message to you stating that I was here if you needed anything. I didn’t hear back until about a month later, when you asked to talk again.
Although a little awkward and surreal at first, speaking with you was like connecting with a long lost sister. As we compared our interconnected timeline of events over a year, there were moments of silence to process all the lies and manipulations. You knew I was actively going to court against him for a restraining order because of his domestic abuse and was worried about being his next target of harassment, which had already begun.
Finally, you mentioned why you reached out. It was an argument with him after he stole your phone and saw our text messages to each other. He threw it at you and grabbed your head and shook it. I told you to never respond to him again, because it would get worse, and you listened.
We talked on and off throughout the summer sharing words of encouragement. After my restraining order was granted, we celebrated with a kind chat on the phone. Many of my friends and family didn’t agree with me befriending “the other woman,” but I told them how in a way, it was therapeutic for us both. After, I figured there was no reason to keep in touch anymore, and we wished each other well.
It’s fall now, and I reached out one last time to make sure you were okay. It struck me as odd when I didn’t hear back, but I left it at that.
You can imagine my shock when I pulled up to the corner of Grove Street and Bedford in the West Village of New York, thousands of miles away from our respective homes, and saw you there standing with him. I began to shake and told the driver to pull around the corner so you couldn’t see me. When I got out, I walked back to the corner but you were gone. What could I possibly say to you?
It appears that he got his claws into you deeper this time. My sisterhood was instantly crushed, but I have come to realize that you were also a facade. You are the reminder of how strong I am for breaking free from him, for “being the better woman” as you told me, for having the heart to look out for you.
I wish you all the best, because it will take a hell of a lot of strength to go it alone. And it’s the only way. I just want to let you know how great it is on the other side, how much the fight will be worth it. You reminded me how easily trust can be destroyed, even with the best intentions.
Still, you also reminded me that we’re just humans who, for a very small moment in time, understood each other completely, and I thank you for that, my friend.