I’m going to be clear that I’m writing from an assumed name and that I’m going to refer to my boyfriend as “Jake” which is not his real name. As much as I want to get my story out there and begin the “healing process” my trauma coach talks about, everyone involved in the publication of this article has agreed that complete anonymity is necessary for my safety.
This has been an extremely traumatic experience that no one else will ever truly understand. As time goes on, instead of the horror of the dulling, I find myself recalling sick new details I’d blocked out or previously forgotten. At this point I’m convinced that until the day I die I’m going to fall asleep every night of my life thinking about this fucked-up, twisted man.
When I met Jake, I knew from the very beginning that he was obsessed with the young adult fiction book Thirteen Reasons Why. This is way before the Netflix series was a thing. It was a popular book, I’d heard of it before but never read it. We had our first date over beers at the bar down the street from my apartment and the topic of books came up. Jake talked about how Thirteen Reasons Why was his favorite book and how it changed his life. I didn’t care that from what I knew, it was just some cheesy book for teens, or even that it covered some pretty dark topics. I was excited to be on a date with a guy who could wax poetic about any book. He seemed smart. And he was cute. He was always so cute.
I didn’t expect to keep talking about the book, but as the weeks turned into months Jake kept finding a way to weave it into conversation. It was like he thought every topic on the planet related back to 13 Reasons Why. It was almost a religious text for him. He would make allegories when we got into fights about Hannah and Clay and all the other kids that I didn’t understand. Finally I picked up a copy of the book (he wouldn’t lend me his) and read it. To be honest, his allegories still didn’t make sense, but I liked him and pretty much everything else about our relationship, so I just ignored that little feeling in my gut whenever the topic came up.
When he heard the Netflix series was being produced, he got really intense about it. I’ve never seen anything like it, honestly. We’d been together nine months at that point and it was the first time I truly thought about breaking up with him. He was spending hours a day on the internet reading articles about the production. Every new image from set was the be studied and discussed, ad nauseum. I felt like an unwilling participant in the most depressing fanclub of all time.
All he wanted to talk about was Hannah Baker. I actually started to get jealous, that’s how intense his obsession was. She was like some beautiful, untouchable angel smiling down at him from heaven and I was his irl girlfriend on earth, the one he’d settled for because Hannah is just fiction. He’d say things like “You don’t understand how much pain Hannah has been through in her life. Bryce picked her, it’s like he hunted her down because everyone else had already beaten her down to the point where he knew she barely had any fight left in her. He knew he was going to take the last little bit of hope she had and crush it. He basically extinguished her will to live.”
Sometimes he’d make wild accusations like “you haven’t sat and thought about the DEPTH of pain Hannah has been through, I have.”
Okay, so I didn’t care that much about a fictional dead girl’s pain. It wasn’t fair to me that Hannah seemed to be so important to him. It wasn’t normal. At this point I was still making excuses for him, though, I thought maybe there was something I didn’t know. He showed me pictures from high school and he seemed to be attractive and popular but who knows, maybe he was bullied severely and didn’t like to talk about it. If he related to Hannah and the story helped him feel some kind of catharsis about his own life, I thought I could deal with that. Then the show actually came out.
He watched the entire series the minute it premiered, straight through. He literally disappeared into the spare room for 14 hours. I wasn’t allowed to watch with him because he was worried I would be a distraction. I was, however, expected to watch it on my own. It took me four days to get through and I only finished that fast because he was hounding me constantly about it.
We went to a nice restaurant that night and sat at the table for three hours talking about Hannah and the series and how everything that happened to her slowly built up inside. I was touched by how much he felt, honestly. He dissected each and every character and how their actions had harmed her and led to her suicide. He liked that the series added more elements about Hannah’s parents and the pain they experienced as well. I remember thinking how empathetic my boyfriend was, ”what a good person”.
So this is where we were at when things got really fucked up.
Throughout our relationship I thought Jake traveled for work. He’d be gone for a night whenever “his work took him to neighboring cities that were more than three hours away”. This occurred regularly since the beginning of our relationship, two or three times a month. We texted when he was on these trips, he told me he was bored in a hotel room and that he missed me. The truth is I have no idea where he was on these occasions or what he was up to, I feel too sick to ever try to find out.
My story ends on the last night he went on one of these “business trips”.
I was alone in our apartment, missing him. I was hoping his work was going well and that the clients liked him and that he wasn’t missing me too much.
I absent mindedly walked into the study, a spare bedroom he really only he used evenings after dinner when he wanted to do a few more hours of work before bed. His laptop was gone, he’d brought that with him. There were no loose papers on his desk, no clutter on the side tables for me to tidy, and not — what I had hoped — an errant sweater on the couch I could pick up and smell before walking to the laundry basket. I thought it was a little weird that the room was abnormally clean compared the rest of the apartment.
I was about to get up and leave when I noticed the lock on the bottom drawer of his desk. Out of curiosity I pulled at the drawer — it was locked. I’d done this a few times over the course of living with him, testing the lock, and it was always unlocked. I’d never gone through the drawer in much detail, it was just boring work papers and I figured there was any wrongdoing to catch him in, he’d do a better job of hiding it than leaving it in (almost) plain sight.
But now the drawer was locked, for the first time. So there was something secret in there. Or maybe something valuable that I knew about already and he was just protecting from any guests or even a burglar? Believe me, I thought of many completely innocuous reasons the drawer to be suddenly locked before I googled “how to unlock a locked desk drawer”.
As it turns out, it’s pretty easy. There are step by step videos on YouTube that show you how to do exactly this. I watched them and I fiddled with it and low and behold I actually got the drawer open. It was kind of a fun foray into my childhood desire to be Harriet the Spy.
The contents of the drawer were a simple hanging file system. I thumbed through them and at first it just seemed to just be random stuff related to his work. But as I was getting near the end I slid the files I’d already gone through to the side so that I could better view the contents one one rather thick one and I noticed there was something underneath the files at the bottom.
I reached in and pulled out a thick artist’s notebook. Leafing through it, I began to realize why that drawer was locked.
At first I thought I had just discovered another layer of Jake’s 13 Reasons Why obsession. The large notebook was full of drawings, charts, and writings about the show. I saw the familiar character names, but also some other ones I wasn’t familiar with. The one I saw repeated the most was ‘Molly’, she was on almost every page.
I flipped to the front of the book:
Justin: create rumor
Alex: publicize/confirm rumor (indirectly)
Jessica: create rift w best friend
Tyler: random creepy event (wear her down)
Courtney: remove allies
Marcus: make her believe people only desire her for sex
Zach: increase paranoia
Ryan: embarrass her
Clay: should feel like everyone turns against her regardless of reality
Justin: begins to feel like no one will help her
Jenny/Sherri: needs to witness something bad
Bryce: make sure she’s given up
Mr. Porter: ensure no one cares
Another page read:
It won’t be enough to remove Molly’s friends. She needs to have no support system whatsoever. She needs to be so friendless and alone that she no longer has a touchstone to reality. She should feel disassociated. At that point she will believe whatever evil actions are done to her are done because she deserves them.
That was when it dawned on me that Jake didn’t love 13 Reasons Why because he resonated with Hannah.
He thought Bryce was the hero of the whole thing.
He liked watching Hannah’s hurt and was trying to recreate with some girl named Molly in real life. His whole obsession with the series was about putting together a puzzle of pain, about using it to cause someone real to hurt themselves.
Another page listed various social media account usernames and what appeared to be passwords. I fired up my laptop and looked at some of the public ones. They looked like real people. Maybe they were. But they were also Jake.
I logged in to one of the Twitter accounts and looked at the DMs. The most recent one was a conversation between the user and a girl I didn’t know. They were talking about Molly.
@jmia419: You don’t know me, but I need to tell you something about someone you think is a friend.
@lauraborealis: ?? who
@jmia419: Molly Kelman
@lauraborealis: ha ha I don’t think so
@jmia419: I’m serious. You want to hear what I have to say.
The conversation went on to talk about something horrible Molly had “done”. She’d attempted to cheat with this girl’s boyfriend multiple times. Supposedly he turned her down but never told his girlfriend to preserve their friendship. The girl bought it. She was irate, but, with some careful prodding from my boyfriend, she decided not to confront Molly but to simply and irreversibly cut her out of her life.
I took the notebook with me, packed clothes and went to my parent’s house immediately. My dad drove up the next day to drop the notebook off at the police station in my city. They sent an officer out and I answered questions, but I don’t know how seriously they took it all. I wouldn’t be surprised if they barely followed up at all.
As for me, I told Jake I was done over text message and never answered that phone number again. If the police didn’t question him, he still arrived home to a jimmied open drawer and a missing precious possession. He knows I know. I am convinced, fully, that he is an evil person able to convince everyone that he is a normal, empathetic person while plotting sick and prolonged games with people behind closed doors.
I moved, I worked from home until I was able to get a new job. I replaced the stuff I had to leave behind. I know what Jake is capable of and I am doing everything in my power to never see him again. Everyone in my life has been enormously gracious and understanding and I try to restart my life and stay off his radar. Sometimes monsters aren’t the things you read about in books. Sometimes monsters are the people you love, the ones that look like the good guy.