I guess everyone has their moment. Mine was when I got up out of that bed.
We had been fighting the evening before. I would have argued all night, but he ended it so he could go to sleep. He had to get up early the next morning. I knew he was tired of it. So was I. But stopping an argument was basically like giving up. The end of the argument meant it was time to make a decision. The one that I was never ready for. The one that I had always used as a threat, despite knowing it scared me more than it scared him. The one that always seemed my responsibility to make.
I decided to sleep on the couch. He came in once to check on me. He stood there for a while, my back turned to him. But he didn’t ask me to come to bed.
I was filled with anger. Anger and another feeling I couldn’t really identify. It was heavy. I felt like he was trying to trick me. But I couldn’t tell you how. My brain hurt, trying to bend itself into understanding his perspective. I’d reached the point of understanding. But I couldn’t reach the point of accepting. It was like my conscience was trying to justify his actions.
I couldn’t sleep. The arguments were exhausting, but only mentally. I wanted to run, to escape – to escape the walls of my mind, his apartment, our lives. I needed to scream. If I started, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to stop. I slammed about, closing doors loudly. Running water needlessly. Crying. I wanted his attention. It didn’t work. I could hear his steady breathing next door. He was already asleep.
It always surprised me how quickly he could go to sleep after an argument.
I gave up. I went back to his bed because I missed his comfort. His comfort only lasted as long as we were together. When we were together, alone. Away from his life. Away from mine. Away from his temptations, and away from my suspicions. Why waste that time arguing?
I got into bed. I moved from my cold side into his warmth. He let me in. I slept in his arms. We were in our safe position. My head on his chest, his arms cradling me. The one we agreed, years ago, was our favourite. We used to lie like that for hours, wanting nothing but each other. Towards the end, it was only in that position that I could sleep peacefully. Only when I could feel his heartbeat. Only when I could smell his smell. A mixture of his detergent, his sleep, him. To me, it was home. To me, it was love. But slowly, it was a smell that I knew would soon be someone else’s home. He was becoming someone else’s. Or maybe he already was.
Those nights, we’d fall asleep in each others arms. We’d wake up on opposite sides of the bed.
That night, I made sure to hold on to him. I held on to him while I cried. I knew the pain was the last thing he wanted to me feel. Knowing that made me feel worse. My sleep, that fragile comfort, lasted only as long as he was asleep. When he woke up, it was like he realized that I was back, back in his bed. Back in his life. That somehow, during the night, we had re-entered the delusion that we could make it through. When he woke up, the painful reality woke up as well. The reality that we were broken. That we were not as we once were. That we were no longer safe.
He had to leave. I begged him not to. I begged him. I was scared of him going. I was scared of being left alone. Scared of what my brain did to me in those long, waiting periods. Scared of what he was doing in the meantime.
He went. I told him I might not be there when he got back. Another empty threat. He told me he understood. I thought about it a while. I thought about packing up my belongings, buying that plane ticket. I thought about what it all meant. The thought of making that mental trip exhausted me. I called him, crying, begging him to come back. He came back, but not for long. My brain was telling me this was the last time that I would see him. My brain couldn’t deal with that reality. It wouldn’t. It refused.
He left again. He only came back for five minutes. I guess there was something so desperate in my voice over the phone. I guess there was something so desperate in my face that it made him leave before long.
I got up out of bed. I went into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror. I saw the person he saw. I didn’t recognize that person. She was a shell. She had lost weight. Her eyes were swollen. Her eyes were empty. Her eyes were full of pain. I couldn’t look at her for long. It hurt to see.
Then there was a moment. The moment when I saw what I had been doing to myself. The cycle and recycle of try, try, trying again. Picking up the weight of two when I couldn’t even carry myself. Trying to forgive, trying to understand. Failure. Becoming someone else. Always me becoming someone else. Only succeeding in becoming the person he rejected because he made me into that person. So I would be easier to reject. So I would be easier to leave.
My strength was gone. And that is how I became the shell I was.
He left me. But it was only after I left myself.