Your Royal Cerebralness,
You, at age 25, moved into my college dormitory. I was 19. The first time I saw you, you walked purposefully straight through the hallway, through the throng of boisterous students. You didn’t look at anyone, just walked above it all to your solitary space. You were miles above everyone. Like a moth to a flame, with no idea what drew me to you- every girl had their eyes on you and yet I was the only one who had the guts- I knocked on your door and asked to borrow a broom.
How that led to me sucking on your fingers, neck, and ears, I will never understand. Never. It was like you were telepathically controlling me and I couldn’t resist. You had your eyes closed and head turned away- a posture I got used to seeing. Suddenly, you sat up and said “Someone’s playing with fire,” staring at me without blinking. You rarely blinked. (this promise never panned out the way I thought you meant it..it was a clear warning on your part of something else entirely) Do I even have to mention that I dropped my very sweet and caring boyfriend like a hot potato in the hopes it would happen with you? You referred to me as “a redhead with the body of a pinup model” or “curves that won’t quit.” but quickly added that you liked my desire for learning finding answers. I felt like a two-dimensional photograph on a calendar.
It was so tacky that as soon as I was back in my room, my friends and I had a laugh. You were a bit of an experiment to us. I had no idea that I was actually the one being dissected. You would talk about an ex that you had just gotten back with (long distance) and that’s why you couldn’t follow through. Then you would give me wine, beat me at chess (your favorite thing to do), and somehow get me to service you. This was not the way I behaved with anyone else and it disturbed me that it somehow always happened. You were very isolated. You were controlled. You were brilliant. The president of the chess club challenged you to a game in front of the dorm, and you wiped him out right away.
You dressed impeccably. Your genius had you graduate with highest honors. I was honored to be the one you allowed in to your high tower of all the girls in our school…except, how was it that when we ate together in the cafeteria, another girl gave me funny looks? The one you said was only a friend? Were you aware that I never believed anything you said? Would it have mattered?
What saved me then was that college was a busy time for me. I had lots of friends, was very outgoing and never concentrated too much on you, or you on me. However, I always found you to be an enigma. You would start to seduce me without even kissing me. Then, at some point, you would roll over, show me your back, and fall asleep while my desire consumed me. “You’re tempting” you’d say. This confused me even more. Your unblinking, flat eyes hid something very dark. I could never read them. The one and only time you kissed me, I suddenly felt a cold terror as you slid your tongue into mine like a snake, your eyes wide open. I felt at that moment the certainty that whatever you were, it wasn’t human. I faked some moans to get things ove rwith. You’d brag about those moans in the future. You slept naked, aside from always having your medical bracelet on your wrist- eggs and nuts being deadly for you. Is it telling that I took comfort in that?
I moved on to other people. We put each other on the shelf. I had decided that you were probably gay and conflicted about your sexuality. You moved away to graduate school, excelled and became top in your field. We chatted online sometimes, but you were on the sidelines. Periodically you would inquire as to who I was dating. Twice a year we would meet up for a day or a weekend, the same story- you’d be dressed handsomely, cook me a gourmet meal, and we’d laugh to some show we both loved. Then we’d end up in bed. No kissing, no sex (we never did have), you’d clam up and turn your face to the wall, again talking about that ex. I never bought it. I was sure you had emotional problems. When I called you an animal, you responded with a comedic tiny meow.
Even the way you spoke was condescending. I never took it seriously- it made you look like a child. But subconsciously it had its desired effect. The way you spoke was as someone trying to sound human, you reminded me of an autistic girl I knew. I felt that below your facade there was hate, but could never see any proof.
I went on to lead my life and have a wonderful relationship with the best man in the world, G. Unfortunately, after three years I had to leave him for another country. At my going away party, you made a very unusual appearance. It was surreal to see you in person again. I had invited a girl we had known in college who was always interested in you- I was still with G and thought I’d do some matchmaking. I had no idea the punishment I was in for, the crime I had innocently committed by leaving you on the sidelines and introducing you to a peasant.
Ten Years Later.
I had left the country, and two years later married someone sweet and honest. I always loved G, but we couldn’t be on the same continent. When I got married, our very infrequent emails stopped- you didn’t respond. Twice. I figured you were insulted. Soon after that point, I didn’t have access anymore to email, I was living in an area where it was hard to find. I was out of contact with almost everyone aside from my family by phone. I loved our life, we had four kids. Had lots of friends and my own business. I still thought about G (in a healthy way), but never you. There was nothing of substance to think about.
Then- we moved to England. My British husband couldn’t bear the non-queueing ways of other nations, and we had to move. I couldn’t cope. The transition from equatorial sun to dismal darkness and constant rain brought me deeper and deeper into depression. Moving from a place where I had my own business. Where the culture gap was so large that I couldn’t make friends (death for an extrovert). It was at this low point that I re-connected (via now-accessible email) with my old friends from home, who I hadn’t been in touch with for 10 years. It was like no time had passed!
I started to have recurring intestinal pain. The doctor was not helpful. I ended up seeking an alternative energy healer (which I didn’t believe in but was desperate). She said over and over again that someone I had a relationship with at age 19 had caused a feeling of rejection so deep that it was buried in my body. I scoffed. I couldn’t think of anyone. I listed the people I had dated. She “tested” and they all came up no. 45 minutes of thinking later, I despaired of all help. Then, on the way out, you popped into my head. “couldn’t be x, could it? we never actually had a relationship” Oh, it was. It was you. She did her thing and I haven’t had a pain there since!
But it made me curious (this was the beginning of 7 months of hell). I sent you an email- acknowledging that you had cut off contact earlier but that I’d like to ask you some questions if I could. Your response was immediate. You denied having cut off (Odd. I knew that you had).I passed that off as you being weird, which you are- let’s be real. Not recognizing it as purposeful manipulation. I had just dived into a pool where an invisible shark was swimming.
My question was “What was all that back then? Are you gay? Was I not good enough?” Your response was full of magnetism. I felt myself being pulled forcefully in- how did you accomplish this!? You said no, not gay, just conflicted about his ex, and how regretted not having pursued me instead. You flattered me with words that were empty. And I could tell that they were. With barely concealed fury, you mentioned how you had come to my going away party. I couldn’t figure out what the veiled fury was all about. You started to send me many emails, listing my amazing traits and how you wished I were single. You said you were sorry for how you had treated me, that there was no excuse. What I heard was, “I’m saying that so you’ll let me do it again”
This is what terrified me- the fact that my logic was working fine, and yet my emotions controlled me. The voice of reason was small and in the distance. I started changing to meet with your approval. You chatted with me over gchat every day and every night- disappearing every few weeks on business (your phone didn’t work when you traveled?). I couldn’t relate to my kids, or my husband. I violated my religious beliefs and just kept thanking heaven that you were on the other side of the globe. I felt like I was living outside my body. I wasn’t present in my own life- I had given control over to you. I started to notice that you resented my achievements, whereas before you had lauded them. You tried to tell me you were taller than I knew you to be, just because my husband is very tall. You related to children as objects and referred to one as “it”. You caught yourself and made a joke out of it. I watched all your interviews online and drank them in. You were condescending, but I thought it was just how you spoke.
You said you hadn’t had a relationship in ten years aside from a brief one that left you catatonic when she left. (warning sign!) You gave the backhanded compliment “I can’t keep track of all your men”. When I dodged that with “men are one thing, G was another,” you shriveled up and whined, “well then where am I on the spectrum?”
“Nowhere. You never were” I replied. it was true, yet I remembered how you smelled and unconsciously bought my husband the same soap. It wasn’t until you mentioned it that I realized where I had smelled it before.
I couldn’t figure out why every time we spoke, I felt like my soul had been raped. Nothing to put my finger on. When you went missing for a few days (hiking?? right) I suddenly felt better. Huge warning. You started to falter. You’d brag about your radio interviews and I found it off-putting. I tried to tell you not to email me anymore, three times, and it never worked. You would say, “I’ve wanted this for so long” and I didn’t know that you meant revenge till later. I had periods of time from the college years with you that I couldn’t remember. “Probably for the best,” you said. Again, creepy. Whenever I asked you a clear question, you’d literally type nonsense. Very odd for such an intellectual.
All my friends said, “why do you even speak to that s**tbag? He was creepy then and he is now”. I couldn’t understand it. You seemed so magnificent to me, even as you pushed my boundaries little by little, destroying me and getting me to do things I didn’t think I ever would. I couldn’t see light. I couldn’t breathe. I was confused at how you didn’t mind my being married, even as you said: “I wouldn’t do this to another man’s wife.”
I begged my husband to help, to delete the email address and set up a new one. He couldn’t relate at all, he ignored it all.
The second time I tried to get rid of you, I told you that I was tired of trying to read between the lines, dealing with the emotional BS, and being objectified. Silence. I was free!!!!!!!! Well, for four days. Then came the first sign of “humanity”- the email written in such a tone I had never heard you use. it sounded normal! you said you were so sorry and regretted coming in-between me and my husband, listed reasons why you were so bad with expressing your feelings, and that really you just hadn’t wanted to admit that you felt more for me than a friend and that you were lonely as a bachelor…It was so emotive that I wondered if you had someone else write it! I carried it around and hid it under my pillow. I was like Chamberlain, waving around the document from Hitler.
I teetered on the brink. I knew if I didn’t reply I’d be home-free. I didn’t know what I was dealing with, it was just instinct. And yet, I replied. I said it was fine, no one’s fault, and that it was my depression about my situation that left me open to your wiles. I realized that may have been offensive, so I followed it with “hope i haven’t hurt you in some way”, eliciting the poisonously condescending “Oh, don’t worry, kitten, you haven’t hurt me at all. I’m just glad there are no hard feelings” (because he needed me to stick around for my punishment!)
I think that lasted a week because it seemed that I wasn’t allowed to do the cutting off. It had to be you. But I could feel the difference that last month. It was very calculated. You had a new, gorgeous apprentice helping you twice a month. I prayed that you’d turn your attention to her, or at least just die in a plane crash and save both her and I the annoyance. I could tell you were forcing yourself to string me along even though you were into her now, because you wanted the maximum effect. I knew it! and yet, I couldn’t stop! Finally, I decided to call you. We agreed on a time. I wanted to tell you in person to leave me alone. We rarely spoke on the phone.
No one picked up. I thought it was my calling card. I tried a few times. I texted you. You said it wasn’t ringing on your end. I tried a few more times and then went and watched a movie. An hour later, I received an email from you saying that those missed calls showed you how obsessed I was. I should never contact you again. (I knew it was you projecting but couldn’t believe you were capable of such a lie!)
I knew this was planned, and a huge wave of relief washed over me- free at last!. What I didn’t expect was the aftermath, the withdrawal. Nightmares, shakes, panic attacks- why? It was the feeling of having been so close to a shark and of having a relationship with someone who never existed.
Why indeed. A friend said, “he sounds toxic”. What the hell does that mean? I looked it up and eventually found HG’s website. I read for days. The disparity between what you said and what my guts told me had messed me up big time. The realization of how you planned it, and never even hid it from me! You often told me up front! Remember when you once pointed out that I was the only one who asked so many questions, but that you didn’t mind. (often you didn’t answer, other times you loved the attention). I said, “do other people have trouble understanding you?” you replied “Well, I understand me, but I live with me.” When you were ill and I asked what was wrong with you, you replied, “people have been asking me that for decades.” Wonderfully dark sense of humor.
I had wanted to be devoured by you. You reminded me of my father, but smarter.
I realized I had dodged a bullet in college, and ten years later, dodged a cannonball. But not without being injured first. The panic got less and less over a month, and it was made easier by my consciousness being returned to my wonderful family. Then the guilt- I had betrayed my family so easily. HG’s website helped me to recover quickly, and I learned to delete my email addresses. Although, being a secondary source makes me feel a bit more secure that you will leave me alone.
I still wake up with hatred towards you- for taking something that never belonged to you, that you never deserved. Did you know that I had reconnected with G at the same time? That talking to him was never over text, all by phone, and the contrast of feeling real humanity is the only thing that saved me? You told me I shouldn’t speak with him. Sorry, that’s the realm where you have no power. He was, and always will be, my love and best friend. He helped me get perspective. We would laugh together at your words, and you never knew.
Its only three months later, but the horror of getting out of a pool, looking down, and seeing that there was a shark there the whole time still sometimes gives me the creeps. I pine for someone sometimes, someone who never existed. But now I no longer mistake him for you. I had started out by asking you what had happened all those years ago, and now I have the answer.
(And now my husband understands, too.)