The other night I got a call at 4:45 AM. I half-squinted at “No Caller ID” flashing on the screen of my phone. This wasn’t the first time that I had received a call like this. My heart rate immediately accelerated and I fumbled to turn my phone on mute. I flipped it over so that the screen was facing downward and focused on controlling my breathing – big belly inhales through my nose. I tried not to wonder if I should have just turned it off, in case the calls continued to come in. Minutes passed in silence, my breath steadied, and I drifted back to sleep.
Using a loophole to call your ex is a bold and pathetic move. To call at 4:45 AM implies drug and alcohol indulgence. To know, the next morning, that “No Caller ID” was most certainly dying from regret and a bad hangover was admittedly satisfying to me for a short period of time. But the unbearable pain deep in my chest and stomach that came with that call and lingered for months after was affirmation that I needed to continue blocking “No Caller ID” from my life.
It’s been over a year since I’ve seen her. Or heard from her. She tried to call me last New Years. Did you know that you can call a person who has blocked your phone number? She, in her drunken and drugged stupor, somehow manages to do so.
All you have to do is know the person’s phone number and dial *67 before you input the other digits. I’m telling you this, not so that you can invade someone’s much needed privacy (whether it be from a trivial fight, a temporary break, or an unforgivable act), but to note just how simple it is for someone to dig their way through to you when you don’t want them to. The night that she called, she tried to reach me six times. The first call, which ended the music I was playing for myself and my group of friends around 1 AM, was answered by my good friend with my permission. This friend proceeded to calmly tell my drunk ex 1) to never call my number again and 2) that no, I did not want to speak to her – not now, not ever. My ex was not deterred. She called again –
and again and again and again and – a different friend of mine grabbed the phone. With a little more spice than the last friend, she mocked my ex’s cries for me back to her, “Lindsey…oh Lindsey. This isn’t Lindsey. No, Lindsey is not going to speak to you. We are all here laughing at you. Fuck you. Kick rocks”.
Yes, kick rocks.
I doubt my ex remembers much of anything from those calls. Maybe she deleted the evidence, and woke up groggy and hungover but assured that it was just a bad dream. This move of hers is unsurprising to me – for her to put her need for attention over the respect for my healing and space. Has she ever been capable of compassion?
I would now not bother with answering any calls from “No Caller ID”, but that was then. And mind you, we were all a little intoxicated, I was heartbroken, and my friends were all just trying to hold my sad and heavy heart in their protective hands.
A year had passed without incident. I have not seen a new photo of her or heard much news regarding her – and for that I am grateful. Cutting ties with her was not only necessary due to the cruelty and trauma that she inflicted on me psychologically, but because I have always had such a tender spot for her regardless of that fact. Intellectually, I can account for one million and one reasons to not be with her. But emotionally, I am afraid that I am at her mercy. I sometimes still find myself rationalizing her past irrational behaviors, or sympathizing with her atrocious actions. I want to figure out what it is I did to make her BE like that. Was it at all my fault? How could I have done better? How could I have prevented her from hurting me the way that she did? Why did nothing ever seem to be enough?
I still fear that I will abandon myself and be pulled back into her dark orbit, as I was wont to do so many times before. But I have survived my soul shattering into a thousand pieces and scattering into every which direction. It has taken me over a year to find most of the pieces, and there are still a few missing. I hope I can soon account for them all. As I search, I find myself drawn to people that are broken in some way.
I have the unfortunate habit of dating people I know I’ll always be chasing or attempting to fix. I am a mender, and my sole purpose for so long has been to mend things that are incapable of mending. I would let this task consume me; I would forget myself; I would desperately want to make things work with a person who could never give me something that is true and honest. If I am not busy trying to figure someone or something out, then who am I? What can I offer? There is a physical and egotistical gratification in dating people who puzzle me. And as I continue to date them, I am reminded of my ex and feel traces of the pain in my body that used to be wholly unbearable.
The other night I had a nightmare. My ex and I were back in our tiny home in Troyes, France. She had discovered that her clothes, which were strewn around the house in enormous piles, were all wrinkled. She forced me to steam and iron them all, and then fold them and put them in their rightful place. There wasn’t much sun in France during the period of time that I lived there, but the rooms and spaces in this nightmare felt darker and colder than I remember them to be. I obediently straightened out her mess out of fear of her rage.
I woke up feeling like this nightmare was not far from reality. My ex always had this thing about her stuff. To spill a drop of wine on a white shirt, or some coffee on her bedding, was to commit the highest crime. She would become enraged. Her neck would get red and blotchy – a physical trait I liked the sight of more while we were having sex. She would yell at me. She would scream that all was lost, everything was ruined, and nothing could be done.
I never understood this fuss over things. To me, washing machines and bleach exist to fix these problems. If something is ruined – you can simply buy a new one. She had expensive taste and could somehow afford the finer things. But her reactions to spills always made me wonder why she continued to buy them and torture herself so?
She placed importance on these things in a way that felt foreign to me. Her intense attachment to her possessions was baffling, but I did my best to respect it. I performed acts of devotion by rushing to clean whatever it was that had spilled. I offered to replace it. I told her I would no longer wear her shirts. I would do anything to calm the rage that was always boiling inside her.
These moods would often last whole days. Once, after I was given a fresh cut of Bluefin tuna by a neighbor, “No Caller ID” took on the task of making poke bowls for us as well as her mother. She prepped the ingredients: carefully chopping the green onion, cooking the rice, measuring the oils and sauces, slicing the avocado, etc. It was well before the time we wanted to eat, so she diced up the fish and squeezed lemon all over it before putting it back in the fridge, not realizing the citric acid would cook the fish during that time. When she realized what she had done, she nearly lost her mind and immediately started screaming and crying. As she ran to her room and slammed the door, her mother and I exchanged sympathetic-but-scared glances. I took a few minutes to allow her space to cool down as well as give myself time to mentally prepare for what was to come. When I went to her, I was met with angry screaming. I tried to reason with her, and explain that everything was okay, it would still be delicious – so on and so forth. She glared at me with disdain and didn’t speak to me the rest of the evening. We went to bed with a heavy cloud of dread and misery hovering over both of us, and I laid awake for a few hours just trying to think of something I could do or say to make it better. So much time was wasted during our relationship just trying and failing to make her happy.
Our breakup was inevitable, I suppose, as most breakups tend to be, weeks or months before the climactic event. There were months of confusion leading up to a few weeks of calm acceptance wrapped up in a bubble of indifference. I knew with 100% certainty that the relationship was over. I was done with it all. She understood this before any words were spoken, and therefore became more desperate, angry, and violent. It was always her reaction to hit me with extremes whenever I pulled back from her. Always an ignited fuse, my girl. Passionate, yet broken. But she loved me, I thought. She was my once in a lifetime, all-consuming love. Her abuse was something I had learned to expect…and would also accept. But something in me had finally cracked due to a multitude of factors: the beautiful and caring people in my life that urged me to leave her, the increasing physical violence, being miserable in Europe, and being miserable still back in the US. I finally understood that this was not the love story I had fantasized it to be. We were both undeniably wretched and grasping at something – an idea – of a romanticized love affair separate from our reality. So it finally clicked. The delusion faded away. I needed to get away from her immediately – just standing next to her turned me into a hateful, negative, and empty version of myself. A version of myself that only she could bring out. A version of myself that was frightening to face.
Her solution to my sudden emotional 180 was to attack me with the usual assaults. Childish anger (screaming, hitting, crying) as well as wearing me down with perfectly executed, heart-breaking insults. This was always followed by her “I’m depressed [therefore I can act like an insensitive, soulless human]” speech. For years, this act and speech worked on me. For years, this chaotic pattern drew me back in. I craved it because it gave me purpose. I loved loving her. My happiness was irrelevant.
These actions that would normally spark my sympathy had finally hit a wall. I saw it for what it was, an act. I was being played. She couldn’t push me any further, and I finally resisted caving. I saw that she would never respect or care for me the way I needed her to no matter what I did or how much of myself I gave to her. If I sacrificed every part of myself and everything I had, it still would never be enough. Hadn’t I already given her everything?
More importantly, the thing I failed to notice or chose to deny all along was that this had nothing to do with me. Our relationship didn’t fail because I wasn’t enough. It was our dynamic. It was that we were no longer naive 17 year olds. We had grown up and into different versions of ourselves. We could no longer fit together, no matter how hard we tried to.
I loved her so hungrily. I was engrossed in our relationship. I put it and her before all else. Before myself. It used to crush me knowing that she had a different type of love for me. It felt like a weaker love. I blamed myself and tried to be and do more for her, always feeling this need to give more of myself to her. But I exhausted that (or rather, she did). I am happy that I gave her everything that I could. That I loved her with everything I had. I prioritized her. But like she said, her relationship was with her depression. Maybe she wanted there to be room for me, but I don’t believe there ever really was. I see that with such clarity now. It is fact and truth.
In France, she told me that she had wasted so many years of my life, but I, in no way, regret a second I spent with her. I Love Love Love knowing that I was completely vulnerable with someone. And that I would have given anything to be with her. I adored her for a third of my life, even though we hurt each other throughout that significant fraction of time.
When I dream about her, or reflect on the memories we share together, I am disrupted. I look for a way to relieve this distress, usually with another careless person. But I need connection and compassion. I am infinite, and deserving of the full complexity of love.
Lindsey Goodrow is a Long-Beach-based writer. She is an alumni from California State University, Long Beach, with a degree in English Literature and Certification in Technical Writing. Her work has been featured in The Gay and Lesbian Review and The Queer 26. She is currently working on a collection of essays.