This story takes place more than a couple years ago. I should state outright that this whole series did not reflect better standards of behavior on my part. Once the initial mistakes were made, I quickly discovered that sometimes there is no right way to deal with something, or someone, that has been wrong for so long.
Libby and I originally connected by way of an online dating service. She shot me a message several months before. The ad was two months old when she wrote me and by the time she did I was already involved with someone else. We nonetheless chatted on Instant Messenger from time to time. She seemed extremely interested in meeting from the get-go.
It turned out that she messaged me when she did because after 60 days a profile goes inactive and she had to establish contact before that happened. She’d been looking at my profile on a regular basis. I was constantly changing it and she would later be able to recite nearly every profile I’d written. Those that she didn’t recite off the top of her head she had saved on her hard drive. I didn’t know any of that when I first met her.
“You’re just not like I expected at all,” Libby told me. “I knew you worked with computers and you were smart so I figured you would be socially inept and that I’d have to drag you into conversation.”
Her eyes had a way of dancing when she talked. That was the first redeeming quality I discovered about her. The previous girl that I had dated had been something of a dimwit, so just seeing cogs turning in the back of her head was an improvement. She also had a certain low-key demeanor about her. A calmness that I hadn’t expected from her based on our discussions online I didn’t realize at the time that she was somewhat subdued because she was tired.
“So does that mean that you’re not going to dump me after two months?” I said with a smile. She had told me that she had never had a boyfriend that she hadn’t dumped after two months. It was a little off-putting, to say the least. When I asked the question, I was mildly hoping that the answer would be “no” and that I might buck the trend. The truth is, even then, on the night we became an us, I was a little indifferent to the whole idea. Three months after that I’d wish that I had met the same fate as her other boyfriends. Nine months later, she found a way to break my heart.
“I was kind of hoping that we could go to the movies tonight,” she meekly informed me. Her voice had never been so soft.
“Well, you didn’t tell me that,” I told her as I tied my shoes.
“Well, I didn’t know that you had other plans.”
“Well, I do.”
“Fine. Whatever,” she said, turning up her nose at me. I could see her glancing my way through the corner of her eye. She was waiting for me to feel guilty. But she had made plans for me without my input. I had nothing to feel guilty about. Be that as it may, I’d somehow manage to feel guilty in a couple months and then in eight more she would find a way to break my heart.
“… so I really don’t know what her problem is,” she concluded. I could see her out of the corner of my eye as I continued to scan the article I was reading. She was usually an animated speaker but she stopped moving. She was waiting for me to say something.
“Are you even listening to me?” she accused with a stern inflection.
“Marginally,” I evenly replied.
“What are you doing?”
“Reading about the President’s new Medicare proposal.” Not only had I stopped pretending to listen to her when I wasn’t, I stopped pretending I was distracted with something of great personal importance.
“Why don’t you listen to me when I’m talking to you?”
“Because I really don’t care what you have to say right now. You’re venting and I’ve long since learned that I’m really not necessary for these conversations.” It was true. First, I tried offering advice. That just pissed her off. Second, I tried affirmed her feelings, which only recycled her anger and left me absorbing shards from the blast.
“Why do you treat me like this?!”
I finally turn around in my chair and look at her. “Why do you let me?”
“Well what am I supposed…” she stopped herself. She knew what she was supposed to do. She was supposed to have left me by now and I was challenging her to do it. I was asking her to. But she cared enough about the relationship for the both of us and we both knew it. It would be another month before I’d finally do what she refused to. In seven months, she’d find a way to break my heart.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. “I broke up with you a week ago.” I’d avoided ending it for the first couple months because I was hoping that she would follow through on her tendency to leave relationships after a couple months. Then something happened that made me fear slightly for my safety if I were to end it. I’d spent the next month trying to figure out the most graceful exit I could.
“I’m mourning the week anniversary of the end of the relationship. I’m not ready to let go yet.”
That didn’t set off the warning bells that it should have. “We talked about it until four in the morning. It was over. It is over. So why did you let yourself into my apartment?!”
“Because this is where I belong!” she screamed. I worried that she might have woken up my roommate, but he was working the overnight. I was originally relieved, but it ultimately proved to be an inconvenience: she had no reason to be the slightest bit self-conscious about letting herself into my apartment every Wednesday thereafter for the next two-and-a-half months before a hiatus and her heartbreaking return half a year from that day.
“Why did you password protect your computer?” she asked. She was genuinely angry with me for password-protect my own computer from her prying eyes.
I, meanwhile, was more than a little angry at having to. When I came home a couple weeks before, she asked me who a girl that named Sandra that I had been trading IMs was. That was too much and I told her to read or watch DVDs while she waited if she was going to be so insistent about coming over. The week before the Sandra incident she had gotten angry with me for not letting her know that I’d be working late. She’d waited six hours for me. The fact that she was uninvited to begin with was lost on her. “Because you’re not supposed to be here. We broke up a month ago.”
“You broke up. I just want closure. I just need to understand. I ran out of DVDs and books that interested me.”
“What can I say that I haven’t said in the thirty or forty hours that we’ve spent going over this? Are you just going to keep coming over here? Maybe you’ll start bringing over your textbooks and studying?” I said sarcastically.
“Maybe. Until I figure out your password.” The sarcasm was lost on her, five months before she finally twisted the knife.
“Eva, can I come over tonight? I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“It’s a weeknight. Why?”
“Libby actually didn’t stop by last week so I thought that I was safe. I haven’t mentally prepared for tonight’s bout. And I’ve had a long day and I really don’t want to have to drive all the way to Mayne.”
Eva consented, but Libby was there the next morning when I stopped by to pick up a change of clothes. She was really angry that I didn’t go home that night. After that I started keeping a change of clothes in my car. They stayed there until our final confrontation, which was four months away.
Our Wednesday meetings started bleeding in to other nights. Not only was it not getting better, it was getting worse. I’d see her drive by my work. Evangeline and I came out after an evening together and she was sitting there in her car watching. She only came in on Wednesday nights, but that wasn’t any better because by that point I no longer knew when she was watching me. I gave her description to Eva and told her to call the police if Libby goes anywhere near her. I started looking into a restraining order myself.
Then suddenly it stopped, three months before the end.
“Just when I finally stopped shuddering every time I came home on a Wednesday night. Here you are. Please, just get on with your life!” I was rubbing my head trying to alleviate the incoming headache. It had been months. I really thought that I was safe. I was actually startled when I walked in to find her laying on my bed, reading a book that I’d just received and hadn’t even had a chance to read myself. This was half an hour into the ensuing argument.
“I just wanted to see you again,” she replied, as though she were explaining that she yawned because she was tired.
“That’s great, because for a brief moment I was afraid that since I haven’t seen you in weeks that you might be starting to do things that actually make you happy!”
“What?” I couldn’t tell if she didn’t hear me or didn’t understand what I was saying.
“This is beyond ridiculous. If you want to be miserable, fine. But please, please leave me out of it.”
“Why would I… why do you think it is that I am holding on to you so tight?” It was the first question I’d seen her ask in a long time that she didn’t already know the answer to.
“Because you enjoy being miserable. You don’t know that you do, but look at you. You’re holding on to a 3-month relationship six months after it ended.”
“No! Oh, my god, no. You have it all backwards,” She was visibly stunned by my answer. It was as though I’d answered 25 o’clock to her query about the time. Her eyes danced when she was trying to formulate a response. She did it when she was trying to find a way to say something that come out bad or when she was trying to find a way to be interesting. Her eyes weren’t dancing. She wasn’t thinking about what she was saying at all. She was saying exactly what was on her mind. “Ever since I met you I have been happier than I’ve ever been since I was a kid. I don’t know that I’ve ever been this happy. Well, escept when we were actually dating. Why do you think you make me miserable?”
“Because you’re lashing yourself over a relationship that’s dead and over. Even when we were together I didn’t treat you very good at all. You told me yourself that you’re often attracted to men that treat you poorly. Maybe if I’d treated you with more respect you would have gone away more quietly.”
“Opposite!” she exclaimed. She was breathless. More than just exasperated, she looked like she was having trouble breathing. I couldn’t imagine what she was telling me was true and yet I could tell that she believed it to be.
“What?” It was my turn to be confused.
“I’ve never had a boyfriend treat me as well as you have. Never. You introduced me to people as your girlfriend. You were never ashamed of me… at least not to my face. You paid for dinner sometimes. You weren’t using me for sex. You even talked about football with my dad for half an hour. You were willing to meet my parents at all. You are the first good guy that I’ve ever dated.”
And that was how she did it. I thought of all the ways that I was lousy to her, however deserved it was from time to time. And yet because I even went so far as to go through the steps of a relationship, I was the best she ever had. It broke my heart when she told me that. First because it gave me a full scope of the loneliness and isolation that she had felt for so long. Second because there was nothing I could do to fix it. I despised her like everyone else.