There is an argument. Something about wanting sex, but he never wanted sex when we were still dating.
We met under weird circumstances. I had been living with my boyfriend of four years, but we broke up because his family didn’t want a non-Hebrew speaking daughter-in-law with no plans to convert. I was leaving the city to live in Oakland. I was ready to be single again. I was ready to be alone. I was ready to start my own path in this town.
And then a mysterious stranger crashed into my life. Sending me flirty messages online. Asking me to come over to his house and ‘bring honey.’
My friends were throwing down red flags before we even saw each other’s faces.
And I should have been more mindful, and I knew it. But I was curious.
He could be sitting at a table in a restaurant and convince a woman sitting at an opposite table to leave her date to go into the bathroom to have sex with him. All with eyebrow gestures. So he told me. Even though it sounds like a scene from a movie, I believed him. And it scared me, and it made me feel weird and bad about myself to hear something like that while on a date with him, and I felt powerless.
But after four years of a boring pseudoyuppie lifestyle I was ready to believe and accept anything Jon told me.
We break up because there was no sex, just neglect. Emotional abuse. Jealousy. Mind games. Hungry eyes.
Jon would never introduce me to women at parties, cornering them, cuffing, sucking all focus. He would leave his mark when he would find me in the company of any man, make it obvious that I am property. He would act ashamed of me when we were in public together, staring instead at other women on the train or on the sidewalk and trying to make eye contact, keeping himself separate and looking single, unless another man or attractive woman was giving me attention.
Now we are broken up and he wants sex. He wants sex all the time. He wants sex from me. He doesn’t like the idea of me seeing other people. It’s been two months since we broke up and he pays more attention to me now than when we were together. We don’t share a room anymore but we are still living in the same apartment. I have the bedroom next door because I want the space, and he doesn’t want to see me leave.
‘Where were you?’ Jon is in his bedroom, sitting on his bed with his laptop on his lap, door open. Probably waiting for me. His room faces the apartment’s front door.
‘I was just out.’ It’s late, after midnight.
‘Who were you with?’ His face is turning a slight red.
‘I wasn’t with anyone.’ I am lying but it is none of his business. And we agreed that if we did go on dates we would not tell the other about it. Or bring them home. I am keeping up my end of the bargain.
‘Yeah, right.’ He looks down. ‘I bet you weren’t with anyone.’
‘I wasn’t,’ I say. ‘And besides, even if I was, you said you wouldn’t want to know about it.’
‘I know,’ he says, ‘but I don’t want you to see anyone else.’
‘I’m not trying to date anyone,’ I say, ‘but I do want to be out of the house. I should be allowed to do that. I am not questioning you when you go out.’
‘I don’t think I could live with you if you started dating other people.’
‘I just moved into the room next door! I just paid rent for this month!’
I knew he wouldn’t like the idea of me going on dates, which is why I wasn’t planning on telling him. Because it would just make him angry. But I don’t like him trying to control me. We made a deal. He just makes me want to be around him less. Maybe I should have looked harder for another apartment. Maybe I should have looked in Oakland.
‘Look, I got you a lollipop. It has a scorpion inside.’
I pull a green lollipop out of my purse and hand it to him. I had bought it at the natural foods grocery store on my lunch break. I was in the checkout line waiting to pay for my cup of soup when I noticed a display of assorted lollipops with dried insects inside of them. It reminded me of when were first dating and I visited my dad and uncle in Las Vegas. Jon had asked me to bring him back one of those paperweights with a preserved scorpion inside, so I looked at all the weird gift shops I could find on the strip, dragging my dad around after seeing a Temptations impersonators show at the Mandarin Oriental to peruse knick knacks. My dad kept saying he could just buy a paperweight for me on amazon or whatever but I said it wasn’t the same, I needed to find one myself. I didn’t want to disappoint Jon. I needed to present it myself after the trip. After he sent me that weird voicemail. I couldn’t disappoint Jon. I ended up not being able to find one so my dad bought the scorpion paperweight online and had it mailed to me.
‘Thanks,’ he says coldly and puts it on the shelf behind him. I don’t want to hate him because we have to live together but I kinda hate him.
I go to my room. I turn my lamp on, get in bed with Sookie, my cat, and start rolling a spliff. I look at my phone and see that I had recieved a text from the boy I just got back from a first date with. I read it, smile, and send a reply, ‘I had fun with you, too. I listened to Deftones the whole walk home. It was great.’
I turn on my laptop and watch an episode of Breaking Bad before falling asleep.
He stops in front of my bedroom the next morning while I’m watching Breaking Bad. I’m halfway through season two, and Jon had watched most of season one with me because at that point we were still sharing a room. He pokes his head through the door frame.
‘Can I come in?’ he asks making a sheepish, childish face at me.
I am cautious but I nod. He comes in.
‘Can I get into your bed with you?’ he asks making a similarly sheepish face.
I say, ‘I don’t think that is a good idea.’
Standing by the bed where I am laying, he gives me the sad face and says, ‘Why can’t exes watch tv in bed together.’
I give him a look that says, please don’t.
He says, ‘I thought we were going to be friends.’
And I feel bad for him so I say, ‘okay, fine,’ and he gets into bed with me and makes Sookie move to the foot of the bed because she was laying on the other pillow and we continue watching the episode of Breaking Bad that I was watching alone before and he is making jokes about Malcolm in the Middle’s wife looking like Courtney Love and she kinda does look like Courtney Love, all tall and blonde and tough, and I’m laughing and things seem okay
and before I know it I am pulling his hand off my crotch and saying ‘no, I don’t think that’s a good idea,’ and trying to not ruffle his tenderly violent sensibilities
and he is insisting and making a sad face and is about to cry
and I say, ‘I don’t want to make things confusing,’ and I feel worried
and he says, ‘confusing? does that mean you still have feelings for me?’
and I say ‘no,’ and I’m getting more reluctant to say or do anything
and I say ‘I just don’t think it’s a good idea,’
and he looks sad but then says, ‘I think you still have feelings for me,’ and he’s touching me and putting his arms around me and I don’t know how it happened because I kept saying no but he ends up fucking me and afterward I take a shower and I feel used and disgusting and I hate myself.
Two days later, the summer sun is rising and I am waiting for the train out in the suburbs to get to my job in the city. I spent the night at a boy’s house here, after an evening spent exploring a tunnel with headlamps and galoshes. A date. I turn my phone on.
I had turned it off the night before because I was afraid Jon might text or call me when I was out on a second date with this nice artist boy who makes large paintings of the theoretical universe. I am afraid he knows and I am afraid of angering him. I’ve seen him get angry before, voice raised, panicfaced, like he has nothing to lose. Like a cancerous Walter White, and it is truly terrifying. I was anxious because I knew he wouldn’t be happy about me not returning home after work or telling him where I’m going.
My phone loads and I look at all the texts popping up making my phone buzz and my stomach starts twisting into a knotty braid and I am shallow breathing. I read text after text from Jon, starting at the beginning of the night when he began texting me after I didn’t come home from work, and he wants to know where I am, and he wants to know who I am with, and he is making predictions about my whereabouts, and with every text he is growing more paranoid and more furious and he is texting me about how I’m going to be sorry and how I should get my stuff out before he gets home and changes the locks. I can feel all these little fire ants running under my skin and I can feel the hole in my throat tighten.
I am still waiting for the train. I call my friends. Feeling frenzied. Cat answers and calms me down. She says she can help me move my stuff and keep it at her house. I tell her to meet me at the house in an hour. I call Riley and she doesn’t pick up, so I text her to tell her what happened. I get on the train. Riley texts me back, ‘I told you not to spend the night with that guy after what Jon said the first time.’ She texts me ten minutes later after I don’t respond to ask if we’re still going later to a networking event for some new app. I text her back to tell her that I am forcibly being vacated from my apartment and I might not make the networking event.
I get to work and immediately make an urgent facebook post about needing a room. Immediately. Constantly living in the present because I can’t afford to do anything else but moment to moment. Mike messages me on facebook to tell me that a room is opening up in his house and I can have it, but not until later in the month, and he has to check with his roommates first. I leave my office to walk around the block and call Mike for more details and I’m crying, passing by concerned looking tourists, and I thank him.
I go back to my office and fiddle around with paperwork but my hands keep shaking and I keep thinking about making myself as small as I possibly can. Like scrunching up and folding over and dehydrating into a small solid object, something so tiny that could be kicked up the sidewalk. After spending ten minutes compulsively refreshing my facebook page, I shut down my computer and close up the office to head back and pack.
I am wearing sunglasses on the train and trying to keep myself from feeling like I’m falling out of my body. I count the number of open-toe shoes I see on the floor of the train. I play ‘Angeles’ by Elliott Smith on repeat on my ipod. Someone’s always coming around here trailing some new kill. I keep my hands folded in my lap when I’m not using my fingers to wipe tears from my cheeks.
I get home and run into the apartment into the room I just moved into and start throwing clothes in trash bags. I clean out my closet, rolling my dresses up and stacking the rolls inside some clear boxes I got from the container store last year, from the first time I changed apartments in the bay area. That was a shitty situation — getting dumped because of parental pressure — and it hurt, but it wasn’t scary. This is scary. This is I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t know what I’m doing but I guess I’ll figure it out and oh god does this mean I’ve burned a bridge is he going to hurt me financially physically career-wise did I just fuck up my life maybe I should have just listened to him and be his pet and he would take care of me so long as I listen to him oh my fucking god I can’t do that but this is so fucked.
I’m trying not to cry. I sit down on my bed and look around at all the packed boxes and bags. The doorbell rings and it’s Cat and I let her in and we sit on my bed and I cry for a little while and explain what happened in so many words. She hugs me and I pet Sookie.
Riley calls me and she is annoyed when I tell her that Cat is here and she is going to help me move my stuff out. She said she is disappointed and then repeats that I brought this on myself, that I should have just done what Jon told me to do.
I am upset and I tell her I have to go and finish packing stuff up with Cat. I roll a spliff and light it and put on a Blink 182 album on youtube while Cat and I finish putting knick-knacks and clothes away in the rubbermaid boxes.
Sookie has been watching us. As I’m stacking clothes hangers in garbage bag, she runs over and bites my ankle. She has seen me pack before. She might think I’m just packing for a vacation, she doesn’t like it when I leave her. Sometimes on weeks when I’m staying at work late she runs up and attacks me before I leave for the office in the morning. She might not know that we’re moving again, but she knows that something is up. I feel like a terrible mother because I can’t bring her with me right now. I feel like I am leaving my only child with her manipulative stepfather.
We put the boxes in Cat’s car and plan how we’re going to do this. Should we take as much as we can now? Should we do two trips? Should we try to move the bed and furniture? Will there be enough room in your house? Will your roommates care that I have my crap all in your living room? Is it even possible for the two of us to move all this stuff?
We pack as much as we can, mostly boxes of clothes, and I throw some things in a backpack like my toothbrush and face wash and underwear so that I can stay clean until I can figure out my life, until I can move in somewhere.
We’re in the car and Cat is driving and I have my flip phone out and I’m texting people Cat and I both know to see if they can help move some stuff but it’s too last minute and most everyone we know left the city early for the weekend.
‘Whatever, we packed up enough,’ I say. ‘I guess I’ll have to rent a u-haul for the rest.’
I haven’t eaten in like two days because I’ve been nervous and being nervous makes my stomach hurt. The anxiety kills my appetite even though I know I am hungry and that I should eat, but when I try to eat it feels pathetic and pointless, like why am I trying to shovel these things into my mouth. Food feels uncomfortable. Like, what is the point.
Cat asks if I am hungry and I say I guess I am and so we drop my stuff off at her place and then drive over to a place in her neighborhood that makes pretty good hamburgers.
We sit on the patio outside of the burger joint. We have the whole patio to ourselves because it is 2 pm on a weekday. I look at my phone and see a chain of texts from Jon asking why my stuff is gone and telling me he is sorry and that he loves me and that I didn’t really have to leave, he was just exaggerating about changing the locks, the room is still my room, I didn’t say you had to leave. I don’t want to lose you, says another text.
I start crying reading these because I am angry and he is definitely trying to play mind/power games with me and I don’t want to deal with it anymore. I know I am making the right decision but my tears are from disgust and frustration in myself. Why am I letting him do this to me. I am crying and put my sunglasses on.
Our waiter brings the burgers to our table and looks at me as if he is wondering if he should say anything to me but he just puts our burgers in front of us and asks us to let him know if we need anything. We say thank you and watch him walk back into the kitchen slowly.
I look at my burger and I don’t think I can eat. I can’t eat. I hold the burger up to my face and stare at the melted jack cheese oozing down the side of the patty, feeling the soft greasiness of the brioche roll. I bring it close to my mouth and take an extremely small bite. I feel like I will vomit. I start crying into the burger.
Cat comforts me, and the waiter comes back to fill up our water glasses and glances at me sympathetically before retreating to the kitchen. I adjust my sunglasses.
‘I’m sorry he’s being so weird.’ Cat says.
‘He’s not just being weird. He’s a fucking asshole,’ I say.
‘I’m sorry,’ Cat says.
‘I’m sorry I’m being like this. I feel like I’m losing my mind.’
‘No!’ she says. ‘Don’t apologize. He is the crazy one. I don’t know why he’s doing this.’
‘He’s doing this because he is jealous and immature,’ I say. ‘It’s probably good I’m getting out.’
‘It’s definitely for the best,’ Cat says.
‘No, I know, but I wish it didn’t happen like this. What am I going to do about Sookie?’
‘Do you think she will be okay there?’
‘I mean, I hope so. I don’t know. I don’t think he’s going to do anything to her, but I don’t know.’
‘I could keep her for a few days,’ Cat says, ‘but I need to check with my housemates first.’
‘You’ve already done so much, I would feel bad.’
‘Oh no, I want to help you. I’m sure it would be fine.’
Jon calls. He says the same things he had texted. I cry into the phone. He demands to know who helped me move. He wants to know if a boy helped me. I tell him Cat helped me.
He says, ‘haha yeah right. You got your new boyfriend to help you.’
‘If you don’t believe me, Cat is sitting next to me right now.’ I hand the phone to Cat and she says ‘hello?’ and I can tell he changed his energy to speak with her. They don’t converse long, and Cat isn’t really saying anything so I imagine he’s trying to talk himself out of the image of him Cat might have in her mind currently and Cat gives me back my phone and I say, ‘yes?’
‘I just really love you. I really believe you are the one for me. I wanted us to get married.’
‘I can’t do this right now,’ I say. ‘I’m sitting in a restaurant and I want to eat this burger. I’m going to pick the rest of my stuff up this weekend, and I’m going to ask Monique if she can take care of Sookie until I can get her.’
‘Can we talk in person?’ he asks.
‘What do you want to talk about? What is there to say?’ I pause a moment. ‘I want my rent money back.’
‘Yes, I will get that back to you.’
‘We can talk when I pick up my stuff.’
‘I hope you change your mind.’ He is crying and I feel sicker than I did holding the burger.
‘I have to go.’
I hang up the phone and put the ringer on silent. I stare down at the food on my plate, which by now is probably completely cold. How perfectly suiting to the moment. A burger I didn’t even really want in the first place turning cold on me.