I treated him like he was disposable, which is why he left me: because I was right. I watched him walk out the door and into another woman’s arms, and I didn’t stop him. I didn’t even blink. I knew that she had something I didn’t have: the desire to be with him forever, to love him, to have a relationship, a future, a life with him. Me? I know better than to pursue the unattainable with a man who is incapable of such grand things. She doesn’t know it yet, but after a few weeks, or after a few months, or maybe even years, she will know what I know: that he is disposable. But I wonder if she will figure out what I know haven’t told anybody yet: he is disposable, but he always comes back. Perhaps I don’t desire to be with him forever, but I will be. I haven’t told him I want a relationship with him, but I already have one. We have a future together, but it’s not the pretty, prim future that girls with big eyes dream about. There will be no wedding dresses or big parties or happy birthdays. Our future together is bleak, but it is a future together nonetheless. Year in and year out of knowing each other. Knowing his small pains and his big pain, too. Listening to everything he says every day, and knowing what it means. Taking him back for the moments between growing pains and break ups and heart ache. Never being anything more than the person who is always there, but never number one. We have been this for each other for years now, and although we do not talk about it when we find our way back to each other, and although we do not cry when it comes to another temporary end, this is what it is. I treat him like he’s disposable because he is. But he always comes back to me. Even though I don’t want him. Because what other woman out there wants the curse of inconstant love while everyone else makes babies and plans? Not me, but here I am, being that person.
I woke up this morning feeling like I wanted to terrorize my ex, so I sent one carefully worded text message that was meant to spawn a shit storm of emotion and name calling. I am, as always, a master at my craft, so the impetus for our renewal of emotional trauma was, as usual, highly successful. Luckily, as a writer, I’ve managed to parse down my yen for abuse to less than twenty bars of conversation in single sentence (never paragraph!) missives. This shit doesn’t go on for hours; I have found a way to eviscerate the human spirit in less than twenty minutes. Let’s hear it for efficiency of ferocity and destruction.
He, of course, did not take it lying down. I like to check in once every couple weeks or months or so, just to see if he’s got any new tricks up his sleeve. This week, his new favorite question to ask me is, “Have I triggered a response from you?”
Now, anyone who is wrapped up in the minutiae of Tumblr level pc gender politics knows that “triggering” is a phenomenon wherein someone who has experienced trauma is brought to an episode of PTSD wherein certain events “trigger” the survivor to relive certain aspects of said trauma and to therefore respond in survival mode, which is often destructive. As someone who lives a pretty normal life, I have to admit: there is nothing to be triggered here. In fact, his intimation that I can be triggered is his way of being condescending and saying that I’m vulnerable and weak. He’s treating me like a victim of myself, and, my god, I am not having it today.
Having to scroll through a text conversation wherein my ex is (I’m sure in some self congratulatory way) patting himself on the back for figuring out how to trigger me is exactly what I wanted, mostly because I needed to reinforce why exactly I stopped fucking him. (Although, to be more specific, one night he told me he thought we had “porno sex” and all I could think was “who watches five minutes pornos and fast forwards through the oral sex part?” Meh. C’est la vie.) Also I knew that this conversation would ruin his day more than mine, mostly because unsolicited text messages from me are probably always a source of anxiety because I come out swinging, but if he texts me out of nowhere I’ll show up at his house with bad news on my mind. I have the upper hand in this game of emotional terrorism. He probably thinks I’m the Isis of his heart, but, let’s be honest: I have always been the atom bomb, a neutral, scientific force of destruction that does not discriminate between the guilty and the innocent. Perhaps my ex has done nothing to deserve this level of harassment, but, I’m an emotional atom bomb: it doesn’t matter if he deserves it or not. He’s getting it. Just because he’s in the blast zone, and I’m popping off right about now.
Yeah, I’m drunk, which is why I’m hopping in a cab in Downtown Oakland. It’s been a great night, I’m feeling good. I sang karaoke for the first time in my life, which is why someone bought me drinks. But it’s time to go home, and it’s way before last call, and I respect that. So I hop in the car that pulls up out front and respectfully dip out of my friend group in an effort to get home and be okay.
What I thought was the end of my night turned out to be just another turn into frustration. I, of course, am scantily clad feeling fine as I hop into a car full of, you guessed it: men. While I think it’s worth mentioning that I have nothing against men, it’s also worth mentioning that I have been around groups of men who have fallen victim to their own more animal desires which is why, as I slip into this cab, I have a slight moment of pause. Now, being drunk, as I tend to be when I get into ride share cabs, I greet everyone, not because I’m drunk but more because my Mama taught me that proper manners and good social skills are just fine. Although, I must admit, I don’t know what happened, because in a matter of seconds my normal two minute cab ride turned into a moment of gender wars wherein my loud mouthed advances of being friendly at 11:30 pm turned into someone turning on the cab light and saying, “It is only okay to talk to us like this if you’re pretty.”
Well, hello. What is this? A cab driver will only allow me to be friendly to him and my fellow passengers if I’m pretty? It is at this moment that I take the moment to shriek in horror and scream, “Turn off the light! You are so ugly!” Which, of course, did not go over very well, but, you know, this is what happens when you’re a wage slave given to overt sexism: women like me do not settle very well for this kind of behavior. The driver tries to defend himself, saying this or that about how if I were pretty, then everything would be okay. I do not allow this, mostly because I am offended by how ugly he is, and I ask him why did he turn on the light to see if I am pretty when really all I got out of that was seeing that he is ugly.
This conversation is not going over well. There are two other men in the car who seem insignificant as I continue to scream through the remaining forty five seconds of my two minute cab ride from the bar to my house. It seems appropriate that I scream about shooting him and my drug dealer boyfriend and that I have his license plate number and know where he lives. That’s logical. Right? Guys? Don’t you agree?
Oh, well, whatever, I don’t care if you think that I’m right. I never have and I never will. I do what I want, and if that means screaming at a cab full of men in order to feel safe, then, fuck it. I would have kicked all their asses anyways. They’re pussies. And I’ve got pussy and it’s plated in gold, but I ain’t no pussy. Not like them anyways. I run shit, from cab rides to city blocks. No cut rate, budget, cab driving sexist is going to change that.
Me in my moment of weakness. Me in my moment of pain. Doing the only thing I know how to do in order to stop the confusion and those thoughts like barking dogs behind a fence begging to get out and eat me alive. I am here with him, just as I always am, flat on my back and wrapped up in him. I don’t know how to do anything else as a silent soundtrack and the spinning of shots catapults this fantastic moment into something that will be frozen in my memory forever. I will paste this new memory over the upcoming bad thoughts, thinking only of me and him in this moment and the silk of his skin and the light in this room and that feeling in my stomach like everything inside me is slowly turning into gold, shooting stars and rainbows. This is exactly the feeling I like to feel while memories of gun shots ricochet around the back of my brain, only to be buried down deeper and saved for later because right now I am too busy living to think about dying. I wish I could be here forever with him, that I never had to leave. That I could wake up tomorrow and lie here naked, eating cherries, drinking water, watching TV, always fucking.
I put my hands all over him, begging him in some way to never leave me. Never leave me alone with the thoughts I don’t want climbing back into my brain. Don’t abandon me to be here alone for one moment, because as soon as I am alone I will start searching again for an exit from my loneliness. And I am afraid that the next exit I find will look nothing like him, and love nothing like him, and be empty and filled with yet another excuse for more pain and more pain.
And then there it is: that look on her face. I’ve seen it before because it’s the same smug look I’ve been wearing on my face for the past five years: the “I’m going to steal your man” look. Part of me is miffed, and the other part of me is indifferent, mostly because as a seasoned fucker of other women’s boyfriends, I know that there is a certain dearth of self respect that comes from being a side piece for sport. There’s also the knowledge that he will come back to me anyways and she is in way over her head. She’s looking at me with that grinning sneer, that sense of preemptive victory, but little does she know: my man? My god. We all know I’m crazy, so it kinda goes without saying that he’s crazy, too. She might be a dick hungry bitch, but if she doesn’t bring it in the bedroom or at any other stage of trying to get there, she will be subjected to immediate public humiliation via a series of subtweets that will make me smile ear to ear. So, go ahead. Try and fuck my man. See if it’s worth it. See if you can put up with the sporadic, abusive, unkempt attention from a man whose self worth is not worth the upkeep. Let’s see if you look so pretty and put together after fucking my man for a few weeks. Let’s see if he tears you pieces while I stand by and watch. Oh, and I’ll be there, too, honey, every step of the way. Not physically, but in every word he says, every inch he puts in you: I’ll be there. My hand is already around the cock that is forcing its way up your asshole. I wonder if it feels good.
“I love you.” It’s the end of our conversation on the phone, and he’s punctuating it with this fraught sentiment.
“I love you, too,” I say in as genuine and chipper a voice while quietly pasting over the sudden whirlwind of thoughts that are currently cycloning through my mind. I tack a smile on my face and hang up the phone, trying not to the fresh batch of paranoia because if someone tells me he loves me, I should take it at face value and not spend the next three to six days trying to unravel what kind of fuck boy chicanery is going on here and why would he tell me that he loves me.
This is my fault. The reason that I feel this way is because of me and everything that I have done over the past four or five years with him, and now that we’ve tripped and fallen into fucking each other again, I’m finding that old habits die hard. I remember the first time I told him I loved him, two years ago, after I told him I couldn’t fuck him anymore, but looked him in the eye and told him I loved him before skipping down the street to start texting someone who was probably a friend of his.
It was duplicitous, no doubt, to tell him I loved him right after betraying his trust. I had done it before, and I have done it for years, which is how I knew it worked, and which was why as I sat there with the phone still clenched in my hand, it occurred to me: he must be fucking someone else. Why else would he go out of his way to tell me he loved me? Why else would he make an attempt at emotionally appeasing me if not to distract or cover up the fact that something bad is going on?
After .7 minutes of Instagram stalking, I landed back on comments from some girl who seemed like the most likely suspect. I considered doing something drastic, like DMing her (because I know her) and saying something crazy. I had asked him last week if he had a girlfriend, and he told me, “no,” and now I’m curious if this random girl with this random comment knows that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Answer: probably. I’m just being paranoid.
And then it occurred to me, he had been doing me the service of talking to me every day, saying hi, catching up. This is something that is not characteristic of our previous, long term casual sex relationship, which in turn made me question: why all the extra effort to make me feel happy?
Which is when I came to the conclusion: I should probably dump him. The fact of the matter is: I’m dating someone else, so I don’t have time to be sleeping with someone who lies to me and covers up his extracurricular activities with constant attention and affection. It’s dishonest and inconsiderate.
Gingerly, I put the phone down. I realized in that moment that perhaps the beast I had nurtured in my arms for so long had finally caught onto my game and played it against me. Which can only mean one thing: time to get smarter and make a better move against him.
It’s a dangerous game we play: the game of love.