[If you like this IHTM contest entry, comment to that effect below and that will help the writer win big money. Feel free to critique too, so we can weigh that in our decision. -- Jane]
I have a weakness for handsome, troubled men. So when I first saw him sitting on my roommate’s couch, buying a bag of pot, I fell for him immediately.
He was the kind of beautiful that breaks your heart right away. We broke up each other’s relationships and moved into a small apartment together. I knew he had a checkered past that included two children with another ex-girlfriend, but I didn’t care. He was gorgeous, funny, and smart. He was always the center of attention because he was so witty and charming. His nickname was Spark.
At first, our life together was good. Sometimes there was drama with his ex, but he cooked and cleaned and was the first man who gave me an orgasm from sex, so that made it worthwhile. Then, one night, he didn’t come home until four thirty in the morning. He didn’t answer my texts asking where he was.
Initially, I was just mad because he hadn’t invited me. Even if he was out blowing lines, I wanted to be there blowing them too. I had lived with drug dealers after all. But he said no, his phone had died and he had lost track of the time while jamming with some friends.
“Well, invite me next time,” was all I said.
A few weeks later, we drove to Providence so I could visit Brown University, where I was planning to apply for grad school. I was insanely, relentlessly in love with him. He said he wanted to marry me and I imagined our perfect little neo-feminist apartment in Providence, him cooking dinner while I graded undergraduate papers. I honestly thought I had found the guy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
About a week after we got back from the trip, he went to visit his kids and I realized I had lost my debit card. I canceled it, thinking it had probably fallen out of my purse while I was drunk, and thought nothing of it until my bank statement arrived, a thousand dollars short of what it should have been.
If I had taken even one second to look at where the fraudulent charges were coming from, I would have known. I should have realized when he called with a bullshit story about “finding” my card while he was on his way out of town and using it to buy some gifts for his kids. But as it was, the cop who took down my report had to look me in the eye and ask who I thought I was kidding.
My boyfriend confessed after I told him I’d been to the police. We had a big screaming fight back at the apartment. I told him to leave and never come back. I told him I wanted his car and his computer. Unsurprisingly, I did not get either of those things.
He slept on my couch and tried to take me to work in the morning. I said no and walked away, only peeking over my shoulder once to make sure he wasn’t following me. By the time I was done with work, he was with his kids, a state-and-a-half away.
Thanks to love, stupidity and technology, that was far from the end of our relationship. He’d bombard my phone with texts, calling me a whore, telling me I was rude and selfish and he was glad to be away from me. He’d beg me to let him come home and promise to pay me back. Once when I didn’t return his call, he told me he hoped that “one of the guys you’re fucking gives you AIDS.” Two days later, he wired me $700.
By January, he was serving two months in county jail. His old job mailed his W-2s to me and he sent me instructions for accessing his check card. In that way, he was able to use his tax return to pay back, with interest, everything he’d stolen from me. He sent letters about rehab, promising this was the low point that every junkie needed to hit in order to recover. I couldn’t stop myself from falling back in love with him as he wrote Tennyson verses on the envelopes and reminisced about the night he climbed out on the roof, in his underwear, to open a stuck window so I could have a breeze in the room.
Soon, he was enrolled in a six-month long rehab program. He snuck a cell phone in so he could call me between meetings and jabbered on excitedly about how he was going back to college after finishing rehab. I visited whenever I could. We fought but always made up, even though the fights were bizarre.
Once, he found my bus ticket receipt and mistook the company’s address for a destination, accusing me of taking a secret trip to New Jersey with my male roommate. I knew he wasn’t on drugs -- he was being piss tested every day -- so I told myself it was just stress.
I got fired from my job in July, when he was almost through with the program, and in a burst of spontaneity, decided I would move to his town. He couldn’t come back to my state because of his probation, but I figured we could live together until it ended and then move to be closer to whatever grad school I was accepted to.
I thought we could start again. I thought that once he adjusted to life as a recovered addict, the fights and irrational accusations would stop. I was so, so wrong.
I got pregnant immediately and his paranoia escalated. There was often a tragic kind of comedy to our fights. When we got our new apartment, I was five weeks along and spent a disproportionate amount of time in the bathroom, trying to shit.
One night, I was pacing around the house, so uncomfortable I felt like I was losing my mind, and he was demanding to know what was my problem was. I barricaded myself in the bathroom for half an hour until I managed to take a decent crap, all while he was shouting at me from the other end of the house. When I finally came out, he glared at me.
“Why are you acting so weird?” he said. “Is it not my baby?”
“Get out!” I shrieked.
He grabbed his stuff and stomped down the stairs.
“You better get rid of that baby!” he screamed as he left.
A few nights later, he kept waking me up with sarcastic comments until I put on my shoes and went outside to calm down. I cried on the steps of the church down the street, and walked back with a feeling of dread in my stomach. When I came back, he apologized, barely looking at me.
“I’m going out to get a burger or something,” he muttered. “Do you want anything?”
“Chicken nuggets!” I cried. “With honey mustard.” My love was easily won with food when I was pregnant.
But I never got them. When it was time for me to go to work at dawn, he wasn’t back.
He called around 10, demanding my computer password. I was too busy puking up my breakfast to give it to him, but that wasn’t enough to save my treasured laptop from being traded for drugs.
When I came home from work, he was waiting outside the apartment looking sick.
“Let’s go,” he said.
“Go? Go where?” The hairs on my neck stood up.
He looked at his feet. “To get your computer back.”
Although I swore, punched him and threatened to call the police, he wasn’t able to find the man he’d traded my computer too. Just like that, five years of drafts, my music collection, and irreplaceable photographs were gone.
I left on a Saturday. When my dad pulled up to the house, my now ex-boyfriend, who was sitting on the floor, gave me a look of such despair that I almost forgave him again. But my dad was waiting outside, so I turned around, went down the stairs, loaded my stuff in the back, and we drove away. That was the last time I saw him.
As we sped down the highway, I didn’t think about what was coming: the abortion and my family’s loving pity, nights spent wishing I could tear him to pieces and bargaining everything I owned for a chance to fall asleep next to him again, drinking, screwing, panic attacks on Thanksgiving.
Instead, I leaned out the window, looked back toward the city, and double fingered the skyline as hard as I could. Just your average pregnant 23-year old prospective grad student, getting the hell out of town.