I don’t know what it was about Pete that made me like him so much. He was older than me by 15 years and a heavy drinker who was ridiculously dependent on pot and to a lesser extent cocaine. Pete was an ad man, or so he liked to think. A copywriter for an agency, his ego far eclipsed his ample talent.
Pete told me he loved me approximately a half a week into our relationship. I didn’t respond immediately, telling myself I was being rational and wanting to make certain. I caved after one day and soon was neck-deep in the heavy-duty emotional craziness of a new relationship with someone who you know is very dangerous.
I imagine it is similar to how jumping off of a very tall building would feel, great at first, all adrenaline-y, were it not for the inevitable and very painful splat soon to follow.
Being an easily malleable person is not without its advantages, but in this case, as with many men, I was soon completely overwhelmed by his wants and needs, which I convinced myself weren’t so different from my own.
We were having fun, though. It was summer in Portland and I was 26. Life was good. But somewhere inside I knew it wasn't going to last.
By September, his lifestyle had started to take a toll on me and on us. Each morning before he left for work I could hear a flick of his lighter and then a burnt sugary smell would waft back to where I lay in his bed recovering from whatever we’d done the previous evening. It was making me depressed.
I am not someone who is good with excess. Any alteration to consciousness more than a beer or whiskey buzz will throw me into a deep paranoia. I will spend hours predicting my dramatic death, monitoring my pulse and, in the sickly aftermath, mentally atoning to my body for being such an idiot.
As Portland’s 9-month long drizzle season started, he began to pull away from me. He watched endless hours of Sportscenter on television and did more drugs than ever.
He told me -- like the true commitment phobic I now recognize him to be -- that my if so much as a toe of my foot touched him at night, it made him feel like he was burning up.
I wish I could be one of those people who knows when the time is ripe for leaving and cuts their losses and strongly moves ahead with very few regrets. But it is nearly impossible for me to give up on someone I love.
His distance made me cling to him. Which I have since learned is not only futile and ridiculous, but also misery-making for all involved.
All of the things he’d said about loving me and wanting to be with me buoyed my hopes that we’d stay together.
The morning after my 27th birthday, I left his apartment to go back to mine (which he never stayed at despite it being a mere block from the bar we frequently got drunk at). For my birthday he’d given me a book, the title page scribbled with a love note.
That evening, the sky cleared and I went for a long walk. My career was going nowhere at that time. I’d recently returned from Egypt, where I’d worked at a magazine, but having never lived in the US after college, it seemed I had no idea about how to impress prospective employer here.
I walked downtown, through Chinatown, a buzzing hangover developing in the back of my skull. It began to rain. We’d had no plans to meet later, but I had a key to his apartment, which was nearby.
It was pouring by the time I made it to his place. I turned my key in the lock but the deadbolt was in. I banged.
He answered, but blocked the door with his body. “You have to go,” he said. “I have someone here."
In a crack between his body and the doorframe I could see two bottles of beer sitting on his coffee table.
“I’d rather not say?”
“Where is she?”
“She’s in the bedroom. She didn’t want to be a part of this?”
Of what he didn’t say. I think back on that night and wish I had forced my way past him, found the girl in his room and said to her, “I slept here last night.” At least she’d have known.
After that night, I lay in bed for several weeks unable to properly function. I was weaker than I’d ever been, staring for long hours at the wall, wiping my nose and tears on my comforter.
I was going nowhere in Portland and I’d actively let my life be destroyed by a 40-year old drug addict. It should have made me angry; it would if it happened to me now (not that I’d let it) but somehow I was too sad to move.
Finally, nearly delirious, in a move that used the last of my emotional strength I had the people I knew from the bar come and collect my furniture, packed a bag and booked a one-way ticket to New York City.