by Hope Gray
Once upon a time, I was in love with you. Do you remember that? It feels like a lifetime ago that I was madly, helplessly, totally in love with you. Or maybe the idea of you. Or just the idea of love. I honestly don’t know anymore. My mind is clouded when I look back on that time in my life. It’s like trying to grasp a dream, a nightmare that’s just slipping out of reach. It’s like being told a story, a fairytale that isn’t quite right. A future that is almost what you wanted, but couldn’t make work.
I seem crazy, don’t I? That’s what you told me, anyway. For the longest time, you would call me insane. First, behind my back — to the girl whose heart you broke because you had feelings for me. Feelings I didn’t return or hint at, for the sake of your relationship. And then you called me crazy to my face, all of those nights when your alcohol consumption got in the way of your logic. And then? You called me crazy to the girls that came after me. The ones you latched onto, when you missed my warm body beside yours. When your nights were filled with loneliness instead of my laughter. When your texts to me went unanswered and your social media accounts were blocked from viewing mine.
It was easier that way, wasn’t it? To call me crazy. I get it. Really. It’s easier to place the blame on someone else than take responsibility. So before I finally, finally say all of the things I’ve wanted to say to you for a very, very long time, I need to admit: I wasn’t perfect either. I’m not perfect. I never will be. I lied. I hid things. I told you want you wanted to hear instead of what I truly felt. I didn’t trust you like you didn’t trust me, and from the start I knew that it wouldn’t work.
But I loved the idea of it. I loved the idea of you. Or the idea of everything you could give me. So I ignored the panic in my heart. I ignored the way my friends’ voices filled will coolness, whenever they’d say your name. And I ignored the pit in my stomach, every time I realized that it wasn’t right. And then every time I chose to ignore it.
But that’s all I’m apologizing for. Because the rest? The rest of it is on you.
All of the beautiful gifts you bought me. The flowers “just because.” The sweet text messages and the over-the-top dates. Wanting to know all about me, and always wanting to be with me. Getting jealous, in a sweet way, whenever another guy talked to me. Getting jealous, in a scary way, whenever another guy looked at me. The way your eyes would glaze over, those nights when you would drink too much. And how you would look at me, through me, when the drinking took control. How you would embarrass me in public. How I would be scared to come home with you. How you brought up my past, and made me feel bad about it. How you yelled at me because you weren’t my first. Those times you would call me a bitch. A slut. A cunt. A skank who was still in love with her ex, a person I no longer had contact with. The way you would check my social media. The way you would search my room, whenever I left you alone in it. How you went through my personal belongings, went through my stuff to criticize, shame, and devalue me. The way you would say unimaginably horrible things to me, and mock me as I cried. And then the way you would apologize the next day. The way you would start the cycle over. The way you promised that you would change.
And the way that I forgave you. Every. single. time. That shit? That’s on you.
One strong day, however, I stopped forgiving. I stopped giving in. And I stopped letting you run, and ruin, my life. Of all the things I’ve done in my time on Earth, that’s one that I’m most proud of. That I got out. That I got away. That the clouds parted, even for a second, so I could see clearly. Clearly enough to leave, and never, ever come back.
But that didn’t stop you. Did it? Sure, you texted me for awhile. Even after we both moved on, you still tried to contact me. During day-time hours it would be to say you missed me. You still loved me. You wanted me back, or you at least wanted to be friends. And at night? The other side of you took over. Ugly, hurtful, cruel words filled with typos were sent from the alcohol in your system, only to be followed by a tired apology then next day. They only really stopped when you fell in love with someone else.
And at first I was happy. Happy that you found someone. Happy that you left me alone. And happy that maybe, finally, you would stop hurting other people, including yourself. But I was wrong. From early on, I knew it was happening to her. I knew in the way you know how you did on a test, or what someone is going to say next. And then when she reached out to me, after you did the same things to her, that’s when I realized: it wasn’t my fault. Not even a little bit.
Because it doesn’t matter who it is. We’re all replaceable to you. The girl before me. The one after. And the one after that. We’re all the same to you. Sluts, when you’re drunk at night, and “amazing women who deserve better” in the harsh, sober reality of the morning. But the thing is, you didn’t hate any of us. You hated yourself. And I only wish I would have realized that sooner.
It’s strange looking back on the time we spent together. Trust me, I don’t do it often. But when I do, it’s almost like it happened to someone else. How could I have been so weak? So easily manipulated? How dare someone say the things you said to me, and how dare I let those words sink into my soul? I let those demeaning phrases take hold of me. I let them convince me that I was everything you told me I was. I let them convince me that I was monster you told me I was.
Getting away from you was the best thing that ever happened to me.
And so now, even though it’s been years since we’ve spoken (cue: Adele), I finally, finally needed to say it all. To say everything you did to me. Everything you changed in me. Everything you made me realize. Thanks to you, I learned what a true man is. Is isn’t someone who picks up flowers on the way home or buys the most expensive meal on the menu. He doesn’t have the best car and he doesn’t have to be perfect. He doesn’t have to buy my love, bribe my forgiveness. He would never call me names. He would never make me feel bad about my past. And he would never hurt me, when his job is to protect me.
I hope you get the help you need. Because no matter how very, very much I despise you, no one deserves to feel that much pain inside of them. No one should be miserable enough that their goal in a partnership is making the other person feel bad about themselves. But that was what you wanted, wasn’t it? That was your goal. So thank you. Thank you for making me a stronger person. For making me realize what should be valued in a life and a relationship. And thank you for no longer being a part of my life. As you lose relationship after relationship, I hope you decide to change. As for me? I’d be with people who love me. Not because of who they think I am or who I turn into, when I accept the role of emotional punching bag. But because of my flaws, because of my bitchiness, and because of exactly, exactly who I am.
by Hope Gray