Let me tell you about the worst weekend of my life. Well, one of the worst weekends of my life.
I was still with the Crazy Ex. He had moved back down to LA (without telling me he was going) and was allegedly looking for a job. I had planned to go down there for the weekend to visit and to go to a USC football game. We talked on that Thursday night and got into an argument, the same argument we had been having for weeks. His point: He was mad and frustrated and couldn't find a job and he hated living at his dad's house because his dad was an asshole and his mom was a pushover but wouldn't let him live at her house and even though he was clean and sober for a full year nobody wanted to help him out or give him a break and all his friends were jerks who wouldn't help him find a job and nothing ever works out for him. My point: You made your bed. LIE IN IT.
And this made him mad. So he hung up on me. I tearfully called him back but he wouldn't pick up. I decided to give him some time to cool off -- I was sure we'd both feel better when we saw each other. So I packed up my stuff and drove down to LA on Friday afternoon. The weather was sunny and I drove with the windows down, warm wind blowing through the car.
I hit the Grapevine around 9 pm and pulled into a parking lot. It was dark out but there were lots of people around -- people on road trips making pit stops, little kids running around excitedly.
I turned off the car, picked up my cell phone, and called him. "Hey," I said. "I'm here...." He didn't understand, what did I mean? "I'm in LA," I said. "I can be at your dad's place in about an hour."
His rage shocked me. "What the fuck, Julia? You can't just COME DOWN HERE when we haven't talked all fucking day. My dad won't let you come over, he's already in a bad mood. Why the fuck do you have to ADD stress to my life?"
I started to cry. I told him I didn't mean to add stress to his life. I told him I loved him. I told him I just wanted to see him and didn't he want to see me? After we hadn't seen each other in weeks? After I came all this way?
"You just can't come here!" he shouted. "You don't understand! I can't believe you did this without even fucking telling me. You can't come over here."
"But I..." I trailed off, wiped my tears on the back of my sleeve. "I have nowhere else to go..."
He was unmoved, "You can't do that to me! You can't just fucking say that. God, I can't believe you did this."
"Okay." I choked out between sobs. "OKAY." I told him I'd try to find somewhere else to go.
I was too embarrassed and sad to call anyone so I ended up texting everyone I knew who lived in the area. As luck would have it, my friend Nicole came through and offered me her couch, even though I wouldn't get there until about 11 and she had to work at 7 the next morning. I didn't tell her the whole story, but she could tell I was upset. She promised to have a vanilla vodka drink ready for me when I got there. I got back on the highway, feeling numb.
I spent the night cocooned on Nicole's couch, surrounded by fluffy pillows and a stuffed unicorn. I felt numb and confused and sad, but relieved. This would all be okay, I told myself. When I saw him the next day, it would all be okay.
The next day I drove out to his dad's house. I felt groggy and tired and my eyes hurt from crying the night before. It was another hot LA day so I wore my favorite orange skirt and an orangey yellow glass necklace he had given me.
I didn't understand him. "He's not here?"
"Nope. I don't know where he is." And then his dad stepped back and shut the door. I stood there for a moment, blinking in confusion. I tried calling his phone, his friend's phone. Nothing. Finally, I rang the doorbell again.
When his dad answered I said "Hi, I'm sorry. I know you said he's not here, but would you mind if I took a look in his room?" His dad shrugged, opened the door wider and let me in.
I thanked him and raced up the stairs. I opened the bedroom door and found... nothing.
Well, not nothing.
I found empty beer cans and liquor bottles.
I found a cell phone. I found tangled bedsheets with clothes strewn around them. I found a bra and a makeup bag and a pair of pink sunglasses. I found a duffel bag full of women's clothes. A woman's clothes.
So. You wanted to know something I wish I hadn't done?
I wish I hadn't climbed that staircase. I wish I hadn't stayed and searched for him for the rest of the day. I wish I hadn't believed that once I found him it would be resolved, that he would have some explanation and that we could still be okay. I wish I hadn't, after six hours, found him. I wish I hadn't let him get into my car, higher than a kite, paranoid, and angry with me. I wish I hadn't driven him back to his dad's house and painstakingly wrenched an explanation out of him, one that didn't even make sense, and accepted it. I wish I hadn't let him yell at me again, let him blame me for everything again. I wish I hadn't ignored the knot in my stomach or the prickly, anxious feeling in my chest for so, so long.
I wish I hadn't STAYED. Because after this, I STAYED. Sure, I broke up with him about two weeks later but looking back on this experience still gives me chills. Because I was so lost and confused and hollow and afraid that I was ready to accept anything he would give me. I was the dog he could kick and expect to come running back to him, begging for a treat or a kind word.
People sometimes ask me how I could have POSSIBLY dated this guy. How could I be with someone who treated me like that? And I tell them that he didn't start out like that. Of course he didn't. Girls don't START dating guys who beat them, do they? And girls don't START dating guys who emotionally abuse them, either.
He started out charismatic and fun and hilarious and thoughtful and charming and everyone who met him liked him and he was the life of the party. But after awhile that dwindled away, but by then it was too late. I was trapped.
I hate using the phrase "my therapist says," but MY THERAPIST SAYS that it starts small. And it did, it started small. For awhile it seemed like he thought everything about me was amazing and incredible and beautiful. And then one day it was, "I don't like your music. Let's listen to my music." And that was fine. I didn't really care about my music that much. And then it was, "Don't wear that shirt, wear this shirt." And that was fine, too. One shirt or the other didn't really matter. And then eventually it became, "You shouldn't be friends with so and so, I don't like her and she's a bad influence," and "One day we'll get married and we won't talk to your family anymore." Little by little he wore me down, took me apart, made himself my window to the world.
People have told me that I "don't seem the type" to let a guy push me around like he did. I guess because I grew up with parents who love each other and a family and friends who have supported me throughout my whole life and because I have a strong personality and am able to achieve my goals that I'm not supposed to be the type of person who gets into this situation. I'm here to tell you THERE IS NO TYPE. There is no type.
That's part of what sickens and disturbs me about remembering that weekend. There I was, standing by my car outside his dad's house, dazed, wondering what had happened and how on earth I had gotten to where I was.
I wasn't strong enough yet to leave, to cut my losses, to get the hell out of there and hightail it back to San Francisco. At that point, I couldn't even begin to think about what life might be like without him.
I didn't know it then but I actually was gaining the strength to get out. Eventually he was going to push me so hard that he wouldn't be able to get me back, no matter what tricks he tried. And believe me, he tried everything.
I got out.
But I still wish I hadn't let myself get cut down and kicked around and hurt and controlled by him all those times, and especially that one last time. Because if it happened to me, it really can happen to anyone.
Photo Credit: Julia Manzerova.
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