The silver lining
, she supposes, if there is one through all of this, is that she’s still alive, perhaps more alive than she’s ever been. That, in itself, shouldn’t feel like an accomplishment, but after the last few weeks, she has a new lease on life, a new motivation to enjoy what could be extremely short lived.
It started with a date.
Ok, scratch that.
It started with a dating profile.
She probably should have known better. But, instead of listening to the 20 or so people on facebook who were constantly complaining about the messages they got on those sites or the people they met, she kept coming back to that one friend she had who swore she met the love of her life on OkCupid, the one who got married to that supposed love of her life last year and was now pregnant with twins, the one who clogged up her news feed with nothing but lovey dovey melodramatic bullshit about her husband, the one whose life surely couldn’t be as insanely fantastic as she made it out to be on Facebook. That friend. Everyone has at least one… it’s that one friend who is the only person in history to ever be perfect and have a perfect life and never ever have a single complaint because everything is so fucking wonderful, the one who everyone thinks is likely miserable and coming apart at the seams behind closed doors….
She couldn’t help getting swept up in that. She didn’t mean to compare notes or wonder at times what was wrong with her that she was still alone, but those thoughts were there all the same. She had gotten caught up in the shoulds and musts, in the things she didn’t have in comparison. So, maybe she wasn’t thinking clearly when she made her profiles on Tindr and PoF and OkCupid.
Or maybe she was just lonely.
Either way, she made herself a spot on all 3 and considered her profiles to be fairly clever. She talked about her dreams and goals, the movies she loved, the music she needed. She displayed her veracious wit and threw up a few decent face shots, and that was that. The messages were rolling in with the vast majority being absolute shit from people that couldn’t possibly really be interested in her (she was not of the mindset that opposites really attract) as much as they were anything with a vagina, but every now and then, she would find a gem—a witty play on words in a decent introductory message that would make her smile and open up the possibility for more. Usually, her interest waned with twice the intensity and speed that it piqued, but she was mostly having fun getting to know people and defining more and more what about she wanted out of a partner.
Then she got THE message. She opened it with her usual half-hearted interest expecting to give it another exaggerated eyeroll before quickly hitting the trashcan icon to get rid of it. But, for once, that isn’t what happened. In actuality, she found a delightfully charming and inquisitive message. This guy quoted movies, complimented some of her tastes, playfully questioned some of her other likes . The best thing to come out of Clueless, he said, was videographic evidence to prove Paul Rudd’s seeming immortality, he had written. And of course she giggled. It wasn’t like she as proud of her love for Clueless (As If!). He asked about her love for old cars inquiring what would be her top 5 dream cars. He wanted to know who would direct a movie about her life. And what would be on the soundtrack. Everything about it was amazingly crafted and obviously not the typical copy/paste jobs that she was used to not to mention it was a far cry from the all-too-common oversexed pornographic narratives—the equivalent of trench coat flasher shaking his sad, flaccid wee-wee at old ladies leaving the grocery store. All in all, it was completely unexpected, and she couldn’t contain her excitement. She didn’t even look at his profile before she put together her response in which she said, with a bit of glee, that she had been ordering Paul Rudd’s tears on the black market and using them as face moisturizer…
From there it had gone like a whirlwind in just a few short days…long messages, flirting, then texting all day, then actual all-night phone calls with not a moment of silence. She felt like she was back in high school all over again. There was a rush to it, a heat… The chemistry was unbelievable. She was walking on clouds, smiling broader and brighter than she had in a long time, and for a little while, she had really began to wonder if this was what that one Facebook friend had been bragging about all this time. Surely, if this was the way she felt all the time, there was good damn reason for her to act like nothing in her life could ever go wrong.
It didn’t last though, the magic. In fact, it got bad, really bad, in a hurry.
A couple months into seeing him, she had to break a date. She wasn’t feeling well that night. Food poison, maybe, but whatever it was, she wasn’t in any shape to go out for mini golf like they had planned. So, she sent him a text between one of the many times she was hugging the toilet that night, sat her phone down, and forgot about it. She was too weak to do much of anything but sleep, puke, and beg unseen forces for sweet, sweet mercy.
The next day when she could finally sit up in bed without feeling like the world had transformed into a giant merry go round being pushed by the biggest kid on the playground, she checked her phone. 100+ notifications. Call after call after call from him. Voicemails. Texts. They started out supportive and calm. He was checking in. Did she need anything. Was everything ok. But the tone grew increasingly aggressive and paranoid. He accused her of losing interest, of being out with another guy, called her a slut and a whore and a bitch…It was endless. She sat their shaking in disbelief staring at her phone like IT was the traitor not him. In an instant, the whole thing shattered. The clouds had dissipated and dropped her squarely on her plump ass in the middle of a expansive pile of shit.
In hindsight, she realizes now that she should have changed her number, bought some extra locks for the doors, a bigger can of pepper spray and let it go, let him go. But, she couldn’t shake how good things had been to start. The sheer confusion she felt was so monumental she felt she might drown in it. So, she called him hoping that he might explain his behavior, hoping that something he said might redeem him in her eyes, but he was cold, distant, accusatory. This was a man she had known for just a few short months. There was no explicit commitment. No talk of what the future held. She didn’t understand at all what could possibly be provoking this sense of ownership and paranoia yet she found herself apologizing for not taking his feelings into consideration. She, the one who was sick and miserable, apologized to him, the man who called her a slut for being too weak to answer her cell phone.
Over the next few weeks, she tried to get things back to where they were to begin with, but nothing worked. Nothing helped. They had dinner, went to movies, hung out at her place, but the chemistry was gone. He was distant and suspicious, and she kept hearing the anger in his voice on those many voicemails calling her every name in the book. She couldn’t help wondering if he might snap.
So, she ended it. She told him in a text that she didn’t think the two of them would work out and that she didn’t want to see him anymore then she turned her phone off. She didn’t want to deal with it, with him, and she certainly didn’t want to face another post on social media about how fucking dazzlingly perfect everyone else’s lives were. It was all about Netflix binging and booze that night. That had been her plan anyway.
Instead, she ended up on the phone to the police after that asshole showed up to her place beating on the doors, threatening her, and using a baseball bat on her car. He was arrested but he made bail the same night. The police asked her what she did to make him so angry.
What SHE did to make him angry…
Not what his problem was…
not that they would do everything they could to protect her…
not any sort of recommendation on what to do next…
When she told them that she had broken it off with him and that she wanted to press charges for harassment, they told her it would be pointless until there was an established pattern following the breakup and to just let it go and not waste anybody’s time—they actually said to give the guy a break.
Give the guy a break for demolishing her car with a baseball bat because she didn’t want to date him anymore.
She went through the process of taking down her dating profiles, blocking him on social media, and blocking his number. She let her closest friends know what was going on and asked them to check in on her if they hadn’t seen her around in a few days. She changed the locks, added an extra deadbolt, and bought herself some pepper spray, and a taser—all things a woman shouldn’t have to do to feel safe in her own home just because she didn’t want to be a part of someone’s life anymore.
But the fun didn’t stop there. He changed his own number and started calling to harass her again. She called the police who advised her to keep a log of the calls for evidence in the future which meant she couldn’t change her number to avoid the matter…not if she wanted to get the proof that the cops so desperately wanted. She started finding written messages on the windows on her home, death threats in her mailbox. None of that could be proven to definitely be him so the police did nothing even when she found a dead snake in the mailbox. She had a real fucking bunny boiler on her hands.
She was terrified to leave home after she thought she caught him following her to work one night. If she wasn’t behind the safety of her locked doors, she was near panic, and even being in the house didn’t immediately quell her anxieties since he always seemed to turn up there. It seemed like every day she found a sign that he had been around with the cops acting more and more like she was hysterical and paranoid whenever she asked for help.
Then things escalated. Or culminated, she supposes, is the right word for it.
It must have happened, she figures now, when she went out to check the mail. The mailbox for her place was at the end of a pretty long driveway. She hadn’t ever wanted to lock the door on her way to check the mail because she wanted to be able to get back inside easily if she happened to see him. What a fucking rookie mistake, though. Since he used that window of opportunity to sneak inside and wait. She still doesn’t know how he waited in there so long, tucked in the hallway closet, before making his move without her knowing. Hours without eating, without drinking, and seemingly without so much as urinating. It’s like he did made all the essential plans to make sure he wouldn’t have the need beforehand. In fact, the blood tests that were conducted later said he was so severely dehydrated that there were some doubts he even could have had the strength to do any of it.
Yeah, even caught red-handed, people were on his side more than hers… Even after what he did, what he tried to do, there was still doubt, still some blame being thrown her way.
She went about her usual routine that day. Yoga, a little Netflix, some cleaning, laundry, she made dinner and ate it with her cat on the couch—some baked salmon and red roasted potatoes with spinach and feta. She’ll probably never be able to eat any of that again now. She was cleaning up her dinner dishes when he surprised her. She heard the hall closet open, but it didn’t really register as anything other than the cat at first. Then she felt it, the weight in the room, the tension. She whirled around, gasping at the sight of him. His hair stuck out in crazy angles. He was filthy, unkempt, a sweaty mass of fury.
He lunged, grabbed her by the throat, and threw her against the wall next to the kitchen counter. She was situated directly between her counter and the doorway leading out of the kitchen. Her mind raced trying to figure out what she could do, how she could stop him. She pulled at his hands, scratching his arms. She pushed her thumb into his eye at one point, but he pulled away and tightened his grip, screaming in her face that she deserved this for leaving him, for hurting him. She had reached for the counter then scrambling for anything she could hoping for a knife or something heavy to hit him with but she found nothing and was slowly losing her strength. The room was spinning, growing darker…
Then she remembered the pepper spray in the pocket of her cardigan. With all the fight she had left, she reached for it. The small tube got caught in the fabric, but she managed to yank it free. The first shot missed, but the second hit its mark. She gasped for air coughing and sputtering, but it felt like freedom. Her focus started to clear, but the room still swam around her. He was writhing on the floor screaming, “you fucking bitch” over and over, groaning in pain between the words.
She fell to her knees, choking, nearly fainting, but she pulled herself up and made it to the opposite side of the kitchen where her phone was charging giving herself ample room to avoid him. She hit the button to bring it to life and used the emergency dialer to contact 911. The operator assured her the cops would be there in a hurry, old her to lock herself in another room of the house and remain on the phone.
She started to move towards the back of the house to hide in her bedroom, but clarity hit her at that moment. Fuck that, she thought. Fuck . It. If she hid in the bedroom, he’d manage to escape and she’d never be able to prove it was him. This would just keep going on and on and on. She had lost her job. She hadn’t left the house in ages, and goddamn she could not live like this anymore.
She chose, instead, to hang up the phone and arm herself with the biggest kitchen knife she could find then stood in the only exit out of the kitchen. Surely, she though, the police would arrive before the effects of the pepper spray wore off.
She overestimated the cops. As usual.
5 minutes ticked by. 10. 15. He started moaning less and tried to get up. 20 minutes. He finally managed to stand up slowly taking note of the knife in her hand and stood on the opposite side of the kitchen against the fridge.
“What the fuck are you planning on doing with that?” he demanded.
“Making sure your crazy ass goes to prison this time, fuckhead.”
He sat for a moment stunned that she would dare say such a thing to him then rushed at her, growling and screaming obscenities.
In the moment, she hadn’t realized what happened until he fell against her. She watched his face change, felt him go semi-limp then the warmth surrounded her hand. The knife had sunken into his abdomen to the hilt when he went after her.
He fell back against the kitchen table, falling into one of the chairs just as the police busted in the door.
Her story never wavered no matter how many times she was interrogated over the last few weeks. He didn’t make it. The knife nicked his intestines. With the weakened state of his body, he never recovered from the infections that set in and eventually succumbed to them without ever really fully giving his story.
It was her word against no one’s, but the cops sure tried to make it like her word, her constant calls, and attempts to get help meant absolutely nothing.
Still, she was in the clear. She had her life, and every day she was slowly getting better which is something she never would have done if things had gone differently, if he were still alive to get out of jail and stalk her some more.
Given that, she was sure that if she had it to do all over again, she would have stabbed him as he lay there blinded and vulnerable.
As always Sunday is for Sunday Confessions. Hope you enjoyed the fiction I laid down. Let me know in the comments. And be sure to check out the rest of the contributions this week over at More Than Cheese and Beer. Oh, and the prompt is Silver Lining