It happened again today. It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while, the name appears in my inbox, usually because I’ve been included in some mass email. It’s the name that makes my heart beat a little bit too fast, and my stomach feel like it’s trying to escape.
To understand why, you have to understand what happened 3 years ago…
I moved to Washington state for a boy. It was one of those things you get to do when you’re young because you’re young, and the world is just waiting for you to go get beaten by it. I moved there for a boy that asked me to do it before he was deployed, but was too selfish and stupid to think it through.
The boy and I had met in Georgia, while he was on leave. I treated it as a fling; he treated it as a relationship, and he asked me to try a long distance thing with him – nothing too serious, just to see what happened. It became more serious, and I was pulled to join him in Washington, though at the time I didn’t really know why. I took to writing him letters; I even e-mailed his parents, who lived in Peru. And then, of course, I picked up my life and moved. At the time it was exciting! I was moving for love, what could possibly go wrong?
He was no help to me once I got there; I was completely on my own – no job, no place to live, and at first, no car. I got smart, though; I flew back home for my birthday, and my dad and I drove back out together in what has become one of my fondest memories of road tripping. It is, in fact, one of my only memories of road tripping.
Amazing time with dad notwithstanding, I sent him home because I had to make it out there. It was like so many coming-of-age tales (Kerouac, I’m looking in your direction); I was either going to make it work in Washington, or I was just failing at life.
Things continued to disintegrate with the boy, and Tacoma is a rat hole that had very little in the way of prospects. Since I couldn’t count on him to even pay for a fast food meal, I looked up some other folks, specifically friends of my godmother’s. They graciously let me stay in their home while I looked for a job in Seattle.
I got one at Target, as a Presentation Team Member (basically what I do now) at $10 and 40 hours a week. I secured a little studio apartment that overlook Elliot Bay. And I also had a huge, infected cyst under my left arm that I had to get drained. He refused to help me move into my apartment, refused to drive me to or from the hospital. I realized that he was refusing to be my boyfriend, so we broke up just as I started to put a life together. Perfect timing, really.
It was shortly after I recovered from the breakup, which luckily I had seen coming about 3000 miles away, that I met Eric. We met online, then in person at a dive bar near my house. And not long after that, I was frequently walking across Queen Anne hill at all hours, to and fro my apartment and his house.
And it was not long after that that the phone calls started.
The boy was being deployed in August, and he would call me with his concerns about going to Afghanistan. Not knowing what to do, I listened, trying to be kind to someone who was facing some seriously scary stuff.
But the phone calls didn’t stop. Not even when he was in Afghanistan. They got worse, in fact. 21 phone calls in one day. I had started ignoring them. And then I told him to stop calling. Eventually he did. I breathed a sigh of relief; it had been creepy, but surely he had gotten the hint. Besides, there were more pressing things for him to consider while over there, I thought.
In late August, he came home. He had been injured, and two of my friends had been killed. Again feeling lost, I let him reach out to me, and I again listened. He said “I love you,” and he said that his close brush with death made it real. I felt uncomfortable, so I told him I wouldn’t be seeing him. He got angry; he attacked my character, said that I had changed, had become some terrible person.
Then he apologized. Then he went away for a while. But he would always come back. First with a plea to go back to him (you don’t love him the way you love me, he said. And he doesn’t love you the way I do. You can’t really be happy), then with a request for an address to send some things that I had give him. First I told him to leave me alone, then I stopped responding.
The final straw was the day he showed up at my office. I panicked. My boss went out with security to escort him off the premise. I called the police, and I got a protective order.
And then two years to the day that I had filed for the order, when I was living in Arkansas, he called me. I told him, in no uncertain terms that he was never to contact me again, and so far, I haven’t heard from him.
But I still get emails from his mother. They are always mass emails, sent to everyone on her list. But every time I see that name, I feel the cold grip of fear in my chest. 3 years later, and I still look over my shoulder, still watch dark blue SUVs warily. I moved out of Washington because I was afraid of being found; two moves later, and I still live with that fear.
It is strange to wake up on some days and think that there might be someone out there who is looking for me – someone who I would rather not find me.
Eric is never home when these things happen. I used to get angry. But now I think it is because this is my burden, my lesson. Each time I get through one of these moments, I feel a little bit stronger.
But I had to get it off my chest. And I had nowhere else to do so, so sorry for the strange, out-of-character post. Next time: canning.