This is the sixth chapter of a story that left off here last week.
The summer of 2014 was a turning point.
I started a full-time job that year. I had to travel to Baltimore and New York for two-day trips. They were agonizing, simply because he always suspected I was hooking up with someone. Meeting people. Not just doing my job and passing out. He would talk to me for hours. Demand I check in constantly. Text and email. All. The. Time.
And then the bottom dropped out.
Constant accusations about infidelity. It got to be a weekly occurrence. That’s when the Google stalking came into play. That’s when I had to go to another state for a week-long trip to run a promotional event for a client.
He lost it. That’s all there is to say about it. He lost it. I was traveling with a female colleague who would unwittingly gain intimate knowledge of how fucked up our life was.
The first night was fine, with the exception that he kept me up really late and made me pan around the room with my computer on Skype to show him that no one else was in the room with me. He even made me lift the covers.
The following night was an argument that lasted until 4 a.m. He wouldn’t leave me alone. When I hung up my cell, he would call the hotel and make the room phone ring. And at one point the guests in the rooms around me called the front desk complaining of the noise.
He thought I was meeting someone in a parking lot in the middle of the night to have sex with them. I swear. It was just insanity. In a state I have never been to. Not to mention how absolutely out of character that would be for me. Like, wildly crazy overly-ambitiously out of character for me. Like, not even me.
But there was no convincing him otherwise.
Then, the whole thing changed. A fight spilled over into the next morning with pages and pages of text messages that were foul and crass and just awful. He had been home with the kids, who were on summer break, and he decided I could not talk to them. I would not be able to talk to them until I got home, which wasn’t for like three more days.
He denied me access and hung up the phone with that threat lingering in the air. And, I’m at an outdoor festival where I’m supposed to be running a booth with a colleague who has no idea the torture I’m going through.
A few minutes later, after I called my dad and told him to start researching attorneys for me, I got a text from him that signaled the end. Like, he sent me a farewell text as if he was ending his life.
Tell his mom he loved him. Tell his buddy he loved him. Tell the kids he wasn’t a bad man. Go on without him.
What. The. Fuck.
I’m three airplane rides away, because it was a small town, and he’s sending me this. And, what about the kids? To be honest, I no longer remember how he left the kids, but I do know his mom went to the house. I think I called her? I can’t remember.
But, I also called the police from my town to tell them what was going on. And they drove all over hell’s half acre looking for him. He kept sending me messages. He had phone calls with me, saying it was over. We were better off without him. Some chick would have loved him, but I never gave a shit. I called his best friend, who I had assumed hated me after hearing all the lies about me cheating on him, to tell him what was going on, hoping he would reach him.
He stopped answering calls and texts. He just disappeared for a while. The cops knew where he worked and contacted his boss. The boss reached out to him and talked him off the ledge somehow. Looking back, I’m thinking, knowing what I know now, that he played it off as nothing big — a big misunderstanding — and settled down right quick.
He went home. Told the cops he was fine. And they just went on their way. I begged his mom to stay the night with him at our house. She said she felt weird, because he was acting fine. So she left.
I’m hundreds of miles away on a work trip and my kids are at home with him after an episode like this?
I didn’t sleep the rest of the trip. And after that, these episodes became commonplace. They became rhythmic. Like, on a schedule. Every six weeks or so.
His doctor pegged the outbursts to hormones, with a caveat that I think I heard exclusively.
The hormones unmasked a deeper issue. Something that has been there all along. That’s what he said. The doctor basically confirmed my suspicions. But the abuser only heard that hormones were to blame.
I finally met with a counselor today. And, she was lovely. Just normal, and nice and very easy to talk to.
She listened to why I was there. What I needed help with. How I needed help navigating this part of my life. How I needed assistance with questions I was getting from the kids. How I was struggling with guilt.
And until then she was nodding. Yep. Yep. Nope.
Guilt? Why was I feeling guilty?
Because I have moments where I feel like I abandoned him. I felt that way for a long time. That I couldn’t leave or I would be abandoning him. In sickness and in health. In good times and bad.
No, she said. You’ve been there for him. For a long time. You can’t fix it. His actions are not your fault.
No one should live in a violent, unsafe environment. No one. She told me that. And, I agreed.
She told me everything I had done was for the safety of me and my kids, and I agreed. It was. And she said he needed to figure himself out for him. I couldn’t do it for him. And I wasn’t to blame for it.
I exhaled. I mean, I had heard it before. Kind of for years for different reasons with him. But I had heard it from people close to me, who were probably biased. But there is something about hearing it from a totally neutral person. And, I suppose I had heard that before, too. I mean, I heard it from police officers. I heard it from a police department social worker. I heard it from a judge, twice.
But he would tell me that they don’t know him. The kind of man he is. And, they didn’t. That’s fair. But they do know the type. They don’t know him, but they’ve seen the type. For sure.
And, somehow her validation lifted me a little. Well, it didn’t lift my spirits, but it lifted a weight. I’m sure my shoulders collapsed when she said that. I let my right hand fall onto a pillow. I allowed my head to bob to the right, just a little. I let it go.
She feels like I’m doing okay with this so far. And, I think I am, too.
I had a scary dream last night. And I feel like I have to do something today to make me feel strong about it. To shoo the thoughts away, I guess.
He was in it. He was wearing a red shirt. And he was walking towards me. It was all black around him. And, all I could do was walk backwards. I was just backpedaling trying to get away from him. And he was coming closer. And I just kept moving back. I put my hand up once, I remember that.
And that’s all I remember. That, and the feeling it gave me. That I needed to get away, and couldn’t.
Ugh. It wasn’t a good feeling. It was also one of the few times I’ve been happy to wake up in the middle of the night.
There is probably a reason I had that dream. And it could have something to do with the fact that he approached me, with purpose, as I got out of my car to pick kids up from his mom’s house.
It was my daughter’s birthday party. She wanted half of it at her grandma’s pool. The other half she wanted at our house. So, we both drove kids to and from the houses. I didn’t stay there, and he didn’t stay here.
But he welcomed me to stay, through his mom. He wouldn’t tell if I didn’t tell. No. No thanks. I’d rather miss half her party, miss her beautiful cake, miss “Happy Birthday,” then sit there. With him.
There’s a protective order in place for a reason. And a second judge agreed to so firmly he put in a stiffer no contact order. I’m going to side with those folks on this.
So, as I adjusted the seats in my car and waited for the kids to come running, he walked right up to my car door. He was only a few inches away from me.
“I know there’s an order in place,” he said, “But we really need to talk about our son and co-parenting.”
“At this moment?” I asked.
And that was it. He was not even supposed to approach me, let alone talk to me, let alone make up stupid shit to talk about just to have a reason to talk to me. Our son is doing just fine. He isn’t having any issues.
He acted out, I heard later, at the pool portion of the party, because he was showboating in front of older, cool boys. Not because of any other reason. He’s such an ass. My husband, not my son.
One day, no like 12 hours after I spoke to his mom, poured my heart out in a meeting orchestrated by him, and told her how I don’t feel safe, I don’t want to talk with him, I won’t subject myself to his crap — and he walks right up to the car.
He has no respect for any rules or boundaries. He has no respect for me. He only cares about him.
My neighbors were freaked out by it. And, made me promise to keep all the outdoor lights on when I go to bed. If any of them were off, at any point, it was a signal that something was wrong. Like, if I couldn’t get to my phone.
How sad is that? They think he’s capable of going after what he wants to the extent they established a signal with me. Jesus. My life.
And in the coming weeks I would see they were right.