My first serious boyfriend was older than I was. He was creative and playful and controlling and bipolar. He was diagnosed by several medical professionals but he refused to acknowledge there was anything wrong. “They just want to fuck with my head,” he’d say He refused to take medication or get any support for his illness.
I was adolescent and hopeful. I saw the good in him, and was still foolish enough to believe that my love could bridge the gap between his mania and his depression. He opened up to me and because of that I felt responsible for him.
When he was feeling good we would have spontaneous road trips, drug-fuelled parties, and shopping sprees. We would stay up all night watching Ernest Goes to Camp and building lego masterpieces. When he was feeling bad there were cruel words and screaming matches. He would pick fights with strangers. He would disappear for days. There were always other girls, there was always something I’d done to disappoint him. He was constantly accusing me of disrespecting him.
When I broke up with him he refused to accept it. For months he would follow me, waiting outside of my work or home to offer me rides, filling my voice mail with rants that ranged from sobbing to screaming, filling my mailbox with 7 page letters about how he would get better, how he would change, how he was going to die without me, how he knew I needed him.
I felt sorry for him. I felt guilty for breaking his heart. I didn’t tell anyone about his behaviour because I was embarrassed. I didn’t even consider calling the police. I put up with all of his threats and torments because I felt like it was my fault.
And then one day it was raining. And he was crying. And he offered me a ride home.
I said yes, even though I knew it was a bad idea.
He accelerated on the highway, weaving in and out of traffic at a dangerous pace, driving like a maniac. “TELL ME YOU LOVE ME!” he demanded. “I KNOW YOU LOVE ME! JUST SAY IT!” I was terrified. I watched the needle on the speedometer rise higher and higher as he swerved towards the guardrail for emphasis. “If I can’t have you I don’t want anyone to have you Heart, it’s not fair. You’re my girl.”
I agreed with him. I told him I loved him. I said anything I could to calm him. I was scared. I didn’t want to die in his car with his voice in my ear.
When he arrived in front of my apartment I got out of his car with shaky legs. “I’ll see you soon,” he said.
I knew I was safe now, there were people around and my feet were on the ground. I knew I could run if I had to. I knew I could scream and someone would help. I knew I was safe.
I never spoke to him again after that. I made my new boyfriend answer my phone. I quit my job so he couldn’t find me there. I stopped socializing with our mutual friends.
Eventually he moved away and I didn’t hear from him anymore. It was a relief.
I saw him at a party Saturday night.
He looked really good, healthy and strong.
He told me about his military career, his engineering degree, his dream job and his new fiance.
There were so many things I wanted to ask him. Are you taking your meds? Do you still see ghosts? Do you still threaten strangers? Do you still collect knives? Do you cheat on her? Is she afraid of you?
We stuck to small talk instead.
He said I haven’t changed a bit. That I look like the same girl.
I went to sleep that night and had a string of nightmares about close calls and near misses.