The most beautiful memories often cause the most pain.
There were certain times in my love life where I literally felt like I was going to have my heart ripped out of my chest. One such time was with what might easily be one of the most hypnotically attractive men I've ever dated. I was 18 at the time, and he was 31.
We had met at an anime convention, and he had invited me to his hotel room party. There, I had met a slew of friends who I still talk to today. The only person I don't talk to these days is him, and for good reason.
He knew how to sell a fantasy that I always held as an awkward teen. He sold me the fantasy of popularity, friendship, and love.
At the time, he had four girlfriends, all of whom I had met at his party. They told me I was beautiful, that I was worthy of being cared for. They welcomed me, this awkward stupid teenager that no one liked in high school, with open arms. With one exception, I've only experienced that kind of feeling one other time in my life. For someone like me, it's intoxicating and more dangerously addictive than any drug on the market.
It didn't take too long for things to get steamy between me and their pack of people. After one particularly sultry night, we got down to talking. They asked me to become part of their family.
Up until then, I had never been called beautiful by another girl before. I had always thought I was rather homely. People at school always told me I was fat, annoying, or ugly. So when approached with the option of becoming part of a family of hard-partying poly people, I said yes.
The problem with this was that they lived about 400 miles away from me, and they expected me to attend all their parties. Being as devoted as I was to the first group who had ever taken me in as one of their own meant that I did whatever they told me to do.
If he told me to jump, I'd ask how high. If he asked me to fork over money for the next big party, I did. If they asked me to drive 800 miles round trip every weekend, I did it — gas mileage be damned.
I was recovering from my eating disorder thanks to them managing to get me to drink. I began to gain some weight due to the fact that I was gaining confidence.
That's when the problems started. He began to hit me up for money to fund the next bash at the presidential suite of the Baltimore Hilton. He made it very clear that he hated my new entourage I was gaining in New York City and Newark.
Rather than telling me I was pretty, he'd tell me I needed to stop eating so much. Instead of being the loving family pack leader that I assumed he'd be, he ended up just being a moody, mean boss who slept with me and all my friends.
The final straw happened when he asked me, "Can you at least just suck in your gut? Jesus, you're getting big and it's not even looking good in Polaroids."
Something in me snapped then. I looked at all the other people in the room. Most of the ones I was romantically involved with were visually stunning. I then realized I was the only chubby one in that room, and my heart just crumped. I left, and some of the others came after me. He didn't. I realized that the man who had introduced me to his pack just wanted me because I was a young body with an anorexically thin build.
Such a huge part of me wanted to cling to the fantasy that I was loved by him, that things would work out and we'd be this big, beautiful, happy family. But how can I believe in that beautiful lie when there's proof to the contrary right in front of my face? I left, and never spoke to him again.
Did it hurt? Absolutely. There were moments, years afterwards, where I'd break down in tears thinking about the family dinners we had, the recipes I learned, and even the kind of beer I'd drink.
It took me almost a decade to get back into contact with the friends I left behind. I still get misty-eyed when I see DuClaw at a bar. It's nearly impossible for me to avoid crying when I hear "Summer's End" by Foo Fighters, even now. Goddamnit, did leaving hurt! But isn't that how it always is? In my life, I've found that the most beautiful memories tend to cause the most pain later on.
As bad as it was for me to admit, I knew it was time to leave. I knew that, deep down inside, the ones who I'm still in contact with are my real friends. I knew that I deserve better than to be judged on a body that has always felt alien to me, anyway.
I knew I deserve as much loyalty and dedication as I give to others. And that's why I left.