I believed in him for far too long.
We started like a whirlwind. First, we were being introduced, then we were somehow in the bed he talked me into, my bed, twined around each other like nothing would ever be this good again.
He slept overnight and showered in the morning. He used my shampoo. We're shampoo twinsies, I said, and he laughed. I didn't know I would suddenly be buying shampoo for two. And if I had known I wouldn't have cared. Because he was him and I had him and this was love. True love. Total and complete and utter love.
It wasn't long before he basically moved in. He told me a story about horrible roommates and roaches and finding a crack pipe underneath the front steps and I believed it all. It was all a lie, except the crack pipe.
My carefully curated one-girl walk-up became a party pad. I'd find myself up early in the morning, cleaning up beer bottles and cigarette ash. He'd wake up just after me, brew the coffee, and go get donuts to apologize for his friends. Then he'd make slow love to me while he played my favorite songs on his iPhone. I loved having him there. I loved him.
The critical eye came out. "You'd be so much hotter if..." he'd say. If I lost a few pounds. If I got some new clothes. If I were a blond. "Don't take it the wrong way," he'd say. "I'm only trying to help you out. I just want the best for you, baby."
I wanted to be better for him. I knew he only wanted the best for me. He loved me. So I hit the gym. I stuck to a strict diet. I put a new wardrobe on a new credit card and bleached my auburn locks.
He appeared not to notice. I dieted harder. I wondered if my clothes were still the wrong clothes. I asked his friends. I asked my friends. They told me to run. I knew they were just jealous of him, of how hot he was, of what we had together.
I loved going out on his arm (he always insisted that he walk me on his arm as if I needed to be led). They hated that he loved being seen with me. Later I would wish I had listened to them.
He said it was an accident. I was trying to wake him up in the morning, and his fist shot out and clocked me right in the eye. I cried. He cried. He said he didn't mean it. He said he'd been asleep. He kissed me and kissed me and made love to me and then we went out and bought me some of those giant black sunglasses.
Domestic violence sunglasses, we giggled. Because I wasn't a domestic violence victim. Not at all.
He started to be gone for nights at a time. He wouldn't tell me where he went. I got mad. I got tired of waiting up for a guy who didn't show. I told him so. He yelled that it was his business where he went, not mine. And if I wanted to keep him, I'd keep my mouth shut.
I told him maybe I didn't want to keep him and maybe he should stay wherever he went on those nights. Then I slammed the door in his face.
He was back the next morning with donuts and apologies. He wouldn't do that anymore if it bothered me, he said. He loved me. He was only crashing at friends' houses when he got too drunk to drive. He sounded responsible. I'll pick you up next time, I said. We made love again and I took him back. Of course, I took him back — because I loved him.
Then he was sleeping with someone else. It doesn't matter how I found out, I found out. I screamed. I yelled. I told him to get out. He took it all, sitting on the couch while I paced and shouted myself out.
Then he asked if I really wanted him to leave just because he'd made a mistake. He loved me. Didn't I love him? Love meant forgiveness. And he only did it because he didn't want to ask me for sex so often. He had needs. He didn't want me to feel like I had to fulfill them all. This was really for my benefit.
I believed him. He could do no wrong. He loved me. He promised not to do it again.
It took an STD to get him out. I felt gross. Used. Disgusting. A metaphor for our whole relationship, I realized. He didn't love me. I told him to leave. And this time, I meant it. And this time, I stuck to it.
I cried. But I made him go. I didn't cry because he was leaving. I cried because I was stupid enough to believe him so many times. He put me through hell. I called it love.