Pieces of the Puzzle

There are so many people that know the real names of the people in the piece. I ask that you not use them. Please protect their identities, not to protect them, but to protect me. In terms of protecting them, seriously zero fucks given.

——————

The more I find out, the less I know. My abuser went to my church when I was young, and the other night at dinner with an old friend, I heard a story that confirmed my suspicions. But here’s the thing… the man in the story is dead, and I will never be able to hear it firsthand.

This man was watching us, and he saw something that made him startle.

My friend said, “Frank, what’s wrong?” He said, “it’s nothing.” The friend bugged Frank until he finally said, “I just think she needs to get away from her.”

Cut to years later, clubbing with friends who knew her. I don’t know how it came up, but her friend said that she’d been attracted to me. Her other friend looked like he’d been slapped, as if to say, “I THOUGHT WE AGREED NEVER TO TELL HER ABOUT THIS.”

I was naive. She said it wasn’t like that, and every time the subject came up, she would swear up and down that there was no way in hell. NONE. The fallacy in that logic was that she gave me her college journal when I was fourteen. I wasn’t even thinking of sex at that age… until I was given a book in which all the sex scenes were involving her. As a result, it created a bond much stronger than would ever be considered appropriate between a woman and a girl.

She would get hurt, I would help pick up the pieces, and I would long to be the girlfriend, because she’d already put the idea in my head… Then, she must have realized how fucked up it was and backpeddled like she was on fire. However inappropriate, though, it made sense to me. In fact, it never even dawned on me that I might be too young. In fact, in a lot of ways, I saw myself as older than she was. The best compliment I ever got from her was when I was about 17 or 18… that I was “free therapy for someone older and often not wiser.”

The best compliment, and still. “Free therapy?” What was wrong with that picture?

When she got married, I went to the wedding. I didn’t really want to, because I didn’t want anyone to see me that upset. I knew she was marrying the wrong person, and I had to stuff down my feelings because it was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not. I didn’t think that she was marrying the wrong person because I wanted her myself (Ok, I did, but at the same time, stick with me). I thought she was marrying the wrong person because her fiancee had such anger issues that I thought she was sentencing herself to a lifetime of abuse. Even if it was just emotionally, for me, that was too much to bear. I was the one that sat and listened to the stories she told me about her first wife, an alcoholic/addict combination that made the hairs on my arm stand up. I didn’t want abuse to be the theme of her life, and what I knew for sure is that I could protect her from it.

I wanted her because of the faith I had in myself to be amazing with her. I was young, but I would have done anything necessary to keep her safe. That didn’t start with me. That started with an idea planted in my head that instantly outgrew its pot.

But in all of my stories, the theme is that she ran away. She couldn’t bring herself to accept what she’d done, even though I would have forgiven her if she’d truly laid all her cards on the table. Nothing is ever achieved by that deep a lie.

Especially after we kissed.

It was an accident (or, at least, I’m willing to entertain that it was an accident). Whether intentionally or not, when we said goodnight after the wedding, I leaned in to kiss her cheek and either I missed or she turned her face toward me. I don’t remember, and I’ll never know. My world turned upside down, immediately and violently. My reality cracked when I realized we were about to come to the point at which it was appropriate to pull away, and I was frozen.

However, I do not think it was romance if the kiss was on purpose. I think it was about control. She’d helped set me up with someone that weekend, and I was enjoying it very much. If it was on purpose, it was just to say, “don’t let go. I won’t let you.” I didn’t, and I wouldn’t for the next fifteen years.

I keep telling and telling these stories because both my abuser and her current partner have been in the business of saying that my story is invalid, that I made it all up, etc. I am sure that it’s in their best interest to do so, but at the same time, I have never lied about this. Not once. I don’t have to ornament this story to make it hit home a little more. It is what it is.

And what it is says that I have been convinced for a number of years that I was loved, valued, a huge part of this woman’s life… and at the same time, controlled so tightly that in the end, I could barely breathe.

For instance, she used to call me “the closest thing that I have to a daughter.” Except you don’t fuck your daughter, or at the very least, you don’t think about it.

To say that I am bitterly angry is an understatement. I don’t so much miss her as I miss the person I thought I was. But as soon as I started to re-evaluate our long history, the walls of her heart went up, and the sociopath came out. It was a flat voice, devoid of any emotion, that sliced into my heart. The thing that I keep wondering is why, after it happened the first time, I thought it wouldn’t happen again.

There is no excuse. None. Especially if you believe me.

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