Worst Roommate Ever

There is no boyfriend application. There is no way to screen the men we let into our lives without breaking a few laws. Dating will always be a “you live and you learn” experience. In retrospect, it looks like living with a complete stranger who may or may not murder me at any moment would have been the safer alternative than moving in with a boyfriend without a contractual agreement. Tenancy laws don’t apply to relationships. The only upside to a landlord-tenant relationship is that there is a due legal process. No such recourse exists for two people living with each other, out of economic necessity or love, whichever applies.

I did the smart thing by waiting to get to know the person I was dating before we decided to move in together. He paid his half of the bills, I did all the cooking and cleaning. I paid my half of the bills, and he worked. It was a team effort. I will never forget the butterflies he gave me when he told me he liked the way I folded his shirts, that he could never do work as good as me. I had a gift. Surprisingly, it was not money that ended our non-nuptial bliss. He paid me back every cent I let him borrow. He kept leaving town without telling me. Forget an invitation, I didn’t even know he was gone. Of course, we were not married, so I had no right to know his whereabouts. His half of the bills, afterall, were paid.

Worst roommate ever.

Seeing as the waiting period with the first one didn’t work out, I thought I’d try something a little different with the next applicant and skip the screening period altogether. It just so happened that his lease was expiring and I just so happened to already have my own place I could barely afford to keep paying. It didn’t make any sense fiscally to both pay for rent neither of us could realistically afford on our own. Of course, back then I was only paying half of what I pay now. You never know how good you got it. It also just so happened that my lease expired in six months, and I thought this would be a great trial period.

It worked like a dream. It didn’t make sense to go through the trouble of putting his name on anything if things went south. I divided everything up, and he handed me the money at the end of every month. This changed. I made the mistake of putting his name on the lease with mine, and what I didn’t have to allow before, I now had to learn how to live with. Somewhere in between and much too soon, he proposed, we had a baby, and five years after sharing our first apartment, we moved into the house on Kenton. The place still haunts me.

Here is where I make the biggest mistake of my life. I don’t sign. For anything. We’re about to get married. I’ll gain my rights that way. No big deal. I hand him trust. I am about to give him my name, so I just pass all the finances over to him in the same breath because why not? He has no record to speak of. He had no bank account when I met him, no credit report, no car, and he was living in someone’s basement,  but somehow in my twisted little mind, I thought that this is how things were supposed to go. What I did was hand him the keys to my kingdom, and he usurped me. 

To this day I still don’t know how this conniving bastard managed to play me for the long con (mind you, he cooked for me), but what I do know is that he was by far, by a mile, the worst roommate I’ve ever had in my entire life. I shall tell you why.

We purchased our little fiefdom a few months before the Great Pandemic of 2020 for practical reasons: easy commute, good school districts, resaleability. Alas! We were not nestled into a corner of the kingdom with snug banners encouraging us to stay home and be safe, an irony to be sure. No, we and all the people on the south side of Chicago were in full lockdown mode, not a rare occurrence for us, what with Cook County penitentiary and escaping inmates nearby. (More benign reasons include a simple shortage in staff.) The pandemic contributed to extending this saga long past its expiration date. We were, in every sense of the word, locked down together, almost never to part. Everything happened very slowly, gradually, like cooking a frog that doesn’t yet know it’s being boiled.

For reasons I shall not explain, the wedding was called off. We found ourselves in limbo, but the pandemic proved to be a worthy enough distraction, and it all started off very smoothly. Up until that point, the castle had been mine, and only mine, during daylight hours. He crept up on me. I had spent most of the spring cleaning, as people are wont to do, and throwing away shit he still doesn’t realize is missing. He did his thing and I was doing mine, his figuring out how to work from home and me trying to figure out how to be unemployed for the first time in my life. By summer, I had won the bedroom, he took my office, where I wrote and used to do teacherish things, and we slept peacefully apart for several months. He slept on the couch. It was working out just fine. We probably could have gone on like that forever. We didn’t though.

One night we had an epic battle. By “epic,” I mean he broke my nail. He didn’t chip my nail. He didn’t break off the acrylic. He broke the whole damn thing. He pushed me, I pushed him back, and we tussled. He took my phone and my keys, so I broke down his door. Plus, he got blood, my blood, on the wall I had just finished doing touch-ups to. It took me months to pick out the precise shade of gray I wanted. I had even done the painting myself, and I thought this is no way to treat a lady. Our feelings out of the way, we were now having it out over some territory. For months, he refused to let me paint the wall in what was now my bedroom. I had to be proactive. I bought some crayons that wrote like lipstick and I scribbled all over the walls. Finally, he gave in and let me paint the wall so as to cover the mess I had made. Talk about the writing on the wall. But I was fooled. It wasn’t to be my bedroom for much longer. I had left for a short time, and when I came back, he had painted over my entire wall with a new color as if I had never even been there. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him so motivated to finish a project.

Meanwhile, we went on, avoiding fights by avoiding each other. It was working out well, here and there. If we so much as looked at each other, all hell would break loose. He’d say something like “What the hell are you looking at?” and I’d say something like “Why don’t you want to marry me,” and he’d counter with “There you go bringing up the past again.” We were merciless. He managed to avoid me most of the time by simply locking me out of the house. Whenever I wasn’t around, he’d grab my keys off the wall, take off the house key, send me on my way, and I’d come home to yet another door locked in my face. I’m not sure you’re technically allowed to kick a tenant out. At this point, I wasn’t even sure that I was a tenant. We never had a talk about what we were after the wedding was called off. I figured it was probably none of my business. He yelled at me a good while for not paying him rent. I only found out later he wasn’t paying the mortgage, and where some of my money went, I could never tell you. What is no longer a mystery is how he managed to open up two more credit cards during a pandemic. I now see clearly where funds must have been transferred.

This wasn’t nearly as grand as the furniture war. He had an obsession with moving things after I had deliberately moved them somewhere. If I had the table centered under the light, he’d push it up against the wall. If I had made a play area behind the couch for our kid, he moved it against the wall. If I put the bed somewhere we could all get some feng shui, he pushed it up against the wall. One time he even pushed me up against the wall. By that point, I already knew better than to call the useless city cops. Believe me, I tried. He was aggressive over the barest matters, too. I bought a bag of potato chips and we had yet another epic battle about what food could and could not be brought into his house.

To be fair, it was his house, as the police so kindly reminded me each time they, like him, threw me out of there. Even though that’s where I lived. He was also smarter than he looked. I woke up one night to him standing over me. I had slept in his bed while he was out partying for the night and locked the door behind me, not that this did any good. I couldn’t even tell you what the fight was about. I wake up, and he’s standing over me with a Mike’s Black Cherry in his hand (it was not even 9am yet). What is he doing in the room when I’m not even dressed? He did this to me all the time. He would just walk in while I was taking a shower or doing my make-up. This roommate had no sense of personal boundaries. He was always in my face, locking me out, or on this occasion, he very literally threw me outside at 9am.

I don’t wear pajamas to sleep.

I called the cops that time. They asked me what he was wearing. I told them what he was wearing. When he walked outside, he was wearing something different. He is no stranger to the police. Of course, I’m the hysterical one; I wasn’t wearing anything. The police kindly offered to call me an ambulance, not because I was bleeding. They told me I had to leave. To pack up my shit and leave. I did this under the eye of a sleazy ass officer. I had no idea there is no due legal process where I live. After all of this goes down, I do what any sane person does. I call the one person you can always count on to be there for you when you need him.

I called my dad. Mistake number three coming up. After the wedding is called off, after we have been in physical fights, after he lights my credit report on fire, after I step down from teaching to stay at home with our daughter, after locking me out, throwing me out, after moving all my furniture, after every microagression he throws at me, my dad says:

“I think you need to work on your relationship.”

Personally speaking, I don’t feel like I should be forced to date a roommate, but here I was, considering that I was perhaps in the wrong after all. If you wouldn’t break down a door to get back your phone and your keys, then you wouldn’t understand.

I will never have another roommate again.

Happy Anniversary, Darlings

I don’t eat shrimp. I don’t eat shrimp, and therefore I do not know how to cook shrimp. Why one day I found myself overcome by the urge to learn how to cook shrimp is a mystery I’ll never unravel. It’s remarkable how much you learn about love by first learning what it is not. I had hatched a plan to keep my boyfriend occupied at work longer than he had to be. We worked at a bar together. The whole plan backfired.

I am cooking shrimp at home into a nice sautee while he is, presumably, occupied at work. It was a special occasion. It was our anniversary. Not only was I cooking shrimp, I was grilling some filets. I had a table set. The whole cheesy nine yards, with a tablecloth I didn’t own and had to go out to buy, and some candles. I saw this on some film or another. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Shrimp is disgusting. It feels funny and it smells terrible. Finally I let my person on the inside know to send him home.

“He’s finishing a drink,” they let me know. Okay. So I waited. I waited until the food got cold. And then I waited some more. I waited until he came home too obliterated to even notice there had been a table set in the first place. This was July 17th some time in my very early days of youth.

I’ll admit, men are notorious for forgetting important dates. This has clearly been my experience. So when some other real charmer tells me he asked me out on June 1st so as not to forget the date ever, I took this as a surely good sign. I can’t say I’ve forgotten that day once in my life. His manners now stand in contrast to some more unsavory characters I’ve had the displeasure to encounter. For the first time in my life, I’ve witnessed someone with the audacity to slide into my DM (which is a direct message, if you don’t know), at 4am and ask me if I’m still awake. At four. In the morning. When clearly, this is when people sleep. He had asked to follow me, I said fine. Did he ask for my phone number?

No, no he did not. He may as well have just walked into my back door. If you don’t have my number, what makes you think I am talking to you? It blew my mind. It’s bad enough nobody leaves a calling card with your valet anymore, or writes a freaking letter. This is a whole new level of discourteousness if I’ve ever seen an instance before. No manners whatsoever. Did he stop when I asked him to? Of course not. That’s why they invented a “block” button, and the pleasure to push it was all mine.

Women are notorious for making allowances for men all the time. Which I do. All the time. Like the guy who took me out on something like a first date to pet puppies. Yes, to pet puppies which is, in theory, a great idea. If you like petting puppies. Or if you like animals at all. I’m not saying lock your dog in the car on a hot day. I’m just saying keep that barking contraption away from me. Dogs make me nervous. Yes, even the small ones. That wasn’t even the first date. It might have been. That’s not when he, I mean we, decided to start counting. The whole relationship lasted approximately two months, the time it took me to figure out how to now back out of this relationship that started in yet another situation where I hadn’t yet learned how to say no. 

It was St. Patrick’s Day. Responsible kids that we were, we decided to book a hotel room with a bar downstairs in the lobby. While everyone else was busy jumping into the pool with clothes on, him and I were somewhere upstairs, not jumping into a pool (bummer), and I guess he probably expected something else, but it didn’t happen. Here’s what happened. He asks me out. In a hotel room. Maybe a few beers deep. I don’t drink. I am sober and wishing I was getting kicked out by security downstairs. After he asks, I say yes, obviously because I have to or else leave the party, which wasn’t the plan, he says:

“Do you mind if we tell everyone it’s tomorrow, so they don’t know I asked you out on St. Patrick’s Day?” Truly, I was flattered. Blew me away, this charming rake. Hence why I spent the next two months hatching an escape plan. Red flags and all, you know. To be fair, when I did finally break it off, he showed up at my house, unannounced and uninvited, with some flowers and some candy in a tin lunch box with a picture of Spongebob on the front. I threw away the flowers and took the candy. Saying no is one thing. Getting the point across is a cutthroat endeavor.

Speaking of bad timing, no day is better to propose to someone than a mere nine months after you’ve been dating, at the beginning of a career, on your birthday. No, not my birthday. It was his birthday. I didn’t even see it coming. I had planned a birthday party. I already had a guest list. That he added to. Behind my back. Which, not surprisingly, became a theme planning the wedding. How do you say no in front of 50 people you don’t know? We had just barely moved into our own place. We did not have a conversation about this. There was a cake and everything. Saying no meant dissolving the relationship, and I wasn’t ready to do that just yet, but here was down on one knee. One of the most embarrassing videos on the internet is the whole fiasco. Me in party gear. Him ready to propose. It was nothing like I dreamed or anything I could have imagined.

That’s how I get stuck with this guy. Do I advocate living with your boyfriend before the wedding night? Absolutely not. I get stuck with this thing, with this ring on my finger. That I picked out. That I thought, cutely, he might be saving for to surprise me with one day. “One day” came a lot sooner than I expected, let me tell you. He’s done all kinds of things to the word “forever.” For example, I had been engaged forever. Like all brides, I’m thinking we’ll be married before the year is out. This is exciting. I decide we shall run away, it shall be a beach, nobody will be there (PTSD), and it would be perfect.

No. He had an ever-growing guest list our wallets couldn’t accommodate. The whole thing was a mess, not to mention I had just started a career. I didn’t have time to plan anything, to be honest, and if I’m fair, he met me on the back end of all this other shit, so he already had a train wreck to deal with in the first place. I’m not sure I remembered any of our anniversaries. Most of my thoughts were preoccupied about setting a date, one he had imposed on me, without talking to me first, and this didn’t blow over so well for him.

Here’s how “forever” works. I was with him forever, I was engaged forever, and then, I’m an almost-bride. Forever. We have all these years of history. Seven, to be exact. He verified this for me. And now we are stuck together because in one planned, and yet passionate night, we bore a love child. Since the wedding was stalled, you see. I am now stuck with this amnesiac man forever. Because he doesn’t remember anything past the last week. All of our history, erased. Non-existent. Me? I remember every last detail.

Happy Anniversary, darlings. 

Damsel Undistressed

I’ve been saving myself my whole life. I’ve been a dragon guarding all the treasure I’ve stored up (my work, my books, my writing), incinerating anyone who got too close. When everything went up in smoke, burned to the ground, and turned to ashes between my hands, there was nothing left to protect. There was nothing left for me to do.

I had lost more than a voice. I had lost all sense of purpose. I had left the dragon’s keep and landed in a dungeon. In the dungeon, I had lost all sense of time, all sense of autonomy, all sense of self-dependency. There was no saving myself without outside help. I wasn’t a princess, I was a prisoner locked in a position too tight to get myself out. Up until that point, I had orchestrated every single one of my own rescues, fought every single one of my own battles, pulled myself out from the bottom of a well on my own. I was an island, unconquerable and solitary. Nobody was ever around when I did these things. It made me proud, too proud for my own good.

Too proud to happily accept help ever after.

I don’t feel like the hero in my own story. I don’t feel like the princess in my own fairy tale. I feel like the sole survivor at the end of a horror film, and the experience has been terrifying, has left me haunted, scarred, and tortured. The saddest part is that my story isn’t anywhere near the grim tale other lives have endured. I didn’t audition to be a damsel-in-distress. I was conditioned to be otherwise.

And it exhausted me. I burned out. I fell down without a reason to get back up again. I had no desire, no strength, no will left of my own. Whatever sense of power saving myself had bestowed upon me could no longer sustain me. I had built up a tolerance to the level of adversity and resilience I reached, and I didn’t have the capacity for more.

Enough, I said. I can’t do this anymore.

All those years of playing my own hero and sidekick to someone else depleted me. It was futile and worthless. It inflated my ego, driving more people away than it convinced to stay.

Let them go, I said. I don’t need them. I’m an island. I’m a queen. I’m a warrior. I’m the storm. I’m exhausted. 

I don’t recall ever asking him for help. I think it was all the crying I was doing. He couldn’t concentrate. One day, when he had had enough, he sprung me from my cell, and I didn’t see him for a long time after that. He seemed annoyed by the entire event. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about owing somebody something for the first time in my life. He didn’t need any favors returned. He didn’t need anything or ask for anything in return. The crying must have really bothered him. Silence was repayment enough, if I had stayed silent.

I didn’t know how to say thank you for something I didn’t ask for without sounding ungrateful. He had freed me from a dungeon, but escape hadn’t given me back my voice. Without a purpose or anything to do, I had all the time in the world to practice using all kinds of voices on him.

He never said a word.

There were no boundaries. There were no subjects off limits. There were no expectations. There were no clearly defined parameters after springing me from the cell. We were one big, giant blob of nothing, a vacuum inevitably destined to be filled. For as much as I told him (which is to say, everything), there was one thing I always left out.

The demons chasing me. The stalkers hunting me. The voices assaulting me. I left out the part where I was still, even after being saved from a lifetime imprisonment, a damsel-in-distress. Sometimes he wonders if it wouldn’t have been better to leave me in the cell, crying and all. Noise-canceling headphones would have been a wiser investment.

He eventually found out. He found out through the grapevine. To this day, I’m not sure he knew anything for certain until I told him. He sort of reminds me of how detectives ask questions in a way that makes it seem like they know more than they do, until you finally give something up. He knew I was pulling all-nighters. He knew I would disappear for days at a time. He knew I’d sleep for days at a time. He let me lie to his face over and over again, even though telling the truth wasn’t something I had agreed to do. I had agreed to nothing.

He didn’t save me in any traditional sense of the word. He didn’t say he’d catch me if I fell. He didn’t say he’d always be there. He didn’t say anything. He simply existed. If I fell, he’d just wait for me to get back up. By saying nothing at all, he became the loudest voice I heard.

This is who I am and that is who you are. Misery doesn’t need company.

The realization hit me slowly. Over months. Through near-death experiences. He never wavered. He had become the only constant in my life. The only solid ground through earthquakes. There were no stakes, but he was daylight after a life in the shadows, and I wanted to be near him. He made me uncomfortable.  He made me see myself in a new light, and he didn’t look away, even when I did. He never flinched.

He is the only one who let me know that I was, in fact, a damsel-in-distress, and also that it was okay to be one. He was signing “you need help” to me the same way my family had verbalized it to my face. The only difference is that my family wanted to pass me off to someone else, while he stood his ground. 

I’m giving you help. Take it or leave it.

I had no choice. I was beyond the point of saving myself. Circumstances threw us together, and if anyone else had handed me a rope, I might have used it to hang myself, instead of using it to climb out. If you asked him, he might tell you I saved myself. He’d be lying. If he hadn’t been there, I would have destroyed myself first. There was nothing left to save. He extended grace to an otherwise irredeemable monster.

Changing because of him saved me. By not using his voice, he gave me mine. He will always be the fairy tale in my life because I didn’t turn out to be the queen, or the princess, or the damsel-in-distress.

I get to be the storyteller.

Dating Profile

There are four things people lie about the most in their dating profile: age, height, weight, and marital status.

Age

Let’s start with the basics. I’m 31 years old. Sometimes I still think I’m 29. I know an unfortunate soul who tells stories like she’s still in high school, even though she graduated six years ago. When I worked in a bar, there was a whole group of adults dressed in leather pants and headbands every weekend, forever destined to continue living out the 80s.

Here’s how age works: if you compare the number of years I’ve been on Earth to someone who, say, has been here for 70 years, of course I’ll look like a hatchling next to this dinosaur. If you consider the fact that I moved out at 18, accrued three degrees and 100k in student debt, had a kid, been fake divorced twice, endured a midlife crisis on the verge of 30, walked away from a stable, promising career, and discovered that feminism for me was, in fact, a phase I grew out of, then I’m relatively old, if not experienced.

Also: I only have one payment left before my car is paid off. This makes me an adult.

If you knew I read dystopian young adult fiction until my mid-twenties, I might look younger than I am. Age, truly, is just a number counting the number of years you’ve been alive.

Height

I’m 5′ 9″…on my tip toes…in heels…on stilts. Pretty much I have to climb on the counters to reach anything in the kitchen. I’m about 5′ 7′ in heels, if I wear them, so on a good day, I’m almost always five feet and three inches tall. I’ve never dated anyone shorter than me. This would probably be hard to do. One time I thought I might like this guy still if he was a midget, but no.

Weight

My license at one point said I weighed seven more pounds than I really did at the time. This is something we will probably never talk about. I now weigh fourteen pounds more than my license said, and I am inexplicably three inches wider without looking any thinner. Pictures really are better for this portion of the profile. There is a fat version of me and a skinny version of me. I’m currently in the skinny version, but if I have another life crisis, this could change at any moment.

I’m like a muscular teddy bear. What I mean is what you think are muscles is really extra fluff and stuff. I used to be a gym rat or gym shark, whichever, but not anymore. Muscles freak me out.

Marital Status

Single, never married. This is what I file on my taxes every year. I used to be married to this thing called work, but now I mostly read and write; occasionally, I show up to a night job (I’m a server, not a stripper, don’t worry).

Contrary to what you might think, I want little to nothing to do with anyone who also, likewise, reads, and/or writes. Because that’s what I do. I’m at the point where I need something a little more interesting, maybe an astronaut, zoo keeper, or an archaeologist. Something like that. I wouldn’t necessarily rule out a spiritual mystic or coal miner, though.

I’m afraid I’m a little more complex than a few measurements, but I’m definitely husbandless. For good reason, if I’m honest.

As a side note, no consideration will be given for your yearly salary. We all want to file as Head of Household, now don’t we?

Good Luck!

-Jackie

What to Do with Your Heartbreak

What are you supposed to do with a heartbreak? You can remember forever how you’ve been hurt and use that to propel yourself forward, until the pain recedes, taking with it all the good memories caught in the tide. You can choose to replay all the best moments in your mind over again on shuffle or repeat, until the nostalgia crushes you and you’re struggling to remember why you left, why it didn’t work, what broke in the first place.

There must be a reason it’s all over now because there’s a cold burning sensation holding your heart in a vise grip to remind you. Something about hanging onto anger and pain can make a person feel invincible. Nothing in the world will hold them back. They’ve overcome an obstacle and have come out stronger on the other side. This is a story to tell ourselves that reconciles a heartbreak.

The opposite would be admitting we have been temporarily weak by a world-ending, life-shattering event. Whichever way you take through a heartbreak, the outcome is always the same: you get over it. It’s basic psychology. The mind heals, which is really where heartbreak resides. The unbearable pain reverberating through your entire body is a distress call. It makes us run right back into the arms of the person who broke us in the first place, or into the next pair of arms of someone else waiting for us. The body’s instinct is to recoil from pain.

When there’s no one waiting, some of us might turn to drugs, or alcohol, or live with reckless abandonment for as long as it takes for the pressure of pain to be released. Heartbreak hurts because a good thing has been lost, real or imagined, and hope is extinguished. Hope is all we hold onto before a heartbreak. Hope that the good times will keep coming, or hope that the good times will eventually arrive. Heartbreak means disappointment: with yourself, with another person, with the world and the way things turned out.

There’s no easy way to package heartbreak. The ending of one relationship is setting you up for another. You lower your expectations for the next person to avoid being hurt altogether. You raise your expectations so it’s nearly impossible to find anyone else. You convince yourself you’ve found the one and stop looking at all. You throw yourself into relationship after relationship to keep the last one from ever catching up to you.

When we don’t feel powerful from hanging onto the hurt and pain through a heartbreak, we feel worthless, instead. There’s a middle ground somewhere between powerful and worthless. It’s called acceptance. I guess it takes a number of heartbreaks to reach this halfway point. Closure is never a guarantee and heartbreak stays an open wound. Your mind returns to these same places repeatedly, trying to impose order on chaos, and right the uncertainty.

The only way over a heartbreak is through it. After a few times, it’s like riding a bicycle. Once you learn how to do it, you never forget. The hard part is getting back on after you’ve fallen off.

The Lover

I cannot write when he is staring at me. He does this to me all the time. I have started and not finished two things now. That’s okay. I always figure something out.

I’ve got nothing.

I was writing about this lover business. You’d think being a lover would be the best place to be in the world, that sending nothing but love out into the universe is the easiest thing in the world to do. Who doesn’t want more love? Nothing could be further from the truth. Loving takes an ungodly amount of energy. Love is the only thing that is satisfying in and of itself; that’s why love, even when it’s not returned, is still fulfilling. Reciprocal love is best case scenario. 

If I could just forget him long enough, I could finish writing whatever this is going to turn out to be.

The lover, right. That’s me. I’ve been thinking about what kind of character this lover is supposed to be. Or who this lover has been. I suppose she’s gotten jealous. I’ve known about jealousy for a long time. Jealousy murders love. This is what I have known. I don’t get jealous often. It’s a hard emotion to describe, especially because jealousy can actually be a good thing, if it doesn’t take a hold of you and make you do stupid things that kill the love. Jealousy is when you really really don’t like something. Love is not possessive and jealousy makes possessiveness flare up. This is no good. Love cannot thrive under these conditions. I guess in some ways jealousy can make you feel like you’re inferior in some way, or it can feel like the other person, the beloved is superior in some way. This is how jealousy can be a good thing. 

I’m not really an expert on emotions. 

What I do know is that the beloved is not meant to become some sort of instrument for the lover to use as a means to an end. As a female, I know all about objectification. The lover is not acting towards an inert object. The beloved embodies a lived experience for the lover and the lover’s job is to find a way to fit inside of this lived experience, recognizing that their beloved is a fully formed and functioning human. The lover isn’t supposed to absorb their beloved’s experience like Kirby sucking everything in his path up. There are two worlds here, and the lover lives in their own world with experiences all their own.

The two of these worlds sort of melt together like crayons in a microwave. 

A lover, a person in love, can never be trusted to act sane. Nobody who has written about love has ignored the fact that love can and does sometimes border on madness. When the lover is completely consumed by the beloved, madness inevitably ensues. The lover is walking a finer line than the beloved. The beloved simply exists in the mind of the lover. The lover is the one who has to hold all these strings together without compromising the lived experience of another human or damaging the integrity of their own. It’s a very fine line. The other side of madness is when the beloved does not know they are a beloved, as is the case in the psycho-obsessed thriller You. That’s not how this works. The beloved should at least know they exist somewhere outside of their own plane of existence, that is, in my imagination. There might be a certain level of obsession, but I prefer single-minded focus.

That’s another emotion lovers can experience. She might be uncertain a lot because, well, this other person is living in my mind. That’s not saying anything about the voices which, I am told, are unique to my person. Not everyone hears the voices I do. It’s a feature, not a bug. These voices tell me to love him harder when I’m closest to letting go, and there’s this entire back and forth exchange I am fully aware I am having with myself. 

Until you get to the point where you are asking yourself why am I not letting go of you? Thus, a beloved is born, and you, the lover. External conditions matter very little, even though you’re very much aware of them. For example, I am poor. I have not a penny to my name. No dowry. No goats for sacrifice. Nothing to offer. This keeps the relationship symbiotic. The whole thing is a game of tug-o-war with yourself. Being a lover is a task, to say the least. Sometimes the beloved is not always cooperative. Sometimes they go off ruining the idealized version of them you’ve spent so much time and worked so hard to create.

Maybe the lover gets frustrated. The beloved will not just sit still and look pretty. They’re off living their own lived experience doing God knows what, and you’re holding all these strings together, while they’re busy cutting them away from you.

It’s not all kumbaya. There is never a point, though, where the lover feels like the beloved should be doing anything different. All is as it should be. Maybe it’s a little different when the beloved knows you’re the lover, and they know you’re off building worlds without them, but which they will inevitably become a part of because they have little to no choice.

Perhaps saying “no” would end things sooner. I haven’t heard that word yet, so the lover it is I remain. Nothing kills love faster than jealousy and hearing the word no. 

Mostly being the lover is exhausting because you are refashioning the image of your beloved in as many new ways as possible. It’s hard to say if it’s worth it because it just is. Love has no real clear objective. But a life without purpose has no meaning, and the beloved is there to supply that, the meaning. Everything I do is attached to my beloved in some way. I don’t walk around reminding myself I am the lover and this is what I must do. No. It is the beloved who takes up all of my mental space and energy. It’s second-nature at this point. I have learned how to live with this secondary presence anywhere I go, and the only time it’s really a problem is when I laugh too hard at only something the beloved would understand. People don’t like when you laugh hard without them. They don’t get it.

This happens at the grocery store a lot. A woman was picking out her Texas Toast garlic bread, and she dropped a whole bag of peas all over the floor. It’s not a “you had to be there” moment. It’s more like “you’d just have to be him to get it.” Frozen peas everywhere. Clean up in aisle three, please. 

The lover most certainly does all the work. The beloved just exists. Must be nice. Feelings like these crop up, but you beat them back. That is one place the energy goes. It goes to fighting against all of the bad, ugly things that creep up on you. Nobody has a day of thoughts filled with only rainbows and sunshines. You could though. If you had a beloved. He is blue skies and sunshine, all the time. Because that is how he exists. I made it that way. Love is creation. It is never destruction. 

That’s really not even the half of it. The other half would be where all of this mental work and strain turns into words on a page. It would be wrong to say my beloved is simply writing material, though, because he was good for something before there was ever any writing attached. Good for my mental health.

In conclusion, that is a lover. 

The Beloved

My love life has always been a little unconventional, never more so than it is now. Traditionally, and in all the books on love I’ve read so far, the lover is male and the beloved is female. There’s absolutely no reason to make things more complicated than necessary. In this case, complicated is just the tip, for I, the female, am the lover, and my beloved is a man. I have found the one my heart loves, and he is my beloved because I love, love, love him.

That is my role as the lover: to love.

Love is always a threat to the status quo because lovers always want to build their own secret world nobody else is a part of, speak a language only the two of them know, and do things like swap pronouns when everyone else is happy to keep everything exactly the way it has been forever.

The beloved exists in the lover’s amorous imagination. Love implies a way of valuing someone. Unlike love, which needs to be learned how to do, valuing (or devaluing) someone else is universal among humans. Even the word “beloved” denotes more than a simple term of endearment. There is a value judgment inherent in calling him my beloved. It means he has a special place in my esteem. I regard him more highly than any other individual on the planet.

He is my beloved. He is in the perpetual state of being loved. By me. There is nothing he can do to stop me. I would have to choose to stop loving him, devalue him in some way so that he’s no longer seen as the beloved, or cast someone else in his role as my beloved.

That’s how this works.

The lover puts the beloved on a pedestal, not for worship, but as a way of fully concentrating the imagination on his suggestive being. The beloved becomes valuable through the lover. The lover attaches value to the beloved simply by committing herself to him. The amorous imagination is used to continuously affirm the value of the beloved apart from what the lover already knows to be true. 

Love is an attitude. Love is not merely a means of giving and receiving. Love is never practical and doesn’t have a clear objective. This is how love can come to border on madness. Desire doesn’t play a role in the bare-bones structure between a lover and beloved. Desire is wanting something for personal gratification. The lover attends to the beloved for who he is without the desire to make him any better he is, unless that is what he desires.

When love is an attitude, the amorous imagination steps in to downplay any negative thoughts about the beloved. My beloved is perfect, but this might not always be the situation. The lover might be aware that their beloved is not desirable to anyone else. The beloved is loved unconditionally. My beloved is also an Adonis, but this is not why or how he became my beloved. Whenever someone loves another person because of some reason or another, these become conditions for love. By adopting love as an attitude, love and the beloved are created. Love exists within the lover; it doesn’t come from an external source. The lover responds positively to the beloved, and in valuing him, makes him worthy of her love. This way of using the amorous imagination has been compared to alchemy. 

Without the imagination, it would be impossible for a lover like me to value the beloved as he is, my beloved. While he is real, he exists for me in another dimension just a little outside of reality. Stimulating the imagination is not the same as yielding to self-delusion.

If I’m perfectly honest, he’s pretty much my beloved because I’m obsessed with him.

Awakening

When a woman is in love, she can’t pretend otherwise. Passion can’t be restrained. Her feelings swell until they consume her. He dominates her thoughts day and night, until she is carried away by the tide of passion. The feelings come before the words. I want to scribble everywhere. I can’t get my thoughts in order. He fills me up like a balloon threatening to float away at a moment’s notice.

Or pop. He could destroy me. I am a balloon and he is the needle. One prick, and I explode, shatter into a million pieces. You would think being destroyed is a bad thing, but it’s not. Not this way. It is strength. Not mine. It is all this man before you. He could destroy you, and I like that feeling. A woman wants nothing more than to think she is strong, until shown otherwise. It is humbling. Not every man can bring you to your knees. This cannot be done by even half of them. Only by a few. So far, he is the only one.

My cup runneth over.

This is ecstasy. Not the pill. There are no drugs here; he is the drug. Ecstasy can feel like a trance-like state, or it can wake you up. It makes your whole body come alive. There is nothing you want more. Actually you don’t need more. That’s the thing. Anyone can give you more. Not anyone can give you enough. I am insatiable. He satiates me. I still want more. It’s madness! There is nothing to end this cycle. The feelings build up inside of me. Energy needs an outlet. This kind is explosive.

I can’t control myself. I am hot and bothered. I pace back and forth. I am woken up in the middle of the night by the force of these feelings. They crush me. I am not weak, they are strong. The feelings pervade my dreams. He haunts my dreams. I see him everywhere. I am never alone. I look at him the way someone looks through a kaleidoscope. There are so many facets to admire. There is complexity and depth. This is not true of everyone. 

There are some people who suck the life right out of you. You can’t bear to be near them for longer than you have to. There are some people who are like magnets. You can’t help but be pulled towards them. You don’t realize the energy it takes to be around them until you’re exhausted. And you do get exhausted, in a good way. But you leave so you can restore your energy and come back for more, because even when it’s enough, you’re never done. Not really.

It’s the definition of an addiction. It’s not just the high. It’s the cycle. Live and repeat. You are flying, you don’t want to come down. It is pure pleasure, never diminished by time. You return again and again.

I return again and again. I could never repeat the cycle with someone else. It is always him. It has only always been him. My experience is not singular. Very few bother looking for it. I’ve discovered it for myself. I’ve found the rest of me in someone else. I am whole. Everyone is looking for something in life. Some of us don’t know what we are looking for. The rest don’t bother to look. They are complacent. He never gets old for me. He is always something new. The only new thing under the sun. 

Falling in love and being in love are two very distinct ideas. They commingle. Falling is the impression of something you can’t control, while being in love is something you have to choose to do or be, not on a daily basis, but minute-for-minute. There is an intensity, a certain degree of emotion that goes into this state of mind. Because that’s what it is. It’s not a choice; it’s the result of making a choice, and then you find yourself in this uncontrollable state.

Love is moderation, but passion has its place. Nobody talks about passion enough. Nobody writes about passion outside of a motivational speech designed to inspire someone, or a lot of someone, elses. I am not setting out to inspire you. I have been inspired.

Better yet, I’ve been awakened. Women do this, come into some sort of awakening. With the right sort of man, they do. A woman who hasn’t been awakened hasn’t read the right books or met the right man. Women awaken and it is men who awaken them.

I am not a man. I don’t know anything about what it is they do. What I do know is that I am coming into my own, and that is because there is a man. There is something in him that can never be in me on my own. I am a woman. We are separate, different, and distinct. There is something to be said for a man who can make a woman submit. A woman in the midst of today’s feminist rhetoric does not submit.

I do not submit. I hold my own. He makes me weak. No, he makes me vulnerable. Or maybe neither of those things. I still haven’t exactly worked all of this out. Women are supposed to be more given to emotion. Not me. This is not a brag. It’s an insecurity. To be a woman in the presence of a man, my God. Make no mistake, it is a man’s world. This man takes up mine. 

I don’t know what it is exactly that I’ve awakened to. I’ve not been sleeping these last however many years (a lady never gives her age). There is no reason to go into the sexual awakening that has accompanied this passion. It wouldn’t be proper. He takes up all of me. It is all one to me now. What exactly have I awakened to? 

Maybe that the minutes of my life have meant nothing until now. Maybe that the idea of an independent woman I’ve held so closely my whole life no longer means anything to me anymore. Maybe that two is better than one. Maybe that I am not an island.

Maybe. I don’t know. He does this to me. Makes me uncertain. Maybe it’s an awakening to the realization that there is never a more to life, that you can eventually reach a state of this is it. I don’t mean that as a fatalist. I mean that as someone who has become satisfied after running in the rat race of life too long.

As a woman, nonetheless. 

It doesn’t matter if I don’t have all the answers. He probably does. He won’t tell me. This is what keeps things interesting. You don’t want to make it too easy. The fact remains: I’ve been awakened, and I’ve not walked through life as some unintelligent fool thus far. Three years ago, you would never have caught me admitting that a woman is better off with a man. Never. Times have changed. I’ve not changed. But I’m different. I see things differently.

I’ve awakened to something. Let me tell you that I have acted the fool in front of this man for the sake of nothing. For the sake of him. For the sake of it all. I have not been awakened to some kind of realization that I’ve some untapped potential. I don’t know what potential I would speak of. I have failed at almost every endeavor I’ve embarked upon. Probably because I’m a woman.

That’s only half serious. But that’s the whole point. I have failed at every turn in life in spite of trying my damnedest to do the best I could. And none of that matters anymore, because here I am. Pouring my heart out as if I’m in some kind of therapy group, which I’ve been a part of in the past. I’ve met Jesus Christ himself in one of them.

None of that matters. What I’ve been awakened to is what really matters. For me, that’s him. That’s all that matters. I am well-educated, and I’ve been awakened backwards into a silly girl in love like I am still in high school (I never went.). I have worked all my life to be something and I failed.

Here I am. This doesn’t feel like failure to me. I feel blessed and blissed out of my mind. All the time. He does this to me. I thought it would go away. It hasn’t. Not for months. Years, actually, if I’m honest. I’ve tried to avoid it. I can’t. I’m in love. This is what happens. Nothing else matters. 

Only this.

I’ve awakened. Maybe to nothing except him, I don’t know. Do I need more than that? He has taken up my whole life, and I give him mine. 

The Madness of Love

I went mad for a summer as if the pandemic wasn’t enough to drive anyone mad. Love hit me with all the force of a train and struck me dumb. My brains fell out. I lost my keys in the woods. The power lines went down and I lived without electricity for a week. I wrote notes on the mirror reminding me to eat. 

There’s a certain mad quality about love once the mysticism fades away. Love is mysterious and makes us curious before pulling us into its mad grip. The madness of love descends like clouds in a storm, making us act crazy and do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. We are conditioned to accept acts of madness when love is involved. Crimes of passion carry a lighter sentence than crimes committed in cold blood. Madness can mean insanity, or it can mean getting carried away by enthusiasm. Love exists at both ends of the spectrum. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. There is a tendency to underestimate the power of love. 

I couldn’t stop writing. I couldn’t stop moving. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t hold a thought for more than a few seconds. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t breathe. There were a million needles stabbing my body all the time, like I was electrified. My heart was constantly racing. My hands were constantly shaking. The journal I kept is mostly just scribbles, fragments of a lost mind. There were a lot of fragments, pieces that have reappeared in later notebooks in a more legible hand. I jumped from one thought to the next without any clear connection. It is the diary of a mad woman with song lyrics copied down for good measure. None of this mattered to me in the moment. I was happy, I was writing, and I also thought I was dying.

There were a lot of times I thought I was dying and my doctor just didn’t tell me, and I thought I would go right on living up until that point. Nothing else mattered. It was madness. I walked around life like a visiting tourist. There was no sense of reality, none whatsoever. Looking back, it all looks a lot more simple to figure out than the experience had been. I had fallen in love and didn’t yet know it. Turns out you don’t have to allow yourself to fall in love, but you do have to accept it before reason returns.

It’s a really big pill to swallow. Or maybe it’s not, I don’t know. This has never happened to me before. I had to claw myself out of the madness. Madness is not necessarily a good thing, but some of the greatest blessings come from madness. It has taken me this long to make some kind of sense out of the experience. Love has no concept of time. It was like I had woken up for the first time in a long time only to go back to sleep and wake up again to realize I had woken up the first time. Every day I literally woke up, it was like the previous day had been entirely blacked out from my mind. My memories returned, but my memory at the time wasn’t working at all. I was Dory from Finding Nemo. 

I was Lucy Whitemore in 50 First Dates.

Madness is a constant state of uncertainty. The only source of uncertainty for me was in writing. This is where I’ve found most of my blessings. I’ve left traces everywhere. I couldn’t stop writing, even though I didn’t always know what or why I was writing. There was a part of me that could recognize what was happening without being fully able to acknowledge it. I had seen something I hadn’t yet experienced. I didn’t have the language I needed to properly describe what I was experiencing. It came to me in fragments and almost completely lost among so many other mundane topics. 

I dropped out of time and space altogether. The days blurred together, and there were two times in the day: awake when the sun was up, and asleep when the sun was down. There were so many other things going on in my life that needed my attention that fell neglected by the wayside. There was this constant pressure of something that needed to be done, but I had no deadlines. Ecstasy is a hard feeling to describe, but easily recognized. It’s a trance-like state. There was an intense longing for I didn’t know what. The only word on my mind was more. More of whatever it was I had been feeling. It felt like something irretrievable had been lost to me. I called it my “voice” in writing over and over again.

Voice is connected to identity; my identity collapsed in on itself. I had fallen fast, and I had fallen hard. I was madly in love. I had surrendered myself into the madness and gave no thought to anything in my life. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. You can never trust someone in love to act sane. There’s an ingrained idea that the heart, not the mind, should be followed in matters of love.

This should never be done. Madness will ensue. 

Love also has to have an object. When all of this madness started, I had no fixed object in mind. In retrospect, I can re-read my mad diary and see how the points connect, but I couldn’t in the moment. I had lost all sense. There was a continuous cycle of falling in love and not wanting to be in that state of mind. The sweet side of love is standing on top of a mountain. The dark side is standing at the edge of a precipice. You are living your best life and dying at the same time. I also have to point out that this is from the perspective of a woman and never I had experienced lust to such an astonishing degree. Once I had a fixed object in mind, there was nothing that was going to stop me from possessing him.

Nothing.

That’s right, I knew him by lust first. Moderation was not in my vocabulary. Like I said, love has no concept of time. I started at the wrong end and traveled backwards. And actually, I hated him more first, too. These things never make sense. Only time ever tells.

I harassed him endlessly. Picked fights for no reason.  Stalked him online shamelessly. Stole all of his stuff. Read all the books beside his bed. All of them.  There was no stopping me. Desire is an irresistible force.

Love is not madness, though. Love is temperate. Someone in love also has to be someone in control. It took a long time for me to cool down. I had completely lost it for him the way I lost control over this essay. Love has driven strong women mad.

I went mad for a summer.

Mr. Perfect

Girls are programmed to find Mr. Right, the man who will sweep her of her feet and take away her breath, before riding off into the sunset together and carrying her over the threshold of their new house. Mr. Right meets every item on the checklist: he is tall, dark, handsome, funny, charming, and romantic. He is everything she has dreamed about since she was young. He listens when you speak, loves the food you cook, and he even helps you wash the dishes after dinner. Plus, he’s always home from work on time and never misses a scheduled date night.

The lucky girls learn about Mr. Right because her mother has married him. The rest of the girls learn about Mr. Right from the ones who have found him out in the wild. He is right because he fits the picture of him she has been filling in her whole life. Then one day she wakes up and realizes she is not the same girl anymore, and Mr. Right no longer fits the picture in her head. She forgot to think about Mr. Perfect. She has been told Mr. Perfect doesn’t exist, so she settles for Mr. Right, who is now all wrong for her. She is not happy anymore. She starts to think that if anyone can make her happy, it’s Mr. Perfect. She starts to believe that he is out there somewhere for her holding onto the happiness she so desperately craves. She knows herself better now. She knows what will make her happy, not yet who, so she starts drawing a new picture of Mr. Perfect.

Nobody is perfect, or so the saying goes. Mr. Perfect comes from the stuff of mythology. He is made up out of folklore.There are only stories about Mr. Perfect. Nobody has actually seen him. Mr. Perfect is soulmate material. He is made up out of the same stuff as you. He is rarely right, which is how so many girls miss him in the first place. He doesn’t fit the picture in your head at all. He’s not a single item on the checklist. He is not anything that can be dreamed or imagined.

He lives beyond the wildest imagination. It is so impossible to imagine he exists at all that the mind cannot even grasp his appearance when he materializes in a girl’s life. This is not who she was expecting. He is unorthodox and rude and unsettling. He doesn’t give off the same warm ooey-gooey feelings as Mr. Right. Mr. Perfect doesn’t sweep you off your feet; he pulls the rug out from underneath you. He only takes away your breath because he knocks you on your ass when he shows up unexpected and unannounced.

I know none of this sounds ideal. It’s a far cry from the idea of perfect we are all conditioned to have. The thing about falling in love is that it highlights all of our imperfections. This is what makes us so uncomfortable when he’s around. The last thing anyone wants is someone around who is constantly making us so aware of how we fall short in every way because that is how perfect they are. So perfect, it’s annoying and maddening. Humans are not programmed to spend time in front of things that make them uncomfortable, or next to someone who is flaunting their perfectness in your face.

This is why Mr. Right fits so much better. He says all the right things. He makes you feel all the right ways. You see him doing all the right stuff. He pushes you to be a better version of yourself. Mr. Perfect is so annoying because he’s content to just let you be. He lets you wallow in all your flaws and imperfections. He says nothing, just sits there modeling off his perfection.

What makes him so perfect, then? He is a reflection. Our reflection can only show us our imperfections. Only narcissists are in love with their own reflections. Mr. Perfect makes you run because you don’t want to have to stare at your reflection any longer than you have to. If Mr. Perfect was also Mr. Right, that would make him ideal.

Only Plato believes in ideal forms. The ideal man doesn’t exist. If he did, your brains would fall out. It would be from sheer awe that all this man is standing right before you. You’d lose your keys all the time because you don’t have any brains left to use. Instead of drawing a picture, you just want to scribble everywhere.

Mr. Right comes in like a knight in shining armor holding a sword. Mr. Perfect is armed with nothing but a glue stick so you can glue all your imperfect broken pieces back together yourself because he’ll never do this for you. Mr. Perfect lets you figure it out for yourself. The main difference is that Mr. Right knows who he is. He knows who you found. Mr. Perfect, on the other hand, has no idea who he is. He doesn’t understand who you’ve just found.

That’s why he is perfect.