I Missed You Until I Didn’t

Content warning for intimate partner violence and generally really dark shit.

This is not a love story nor a cautionary tale. It is not a story of weakness nor strength nor survival nor what might have been. I remember the beginning and I remember the end, but all the parts in between spin and collide outside of the concepts of chronological order and logical progression. I do not remember you fondly. When I think of you now, I do not imagine the life you might have. Perhaps you are dead. Perhaps you should be. Perhaps you brought it on yourself.

When we met, we were broken. You expressed your brokenness through the desire to break someone else. I expressed mine through allowing myself to be broken further. At first there was just a strange attraction, an argument and what was assumed to be a one night stand born of misplaced emotion. There was a morning after, an awakening with an unexpected sense of calm, what felt like an honest conversation about how neither of us wanted more at this point in time and how we could be friends and if things happened, then things happened.

Then things happened.

The nights, I lost count of how many, when we fucked and left bruises and bitemarks. And that one night when I had a concussion because you threw me against the wall and you said you didn’t mean to hurt me, but you did, and you did, and I didn’t care because I didn’t know how to.

The party when a friend of a mutual friend, who had known us both for only about an hour, warned me, “Be careful with that one. He’s beautiful but he’s dangerous. He’ll break your heart” and I said “I know, but he won’t, because I don’t have one”.

The night when we had violent, painful sex in the doorway of a church and you held me against the cold stone wall and said “Maybe I’m stronger because I can stop you from leaving” and I replied “Maybe I’m stronger because you don’t want me to leave”.

The day when we lay cocooned in bed until mid-afternoon and you said “Isn’t this good? Isn’t this what you want?” and I kissed you because I couldn’t figure out how to say “Yes, but no” in response to both of those questions so I got up and made coffee and you stared after me with storm clouds gathering in your eyes.

The time when my phone rang in the early hours of the morning and I answered to hear your sleep-drenched drawl asking why I’d called you. I pointed out that you’d called me, and you swore blind that you hadn’t so I said “I’ll speak to you tomorrow. Go back to sleep”. When I asked you about it the next day you said you didn’t remember, that it hadn’t been you, that it had been someone else.

The evening when we held hands across a tiny table in a quiet corner of a bar, drinking vodka and talking about music and art and politics, and it felt natural and comfortable, like this is what we could have if we didn’t hate each other underneath it all, if we didn’t hate ourselves. We walked home slowly in the winter chill, kissing in the darkness, as if this was the first time, as if twenty four hours earlier I hadn’t wrenched your hands from around my neck and you hadn’t kissed my fingertips and smiled with a tenderness that didn’t quite reach your eyes.

“Isn’t this what you want?”

“Yes, but no”

There was the you who called me in the middle of the afternoon to say “I’ve made toast. You should come over for toast” and I did and we watched music videos and got crumbs in your bed and you didn’t care. Then there was the you who called me in the middle of the night on your way home from a club to say “Something happened and I need you”. When you arrived at my door, you were covered in blood and you didn’t know if it was all your own blood or partly someone else’s and your eyes were glazed and your words were slurred so I cleaned your cuts and we fell asleep on my single mattress, wrapped in each others arms, while I became enveloped in the sinking feeling that I really didn’t know you at all.

I started to hear stories about where you’d been, what you’d taken, what you’d done, when you weren’t with me. When I asked you about these things, you didn’t remember, or couldn’t or wouldn’t remember.

Things became confused and confusing. We talked more than once about how this, whatever it was, needed to end because it was doing neither of us any good. You said “No-one else will ever feel this way about you”. I said “I hope not”. We ended up in bed again, more than once, each other’s skin under our fingernails and between our teeth.

Nights I spent with other people were followed by days of you ignoring me, avoiding me, telling our friends that I had hurt you and them believing you. The unspoken distance between us expanded then contracted then expanded then imploded into another brutal encounter when you said “I love you” and I said “No, you don’t”.

I remember the last time. You were sitting on the bed watching TV and I was lying on the floor reading. We had been drinking and we were skating around an argument, the kind we always had, the kind that served as foreplay. Then your weight bearing down through your elbow against my hip, you hissing “Say you’re sorry” and me asking “What for?” and you replying “For everything”.

You twisting my arm up my back until I saw stars and me asking you to let go. Fucking asking you, politely, like I was asking you to pass the salt. You not letting go and me reaching up and around with my free arm and punching you, hard, in the side of the head.

Me coming as close as I ever come to raising my voice, spitting nails, “This is over” and walking towards the door. You getting up. Me turning to see what you looked like being walked out on, being left behind. You with a knife in your hand. Me with an unfathomable sense of morbid curiosity that actually made me stop. You stabbing the door next to my face because I moved just in time. Me still being alive and you saying “It’s you. You make me like this”.

A monumental, aching silence.

I opened the door with the knife still stuck in it and walked out while you called after me, “I just want to look after you. I just want to make you happy. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It was someone else”. I kept walking.

I packed up my life and relocated shortly afterwards, not because of you, although putting a sea between us felt like a positive outcome. There were nights when my phone rang at 3am and I didn’t answer, then one night when I did. Your tired drawl with an edge of something like poison, like a razor blade wrapped in velvet. You said, “I’m coming to find you so we can be together the way we were supposed to be”.

The next day, I changed my phone number. And so help me, I actually missed you. I missed the way your hair fell across your eyes, the way you held your cigarette loosely between fingers that had crushed the bones in my wrists, the way your jeans hung low on your hips, the way the muscles moved in your shoulders and your smile, your smile, dripping with spite and challenges.

I missed you until I didn’t.

This is not a love story nor a cautionary tale. It is not a story of weakness nor strength nor survival nor what might have been. I remember the beginning and I remember the end, but all the parts in between spin and collide outside of the concepts of chronological order and logical progression. I do not remember you fondly. When I think of you now, I do not imagine the life you might have. Perhaps you are dead. Perhaps you should be. Perhaps you brought it on yourself.

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