“You know, you were acting so reckless, sometimes I’d thought that you’d lost it. I was so worried, and I couldn’t even reach you. I didn’t know how I could really help you, I just felt you getting stranger and stranger and drifting away from me….” She was looking into my eyes intently, emphasizing how much she meant what she said and that it had hurt her. She would never speak falsehoods to me, I was somehow certain. It made me love and appreciate her. My mind was still infected with pus-oozing, rotten thoughts and doubts. But her honesty, or rather my faith in it, had a purifying effect. I longed so much for a genuine friend…
“I did lose it.” I answered, deadpan. “I was nobody you would have recognized. I did not recognize myself. I think I let it go on for too long.” I was looking at her, knowing my face wore a blank expression, for that is how I felt relaying the facts of the matter.
The way that I interact with people depends on how they interact with me; there’s a trial period, of course, where I gauge their character and try to understand their intentions. My most valuable friendships develop on a principle of reciprocity. If I conclude that you are genuine and honest and that your character inspires fondness and respect in me, I will speak only truthfully and openly to you and show my fondness for your company. I tend to be naturally generous to those I appreciate, becoming a reliable and encouraging friend as long as I perceive our respect to remain mutual. With experience, I’d cultivated profound and delightful bonds by relying on a trained intuition and natural empathy which led me to people who could correspond to my diposition for genuine connection and were compatible with my personality.
However, I have made mistakes. And they have affected me in ways perhaps other people cannot relate to.
“Understood… but how do you feel now?” my friend asked me with concern, but mostly curiosity. I closed my eyes, sighed, and when I opened them, I said “I feel relieved.” A smile crept up my lips; I was proclaiming a victory. It was the first time I was admitting the fact that I was glad it was over. That I was glad that I’d terminated the relationship that for two years held its place as the most meaningful connection I’d had to another human being.
After my friend left, I opened up a bottle of wine and served myself a generous glass. I proceeded to spend the next two servings trying to rewrite this memoir and to convince myself that I should just try to remember the good parts. At first it was difficult to cherry-pick the smiles and the splendors of having been in love with a psychopath, but I can safely say it wasn’t all bad. Soon I was leafing through a series of precious vignettes of our fits of laughter, of bright days exploring rivers, of philosophizing for hours with my feet dangling from the kitchen counter, of his warmth in the mornings, the times we sang together to our favorite songs while he played the guitar and other such reminiscences that one tends to skip over when reviewing under the light of a nasty break-up.
Abruptly: I’m confronted by the vivid narrative of one of our worst and most painful moments. The memory consumes me and then I find myself asking him for a cigarette, standing on his front porch with my arms crossed and then saying “I can’t believe we’re fighting over something so stupid” and honestly, it must have been pretty dumb because I have no idea what it was we were arguing about.
He scoffed at me. “You don’t even fucking smoke.” And hesitated, but relinquished a cigarette for the sake of peace. I knew he was being irritable and mean due to the insomnia and the cravings. Looking back, I should’ve been more considerate of the fact that he was suffering from withdrawal, but he had been unbearable and severe all day and my patience had already been worn thin by that point. Moreover, I was pretty distraught by his drinking for no reason other than to pass out and finally sleep. Or so I’d thought.
I moved towards the back porch to smoke by myself and look up, searching for the moon. It stays hidden behind nebulas of ice crystals and I decide on music to soothe my nerves and aid the unraveling of my troubled reverie. How did we reach this point? Why haven’t I handled it better? Could I have foreseen this during the first year? No. I recognize that it was throughout the second year, when we assimilated monogamy, that I started compromising more and more of myself, investing in increasingly futile efforts to be understanding and a source of support and encouragement for his growth. After a few months of having the same optimistic conversations on a Monday and then being back at square one (or square negative one) by the end of the week, I had started feeling resentful and he was already on a fast-track to rock bottom.
Here I am brought back from my memory by the realization that I’ve been trying to sip an empty glass. I refill it while indulging in a moment of self-loathing for having picked such a difficult memory to work with. Now I feel like I am not able to write about anything else. That I need to stuff the memory into words in order to understand why I can’t seem to escape its incorporeal awfulness and perhaps extract some novel meaning out of it besides its sullen truth. It left such an impression on me, as if it had broken something important and I just keep coming back to the scattered pieces, to stare at them with sadness, not knowing what to do with them, knowing I will cut myself if I try to examine them more carefully… This thought brings me back to the memory and then I’m sitting on the back porch with the cigarette and that something important still unbroken.
The last of my cigarette is exhaled, and I smile at nothing, more out of a necessity to smile than anything else. I walk to where Paul is and bid him good night with a kiss and a “Don’t overdo it with the drinking, please.”, then go to the bedroom to await the release of sleep with closed eyes. I am not aware if minutes or hours transpired in the quiet dark of the room before I lay unconscious, but I woke up to Paul’s yells and rushed to a disturbing scene in the living room. Paul was on the couch breathless, squirming under his father’s grip and protesting in sentences and sounds that held no discernible sense or relevance. I held his arm, running through all of the possible explanations for a seizure in my head and growing concerned over not knowing the exact amount of danger he was in. As I touched that more than familiar and beloved hand, I felt distant. And I could not get him to look at me.
He was unreachable, unconscious of his father pinning him down, unconscious of my anxious fingers, of anything outside of his head. His father, a big Irish man of stoic tendencies softened by cancer and a serious stroke, was pleading to him “Don’t do this to me Paul, please.” in a heartbreaking tone. After actively struggling for a minute, he became quiet and breathed deeply as if exhaustion had overtaken him. I softly called his name. He turned to look at me and for a moment seemed to recognize who I was. He uttered the words “My Kiara.” And it is only now that I realize that was the moment I broke. I told him to rest easy, to lay down, that we were all here for him. Then I noticed the blood on his father’s arm and I wondered how much of the seizure I had missed. It seemed to be over for now. A few minutes proved that it wasn’t.
He rested for these minutes in a disoriented state, but at least he seemed to know I was there. His mother was on the phone with 911 and his father was trying to process the situation as Paul suddenly got up without saying anything and started walking to his room. His mother told me “Don’t follow him.” But that’s exactly what I did. I felt responsible, probably more so than they did, for what was happening. I was certain he hadn’t taken any pills, absolutely certain. Did he have a seizure because of the alcohol? Was it something else? Could I have stopped this?
I tried to speak with him, but he had become enraged and aggressive. And I realized he still wasn’t fully conscious as he screamed at me in slurs “Where’s the chan? Bring me the chan.” It took me a moment to realize he was trying to say the word “fan” and I tried to explain to him that if he laid down and rested I would bring it to him. “Shut the fuck up, Mimi.” And I just stood at the doorway, blinking, wearing what I imagine was a blank expression. For a moment unknowing if what I was experiencing, if the situation was real. How could I be so unprepared for this?
“Honey, Mimi is your sister. And she’s not here. It’s me, okay? You need to calm down for a minute and rest.” His mother came to look over my shoulder, say something and take me away from him. I don’t know how to help you, Paul, was all I could keep thinking. “He must have done pills.” His mother said to me. “No, he was just drinking last night…” and the mere idea that he had mixed alcohol with pills terrified me into denial. As if reading my mind, she said “Oh God. He must have mixed them.” And I just shook my head. “No, he’s been clean for almost two weeks. The alcohol must have fucked him up. Maybe he smoked too much pot or something.” But nothing made as much sense given the seizure and geezus fuck, why would he do that? My insides found new ways to twist themselves, causing me a strange kind of pain that coupled with the increasing strain of guilt kept threatening to blind my eyes with liquid anguish. How do I reach you, Paul? How could I stop you from doing this to yourself? Why have I done nothing but fail you?
And then I had the unsettling thought that I would lose him to this. I turned, told his mother to give me a few minutes and went back to his room. I found him looking around the piles of clothes strewn along his floor for his guitar. His guitar wasn’t even in the room. Seeing him like that felt like downing another shot of agony. I tried to help him realize his guitar wasn’t there, but he had stopped recognizing me since he came into his room. I remember how at some point after that, I had re-read the definition of a codependent relationship and for the first time felt intimately acquainted with the meaning behind the words.
It was a hideous and discouraging feeling. I suddenly felt the asp bites on every part of my body and imagined the bite marks oozing with dark, my blood denser with the slow curdling catalyzed by my own favorite brand of venom. I felt worthless and helpless. And, perhaps for the first time, truly regretted my love for this venomous creature who had himself acquired a toxic property from having been fed so much poison. In some way, I had enabled his current and miserable state and, naturally, had not been able to spare myself much damage; as hard as I tried to help him get better while still remaining fair to my principles and his autonomy.
“Paul, we need to get you to the hospital. There’s an ambulance on the way.” I made a mistake in mentioning the hospital, which was amongst his least favorite places on Earth. He started to scream at me again, but, thankfully, the paramedics arrived around this time. The moment one of them appeared at his doorway, he settled down. Given the way he reacted, I had the intuition that he thought they were police officers. He walked with them into the living room and answered their questions as best as he could in his semi-conscious state while we corrected him whenever he made a mistake or lied about something. In the end, as much as we tried and the presence of the paramedics notwithstanding, he managed to argue against his being taken away to the hospital based on his being 22 and having complete authority over what happens to his body. The paramedics left with some advice about forcing him into rehab and we thanked them for having had come and for the advice, knowing very well that following it would only end in tragedy for Paul.
All of this happened between 4 and 6am. After the paramedics’ visit, he went into his room and finally went to sleep. I curled up next to him on the bed, shedding a tear or two before falling asleep next to his unmistakable warmth. The rest of that day wasted away in a haze. The memory dissolves into my last glass of wine. I’m back at my apartment, holding the glass close to my chest, tears sliding down my cheeks, feeling like the song “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” by The Smiths and craving a cigarette. The seizure happened in February. I broke up with him on March 29th.
The realization that I played a part in his turmoil and self-destruction by tolerating or denying his addiction was too much for me to bear. Then when it was supposed to be his battle, I made it mine, not understanding that that would only make him depend on me to fight and also make him resent me for reminding him of his weakness, being able to blame me when he failed. Moreover, I realized that I was not enough. He wasn’t going to change because of me. He had to do it out of his own volition and strength. And I had made it easier for him to be weak. My self-worth declined considerably, precipitating in a depression that I denied almost until the very end. We became increasingly frustrated with each other and we fought almost every day, sometimes escalating to shameful and exceedingly harmful states of discussion. Only to somehow convince ourselves that we loved each other too much to not apologize and remain together. Codependent. Toxic. Relishing the idea of more venom.
It’s no wonder I felt relieved when I finally freed myself from the torrid constrictions of that noxious relationship. But even now, I’ve yet to neutralize the poison completely. I find myself buying the cigarettes he used to smoke. Making a lot of stupid mistakes with the misguided aim of recovering the passion and feeling I lost during those miserable last weeks. Hating the person I became due to a depression that still haunts my body with the weight of melancholy and the hollowness of detachment. And after all, I long for him still. Terribly so. Sometimes unbearably so. I guess I nursed an addiction of my own to him, or how I felt for him. A hopeless romantic, through and through. I expect some time will pass before I manage a full recovery, but I am glad that, at least, I know better now. I am glad I was able to recognize and accept that mere love wasn’t going to be enough to triumph or conquer all, in this case. That although for now I remain dreamless, I can finally get some rest.