I was 17.
He was in his early twenties.
“He’s cute,” my friend whispered to me one day. I agreed. We had both just started working at the same job and were smitten over the new guy. I didn’t know much about him other than that he always wore a hooded sweatshirt and his mom sometimes brought him lunch to work which I thought was cute.
We became fast friends. We sat next to each other and soon had to be separated because we were constantly laughing and telling jokes. He always had a way of putting a smile on my face which was important to me. It wasn't long before we began dating. He had attended private schools and was extremely intelligent and also had a street demeanor which excited me. I was a senior in high school dating an older guy with a car, who treated me like a princess. He was respectful towards my parents and came from a two parent family that was involved in ministry.
I thought I was in love.
Soon the trouble started. I was a very sweet girl and he hated that about me. At this point he was working a new job and now I was the one bringing him lunch. “When you come to my job I want you to start a fight with me,” he said to me one day.
I was so confused by his request. I thought guys wanted girls who avoided drama, not started it.
“Because all of my friends get into fights with their girlfriends, and you are too nice. Just do it, Ok?”
I didn’t. One of his friends had recently been stabbed by his girlfriend and he stayed with her. I believe that my boyfriend, lets call him Jake* wanted a relationship like that. He was always telling me about all of the drama that his friends had in their relationships and he idolized it. Sometimes he would purposely start fights just to argue with me.
It was around this time that I noticed his alcohol dependency. I would watch him drink beer after beer while we watched tv. When I questioned him about it or suggested he slow down he would berate me. He would yell at me until I tried to leave, then beg me to stay with him. One night I was at a friend's house when I received a call from him.
“Baby I just crashed my car,” he told me in a panic. “Oh my God, are you OK?” I asked him both worried and shocked. “Is that it? You aren’t mad? You aren’t going to yell at me?” he asked angrily. “Why would I yell at you? I’m worried about you.” I answered confused. “Just forget it!” he yelled before abruptly hanging up. I had no idea what was happening. I was worried about him and he was berating me for not being mad at him.
He wanted a loud mouth, always angry, fly off at the handle girl, and I wasn’t her.
Now that he no longer had a car he would expect me to take him to the liquor store. I never wanted to do it. I had no desire to watch him become drunk. When I would refuse to buy him alcohol he would become irate. Name calling and yelling would soon follow. If I gave in and took him to buy liquor he would tell me how I didn’t really care about him or I wouldn’t have taken him to get alcohol.
I was tired of being treated this way. Gone was the person who had made me fall in love with his sweet demeanor and sense of humor. I was no longer myself. I always felt angry. He was getting exactly what he wanted. I no longer wanted to be with him and was ready to end the relationship.
One day I received a phone call from my ex-boyfriend. He informed me a mutual friend of ours had been killed in a car accident and I was devastated. I told my boyfriend what happened and he lost it.
“Why the hell is he calling you in the first place?” he yelled. “I just told you my friend passed away and he was telling me,” I wept into the phone. “I don’t give a f**k about that. Why did he have to call you? He couldn’t have had someone else call you?” he yelled. I was completely drained. He had no regard for my feelings and had allowed his personal insecurities to make him act irrationally.
“It’s over,” I remember finding the strength to say. “I just can’t take it anymore. I’m not happy. This relationship is suffocating me and I no longer want to be with you.” I explained. “Ashley, I'm sorry. I swear to God if you leave me I will kill myself. I don’t want to be without you. I love you. I don’t want anyone else but you, please don’t leave. I’ll change I promise I will. I’m about to kill myself. I can’t be without you,” he pleaded. I had no clue what to say. Here I was, mourning a loss of my friend and he was threatening to kill himself. My heart was sinking. It seemed like minutes passed before I responded. “I love you but I just can’t do this Jake,” I said quietly.
“Goodbye, Ashley. Just know I loved you, but I’m going to kill myself.”
He hung up. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to be with him, but I didn’t want him to harm himself. I looked outside my window. Rain and hail poured down from the sky. I knew my parents wouldn’t let me drive in the weather. I called his older sister who didn’t live far from him and told her what happened. “Girl, he is not going to kill himself. I’ll check on him in the morning,” she said nonchalantly before hanging up.
I didn’t know what to do. His parents were out of town and I felt like if I didn’t go to his house, I would forever feel guilty if he did go through with it. I ran to the car in the pouring rain and sped to his house. Hail beat down on the windows of the car and I prayed that I would be safe. When I reached his house all of the lights were off. I banged on the door but he didn’t answer. I went to the side windows to see if I could see anything when I heard a faint voice.
“Ashley....” I heard Jake call my name. I turned to see that he was sitting in an old car in their driveway. I rushed over to him. He held tightly to his side clenching it in pain. “What did you do?!” I screamed over the thunder as I attempted to check if he had harmed himself. He clenched his side tighter wincing in pain. “Please forgive me Ashley. I’m so sorry. I just can’t lose you. Please don’t leave me. Please just stay with me tonight.”
I did. I was so terrified of losing another person I cared about I decided to ignore all of the warning signs he was showing me and I stayed.
By the time I turned 19 he had threatened to kill himself several more times. Emotionally I was a wreck. Each time he thought I was going to leave he would cry those magic words to get me to stay.
I became an extremely unhappy person. I began purposely starting fights in hopes he would break up with me. Sometimes I would secretly wish he would kill himself so I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore.
I was too embarrassed to tell my parents what was going on and found myself confiding in his mother. She was very sweet to me and probably one of the reasons why I stayed so long. She was like a second mother to me and desperately wanted me to be with her son. I believe that it was around this time that she was trying to get him help. He showed constant signs of bipolar disorder and had a dependency on drugs and alcohol.
One day, Jake and I were attending a sports event and he had been drinking heavily. I think he knew I was finally fed up with him. He suspected I was cheating on him and he was right. I had not physically cheated but I had strong feelings for someone else. The only thing that kept me with Jake was my fear of him committing suicide. “Just don’t text him while you are with me,” he told me as we took our seats. I had no clue what to say. It was almost as if Jake had accepted the fact that I had feelings for someone else and was blindly in love with me or so crazy that he would rather stay with me knowing I didn’t love him than leave.
By the time the game ended Jake had downed over ten drinks. I reached for the keys to his car. “I’m driving,” I said preparing myself for a fight. “You are a slut!” He yelled at me in the middle of downtown Chicago as hundreds of people seemed to simultaneously stop what they were doing and stare at us. “You think you can just cheat on me? Why don’t you love me Ashley? Why can’t you just love me?” he screamed as the name calling continued. I was embarrassed. I had no clue what to do. I did love him but not in the way he loved me. I didn’t want him to hurt himself and I wanted him to be happy, but I didn’t want to be with him. I reached for the keys again. “Let’s go. You have had too much to drink,” I urged again, ignoring the insults and cries of love. He tossed the keys into the street as I reached for them. I slowly walked over to retrieve them knowing that this would be the last time I ever chose to see him.
I grabbed the keys and slowly helped him into the car as he continued to yell at me. I was terrified. I had never driven his car before, let alone in downtown traffic and rarely drove on the expressway. I tried to remain calm as I started the car and started driving.
My cellphone didn’t have GPS and he refused to use his. “Just drive!” he screamed at me. I tried to remember the turns we had made to make it to the expressway. In between, he would chime in, yelling directions at me.
Looking back I should have waited to say this to him, but I was completely fed up. As he continued yelling at me I told him I no longer wanted to be with him. He began flailing his body in the car slamming his head repeatedly on the dashboard and hit me in the process. He sat up when he realized what he had done. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. You know I would never hurt you.”
“You hit me," I said still in disbelief of the entire situation. “I didn’t mean to!” he screamed as he continued banging his head against the dashboard and window. As we neared a division in the expressway and I had no clue what to do. A huge cement cinder block divided the two lanes and I was getting closer to having to choose a side.
“Which way do I go?” I asked. Hoping that my keeping calm would somehow calm him down too. He refused to answer. I took a guess and headed towards the side I thought I was the right direction.
“Noooo!” he screamed as he grabbed the steering wheel sending the car spinning inches away from the cement divider. I slammed on the brakes and both of our bodies went crashing towards the dashboard. I caught my breath, thankful that we hadn’t crashed.
“You almost killed us,” I spoke slowly. I don’t know how I was able to remain so calm but a part of me knew if I acted irrationally we probably would have never made it home that day.
I continued driving as he continued sobbing to himself and shouting out slurs here and there. I decided to drive him home instead of dropping myself off. I knew he was still in no way capable of driving and didn’t want him to harm himself or anyone else. I called his mom as I passed my house letting her know what was going on. She agreed to take me home once I got there.
“Why would you do that? You just embarrassed me!” he screamed. Once again he proceeded to throw his body around the car. Cars pulled up to the side of us asking if they should call the police but I dismissed their concerns as I neared his driveway. His parents were waiting outside and before I could stop he hopped out of the car and sprinted towards the main road. The neighborhood was close to a factory and large trucks routinely frequented the area. As he took off running towards an 18 wheeler his dad grabbed him and tackled him to the ground where he burst into tears. I was in disbelief as his mother pulled me towards the car.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” was all she could manage to say during the long car ride.
“I love you, like you were my own mother and I'm sorry but I can never see your son again,” I told her as I exited the car and prayed to myself that I would never have to see him again.
And I never did.
Have you ever felt trapped in an unhealthy relationship?
Ashley Renee is a soul food enthusiast, sometimes vegetarian, spoken word poet, who doesn’t trust boxed macaroni or cats. keep up with her @ashleyreneepoet on twitter & instagram also check out her website. www.ashleyreneepoet.com