Back when Tom and I were still in high school, during the start of senior year, we were anything but in love. I was lucky enough to avoid him most of the summer prior, but that first week back was a nightmare.
Months had gone by since junior prom night, but he still couldn’t see me without throwing a garbage can. My parents were dead, but those seven hours a day I spent at school were brutal. For a while, I was sure he meant to kill me. Sometimes his punishments went beyond bullying. He harassed me, and it took time to notice he actively searched for me.
Regardless, even as terrible as Tom might have been, he eventually opened up.
“Are you gonna hit me again?” I asked, standing with my back to a tile-covered wall.
He walked in on me taking a leak in the boy’s bathroom. Tom always found me with my pants down. It was like his super power, knowing the perfect moment to catch me off guard. But it was 4th period. How was he there? The football team should have been working out.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said, but his hands were in fists.
He kept me from leaving the room. I couldn’t even flush the urinal I had just used.
“What is this?” I pleaded for an answer.
Waiting for him to hurt me was worse than actual pain. The adrenaline rushing through me as I searched for a way out made me sweat through my clothes.
“I need you to shut up while I think,” he said, stepping closer and starting to reach a hand out to me.
Someone else walked into the room, but Tom barked at them, “Get the fuck out,” and we were left alone.
“What are we doing,” I asked.
“I haven’t talked to anyone about what we did either, but I want to. But the only other person I know who won’t say shit,” he stumbled, and I had to finish his thought.
“Is me,” I said.
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up? This is hard enough as is,” he exclaimed and punched the wall to the side of my face.
I was surprised the tiles didn’t crack or fall away.
“You don’t get to screw me, beat me, then be my friend,” I argued.
“I don’t want to be your friend,” he added, pushing me back into the corner of the room when I got too much air in my chest.
He was forcing a moment, dragging it out till I was annoyed. My fear subsided, though, it was always present.
“If you say another word, even just one, I’ll cave your fucking head in, and this never happened,” Tom tried to control the situation he started.
“But,” I mumbled, only for him to yell, “What did I just say?!”
Another guy tried to walk in on us. Like the first time, Tom barked, ” Go piss on a fucking tree,” and we were left alone.
“If we’re done,” I started to speak when he turned back to me, but he held a hand at my chest, grabbing up a hold of my shirt.
I caught his wrist with one hand and his throat with my other, but I wasn’t a fighter.
“Can we start over?” he said while I struggled.
I didn’t hear him the first time.
“Can we start over?” he repeated and knocked my head against the wall until I stopped fighting.
My ears were ringing, but I got the message.
“Can we start over?” he said a third time, and I answered with my own question.
“Because, I think I liked it,” he answered and slowly let me go.
He took a step back. He took several steps back, and I was finally able to zip up my pants.
“We both did, didn’t we?” He added and looked away from me.
Where would he have been had I told him no? Where might I have gone had that not been a turning point in our relationship? No, Tom wasn’t the only desperate person. He was a fool, and I was a loser willing to accept my bully as a lover if it meant finally winning something other than pain.