My head was still shaking when I woke up.
I looked at the room around me, trying to see where I had left my clothes so I could get out of there as fast as possible.
I’ve never liked the feeling after, when you wanted to sneak out, hoping that the one next to you wouldn’t wake up, and then start an unpleasant conversation or worse, ask you to stay. I didn’t have such escapades very often, but they sure helped me get out of my routine, to forget a little about the problems and enjoy that thing that was keeping me calm and sane lately, sex.
As usual, when I want something not to happen, fate laughs in my face and the man next to me wakes up a few seconds before I wipe it off.
‘‘Hey gorgeous, why are you in such a hurry? We had so much fun last night, we should keep going.’’
‘‘I’m in a hurry to go to work, I didn’t want to wake you up.’’ I flinched and he saw it on my face that I felt uncomfortable having that conversation with him. It was beautiful last night, but let’s leave it at that.
‘‘Well, we have to meet again. Did you already give me your number? If not, you have to give it to me’’, he added impatiently. ’’We don’t want to lose each other by mistake.” He gave me an amused look as he bares his teeth in a way, he believed it was sexy, I thought to myself horrified.
He had an athletic, very masculine body, brown to blonde hair, and beautiful sky-colored eyes, part of the pattern I unconsciously sought in every man.
Everyone I had slept with lately inevitably reminded me of my last relationship, which had unfortunately been a total disaster, but from which I had managed to crawl out from, and with a lot of specialized help put together the torn pieces of me. I applied the rescue tactic, remembering I had to get the hell out of there.
‘‘Sure, write it down quickly, because I’m late.’’ I gave him my phone number that everyone I knew had, but with the wrong digit at the end, knowing that I’ll never meet him again. Just to make sure he wouldn’t bother me anymore.
I didn’t let him say anything and left quickly, being honest with at least one thing: I was late for work.
I lived in a small town, but clean and quiet, where I could do my job as a senior journalist, for which I had worked my tail off. When I say “worked my tail off” I hope you won’t imagine anything lascivious. No. My job doesn’t hide anything spicy behind it, unless you call spicy the food I ordered on the sleepless nights before an exam.
Yes, I had a fulfilling professional life and a rather soiled personal life, in which I was struggling a lot to avoid complications. The only way I could interact with men now was purely physical. I was sleeping with them once, at most twice, and then disappeared, having long periods of drought and loneliness, but which helped me to feel somewhat protected and maintain my mental balance.
That’s apparently easy to judge, but when all the relationships in my past have brought me to the brink of despair, the most mature thing I could do was keep my distance.
At least emotionally. It was a temporary solution I could use to cope with my current life without getting caught up in another relationship that I know for sure would not get on my nerves this time.
At that moment, the most important things in my life were the work I loved so much and the friends close to me who, since my mother’s death, had been like a family to me.
If in terms of relationships I was totally defensive, as my therapist used to say and I was only interested in the quality and impressive size in their pants, in my professional life, I was a smart girl, who had risen through continuous work, intense study and total involvement. I had graduated from the Faculty of Journalism as head of promotion and the Master’s in Social Psychology, and had managed on my own to work for the largest business magazine in Europe, Skyleet.
I have to admit that I had daily Skype meetings with the Poles, my bosses, and had to travel abroad at least once a month, but since traveling is my passion, I can say that I had it all.
‘‘Ariana, what you are telling me now about last night only confirms the defensive behavior with men. This doesn’t mean that you’re not ready to try to approach men in any other way, maybe even be friends.’’
’’But I have male friends, you know that. ’’Why was there need for her to piss me off with this subject? I wasn’t antisocial, I had friends.
I understood perfectly what the discussion was about. However, the subject of love was still on hold for me. I didn’t feel like I had the energy to approach a man mentally and emotionally. Could I explain to someone in words the emptiness that had formed inside me since childhood? Every man in my life had disappointed me and exploited the most innocent parts of me. I just couldn’t find the hope that would motivate me to get involved again.
‘‘My dear, your childhood friend’s husband can’t be taken into account, he is like your family, and you feel emotionally safe with him because you know him beforehand and you know that he is married. ‘’
‘‘I have colleagues at work with whom I talk quite a lot and who are men, or clients whom I interview.’’
’’Ariana, you only talk to your colleagues on Skype, and the people you interview are not your friends” she added a little impatiently, knowing I understood where she wanted to go, but I didn’t want to admit it.
‘‘We’ve already talked about this many time and I urge you to take a period for yourself, in which you have time to calm down to put aside the relationship with your ex-partner, even meet people and create friendships with men. You are not a sexual object, nor are they, take sex out of the equation and try to meet new people who will show you that the world can be different, that you can feel safe.’’
I sighed, turning my head. I needed to move around the office to get rid of the anxiety. I took off my sweatshirt and changed my position, coming face to face with her. I had to be honest with her and myself, because that’s the only way I could get back on track, even if I didn’t like the conversation.
‘‘I thought about it too. I don’t know how to get past experiences out of my head. I can’t help but appreciate that he helped me a lot when my mother was ill, but now that I’m looking at it, I realize that it was the only good thing in the relationship and that it’s hard for me to get closer to people.’’
It was uncomfortable for me to discuss the relationship I had with HIM even with my therapist, because every image that slipped out of my mind was heartbreakingly painful. Just the memory of the year we lived together was enough to keep me away from any man who seemed even a bit interested in being in a relationship with me. I mentally understood at that point that he did not represent all men, but emotionally I was blocked, unable to make such a small connection with a man. I knew from experience how easily yourself dissolves under the pressure of a person who dominates you and takes advantage when he sees that your safety depends on him.
He had taken over every aspect of my life. And I left him. I had become addicted to his presence and help.
I wasn’t myself anymore. I no longer had the confidence and respect for myself. His presence had been another stepping stone to the foundation I had built since childhood. There had been many times when I had promised myself that after my mother’s illness was resolved, I would leave him.
But my mother was dead.
Only then, torn apart by doubt and fear of the future, did I manage to break away from him and the addiction that had kept me in a toxic relationship.
‘‘When was the last time he looked for you?’’
‘‘He left me a voice message three months ago. I didn’t listen to it, deleted afterwards.’’ It was hard for me to admit to my therapist that I was still following him on social media.
Yes, I felt a void inside me that grew even bigger since he left. I was free, but still devoid of life, purpose and emotion. I felt through my pores that it had been the best choice to leave. Painful, but the right one.
Then why the hell was I still looking at pictures of him? He brought me so much suffering. I was still terrified that we might meet on a street corner. Not because I was in danger, but because I don’t know how I would react if I saw him again. And yet, part of me still kept him present, I still kept my memories with him alive and I thought he deserved all the suffering.
‘‘I won’t get drunk on cold water, I know what kind of relationship I had and I don’t want to be a victim anymore. But how does it help me to go to the other side of the world? All memories would come back once I return.’’