Thought Swimming


[Profanity Warning]

I saw a man with Down Syndrome (presumably) at the supermarket the other day. He gave me the most brilliant happy smile. I couldn’t help but smile back! I stepped outside of my comfort zone, too. I said, “Hi” as I passed him in the deli. He was wearing a sunshine yellow shirt that day and is balding a little, which is the only reason he looks older than eighteen to me. I thought his smile was charming. Thank you, deli man. You made my day. You probably don’t even know it. He seemed pure. Innocent. Sweet. Open.

Of course, I could be wrong, but it’s hard to be wrong about a smile like that. That’s how I want to smile again. I hurt so much on the inside these days. I haven’t been truly happy in years. I think the last time I was happy with everything in my life was March 2015. I was almost there again in 2020, but terminal illness struck. Everything was great, aside from not being able to eat anything.

I just started the relationship with Psycho Boy Ben on February 9th, 2015. I had waded through a bunch of casual sex solicitations that make me vow to never look for love in February or late January. Ever. Ben had seemed different; he didn’t mention sex to me at all. After some 500 messages exchanged, we scheduled a first date, which was supposed to be an hour long and turned into about five hours. No matter where you go or what you do, men are looking to get laid and that’s it. Maybe that’s true all year ’round and they just go into a frenzy in February. Valentine’s Day is the culprit. I turned down a half dozen dogs that were frothing at the mouth, begging me to have a Valentine’s Day date with them that ended in fornication. I was disgusted, in a word.

I went with Ben to a ceramics shop, the kind where you pick out something from their once-fired collection and paint glaze onto. It was my idea… I’m shy, so I wanted something that was indirect. I didn’t want eating to be the focus because that happened to be something I was working on, you know? I was dieting. I weighed 265 pounds at the time. I’d lost 60 pounds or so all by myself and I was proud of that, but it was a slow process overall. So I chose ceramics. We went to a little place in Kirkwood because my first choice went out of business and I didn’t realize it. Kirkwood is a great area for a date because you can walk up and down the street and do a bunch of different things… so, after that was over, since the shop closed at 7 PM, I evaluated the date.

Two thirds of the time we spent glazing pottery was taken up by jackass talking all about himself. I was going to say no thank you and leave him there. I should have, honestly. The last third, he started asking questions and listening. Let me tell you something, ladies and gentleman: if your date interrupts you and cuts you off without apologizing, RUN AWAY. They don’t give a shit about learning a thing about you; they simply want to monopolize your time to feed their ego. I thought because we weren’t looking at each other, he was missing visual cues, but he kept interrupting and talking over me the whole time.

Anyway, the date changed direction. I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to talk to him again, so I suggested we go for coffee. Kaldi was closed for renovations in the kitchen, so we ended up in a buzzing Starbucks. We sat in a corner, sort of facing a wall, because it was the only table left open. Our elbows could have touched if we wanted to. It was closer than I ought to have been, in retrospect. We sat there for a while, sipping hot drinks on that cold February night. I was sufficiently pleased with how the date turned around, but he did something else to make me question whether or not I wanted to see him again. I can’t remember what just now, but he was annoying. It was like being out with one of my brothers. Still, my brothers are good people underneath it all (as far as I know), so we moved on to another part of the date… the unintentional part. The part where he refused to let me go.

We were walking down the street and suddenly it was like he didn’t want to go away. He was looking me in the eyes and all, so that was a good sign, especially since I wore a rather fancy cut shirt that showed too much skin, most likely. I didn’t catch him staring at my assets, so that was another positive marker in my book. Suddenly, he thinks to share music. I love music. We end up sitting outside for at least an hour in 15 degrees Fahrenheit weather listening to music from his phone and talking more. Eventually, he suggested we go into the bar right there called Bar Louie.

In the bar, we each ordered a drink and I ordered an appetizer because I am a hungry girl no matter what I do. I recall being impressed with whatever it was that I ate and drank. Bar Louie is a pretty awesome location. He then decided to be bold and ask if he could sit next to me instead of across from me. Then eventually that led to making out. And then he wanted to come back to my place.

I always thought that was weird, that he wanted to go to my place. I had four animals, so I wouldn’t have gone to his place anyway, but he couldn’t know that… could he? I mean, I mentioned them briefly in messages before we met, I’m sure, but why would that be any consideration? The dog could hold his own for 9 or 10 hours and the cats are basically self-sufficient. Anyway, I decided I liked him a lot by the end of this epic date. I thought it was premature to decide he was crap at first, because he could have been extremely nervous. That’s the very first excuse I made for that ass hat.

Instead of picking a dog in heat, I picked a psycho on accident. He was incredibly awkward, messaging me about Vanilla Sky’s soundtrack because I listed it as an experiential movie on my profile. His speech was too formal, to put a pin in it. And it lacked cohesion, even though I tried to compensate for that. I should have known the lack of conversational flow was a problem. I gave him an excuse later: he hadn’t exposed himself to dating much. In fact, he had sob stories about how, in his desperation, he approached a couple that was hooking up at a party to see if he could join them for sex. Little did I know, this was because he was obsessed with group sex and feeling extremely lonely and brash. Bold. He figured out if he never asked, it would never happen. I, of course, pitied him, thinking he was so desperate to be loved that he demeaned himself and asked two random people to join them.

He was the least annoying choice out of all the people on OkCupid at the time, since a really nice guy named Christopher connected with me briefly but ended up dating another woman. I hope they made it. I hope they got married and are still in love. I don’t get jealous in situations like these… I just hope for love to win. I know all beings are equal, so I am not less than the lady Chris went to. However, I don’t think OkCupid provides a quality experience unless you are patient and ready to weed out lonely people who lost all sense because they’re desperate to be anyone but themselves long enough to get booty.

I don’t really know how to tell this story without feeling like a complete moron. I feel stupid every time I remember any new details. I should have dumped him by April 1st, 2015 and never looked back. Instead, it was January 2, 2020 when I finally escaped his clutches. For five years, that bastard pretended to be my friend, my lover. I know now he is my enemy. Ben was dating another lady, though he didn’t tell me until after he got me into bed. That means the very first time we had sex, it was rape. I would never compete with another being for love and I would never be in an open relationship of my own choice. It’s just not right. He bedded me under false pretenses and then shoved it in my face again and again afterward, asking me if it was okay he continued to date Eleanor on repeat like a broken record. If he did tell me, I have zero recollection of it whatsoever.

He eroded everything I was into sand. Dust. A nothingness encroached, destroying my ability to empathize with anyone anymore. At least, I think it did. He took my me-ness and perverted it how he saw fit, trying to make me less attractive and attempting to destroy my self-esteem. He told me that I was enough and then he asked me again, for the fifth time, if it was okay he dated Eleanor. I was cool about it at first, figuring I was a big girl that could handle it, but it turns out that it goes against my base encoding: I am monogamous and I can be no other way. I shall never again try any relationship that involves more than just 1+1. I’ve been told that I could handle a polyamorous lifestyle and I’m one of the few people who probably can do it right, but meh. No thanks!

The past 18 months have been a rollercoaster ride of nonstop stimulation while I summarily go crazy. It makes it exceedingly difficult to remember all the details in that time frame… or any time frame, even. A force inside me drives me on and on, never taking into account that I need to sit down and process in writing. I feel like my life was hijacked. By another narcissist. Apparently, this one is my other self. My other self is showing me exactly how Ben fooled me and what he did to sabotage me while he implied it was completely my fault that I was lacking the necessary discipline to achieve my goals. Again and again and again.

So here I am, trying to remember and write it all down for safekeeping. I dump memories to make room for new experiences all the time. To make room for auterspace, as I call it. A garden of thought that I retreat to when left to my own devices. When I am in roller coaster mode, I start remembering things that happened a year ago, even two years ago, sometimes three years ago, at random. It’s like they are shaken loose by the date or a recent event of some sort to jostle it, dragging it out of me.

Ben didn’t like me going to the garden of thought, it would seem. He’d have me over to his place and then ignore me for hours, putting his face in his phone. I would sit there motionless because he very sporadically re-engaged me, especially if I tried to leave. Any time I tried to move away to accomplish something, he’d complain about not touching. I could do a lot of things if I could just disconnect physically from that lazy slob, but he always complained about not being in physical contact with me. It was a control tactic, I’ve come to learn. He was controlling what I could and could not do by making complaints to solicit the specific kind of attention he desired, to interrupt what I was accomplishing without him, and to disrupt any thoughts I had in progress.

This boy was so proud of kicking his Everquest habit of several years that used to eat up all his time, but he’d stick his face in his phone endlessly for Summoner’s War. Hours and hours every day, he played. So I played it briefly alongside him. I quickly realized it wasn’t a very clever game at all. It was a grinder to drain your battery. He was so obsessed with it that he brought battery backups to parties and family gatherings so that he could play for four hours while ‘socializing.’ Read that as ignoring everything but his phone around people who knew him, only looking up to make a nonsensical comment or joke with a boyish smile on his face, which is only charming until he’s hurt you with his narcissistic bullshit. The only time he didn’t obsessively play this game was while we were on vacation or going camping. In fact, we ended up going to therapy because he suggested it and the therapist nailed this one down quickly, indicating that it was the quality time that was lacking on my side and that is why I wanted to leave him. In fact, I broke up with him in the middle of a therapy session. I was having extreme anxiety after two sessions and we’d started the third one. It was debilitating. I didn’t want to go out and do anything for myself at all anymore, not even go to the grocery store, because he instilled extreme anxiety in me.

It’s probably obvious to you by now, dear reader, that Ben’s social awkwardness was his choice. I saw it, so I tried to engage him more. I started to leave his presence when his face went to his phone. I rewarded him with extra kindness when he spent time socializing instead of grinding more fake prestige in Summoner’s War. I reacted to being ignored with very obvious consequences very consistently after I finally caught on that he was an ostrich: he sticks his head in the sand and leaves it there as long as possible whenever a situation arises that is beyond his child-like emotional ken. I think he would die in a zombie apocalypse because he’d be too distracted by something irrelevant and stupid. I guess that’s my problem with zombie apocalypse cinema. Too many white male survivors. And they typically aren’t farmers and hunters which are the people who would survive long-term.

Anyway, Ben was a piece of art. The kind you set on fire after admiring the shit show on its surface. Not that I have ever burned art. I did burn a photograph once, though. It was the photograph of the first boy I felt serious about, who ultimately cheated on me and then told me as if I was too stupid to understand that he cheated on me and did it on purpose to misbehave and be punished. (He didn’t use those words, but that’s what I remember about Mr. Foote.)

I can’t adequately describe how Ben undermined my sense of self. I can tell you I had Stockholm Syndrome; I was trauma bound. I may still have it, actually. I’m actively working it out as I return to my black roots.

When a person rewards you heavily for complying in something you didn’t want to participate in… RUN. Fucking run the other way. Fast. Ben is a Negan with the pleasant demeanor we find in Glen. How is that possible? I don’t even know. Ninety percent of the time he was Glen and then he’d show an evil streak and be a controlling bitch like Negan. I’m a total Maggie crossed with Michonne.

I am gluten-free and have been for about fifteen years. I have recently decided to be as strict about it as a person who suffers from celiac disease. That means my entire household must go gluten-free to ensure that I do not suffer from any cross-contamination. That guy would grill gluten hamburger buns alongside burgers for the both of us. I wasn’t as strict then, but I should have been. I realize that now. He always thawed his burger buns from the freezer on the grill. That dude would buy hamburger buns from Costco. To eat by himself. The entire freezer was full of gluten; he’d buy both hot dog buns and hamburger buns, then enclose 3-4 of them in a zip lock baggie and completely fill his side-by-side refrigerator’s freezer. He’d eat all the normal American staples like bread, hot dog buns, and hamburger buns — all bought at Costco to save a few pennies. The dude makes six figure income. He does not need to save a few pennies on cheap breads.

I should have left the relationship just for a lack of support in my efforts to become healthier by eating well. I think he must have sensed that I wanted to leave because he started taking me to gluten free restaurants to pretend he was supportive of my dietary restrictions. Unfortunately, gluten is not my only problem. In fact, I ended up going dairy-free after I began crying all the time about everything in 2017. It nearly ruined my career, really. I told him what my chiropractor suggested — quit cheese. I used to blame the food for all my issues because it’s so hard on my body due to the illnesses I’ve had over the past thirty years, so I mistakenly blamed food for all our emotional issues.

Ben negated my chiropractor’s recommendation. As if a health care provider that is not an M.D. could be right about something in my life! How dare I trust a chiropractor. How dare I suggest his #1 favorite food was causing me intestinal distress! It couldn’t be! At first, I listened to Ben because I was self-diagnosing, not realizing I could just get some tests done to figure it out. You’d think someone would have said so. And maybe Dr. Steve did. I don’t blame him at all — he actually directed me to intolerance testing and I should have done it sooner. I didn’t… because Ben had undermined my trust in myself so hardcore that when he decided to disagree with my doctor, I failed to follow my doc’s suggestions. It was one part ‘I still want to eat it’ and mostly ‘Ben destroyed my confidence in myself.’ (I’m not immune to food cravings, or I wasn’t then. I’m getting there now.)

Ultimately, I still eliminated dairy from my diet. For about a year, I stayed away from it, only after struggling to fight Ben’s bullshit. It’s hard, you know. Dairy is in so many things. I got better while I avoided the realm of dairy and stopped crying uncontrollably at work and I stopped being ultra bitchy, too. Once I was back in control of myself, I tested my ability to eat dairy sporadically. I seriously misread my bodily reactions and thought I may have cured what was going on… I could eat cheese sporadically in moderation without any obvious side-effects. Or so it would seem.

But more importantly… I believe that man knew he was poisoning me. I’d do my best to eat more vegetables and do better and better with my diet. Then, he’d exercise ‘control’ and decide to make hamburgers and french fries to derail my dieting efforts. His favorite way to sidetrack my self-control was to tease me with fried potatoes. It wasn’t until I went onto keto and started realizing that potato was a problem with my weight maintenance in general that I was able to break the cycle he had me stuck in. I ate one teaspoon of potato a day at most, then. Eventually, the potato craving died. Whatever bacteria I was feeding with it no longer ruled me after avoiding it for 18 months. The way Ben fed me made me gain twenty pounds and we were in a deadlock for the longest time. I was so depressed I went back to 290ish with him. Nothing fit right and I wasn’t happy at all. I lost 90 pounds by the time I left him and got down to about 200 finally, which is where I was in high school. The weight and shape I remember and was comfortable with. Too bad his washing machine ate my favorite shirt in the meanwhile, now that I could fit into it the way it was meant to be worn.

That’s when our relationship really got ugly. I lost so much weight that he started to see my ‘potential.’ He started regretting treating me like trash. His actions implied that I was too fat for his consideration when our ‘romance’ began. Once it was clear I would be a super babe, he wanted to backpedal. I knew better by then, especially since he treated me more like a girlfriend when he got himself a second girlfriend. He tried to reward me every time he saw his other girlfriend, because he was one step closer to being a complete dog like he deeply desires. As if I would fall for something so hideously obvious.

My one and only thought on threesomes is as follows: They are selfish. One person gets more attention than another. Always. Have you watched pornography? Watch it again. Tell me that both ladies or lads receive the same attention. Tell me that they are treated equally. Tell me that one person is worth more than another and I’ll punch your lights out.

I’m sick and tired of people comparing me to other women. I know he did it. He was not covert about his misbehavior. He thought he was because I ignored it. I didn’t respond to it because that’s what bullies do: neg you. Dig at you. Undermine you. He bullied me the whole time we were together… up until I lost one hundred pounds. Then, magically, I was worth being nice to, y’all. I was finally a worthwhile human being, y’all! My emotions were valid, after all! My thoughts and feelings were something to consider! After four years of being treated like dirt, he started to treat me like I deserved all along. All human beings deserve affection and kindness. PURE kindness. That guy should die in a fire.

The rest of you are doing this relationship business wrong and I can tell you how. I watch you all fight and see you heaping hatred on each other. I listen to rap music and hear women demeaned every other word. Plenty of other music is filled with hate, too, but I really like intelligent rap music like Nicki Minaj. (Nicki, please put some clothes on. I am too mesmerized with your assets, if you know what I mean.) I watch television and nobody sits down to have a calm and logical discussion over difficult topics, except maybe in 13 Reasons. I’m sure some shows and movies break the mold, maybe in the 80s there were more of them. I seem to remember Will and Uncle Phil having some really good conversations, but these days it’s all about guns and drugs and hating on each other instead of being compassionate. The compassion has left the studio, y’all. Now it’s all about how violence isn’t the solution but it’s damn good drama and we have to watch it and learn to emulate it because we’re no longer being given decent examples of how to be good human beings. We are being traumatized with explosions left and right without time to process the visuals we are receiving, slowly accepting a dose of PTSD. I want a superheroes movie where nobody uses their superpowers to do anything, they just have council meetings. [Challenge accepted, self.]

I tried my best to be compassionate to Ben the entire time we were together. I made up excuse after stupid excuse for that asshole to explain why he wasn’t right in the head. There is only one explanation left: psychopathy. I used up every single excuse I could think of and he was still a cruel bastard who wouldn’t wise up to emotional content.

[Insert an image of a red flag waving in the wind.]

He tried to poison me with food. He knew my mood destabilized whenever he fed me the shit he ate. I was perfectly happy eating a separate meal I’d make myself for the longest time, then he’d make meals in my parameters for both of us and eventually resort to what he felt tasted the best rather than what suited my diet. He further destabilized my mood by making sure he was too busy to talk about real stuff until bedtime, which then took hours because every time I cried, he just laid there, doing nothing.

In fact, I need to eat every three hours. He was destabilizing my entire life by starving me. He’d get me to wait six hours or more to eat and then make enough food for my needs, which is a lot of food because that’s how my body worked in comparison to his, and then he’s give half of it away to his sister or whomever came by. He made promises to feed me then renegotiated and compromised that in mid-feeding. The subtext I glean from that is: you’re a fat bitch and you don’t deserve to eat. Let me starve you so you lose weight.

I gained weight instead.

He decided he always knew better for me. He needed to be in control of me and everything I did and said. I can see it very clearly now. For a long time, I didn’t realize that was what was going on, because he is silent where other narcissistic bitches are whiny. He didn’t explain himself at all; he’d just do whatever he pleased and see if I fell for it. Sadly, I did, because I didn’t think he was a narcissist. Most of them love to hear the sound of their own voices, but he opted for silence. Introversion. That’s why I read so many books on relationships and narcissism, my friend. He is one, I just couldn’t spot him as easily because he’d learned the art of silence. He learned that people would give him the benefit of the doubt. He learned that people found him easy to get along with because they weren’t studying his actions, just his words or lack thereof.

One of the reasons I fell for all his nonsense was that my best friend told me he really liked Ben. I thought that meant I found a good man, finally. I was studying him for my own decision on the topic, but I wobbled back and forth because he was treating me kindly and then after he fooled me into believing he was kind, he would show me his true colors. Again and again, he did this. ‘Oh let me help you (poison yourself, that is.)’

Is this something you deal with in your own life? Pack your damn bags and RUN! I’m telling you now, before it’s too late. Before they hurt you. Get the fuck out of there!

No one should have to hurt for love. It’s not love if it hurts you. It’s hate disguised as anything but hate. ‘If it’s not love, it’s hate.’ — Crystal told me that and she’s right. Controlling another human being is not an act of love, no matter how much one thinks it is. Being their loving, caring partner of equal value… that is love. Taking care of a person’s best interests the best you can. That is love. Telling the person that they need to take care of themselves because you cannot do it. That is love. Participating is love. Controlling is hate. It’s hate because you are not allowing that person to grow. To stunt a person’s growth is wrong. Encouraging them to grow more in areas they are weak in is the best we can do when we see their flaws more clearly than they do. Telling them how to grow is wrong.

Restricting the way a person dresses to satisfy your jealous urges is wrong. Telling someone not to wear makeup because other men look at them is wrong. Telling someone not to dress the way they enjoy dressing is wrong. Telling someone how to eat is wrong. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. Denying someone something they honestly request from you, when it is not hurting you, is wrong. Denying people of things they love is wrong. Denying people their animals is wrong.

I remember Ben tried to make me give up my cats when I was moving in with him. My ex husband of ages ago once said he hated cats and what I told him was if I had to pick the cats or him, I’d pick the cats because I chose to adopt that fur baby. I made a commitment the day I picked him up from the Humane Society. My cats have turned every man who isn’t a cat person that I’ve dated into a cat person. Supposedly, Ben is no different. I count it as hearsay, but his random stray that adopted him died mysteriously quickly after entering his life and if he hasn’t gotten another fur baby yet, I’d posit that he’s not really a cat person. I did definitely turn him into a coffee drinker, though.

I didn’t make him drink coffee, mind you. I merely made it. All the time. And asked if he wanted some to be kind, to share. Because, you know. Sharing is caring(TM).


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