It's Saturday night and we're still playing Truth.
"Are there secrets you're not telling me?" Christopher asked.
I lit up, "There are tons of secrets I'm not telling you." I waved my hands in wide circles to illustrate all that I'm not telling him.
And of course—of course—when you admit you know something that someone else doesn't know, that person has to know it. You could say you know something that would destroy their lives, and they would still beg you to tell them.
Christopher starts probing me about what I'm not telling him. "Tell me," he orders.
"Because," I said, "All of your secrets make you look like a rock star and mine make me look like a loser." I had just finished telling him about a karaoke incident gone bad.
"Why, because I kissed that girl?"
"Yeah," I whined.
"That doesn't make me look like a rock star," he mumbled. "I still feel really bad about that. Just give me a hint," he probed.
"It makes me feel bad about myself," I mumbled.
"And?" he asked. "Tell me. You know I'm not a judgmental person." And he's right. He isn't.
"If I tell you, there is a 100% chance that I will cry," I prefaced. "Are you sure you want to deal with tears?"
Christopher didn't say anything one way or the other. He just watched my face. I looked away. It had been bubbling up in me for some time. Any time that I felt close to Christopher in the past couple of weeks, I wanted to tell him, but I always ended up restraining myself.
Now here we are in the safety of my apartment, and I'm feeling connected to him again. I know he isn't judgmental. And in the back of my mind, I want him to know because it's become such a defining life moment for me.
I stared down at the carpet with Saturday Night Live playing on the TV in the background, and I told him this story.
It was the first time I ever admitted the true nature of my past relationship to him. And I was scared—I was terrified—because really, that story makes me look bad too. I didn't immediately leave. I stayed around for another month and had to endure something similar before I was ready to come home.
My mouth felt crooked throughout the entire story. I left no detail out for Christopher. I told him about crying at the car wash. I told him how my hand felt after punching him. I told him about my mother taking pictures of the scratches on my neck in a Wendy's parking lot. And you know what? I never cried. I came pretty close, but there were no tears.
Christopher, as I expected, absolutely 100% did not understand for even a millisecond why I didn't immediately leave. I tried flippantly telling him that I had to learn some things the hard way.
"No, I don't accept that answer."
I sighed, "Because when you are told that you are nothing for long enough, you start to believe him. I honestly thought it was as good as I deserved." And that's the truth, I think.
"But why would you even let someone talk to you like that?"
Because I suffer from severe self-esteem delinquencies. "I don't know," I shrugged. "Stockholm Syndrome?"
Christopher got agitated, "Are you really going to blame Stockholm Syndrome?"
"Er, no," I shrugged again. "I don't expect you to understand," I mumbled. "I know a lot of people don't. It's kind of like cheating. You think you know how you would react and then it happens and you're emotionally attached and you begin to make decisions that you swore you never would."
I felt like I was gagging on myself. I was telling the hardest, most unflattering thing about me to the person I crave approval from the most and he was asking some hard questions. There was silence.
"I need you to acknowledge and respond to what I just told you," I said. "I mean, do you want to run out the door?"
"A little," he smiled awkwardly. He pulled me into his side. "It's a lot of information and it's going to take me a little while to process it, but I need you to do one thing for me. Get over it."
"You cannot compare the two of us and be afraid that I am going to do the same things he did because I'm not him."
Oh holy shit, I can't tell you how disappointed I was in his response. He made it about him. I wanted him to be more understanding of why I panic. It may have nothing to do with him, but it doesn't stop my anxiety from being real. I wanted to be coddled. Be told everything will be okay. That he'll be gentle with me. I wanted the girl response. I came close to tears again.
"I don't want you crying a single tear over that douchebag waste of life!" Christopher growled. He was angry.
"It's not about him! It's about how I feel about myself!" I exclaimed. "That's how I opened it with you—it makes me feel bad about myself!"
Christopher quietened down and thought for a moment, "And how can I help? With how you feel about yourself, how can I help?"
He just did. I needed to feel compassion.
"Nothing. But know that I work on it every day." I told him about therapy and he agreed it was probably a good idea that I go.
He poured me a glass of my wine that I was all too eager to gulp. Within minutes we were all smiles again.
"You know how you lived with that one woman when you were 27?" I asked. "The one you said you knew all along wasn't going to work out?"
"Yeah," he admitted. "I knew it had like a 5% chance of working out."
"And how long did you live with her?"
"So you made a 95% bad decision and you spent 9 months making it right. That's what I did. I was trying to make a bad decision right."
"No," Christopher argued. "I made a bad decision right by leaving." He looked at me,
"And so did you."