Forget Myself: An Ill-Advised Exercise In Self-Denial

Courtesy: Lizette McMillian

It was 2010 and I had made up my mind - I was dropping out of school. At the time, the economy was sunk. To try and save face in one way or another, the state had made some budget cuts. As a result, there was a plan in motion for students in the CSU system to pay more and get less. I wasn’t having that. I didn’t like the school much anyway. So where was I to go? As far away as possible.

“You always knew where you were going to / So sweetly you said please come with you.”

I had several options, all in the Midwest or on the East Coast. I wanted to be some place where I already had at least one friend. A proposition was made to me by a new friend, Jay. I’d met him at a house party my last night in Blacksburg just a month or so before. The friend of a friend, I’d bought us some rum and made us all drinks and we laughed in the night on the steps out back. We’d exchanged numbers or chat names or something.

Courtesy: Lizette McMillian

Blacksburg had become an important place to me. In a few short months and only two visits, I’d made a lot of history there. That’s another story for another day. I wanted to be there, though. The lease would be up for the house that Jay was living in and he was in need of a new roommate, a new place to live. Apparently in the time we’d been talking, he’d decided that he loved me. I was unaware of this false revelation nor did I know that he was scheming on me because of it. I said yes.

“I laugh at myself with the girl in bloom / The taste of sex couldn’t be too soon - all afternoon then.”

I had no intention of ever being with him, but like I said before - he was scheming. I’d also just been through a very difficult and confusing break up. I liked the attention and I wanted to have a good time. I knew I would be fine, no strings attached. If I knew how attached he already was, or that I was only the second person he’d ever been with, I would have said no. Too little, too late. We entered this pseudo-relationship that neither of us ever should have touched with a ten foot pole.

I don’t believe I had ever been with someone with so little “experience” and it was a bit awkward at first. When Jay told me with a blissful smile that I was only the second person he’d been with I was shocked and realized what a terrible mistake I’d made. However, once you’ve been with someone (especially when they are now an integral part of your life) it’s hard to not be with them again if the opportunity should arise. I used his inexperience to my advantage and molded him into a damn good lay. Talking to each other about anything deeper than surface small talk would inevitably end in a fight. We never saw eye to eye and we certainly didn’t communicate effectively, but the sex was good so we overlooked that and an assortment of other relational ailments. If we weren’t at work we were either eating, watching movies, playing video games or fucking.

“LA parties and the vodka fizz / This is not my life or maybe it is”

Prior to moving there, I’d made a number of friends in Blacksburg. That was one of the deciding factors in agreeing to move there to begin with. I also inherited a new batch of friends through Jay, a few of which were overlap. One day in early fall Jay came home from work with a flyer for the college radio station. They were holding an informational meeting for people to volunteer with the station. Neither of us attended school, but he talked me into going anyway. At the end of the meeting, we each had several jobs at the station. Soon I had this booming social life and, while it was wonderful, it was totally weird. As much as I was “in,” I was still an outsider. I just couldn’t put my finger on why.

“Think I’m looking over your shoulder.”

From the very beginning, this sham of a relationship was riddled with problems. Trust was always a big one. I had an ex in town and also got along with a number of male friends who I’d see on a regular basis. Jay was easily ravaged by jealousy. He didn’t trust me, although he had no logical reason for his doubts or proof that I had ever done anything (I hadn’t). His lack of trust made me not trust him either because I’ve always believed that people only assume of you what they themselves would do. If he was going to accuse me of messing around, I felt I could safely assume the same of him. As time would go on, I would find out more and more about his lies and debauchery. We’d fight and we’d break up and then we’d fuck and we’d make up and it was easier just to pretend things were fixed or fine again. We lived together, after all. Who wants to deal with lease breaks and roommate replacements. We could make it through July when the lease would be up on its own.

“See my life come undone / Watch it go and let the damage run.”

Obviously, “we could make it” was a big, fat lie. Yet, while we both knew it, we played along in a miserable, half-hearted and very forced state of contentment. We each had our reasons. I realized that mine was because I still loved someone else, and I was trying to distract myself. I was trying to force myself to move on. So I lived this lie, with full knowledge that everything was wrong and that it was only getting worse.

“I made you doubt me / You’re better off without me.”

After nine months of pure dysfunction, I got tired of sitting idle while the crappiest boyfriend I’d ever had ran around behind my back. I started staying with my ex once or twice a week. He was my friend for years before we (very briefly) dated. He was a safe place for me, a confidant, and while I had made a conscious choice not to spend time with him since I’d moved to town (trying to avoid conflict at home), I was tired of missing my friend.

What started as a movie night ended up being what you would ought to be expecting by now- more sex. Cue “I Want You.”

Courtesy: Lizette McMillian

Because of both our situations, there was no hope for rekindling a committed relationship with one another. We’d watch movies, vent about our other relationships (he was in a non-exclusive situation while she tried to fix some things in her life), have sex, and then he’d go to work in the morning and I’d go home.

While Jay had been going MIA overnight for months with no explanation given, it made him extremely paranoid and agitated that I was now doing the same thing. He finally broke down and questioned me about it. I let him know how hypocritical it was of him to ask me where I was going when I wasn’t allowed to know where he was going. Then I told him the truth. Well, part of it. I told him where I was. I didn’t tell him about the sex. I denied that aspect fiercely. We were essentially broken up and merely putting up with each others’ existence anyway. It was none of his business anymore.

We broke up “for good” shortly after.

Courtesy: Lizette McMillian

“And I’d change the song now if I could / In the slickness of your blood.”

There was a day (I don’t remember when) I’d come home and found photos on my camera of a massive “X” cut into Jays upper arm. I confronted him. He’d done it himself with one of our kitchen knives. He’d been wearing tees with longer sleeves to hide it. At some point in the conversation he referred to this inflicting of physical pain as a way to mask or release his emotional pain. He only said it once. He would never say it again. The story he had started with and that he’s told every other time since is that he’d always been interested in scarification and why pay someone when you can do it yourself. We wouldn’t know until some years later that Jay suffers from a form of depression that was a major contributor to the dysfunction in our relationship (as well as many other parts of his life).

Courtesy: Lizette McMillian

Clearly there were other factors in our failure, like the simple fact that our entire relationship was founded on lies and self-denial. However, the depression was, and still is, a problem for us. We have two kids together and live in California now, both things that he resents me for. We are no longer together nor can we effectively co-parent. When he’s in a down cycle, which may last for months, he refuses to talk to me or even look me in the eye. The majority of our communication is through text. Short and concise, we only say what needs to be said in regards to the kids, and I wish that things were different.

Don’t get me wrong. I would NEVER want to be in a relationship with Jay again. I don’t even want to be his friend. I don’t like him as a person now that I know who he really is, and even on his best days we were never really compatible. However, crippling depression is also something I would never wish on anybody - ever. I feel bad for him as a person who is suffering. I feel bad for our children who come home from visitations saying, “Daddy was grumpy,” and that they didn’t have a good time. But I think the thing I feel worst about is that all of this could have been so different, so much easier if I just didn’t forget myself in the first place.