When I was 19, I fell in love. His name was Nick, he wore a red plaid flannel shirt over a black t-shirt pretty much every day, and he had mutton chop sideburns. Only six months older than me, he had a five-year-old son with a much older woman. He was dangerous and dirty and, I found out later, mentally unbalanced. He dealt drugs and made me complicit. I didn’t argue – I was in love!
My parents hated him. My mother forbade me from seeing him. But from more than 125 miles away, what could she really do? He cheated on me; we broke up; I took him back. He was verbally and emotionally abusive and once it became physical. I didn’t leave. I could change him. He had a good heart. I was sure of it. After two years of jealousy and suspicions and wondering whether or not I could live like this forever, I decided I couldn’t. I threw in the towel. Shockingly, he was devastated. Late that night, he came to the house I shared with two roommates. I was home alone. He pushed his way in, grabbed a knife and began to cut himself repeatedly, in the arm, stabbing his side, professing his love for me.
I remember screaming over and over and pushing him out of the house. He came around to my bedroom window and put his head through the glass. I called the police. He left. There was blood everywhere. I got an emergency restraining order, but when it came time for the real thing, he contested. Eventually it was resolved that he had to stay away from me unless we were in the same classes. He spent time trying to figure out what classes I was in so he could take those and see me without violating the order.
Finally, I graduated and moved away to graduate school. He began sleeping with my best friend. She is no longer in my life. After graduate school, I took my first job at a newspaper in southern Indiana. I was there about six months when I began getting messages on my answering machine, first hang-ups, then one taunting message about how easy it was to find me. I was terrified, again. But that was the last of it. It’s been nearly eight years since that phone call. I’m married and a mother and at least somewhat successful in my career. I’m happy. So, why do I still think about that night? Why am I still looking over my shoulder? Is it paranoid or smart? Obviously, I made a lot of mistakes in this situation. But I think I learned from them.