-A lesson in never shitting where you eat and never eating your own words -
PT2: Sugar, we're gonna drown swimming
Working with Double D and living so closely to one another had proven to be far less problematic and scary than I worried it could have been - at least, in the beginning. I had a steady job, a new apartment, and a boyfriend who lived within swimming distance. From my perspective, things could not have been better. From Double D’s perspective however, things, evidently, could not have been worse.
“You say I love you too much!” he ridiculed, after I’d said it to him one day. “It’s like you’re using it as a tactic to get me to say it back.” That was one thing that always bothered me about Double D, even at the time. He was constantly speaking in acting terms as if everything were a scene.
The truth was, I had never paid attention to how many times I said, “I love you,” or how many times he didn’t. Perhaps I was saying it more frequently than was normal. Outside of my High School boyfriend, I hadn’t much experience when it came to dating, so what did I know about being in an adult relationship? Clearly nothing, since I considered this an adult relationship.
While it’s apparent to me now that Double D was using me as a scapegoat for feeling pressure he had merely put upon himself, I didn’t have the capacity to understand it at the time, let alone call him out on it. Instead, I let my inexperience influence my decision to trust him more than myself, and adjusted my behavior in hopes of keeping someone who was, quite frankly, worth losing.
Tired of the taste of blood in my mouth that came from biting my tongue every time I felt like saying “I love you,” I couldn’t help but begin to notice Double D’s lack of saying it at all. In fact, he had grown rather silent altogether. Something was causing him to pull away and grow distant, and suspecting it was once again, somehow related to me, I began searching for some assurance to temper my insecurities. Mindful of rocking the boat, I asked, “What do you like most about me?”
“Stop fishing.” he responded. Though I knew our boat had a hole in it, I never realized what kind.
“Why is it so hard for you to answer?” I asked, earnestly. Deep down, I already suspected the reason, but I suppose, until he said it for himself, I was incapable of believing it. “I could list a million things I love about you.”
“But, I don’t ask you to, do I?” he responded, defensively. “I don’t like doing things out of obligation. I want them to be my idea.” The fact that it seemed too difficult or required too much energy to give me a single compliment should have given me the idea to dump his ass right then and there. But, it didn’t. Instead, I took him at face value and waited. I waited for his ideas to come to him, to give me assurance, and to be open and available enough to give me the love I had so recklessly handed over to him.
As I bided my time, I incessantly began to wonder where things had gone wrong. Double D had chased me, had persuaded me to date him despite my better judgment, and had even followed me to the building where I lived. All I’d done was follow his lead, trust his intentions, and open my heart. So, why then, once I felt comfortable with what he had ultimately created, did he become less so? I couldn’t understand what had changed between us. But then, I’d never considered it might be someone coming between us.
Around the time, Facebook was relatively new. Well, it was to me anyway, and while poking around one afternoon, something caught my eye. Her name was Xena, and what I got from her profile pic was that she was exotic, pretty, wore a lot of make-up and very little clothes - which, apparently is what had caught Double D’s eye.
As I embarked on what is now known as Facebook stalking, I discovered Xena was a few years older than us, an aspiring model/actress, and lived in our complex where she had apparently met Double D by the pool. A few of their cyber exchanges were flirty and suggestive, but for the most part, everything seemed relatively platonic, which ironically for me, raised a red flag. I couldn’t help but feel there was more to their relationship than the book of face was letting on, but I decided rather than trying to read into any subtext, I’d simply ask Double D for the context.
It was over dinner one night. Despite the fact he was making four to five figures a week, Double D didn’t have a dining room table, so I was sitting on his sad excuse for a couch, which was a LoveSac he’d purchased from the mall. I’m convinced guys only buy those things so, in an effort to be cute and clever, they can offer up their LoveSacs to girls they bring home hoping to screw.
“Who’s Xena?” I asked, working the chopsticks he’d taught me to master.
He practically choked on his Chicken Katsu. “What?”
“I noticed there’s a girl named Xena you talk to on Facebook. Who is she?”
“Why are you looking at that?” he asked. I shrugged and forced him to elaborate by casually holding his gaze. “She’s just this girl I met by the pool. She wants to be an actress, so I’ve been helping her.” Unfortunately for Double D, he’s not that great an actor when he’s getting paid, let alone when he’s not.
“Helping her how?” I pressed.
“You know, with her auditions and stuff. Putting her on tape, running lines…” His voice trailed off. To this day, I’m convinced that whenever an actor says they’ve been “running lines” with someone, it’s code for getting it on…or, snorting coke. Or, both.
Despite the fact I knew Double D was lying to me, or in the very least, omitting incriminating information, I desperately wanted to believe him. But, over the next few weeks, it became increasingly difficult to ignore the writing on the wall - literally. Their Facebook interactions had become less ambiguous and more blatantly sexual in nature. Again, I approached him.
“Are you sure there’s nothing going on?” I asked.
“Yes!” he said, agitated. Then warned, “But I gotta tell you, every time we have conversations like this, you push me, Rachel.”
To justify his behavior, it’s clear he wanted us both to believe I was the insecure crazy one who was sabotaging our relationship. Though his manipulation had worked on me every single time prior, the lack of cohesion between Double D’s words and actions was beginning to consume my mind. My anxiety needed the kind of relief only validation could provide, and it was apparent he wouldn’t be the one to give it to me. So, I decided to find it for myself.
A few days later, I called him. “Will you meet me by the pool in five minutes? I wanna talk to you, and there’s something I want to give you.”
As I approached the pool area carrying the shoe box full of momentos I’d saved over the course of our five month relationship, I saw him sitting on a lounge chair near the jacuzzi waiting for me.
“Hey,” he said, standing up to greet me.
“Hey. There’s no easy way to say this, but I just don’t think this is really working out for me anymore.” And while I was doing what I should have months ago, I was, in fact, doing something else entirely. I was curious to see what he would do if confronted with the possibility of losing me. Maybe, I thought, he’d be devastated enough to take responsibility for his shortcomings and change enough for things to go back to the way they’d once been.
“I understand,” he said, stoically.
Or, he’d been completely unfazed, and I’d at least have the confirmation I needed to know my suspicions were justified. Despite what I’d already known subconsciously, I was stunned.
“Take this,” I said, before handing over the shoe box. “I can’t have it in my apartment right now.”
“Okay,” he said, taking it from me. “Anything else?” I shook my head no, and we headed our separate ways, back to our apartments.
While I may have had the answer I needed, it wasn’t enough to change what I still, inexplicably, wanted. After twenty minutes, I called him in a panic. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean it.”
“It’s too late, Rachel,” he insisted. “I can’t just turn my heart back on for someone who broke it as quickly as you did.”
To think I was that close to going out with some dignity.
The thing I love most about young Rachel was that she was as logical as she was naive and stupid. She always saw the writing on the wall and called attention to it, yet always gave people the benefit of the doubt, even when it meant believing her eyes had deceived her when someone told her nothing was there. Don’t rationalize away red flags, or your intuition - our consciousness makes us the only species to do it. Relationships are work, but they should never be hard work - and they certainly shouldn’t start at work. You’ll soon understand why, for there was much more of Double D still to come.