An emotionally abused woman closes her heart. Will she ever open it again?
He stormed out the door and I expected it to slam. It didn’t. He broke it once before but this time was different, an insult that I was forced to close it after him.
I waited a minute, my emotions half hoping he would return. But my mind told me this was the battered wife syndrome, women believing empty promises . . . I won’t drink anymore, yell at you anymore, beat you anymore, cheat on you anymore. Why do we believe such insidious lies?
In my case we weren’t married but it was all of the above, drinking, temper tantrums, he hit me once and there were two known cases of cheating. But worst of all was the emotional abuse, a constant manipulation of my thoughts and feelings. Promises weren’t kept and I was living a lie. It's because women try to please beyond all reason and that's what I was doing.
I walked to the door and looked out at darkness, feeling emptiness that went beyond the silence of the night. I knew he was a lying cheat, but my heart was somewhere else. It had been broken, yet I still longed for him. I foolishly believed love could conquer all. It probably can, but this wasn’t real love.
Our relationship had been five months of torment and wasted time, a painful series of breakups and reconciliations. We first met in a coffee shop, a chance meeting. But now I’m wondering if it was chance or something cold and calculated?
In looking back I realize he had this strange fixation on me. Those first days his eyes had been like scopes tracking a prey. Did he see me as a target, a vulnerable mark?
Every morning I went to the coffee shop to get a cup of coffee to take to work and for five days in a row he was sitting at a table close to the entrance. His eyes would glance and look away, sweet mischief at play.
Eventually I became interested, a welcome flirt at the beginning of the day. A woman likes to be noticed, even admired.
Then one morning he smiled when our eyes met. Exceptional warmth was communicated through the fine features of his face, the bright blue eyes and perfect smile. Needless to say he was cute and my heart fluttered.
When I smiled back he didn’t hesitate to make his move. As soon as I paid for my coffee he got up from his chair. And he approached me when I went to the area where you get milk, sugar and napkins.
“Hi,” he said.
“Ah . . . hi.”
“I see you like coffee.” It was a simple innocent comment from him, nothing devious, nothing threatening. But what kind of a pickup line was that?
I fell for it. “Light roast,” I replied. What a silly response.
“Do you work around here?”
“At the land title office down the street.” Why was I telling this to a perfect stranger? “How about you?”
As smooth as silk he said, “I’m independent.”
I took that to mean he was financially self-sufficient, not that he independently lived off single women. Later I discovered this the hard way.
He introduced himself as Arthur James Rothmore the Third, which sounded regal. But he said, “Call me Art.”
Art played a cat and mouse game and after several mornings of subtle seductions he asked me out. Without hesitation I accepted and one warm evening we went out to a romantic restaurant with candle light and Chopin. He paid. It was the only time I remembered him doing such a thing. Later I realized this was calculated. Art was making an initial investment, expecting a long term return.
After that I gave him my heart and soul. He moved into my apartment, which I previously vowed would never happen.
That decision was made one evening when he had come over to my place. We sat on the couch and Art moved close to me and said, “There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you but I don’t know how to say it.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I have strong feelings when I’m around you. You make me feel so complete.”
Warmth came to my cheeks. “I’m pleased,” I said.
“In fact, this is something I’ve never told anyone before I’m falling in love with you.”
Art moved his lips to mine and I received him and we drifted into a long passionate kiss and more. I was a bird being captured and didn’t even know it.
Later that evening he told me a story, how he had just sold his house but the purchase of a new house had been delayed. He was thinking to move in with some old buddies but they were party guys and he was not that kind of person. Then he asked for my advice.
I said, “Maybe you could stay here until you move into your new house.” When I though of his new house I imagined moving in with him, having kids, a dog, a cat, a white picket fence.
Art’s stay with me went from days to weeks as the previous owners had not yet moved out of his new house. He wanted to be kind to them so he told them to take their time.
Each morning when I headed off to work he wished me a good day while he sat at my kitchen table wearing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. He would swipe away at a tablet saying he was, “taking care of business deals.”
His consortium of partners were working on a new investment and all his funds were tied up. But when the deal was completed he would make a “bundle.”
It’s amazing how we can so easily catch a disease called blindness of the heart. I believed him and initially didn’t think anything of paying a little extra at the grocery store. I was already paying the rent and utilities, so his contribution wasn’t necessary, at least initially.
It was when he started to borrow ten dollars here and there, and then a hundred and then five hundred. The funds were needed for business expenses and he would pay me back. He needed the money to, “secure our future.” It turned out it was used for gambling and a lascivious lifestyle. Some of it was to find his next female conquest, using my money to “trade up.”
There came a point when I began to feel used. Once I was in the bedroom and overheard one of his telephone calls. He was talking to a bookie about money owned. Another call was to a woman and he was arranging a romantic rendezvous. I confronted him and he denied everything but when pressed hard he confessed to some indiscretions. Then he profusely apologized and expressed deepest regret, promising he would never do it again. He loved me beyond anything in the world and would make it right. Such deception.
Eventually our relationship became an emotional tornado and I was saying things I later regretted. That final evening we got into a major argument.
In frustration after all the broken promises I asked him, “When do I get the money back that I loaned you.”
He looked me in the eyes and said, “What are you taking about. It wasn’t a loan, it was a gift.”
When I thought about that I realized how cunning he was. He always said he would pay me back if I needed the money, but he had to wait until the sale of his old house went through. There never was an old house. “I want my money,” I said. My hands were shaking and tears came to my eyes.
“Come on, let’s not get emotional.” His face softened and he said, “You know I love you.”
He that before. “Don’t manipulate me,” I exclaimed.
With hard narrow eyes he said, “You’re nothing but a crybaby. I can’t stand it. You have to do what I say.”
Over the previous weeks I’d felt like he had gained an insidious control over me. Somehow he had gotten into my head and I was there for his bidding. It was like a suffocating blanket squeezing life from my soul. “I won’t do what you say,” I screamed.
Art’s face became red. “You better or else,”
“Or else what?” He yelled back, while taking a glass from the kitchen table and smashing it to the floor. “You’re a self-indulgent slut,” he screamed. Then he went into the bedroom, quickly put his clothing into a bag and stormed out the front door.
After he left I looked out into the cold darkness of the night, and then I shut the door and my heart sunk. I was an emotional wreck. I stared at the cracks in the door where he had broken it before. They were like the cracks in my soul. Would they ever go away?
There was this perverse illogical mix going on inside me. I hated him yet I wanted him. I opened the door again and somehow the night air brought clarity to my thinking. I realized that everything Art told me was a lie, all the things he said he felt and thought. And I was naïve enough to believe him.
To let him go was hard. For days I walked in a zombie like state, my emotions constantly going from high to low, but mostly low.
I made a vow to never let this happen again with another man, knowing so many women slip right back into dependent dysfunctional relationships.
I locked the door to my heart and threw away the key.
But, I needed love.
* * *
Love came six months later when a lawyer opened a law office next to mine. He specialized in commercial law and we began to use his services for our land title business. His name was Jacob. He was clean-cut, polite and while he had a strong physique he was reserved, even shy. He had been a linebacker on his university football team and then went on to law school.
We took our time over many weeks with dinners, movies, walks in the park and excursions on weekends. I got to know him and his family, and I liked their traditional values. Gradually Jacob’s shyness broke away and I found a fun side to him that made me laugh. And I felt secure when I was with him.
Yet during those weeks I never invited him into my apartment.
One evening we were leaving a restaurant and my heart sunk when I saw Art. He was walking alone toward the restaurant and he looked surprised to see me. He came up to us with a hard look on his face and he turned to Jacob and said, “Why are you with my fiancé?”
The smell of alcohol extruded from his entire being.
I said, “Art, you’re a creep that stalks innocent women.”
“Stupid women,” he slurred. With his left hand he grabbed my arm. “You come with me.”
Jacob said, “Take your hand off the lady.”
“Screw you,” Art exclaimed.
“The lady doesn’t want this so remove your hand.”
A small crowd gathered. A man took out his cell phone and began recording the event, a drama to be broadcast on YouTube.
Art kept his left hand on my arm and with his right hand he quickly swung at Jacob and hit him on the chin.
Jacob’s face jerked to the side but his body didn’t move. Art hit Jacob in the stomach and Jacob extended his hand to keep Art away. Then Jacob calmly took out his cell phone, called 911 and said, “I’m being aggressed by a drunk.”
When the call was finished, Art said, “Who you calling a drunk,” and he started to flail away at Jacob.
In the midst of Art's wild attack, with one swift blow Jacob smashed his fist into the side of Art’s head and Art tumbled to the hard concrete like a tree felled in the forest. He was out cold and I wondered if Jacob had killed him.
A couple minutes later Art regained consciousness and sat up. He had difficulty to get on his feet. As he was rising up the police came and they questioned Jacob, me and the people in the crowd. When they questioned Art he became belligerent and tried to bite one of the officers, so they arrested him and took him away. It's amazing how an abundance of alcohol brings out the true nature of the beast.
Jacob filed charges. He also arranged to get a copy of the video from the bystander’s cell phone as evidence.
Weeks later Jacob destroyed Art in court. It turned out Art had a long police record that I knew nothing about, mainly extortion. He was also on probation. And his name wasn’t Arthur James Rothmore the Third, but rather Harley Hatfield.
I was relieved, even feeling a silent vengeance when he was sent back to prison.
Being a commercial lawyer, Jacob was pleased to have won his first case in criminal court. We celebrated with a nice dinner in a restaurant by the lake.
Sometimes it’s a difficult lesson to learn, not to waste time with someone who doesn’t treat you right. And now the locked door on my heart has been opened by an honest man who deserves it.