The Ex

Here’s what I want to say:

The last time I was in Minnesota, I was shoulder deep in an abusive relationship. I remember sneaking off to take my ex’s phone calls, knowing how angry he’d be if I didn’t answer every one. When I made him angry, he’d either threaten to kill himself or tell me it was my fault, that I didn’t understand how much he loved me and blame me for hurting him. Looking back, it was terrifying. I remember being in the car with my best friend as lake after lake yawned, open and deep, alongside the highway. She told me I didn’t deserve to be treated so cruelly – told me she’d love me and support me, but I needed to leave him.

I knew she was right. My best friends are always right and each had their own reason to hate my ex. But his hold on me was so strong that I couldn’t see around it, couldn’t fathom how much water I was swallowing. All I could do was watch the lakes scream by, desperately wishing to sink beneath them. It was the only way I could see myself escaping. That September, the Ex came into town on his way to live with another woman. He dragged me to a tattoo shop where he wanted to get matching ink. When I refused, he got a tattoo for the woman with whom he was romantically entangled instead. That night, he took me back to his hotel room and demanded that I drink with him. I didn’t feel comfortable saying no, so I drank. Hours later, the word ‘no’ was still lodged in my windpipe. I laid down in the shower and cried, nauseous and confused, as he changed the sheets. I heard him call the other woman and tell her how much he loved her, how much he wished she was with him right then.

It’s been over six months since I last spoke to my ex. When I called him to tell him he was no longer welcome in my life, I wept but I did not apologize. I explained how abusive he had been, how crazy he made me feel, how cruelly he had treated me – and he agreed, before begging me to stay. He told me he would kill himself if I stopped talking to him. I told him I hoped he would reconsider that, but I needed to go.

And I left.

A few days ago, I boarded a flight to Minnesota. I’ve returned for a moment to the very lakes that I thought could free me from his clutches. I’ve returned to some of the women who held my hands and led me from the dark waters, who taught me to breathe on my own. I could not be more grateful. There are still days when I’m furious – at myself for staying and at him for hurting me – but there are more days when I’m happy, thankful, and whole.

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