Let me step again and give you a content warning here: this post discusses domestic violence. If you want a history of him and me, check here first.
Half of the reason why I left him was the cat. I took care of her. I trained her as well as I could. In sickness or health, she’s the one cat I’ve owned who doesn’t go outside the box. Early on, I believed my bad behavior caused him to abuse me, so it never crossed my mind that he’d hurt an innocent kitten. He did, and not infrequently. I started trying to leave as soon as it happened, with my cat in my arms, but it was like he had a sixth sense about us. He’d notice, and he’d put a stop to it. He’d be extra careful not to leave marks, to make sure I couldn’t call in help and show them evidence.
But he could be sweet, too. Any abuser can. The cat loved him, and he loved her, as much as he could love another living thing. I stayed with him for years because of how he’d cry over his mistakes, or tremble over his fears. Like an innocent, or a child. He’d refer to these moments as “showing his true self”. I don’t agree — it wasn’t a fake or unreal person who abused me. It was him. But the scared, vulnerable boy wasn’t fake either.
After I left him, I wanted to help him move on with his life, but I could only take so much. I couldn’t spend every evening on the phone, trying to walk him through basic household tasks like operating the coffee machine. I couldn’t give him money for rent every month; I had my own life to live. I tried and tried to cut off contact with him, but he’d keep sending me messages, no matter what. Finally, almost a year after we broke up, I sent him an email saying I’d contact the police if he kept trying to speak with me. He listened, and I haven’t heard from him since.
Today, I regretted that.
If I could see the future, even at a heavy price, I’d use it to see if my ex will ever reenter my life. I know that cutting off contact was the right thing to do for both of us. It stopped him from manipulating me. It stopped me from enabling him, or feeling constantly afraid.
But today, four years after our breakup, a reminder of him entered my life in the strangest way. I went to get a library card, only to find that he still has books out under my name.
The lady at the checkout desk said, “Maybe it’s worth getting in touch with an old friend, if you think they might be able to recover the book for you.”
I almost laughed. I left the library feeling okay. I’m used to taking responsibility for things he helped (or forced) me to thoroughly fuck up. I would pay the replacement fee and get on with my life.
Unfortunately, the thought of him didn’t leave me. I started to worry, as I do every week or two, when I have a thought or a dream about him. I cut off contact, so I don’t know where he is. Before, he would have messaged me if he was angry or upset or planning to come and find me. But now? He could be preparing to turn up at my doorstep with a gun, and I’d never know.
I tell myself I’m safe. It’s been a while. He’s probably moved on, and if he’s found another person to abuse, at least he has a police record thanks to me, so they’ll take any reports more seriously.
I hope he has moved on. I hope he’s gotten help. I loved him once, I saw the good sides of him, and I want a good life for him. I hope he understands that me leaving him wasn’t an act borne from hatred or retribution, but from fear for myself, and from a wish that it’d drive him to understand that his abusive behavior is serious enough to require intervention. I hope he’s out there living a good life, never even allowing me to cross his mind.
I hope he’s not blaming me for all the ways his life has gone wrong, plotting revenge as I type.
Speaking statistically, I know that the danger has likely passed, but that doesn’t help me let go of the fear. It has faded over time, but inevitably, it comes back to me. I think it always will.
If I could look into the future and know for sure where he is, what he’s doing, whether he hates me, whether he’s well? I’d do it, at any cost. My peace of mind is worth it.