It is 11:35 p.m. as I start to write this. I am in a park, plugged into an electrical outlet because my laptop battery will only last 20 minutes without electricity. I have my computer, a shirt, shorts, and sandals but nothing else. I don’t have my wallet, any money, food, or anything else. I left Justine’s apartment about an hour ago, and I have been walking around trying to figure out what to do.
I have been trying to leave Justine for many months, but she has actively blocked all of my attempts to leave. Tonight, before I left, she read me a list. The list contained many events that have happened over the last 11 months that I have been staying with Justine. She described many things that happened, and in her descriptions, I am a monster. I am overbearing, emotionally and verbally abusive, I control her life: I am a monster.
I am not a saint, and I know that 18 years ago, I was a monster. I have tried, however, to change. I have never forgiven myself for the time I knew I was a monster. Furthermore, I have not learned how to forgive myself for any time I have hurt someone in the last 18 years. It doesn’t matter if I intentionally hurt them or not, I don’t know how to forgive myself for hurting people. I’ve tried to understand why I cannot forgive myself, and I have spoken with therapists about it, but I have not made any progress. One hypothesis is that I feel that during the time I know I was a monster (ages 17 to 20), I “used up” my “lifetime allotment” of causing harm to others. Any additional pain that I cause is over my quota and I cannot be forgiven for it. Of course, if that hypothesis is true, then it does not explain why I cannot forgive myself for the things I did as a teenager. In any event, I have worked for the last 18 years to continually be a better person and to never harm any one else.
Maybe I failed, though. Introspection and objectively judging yourself is very difficult. Maybe I only thought I changed, but I really have not changed. If someone who did not know me listened to Justine’s list, everything she describes is completely plausible. Have I been deluded all of these years? Am I still the monster I was at 20? I hope not; I don’t want to be a monster or to hurt anyone. Nevertheless, the truth doesn’t matter. If I am still a monster, then I deserve the punishment I have received. If I am not a monster, if the way Justine described the events of the last 11 months is not accurate, then what is the purpose of the list?
If the list is not true, if Justine’s description of things is purposely distorted so that I appear to be a monster, what can I do? Nothing. She read this list to me and demanded that I stay with her and
give her a chance to prove [she] is good enough for me. Wait, what? You tell me I am a monster—I hated the person you described in that list—but you want me to stay? And you don’t think I will change, but you are going to try to change so you can prove to me that I should stay? What else can I do but stay? If I leave her, then she will tell everyone that I am monster: the person on her list.
Before I continue, let me erase all doubt about whether she wants me to stay with her. She said to me,
It hurts me that you don’t care that I will certainty kill myself if you leave me. She has said that before, and she said it again tonight.
If I am not a monster, if I am good man, then the list is blackmail. If I don’t do what she wants, then she will tell everyone that I am the monster who did all of the bad things on her list. How can I respond to it? How could I disprove her list? How do I prove that I am a good man and not a monster? I cannot.
To prove that I am a good man, people would have to believe that Justine has recently started to abuse her power over me. People would have to believe that a 20-year-old woman wants to, and can, abuse a 38-year-old man. No one will believe that a male can be a victim of a female. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have any money, and that she has all of the money. It doesn’t matter that this is rural Illinois and that she has a car and I do not have a car. It doesn’t matter that she is the person leasing the apartment and that I don’t have any other place to go within 1000 miles. It certainly doesn’t matter that she has this list and has threatened to kill herself if I leave her.
None of those things matter because to most people, a man can never be the victim of abuse. It doesn’t matter if I am in fact a monster or if I am merely accused of being a monster because the overwhelming majority of people believe I am a monster and they will treat me that way.
No matter how bad things are, never forget that they can always get worse. Always. I have no idea what I can or will do now.
1:00 am: and it does get worse. I walked back to the apartment, Justine saw me, locked the doors, and left with a guy I have never seen before. He asked her,
What happened to your car? She said,
I got into a car accident. The car has been damaged like that for years, so this is some guy she has not seen in a long time. (Last weekend, she got angry at me and said that she was
going to sleep with the first guy that will come home with her. She then went to a club in Rock Falls. She apologized for saying that.) I am locked out of the apartment, and my few possessions are locked inside the apartment, and for good measure, she unplugged the WiFi. Ironically, the WiFi transmitter is mine, not hers. They come back after 10 minutes, with cigarettes. They walk right by me, and after they get inside, they go onto the balcony to smoke. The police have already been to the apartment twice today, and the second time they offered to give me a ride to a shelter in the next state. I walked over to the police station, but no one answered the bell. This will be a long night; probably the first of many.