Haunting

A while ago when I published the story of an incident between an old boyfriend and myself I sort of mentioned that there were reasons I chose to stay with him, even in the midst of his emotional turmoil. There are many more reasons that I chose to stay aside from this one incident but this is this is really the most poignant.

It was labor day eve (is that a day? it is now lol). My boyfriend and I had made attending a local fireworks display a priority that year. I’d never gone, and I believe he had only been once before. It was a big deal not only because it was the giant local to do, but because it was one of the only times we actually set aside time for us. With me working 50+ hours a week, and he busily getting things in order before he left for his training we spent a lot of time together with other people (his family, my family, friends, coworkers, etc) but never really together ALONE just the two of us. People had asked to join us, and we had turned them down. It was our night. There was a little bit of resistance from my boyfriend because one of his other good friends had also never been and over heard us planning our trip. He really wanted to go, and at first my boyfriend welcomed him along. I reminded him that it was supposed to be our night, and he complied after a brief argument. It was to be expected. he argued everything that contradicted his opinion, even when he knew he was at fault.

We drove down and decided that the levee was our best bet as far as parking and entertainment until the sun went down and the real excitement started. We ate lunch/dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, found an inexpensive place to park and wandered around through the mall and various shops to purchase a blanket and bottled waters before staking our claim for the show.

So much of our relationship was spent in flux that these times when things were good seem uneventful in comparison. I know we didn’t spend the entire evening in silence, but the conversations were calm and mundane. Whatever young 20 somethings talk about, nothing poignant that stuck with me all these years later, until we were making our way from the shops  down to look for a spot to sit. Some how or another the conversation had wandered into siblings and half siblings. I mentioned that my dad was a partier before he met my mom and that I could very well have half siblings wandering around unknown to me, which then turned the conversation to my boyfriend’s wilder days.

“You don’t have any kids out there do you?” I asked half joking, but serious enough that I wanted an honest answer.

“Uh… well I might, but as far as I know I don’t.” He answered with a chuckle. “I mean there was this one girl, Lindsey, she ended up pregnant but she was also engaged to another guy so… I guess maybe that kid, but I’ll never know.”

I had to laugh. Most people would find it offensive that their partner couldn’t remember if he’d fathered any children, nor that he particularly cared, but with him it was forgivable. I appreciated his honesty. I wasn’t ignorant to the fact I was the 23rd notch on his bed post, and many of the previous notches had been flings or one night stands. I knew, and I chose to be with him regardless accepting the possibility that eventually down the road a women might show up demanding a paternity test.

I kind of gave him a look of disapproval, and started to say something before my attention got redirected to the security guards making everyone empty out their bottled waters and drinks.

“Wait… can we not take this water in with us?” I asked as the crowd of people heading down to river began to slow and wait for security to give everyone a once over.

“Uh… I don’t know. Stick it in your purse. It’s just water. They can’t really do anything. Maybe we can sneak past them. Just pretend you don’t see them.” He said, ushering me quickly along past security.

We made it about ten feet beyond the barrier, before one of the guards caught up to us.

“Hey! You two! In the green! Stop right there! I need to check your purse ma’am.” The guard said lightly grabbing my arm to get our attention and stop us.

“Um, excuse me? I KNOW you didn’t just grab her arm.” My boyfriend said, jumping between the guard who had immediately released me as soon as we stopped, and myself.

“I need to check her purse. You walked through the check point right there.” The guard said pointing to my purse. “As soon as I get a look you can go.”

“So you can just grab my girlfriend, because we didn’t see your check point? Are you serious right now?” My boyfriend almost yelled.

“Honey, calm down. It’s fine. Here.” I said pulling him back from his confrontation and showing the security guard my purse.

“You need to get rid of that water. There’s a dumpster right around the corner.” The guard said keeping his eye on my boyfriend who was pacing back and forth still stewing.

“It’s just water.” My boyfriend said jumping to my defense yet again. “It’s ninety degrees out here. Why can’t we have water?”

“There are drinks available at vendors once you get through the gates. No outside drinks allowed.” The guard stated as a matter of fact.

“So we can’t have water in ninety degree heat, and you’re going to grab my girlfriend?” My boyfriend started, before the guard, having enough, cut him off.

“Look buddy, you get rid of the water or I’m going to get rid of you. No outside drinks allowed.” He said firmly.

My boyfriend began to protest before I stepped in once again.

“Honey, just get rid of it. It’s going to be dark soon I’ll be fine with out water for an hour or two. We can get something once we get in. It’s not that big of a deal. I didn’t come all the way down here to get kicked out.” I said with a stern tone in my voice, handing him my water bottle.

He looked at me, still heated from the entire incident, but took the water bottle from me and obediently made his way to the dumpster followed closely by two security officers. Once he returned we were allowed to continue through the gate and found a place to sit on the grass.

“They didn’t have to escort me to the dumpster.” He mumbled as we both took a seat on our blanket.

“No, but you were being pretty combative.” I replied.

“He had no right to grab your arm like that, and I don’t see how they can deny people water on a hot day.” He yelped defensively.

“I’m not saying you didn’t have a good reason to be pissed off, but he was just doing his job. If you were in his shoes you would have done the exact same thing, and you can’t tell me you wouldn’t’ve.” I said with a bit of an amused smile, standing on my knees and wrapping my arms around him giving him a supportive hug.

“I guess… but he didn’t have to be a dick about it.” He insisted finally beginning to relax a little.

“Neither did you. I appreciate you standing up for me, but you got a little carried away.”

He let out a sigh, sufficiently chastised, and leaned back on the blanket. Before I could say anything to start a new conversation his phone rang, and he answered. He spent the next hour and a half on the phone, and I curled up by his side watching the sun set on the horizon. It wasn’t unusual for him to take long phone calls, especially from his buddies. It happened pretty frequently and I had gotten used to it. In the beginning it annoyed me, but I soon realized that much like myself many others were drawn to him when looking for advice and a listening ear. I didn’t really want to share him, but I soon accepted that it was inevitable. At least we were together in the same space even if he wasn’t participating in a conversation.

After he hung up the phone, he stretched and stood.

“I’m going to go look for a drink. Want anything?” He asked.

“Whatever that is.” I answered pointing to people sitting several rows in front of us holding plates of funnel cake.

“Funnel cake?” He asked an amused expression flowing across his face and blurring out the worry and sadness of before.

“I don’t know. Is that funnel cake?” I answered honestly.

“Uh… yeah. That would be funnel cake. You’ve never had funnel cake before?”

“I have, but it didn’t look like that. It was home made.” I answered.

“Alright. I’ll be right back.”

I watched him disappear into the sea of people. I tried to keep an eye on him as he made his way down to the drink and snack stand, but lost him several times. I pulled out my phone and began to take pictures of the skyline as the sun began to set. After twenty minutes or so I began to get nervous that something had happened to him, he was in a particularly feisty mood and with out me by his side to calm him down anything could have happened. I was praying that he hadn’t found himself in another confrontation with security and gotten himself kicked out. I called him twice with no response. Again, an annoying habit of his. Unless he felt the desire to talk to you he rarely took time to answer his phone. Especially if he didn’t think it was important. Me calling him because he had been gone dealing with a crowd for twenty minutes was not important in his world. I hadn’t really expected an answer unless something had happened, so being greeted with silence was somewhat of a relief.

A few moments later I saw him wandering back up the hill balancing my funnel cake in one hand and sipping on a beer for himself.

“There you are! I thought you got lost or ran into security and kicked out or something.” I said, genuinely relieved to see him.

“No, it was just really crowded and I ran into my buddy Mark.” He answered, handing me my funnel cake and sitting down on the blanket.

“You didn’t get me anything to drink?” I asked.

“You didn’t say you wanted anything, and I barely had enough money for this. It was like $7 for your cake, and $4 for this beer.”  He answered, still in an obviously sour mood.

“You’re right. I didn’t say I wanted anything, but I thought it was kind of implied ordering a snack in this heat that I would want a drink too. It’s okay. I’ll make do.” I said disappointed. I really couldn’t be mad at him when I hadn’t specifically asked for a drink, it would have been a nice thought though.

“Here, want some of this?” He asked offering me his beer.

“Uh… no. We’ve already narrowly avoided getting kicked out once today, I don’t need to get arrested for underage drinking.” I said becoming increasingly more annoyed with his increasingly more difficult mood.

“Who’s going to know you’re underage? As far as they know you bought this drink and are sharing it with me. No one’s hovering over you watching. They didn’t even card me when I bought it. Come on, just give it a try.” He argued.

“Alright, I don’t see any other options right now and I’m about to die of thirst.” I consented taking his cup and gulping down a small swig of the drink. It was my first taste of beer, and much like now I really didn’t care for it, but it wasn’t so bad.

“Oh my, God Kelli! They’re coming for you!” He teased as security wandered by our blanket as I took another small sip.

“Ha ha. Thanks. Way to be.” I said with a roll of my eyes, continuing to snack on my cake.

“What did you think?” He asked.

“It’s okay I guess. I don’t see what the allure of it is. I don’t think I could sit down and drink it all day but it’s not awful.” I answered. “If I was stranded on a dessert island and there was nothing else to drink to survive I guess I would, but never just because I wanted to.”

“Well you wouldn’t want to drink it to survive on a dessert island. Alcohol dehydrates you.” He explained, before going into what I affectionately referred to as one of “His Lecture’s” about the history of beer and the various affects it has on the body. 

He is super intelligent, and loves to share his knowledge with anyone who will listen, especially when it’s a subject he’s very passionate about. There were certain topics he would talk about for hours on end. I learned a lot from him, but I also perfected my ability to tune people out and still pretend to listen. lol. The beer conversation/informative lecture continued until dusk when the fireworks display began.

We stretched out onto our blanket, and he pulled me close. I rested one ear firmly against his chest and put my hand over the other as he wrapped his arm around me giving me a little squeeze and the display began. That’s where we remained for the duration of the display, snuggled closely together watching the sky light up a million different colors and feeling the concussion from each explosion.

It seemed to last forever, and in that perfect moment I wish it had. Through all the energy and chaos of celebration surrounding us, we were stoic, we were safe, and we were together. It was another one of the best nights of my life, but it was over much too quickly.

As soon as the display ended we packed up our things and began to head to the car in the massive exodus of people. We got separated briefly as someone shoved their way between he and I.

“Kelli! Kelli where are you?” He yelled over the roar of the crowd, a tone in his voice I hadn’t yet heard before.

“Here! I’m right here! I can hear you, but I can’t see you!” I yelled in reply, getting shoved and knocked around and forced to move even though I wanted to stay put until I could reconnect with him.

“Here!” He yelled as he saw me, and pushed his way through the crowd to take my hand. “Stay close, okay?”

“Yeah, I’m trying. It’s not easy in this mess.” I answered as we were once again forced to follow the flux and flow of the crowd.

“Just hold my hand and don’t let go.” He reassured me taking my small hand firmly in his and beginning to push his way through the crowd.

There was one other time yet again someone pushed between us severing our grip, but we quickly recovered as he used his athletic size to his advantage and pushed back against them.

“Hey buddy! Back off!” The offending person yelled at him.

“Hey, buddy how about you don’t fucking step on my girlfriend and I’ll back off.” He responded taking my hand once again, and leading us out of the chaos and ducking down an alley.

“Well that was fun.” I said sarcastically, adjusting my shirt and shoes that had been twisted and stepped on in the scuffle.

“Are you okay?” He asked still keeping a brisk pace heading back to the car.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I really have to pee though. Like hard core.” I said, jogging to keep up with him. “Are there any bathrooms before we get to the car?”

“Uh… no. I don’t think so. It shouldn’t take that long to get out once we get to the car parking so far away and being over here.” He explained as we wandered into the parking lot. We quickly got into the car, and proceeded to wait in traffic for the next three hours. Most of which was spent waiting, ironically, to get out of the parking lot.

As we were waiting our conversation found it’s way to his ex wife. We listened through the CD in the stereo once completely sitting in the parking lot and grew bored with it, so I pulled out a CD binder which had been in his car as long as I could remember at his request.

“Pick something.” He said. “I don’t actually know what’s in there. They’re my ex’s CDs.”

“Why do you still have her CDs in your car?” I asked, not offended but merely curious.

“We were still together when I first bought the car, she never got them out and I never remembered to give them back to her. You can have them if you want them. If not remind me to throw them away when we get home.” He answered sadly drifting off into his own thoughts.

We listened through a few tracks from each CD and I began to notice a trend with the songs. In a disturbing way I could relate to many of them and slowly realized that these CDs were left with him because they were ABOUT him and the struggles he and his ex had faced in their dying relationship. He realized this too as he skipped though many tracks when they hit a wound that was still aching, and eventually abandoned the binder all together in favor of his own CD’s he had stored in the trunk.

Eventually, just as I thought my bladder was about to explode, we made our way out of traffic and back on to the open road quickly pulling off at the first exit we saw with an available bathroom. The show had ended around 11pm, and we didn’t even make it out of the traffic mess until going on 2am, we were so tired and so done with being in the car that instead of heading back to his place as planned we crashed at my apartment which was about thirty minutes closer to where the display was held. Crashed was the most appropriate word for it.

As soon as we made our way up the stairs and into the apartment, we both immediately went to the bedroom, changed out of our sweaty clothes and went immediately to sleep which was honestly kind of unusual after a romantic evening out. At the time I was so exhausted I didn’t care, but looking back on it now I should have known what was coming. He had been upset all day, flustered and not himself. 

(I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it anywhere on the blog before, but in addition to some of his other struggles, this particular boy was plagued with night terrors. They were infrequent, and generally only occurred when he was under extreme emotional stress, but we’d been together long enough that I had endured several of his episodes. At times he was violent and would physically attack me lost in whatever world his subconscious had dreamt up, but other times he was merely distraught and would mumble to himself and wander out of the room. He never remembered what happened the next morning, so it was just one of those things. It didn’t affect my feelings toward him, I just had to be careful if he had a particularly challenging day.)

Usually, if he got too violent or disturbed in sleep I would merely migrate out to the couch, and everything would return to normal. I also had severe back pain due to some unattended spine issues. Normally I could adjust my pillows a certain way, or turn a certain way in bed to make the pain subside but there were quite a few times that the pain would be so intense that I would have to leave the bed on my own accord to try to find a more comfortable place to sleep.

He and I shared an understanding that if I left the bed it was because my back was hurting, but that night just as I settled in on the couch after searing back pain had turned me away from our bed, turned off the living room light and closed my eyes I heard him rustling around in the bedroom, mumbling at first, then screaming, shrieking my name as he tumbled out of the bed and tore out of the bedroom, tripping on the carpet and slamming into the wall on the other side of the hall way before collapsing to his knees.

“Kelli! Don’t leave me! Oh God, don’t leave me! I don’t want to be alone! Please, God, please don’t leave me!” He wailed tears streaming down his face.

“What?! Honey, it’s okay! I’m right here! I’m not leaving. I’m right here.” I yelped, immediately jumping up, flipping on the hall light and rushing to his side kneeling down and putting my hand gently on his shoulder to test his reaction to my touch, before wrapping my arms around him as he literally began to sob into my shoulder.

“I rolled over and you were gone. You were gone. I can’t lose you, I just can’t. I don’t want to be alone. Please don’t leave me.” He wept as I began to cry myself, seeing the man I loved in such distress.

“Honey, I’m sorry. My back was hurting so I moved out to the couch. I’m not going anywhere. I didn’t mean to scare you. Do you want me to come back in there with you?” I asked.

“Don’t leave me, Kelli! Please, don’t leave me.” He continued to wail between erratic sobs, not acknowledging what I had just said to him.

It was then that I realized he was in the middle of yet another night terror. All of the emotional stress and physical anxiety he had been trying to hide through out the day had come bubbling up through his subconscious.

So there we sat, in the middle of my tiny apartment, tears flowing for the next twenty minutes as he repeated his plea for me to stay with him, until he finally began to wake up. His breathing became less erratic, and the tears stopped. I released my embrace as he slowly stood up, wiped the remaining tears from his face and rubbed his eyes, extremely disoriented.

“Sweetheart, I moved out to the couch because my back was hurting, and you had a nightmare. Do you want me to come back in the bedroom with you?” I asked, giving him another gentle hug, which he returned.

“Yeah. Come back to bed.” He answered still shaken, but at least lucid.

“Okay. Go ahead back in, I need to get my pillow. I’ll be right there. I love you.” I said, releasing him and pointing him in the direction of the bedroom.

“You’re coming back to bed, right?” He asked again, before actually stepping into the bedroom.

“Yes, Sweetheart. I’m coming back to bed. I just need to get my pillow. I’ll be there, I promise.” I reassured him yet again.

That time he headed back into the bedroom and climbed back into bed. I quickly grabbed my pillow from the couch, made my own way into the bedroom and crawled back into bed with him. He had already fallen back to a sound sleep, and was softly snoring. I curled up as close as I could to him and did my best to hold him the rest of the night. My back was on fire, and I barely slept but I stayed there locked in that position, with my arms wrapped around him until the bright afternoon sun filtered through my window causing him to stir and wake.

And this is where my love for and basic knowledge of psychology got me in trouble… I’ve always known that the subconscious and conscious minds are separate entities. You can manipulate and project your conscious persona to be pretty much whatever you want through dissociation and delusion, but the subconscious is an entirely different ball game.

Both sides of him were always present during our relationship. The side of him that was super sweet, kind, loving, and generally an all around good guy; then the darker side that crept up seemingly out of nowhere. The course, defensive, reckless, violent and abusive side. It was practically a coin toss each morning he woke to whom I would be spending the day with. Sometimes he would start off in one incarnation and switch to the other. It was worse at the beginning of our relationship than towards the end, and I mostly assumed that it had to do with his recent divorce.

But then, I had the opportunity to speak with him a few years ago after life had taken us in different directions and the very same behaviors were still present. They were actually worse, as I could hear him transitioning between the two parts of himself with in minutes not over hours or days. Of course I only had a few hours to speak to him, and hadn’t been involved in his life for years prior nor since. Perhaps there were some underlaying emotional issues much like a divorce that were going on completely unrelated to the circumstances that lead to our conversation. *shrugs*

I’ll never know the what/how/why he seems to present such stark splitting behaviors, and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I don’t feel like I need to. It’s just the way things are, but even knowing, accepting it is still difficult to wrap my head around. All I ever wanted to do was help him through his struggles, but I couldn’t then and I still can’t now. It really isn’t my responsibility, nor was it ever, but it does still haunt me and probably always will.