There are many things that can leave a person broken, and unfragmented for years. Remaining anonymous, this is the true story of a dark tell-all tale of a woman. It is about an unfortunate love lost and the journey through it, that led to her most powerful discovery; that she is a survivor. A survivor in more ways than one, not only from a heartbreak but also a traumatizing childhood memory. She learns that there is untapped strength in that definition. She can be the designer of her own destiny.
“Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”— here I opened wide the door; —
Darkness there, and nothing more.”
-Edgar Allen Poe
I can’t believe I am writing this. A few years later. Where so long ago in a faraway place I left the swirling galaxy of Ryan and I behind.
It is with a hope of healing that I tell this tale. A journey over rough waters, that crashed with a devastating force onto the new world I am in today. I have wandered aimlessly through my new world, growing with every step of exploration I take.
It was tucked back into a place in my heart that, for the past few years has remained a ghost town. A grey image of a time and place that once was, but no longer a part of this physical realm. I don’t know what it is about right now in my life, but I can feel faint movements of a ghost in that image. A brief moment of haunting, that is only increasing in its reaches as I draw my breaths to drink it in. And so, I feel as though I must tell our story.
A few summers ago, I was living with my boyfriend, Ryan. Someone I was deeply in love with. The first time I ever knew what love could feel like. We were starting our summer out in a sunny small mountain town on the front range of Colorado.
We were college-sweethearts. The house we lived in was owned by Ryan’s parents and it was a quaint 1 story red brick home, shaded by giant hovering oak trees. It was quiet, and peaceful. I was 25 years old, but inside I was still very young, like a second round of adolescence. Ryan was too, he was idealistic with fantasies of the world moving softly behind his blue eyes. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen, almost surreal. He was tall, towering a little over 6 feet with lean defined muscles. He had dark brown hair that swept across his forehead in a way to emphasize his bright blue eyes.
I moved into his house a month earlier, something we had decided we wanted over Valentine’s Day. We took a trip to Glenwood Springs for the holiday. A snow covered town deep into the mountains. I didn’t know it, but Ryan had arranged ahead of time to have our room covered in rose petals. A little corny, you are thinking? Not to people who are stupid in love with each other, for some reason you just can’t help but to view the corny as momentous.
When we checked in downstairs, the front desk clerk gave me a funny smile after I gave him our reservation name. I looked up at Ryan with a concerned look, to see if he noticed it. At the moment I figured the clerk was being rude and found me amusing in some way. Ryan gave me a sly smile, pulled me into his side, and kissed my head. As a silent protest to tell me it was all in my imagination. He had a way of doing that, making me feel like I was slightly crazy when he didn’t see the importance in something. I was surprised he did not say “Yes, Dear” as he kissed my head. That was his favorite way of humorously letting me know I was being dramatic and dismissing the subject at hand. He knew I hated when he did that, but also loved it at the same time.
“Your room is ready, 310 here are your cards you can take the elevator to the third floor” The clerk gestured with his hands over to the elevator doors.
“Great, thanks” Ryan said to the clerk as they gave each other a secret smile while he reached for the key cards. What the hell was that, did they know something I didn’t? I glanced back and forth between the two of them. Was there something on my face? Is my underwear wedged and showing thru my leggings or something? Trying to be subtle, I started checking my appearance to make sure nothing was off as we took the elevator and walked to our room.
“Are you ready?” Ryan asked as he sat our bags down outside the door and held up the room key. “Uhhh, yeah” I laughed. A little confused as to why he was acting so peculiar.
He swung the door open, and I saw a gorgeous hotel room filled with roses in vases and petals all over. It covered everything I could see in the room. I held my hand up to my mouth, astounded at the site. Entering slowly into the room I looked around at the crimson of roses creating a notable contrast to the white snow falling behind it through a giant patio window leading out to the mountain landscape. I picked a handful of the soft red petals off the bed and smiled as I released them one by one back onto the comforter.
Ryan walked behind me and rested his chin on the top of my head while placing his hands gently over my shoulders. “What do you think?” I had no words that could narrate what I felt in that moment. We didn’t have a lot of money, and all these roses must have cost a fortune. It was clearly important to Ryan to make this weekend special for me. The gratitude I felt for him considering my happiness at the occasion was, indescribable.
I turned around and faced him. “You are amazing” was all I could manage to get out. He smiled and gave me a kiss. A gentle, loving one. While his lips were placed sweetly on top of mine, he moved his hand to my back and with an appreciative movement pulled me closer to him. I unlocked our lips and pushed him back a little, “Wait, is that why the guy at the front desk was acting weird with you?”
“Yes, he knew what was up here, I am sure, I called earlier this week to arrange it, and made sure this morning before we left that everything was done” He replied in a brash fashion. Very proud of himself.
“You are so sneaky, I love you” I smiled widely. “I love you too” he smiled back before giving me another kiss. It took us a long time to leave the room after that. When we finally decided we needed sustenance, we braved the cold winter night and ventured through the town.
We warmed up by a fireplace in a local pub we came across. I looked down at our matching amber ales as they illuminated fiercely by the fire on the table in front of us. I was so fulfilled in that moment and my soul was quite literally warm between Ryan snuggled next to me on the left and the fire raving on the right. He was my best friend, the one person who saw me better than anyone. We were kindred spirits at that time in our lives. Just two kids trying to figure out our next move. As I absorbed that moment with full sanctity, Ryan placed his hand on mine and started lightly tracing the shadows of my palms.
“So, I’ve been thinking” He stated. “Have you now? Must be a good change of pace for your brain” I teased him.
“Whatever you say dear” He rolled his eyes at me. We both laughed a little. “Seriously though”
“Ok, what have you been thinking about?”
“All my roommates are moving out after graduation, and I will have that big house all to myself. I know you aren’t completely amused living with your mom, and I was wondering…” he paused “well I was wondering if maybe you would want to move in with me”
“Wow, really, that would honestly be Ok with you?” I asked him kind of shocked. I didn’t think he would be ready to take the next step with us for a while. “I am Ok with it” he gave me a huge smile and squeezed my hand “I think it would be a really good idea”
I reached down and took a sip of my beer to think for a second, and he watched my every movement right down to the breath exhaling from my chest. He would do that sometimes. Become completely immersed with his gaze on me. Whenever he did, I could feel my heart race like it does when you have to get up to make a speech, but I was getting used to it.
“Ok I’m in, let’s try it out”
“Ok!” He said excitedly and reached in to kiss me. “I think this is going to be really good” He continued to have a giddy smile on his face and I watched his eyes trace over the fire and get lost in thought. “What are you thinking about?”
“I was just thinking about what it’s going to be like living with you, it gives me butterflies”
Ryan may have been a cocky college guy to his friends, always boasting about how cool he was, but with me he was a pile of mush. He never felt afraid to just truly tell me how he felt, even if it came out really lovey-dovey. He was always saying things like that to me.
I bet you’re wondering how a scene like that could end up so desolate. This isn’t your typical breakup story. I will tell you all the ugly truths that led to the implosion in the coming parts. It is a quantum system of events, one not being able to exist without the other.
Ryan loved me, I knew that, but it was difficult for him to get to a place where he admitted it. Before we became a couple, we were friends and he swore to me and anyone else that wanted to listen that he would never have a girlfriend in college. He claimed it was a “fool’s errand”. He was calloused with his treatment of women. I watched him charm them and throw them aside when he was done.
I didn’t know it then but Ryan’s ambition towards being casual with women stemmed from his Father’s influence. The first time I ever had dinner with his parents, his father bragged to the whole table that he had slept with over 100 women in college. With his beautiful loving wife sitting right beside him.
Ryan was his only son, and the first born of his two sisters. I think it meant a lot to Ryan Senior to have his son follow in his disgusting footsteps. So, he built Ryan up every chance he could, and although he liked me, he was disappointed in Ryan for the loving relationship we had.
How messed up is that, right?
Although idealistic, Ryan was a complicated person with many years of puzzling influence from his Father. He tried very hard to not be his father, yet he loved and admired him at the same time. He sympathized with his mother for his father’s unfaithful treatment of her. And for Ryan, it was an on-going crusade of defining his independence.
It would be capricious for me to say that our horrid breakup was only caused by Ryan’s contentions. I have my own dark issues that I will tell you about. Ryan and I just came together at a time in our lives where we were the most abstract versions of ourselves. Before the year that we decided to move in together we had spent the previous summer apart. This was because of me. I broke up with him as a way to push him aside to avoid my own demise. I was constantly trying to push him away because I was terrified of the deep love that had taken over my life. When I came to college, I was like a typical bird flying free on my own. I could do whatever I wanted, and I did not have the legality of my family anymore. So, like most 20-somethings, I learned a lot more of who I was.
First you need to know that I have a passive way of dealing with circumstances. I imagine my soul as an ocean. Vast and deep, and every part affected by the circulating seasons. Down in the lowest depth, live my most painful memories. It is very dark, nearly black, with silence so deafening. It remained still for many years until I fell in love with Ryan. Without stability, and the catalyst of alcohol all around me, cognizance from that dark valley started to come alive and bubble towards my surface.
I am going to cut the simile and just tell you what happened. When I was 13 years old I snuck out one night with my friends and went to a house with a bunch of older guys to a party. My friends were more hardcore than me. None of them were virgins, and they not only drank but did some drugs with these older guys too. I never wanted to do drugs and I was not about to lose my virginity. Especially not to these older guys that made me very nervous at the time. Side note: these guys were 18-20 and were perfectly aware that we were all in middle school. Fucked up isn’t it?
So were at this party and having somewhat of a good time. I started to feel very drunk. I only had one drink, so I assumed that the guy who had made it for me had made it extremely strong. He came over to me and while commenting that I looked a little drunk asked if I wanted to go to Taco Bell and make a food run for everyone, insisting that food would be good for me. He did not want to go get food. What I am going to tell you now is the last of what I can remember of the time I lost my virginity. Being 28 now I don’t think there was a typical “roofy” in my drink but something very debilitating.
The edges my vision became fuzzy and the world started tilting as we walked to his car. The night became a nauseating black with just a couple specks of streetlights. I felt sick to my stomach, I thought I might literally get sick. I tripped a little and he forcibly picked me up and pushed me onward.
We reached his car and I rested my back against it while he did something in the backseat. I wanted to run but my feet just wouldn’t move. Nothing would move. My limbs were so heavy they felt almost numb. My brain is frantically screaming to get them moving but nothing is happening. I was terrified, and my heart is racing, I was not sure what was going on, but I knew it wasn’t good. I opened my mouth to scream but there wasn’t enough air in my lungs for anything but faint breaths to come out. In a complete void of desperation, a tear ran down my cheek and I distinctively remember tasting a salty tear drop on my lips. I remember the first part after he shoved me in the backseat, I had faint breaths of the word no, but he kept telling me it was going to be ok. I looked up to the sunroof at the stars that I could barely notice. I felt pain, physical pain on my shoulders, and my legs. I wasn’t sure why I was feeling that pain. I cried silent tears with no breaths behind them. A few moments later I passed out, into a blank cold sleep.
I woke up a little while later, dawn was just barely peaking over the horizon. My pants and shoes were on the floor next to me and no one was around. I noticed I was in a park close to my house. I took a deep breath, while still feeling very deranged, I gathered my clothes, got out of the car and headed home. I snuck upstairs to the bathroom of our large suburban home and with weak movements removed my clothing and climbed into the shower. I ran the hot water and sat there staring down at my feet, as the warm water drenched my body. I looked down at my hands and formed a lose grip. Suddenly, a knock on the door gave me a momentary fright. It was my mom telling me I was going to be late to school.
Fuck. There was no way I could go to school like this. So I got out of the shower, dropped my clothes and wrapped a towel around my body. There were bruises on my upper thigh near my pelvis that were a faint purple. There were some on my collar bone that were even darker. I stared at myself in the mirror and thought ‘dear god I look shit’.
Staring at my broken reflection, I remembered what must have happened. In that moment I felt my stomach drop and my heart split through my chest, I wished so badly that I could die. Please lord let me die before I leave this bathroom. I cried quietly to myself which took all the energy I had left in me. Deep desperation filled up every part of my body, all my nerves, everything. I felt it all over. How… and why….. why. It was supposed to be special, and just like that in a wreck of my being my virginity was gone, never to be reclaimed, completely lost.
I sucked up my tears and put on sweats and a hoody making sure to cover everything up. I headed downstairs to where my mom was making breakfast and told her I was very ill and did not think I could make it to school. She took one look at my face and didn’t doubt for a second that I was. Luckily it was a Friday, so I spent the next 3 days pretending to be sick and sleeping in bed, I didn’t even want to watch TV. I sat staring at the window, my mind was so numb. I stared until my eyes were tired enough to fall asleep over and over again.
After that weekend, I never spoke to those friends again. I put that memory into the dark depths of my soul and did not think of it again until I was in my 20’s.
They say that alcohol lowers your inhibitions. That it takes away any walls you have hiding your secrets. Secrets. They come spilling out. The way you feel about something, or what you know comes out. Just like the transparent liquid being poured so delicately through a speed pour from the bartender.
My secret was dark, and I was extremely embarrassed. Who could ever love someone so torn, so unfortunately physically torn. I fought so hard for those years to keep that secret to myself. Every time it felt like it was coming up, I would wash it down with more alcohol and retreat to my room alone. When I was alone, I started cutting my arms until I could not feel the pain inside anymore and was so exhausted I would just pass out. I would wake the next morning, throw on a long sleeve shirt, and head to class like nothing was going on. I would smile, laugh, and goof off with my friends like every other person in our school. Ryan, you came into my life, when this was happening.
So, what did I did do? Oh, let’s see… I was a young girl in a college overruled by a male population. I lashed the fuck out. I was drunk a lot. I stayed medicated as often as I could. College was a good mask for that because everyone was partying too. I was so unbalanced in those years sometimes I am surprised I was even able to get through it. You saw so much, so many times you stuck with me late at night trying to calm me down, nursing my self-inflicted wounds.
I’m sure you thought you were doing the right thing, but to me it was more of a reason to push you away. I did not want to be dependent on your sweetness, on your love for me. I was so conflicted with trying to keep my misery from you yet being so in love with you I did not want to let you go. When I fell in love with you I fell a long way down, and it knocked me way off balance.
I still remember every second of the night I knew we both fell in love with each other. Way before you saw any of the darker side of me. The first time either of us discovered what love was like. It was a Saturday in December. That amazing Saturday. That night will be with us forever no matter how far our paths in life lead us from each other.
We had planned a game night with our group of friends. We were that stupid couple that everyone was getting sick of because we were always all over each other. We kept sneaking off to the bathroom to make out, and our friends would come knocking on the door imploring with us to stop. But we just thought it was funny, so we ignored them and continued.
We left a little early that night and went back to my apartment. I was putting leftovers away in the fridge when you came over to me in my kitchen. You gently pushed my back against my counter and pressed yourself close to me. You cupped my face in your hand and stared into my eyes for what seemed like forever. You gave me a kiss then rested your forehead against mine. We stayed in that moment of admiration of each other in complete silence for an entire 45 minutes. Gently touching and kissing, but mostly just simply being. Being in each other’s close presence with appreciation. After that 45 minutes, you picked me up and carried me to my bedroom. We stayed in our beautiful silence the rest of the night as we molded into each other, evermore.
No words needed to be spoken, our wavelengths were completely in sync. You did not tell me you loved me until 2 weeks later right before our Christmas break. We kept it to ourselves for a while. Trust me as a young girl in college it was very hard not to tell my friends that you had told me you loved me. But every time we were with them for the next 3 weeks, you would either lip it to me from across the room or whisper it into my ear. A secret commodity only we shared.
The first time I can remember irrationally lashing out on you was right after that on New Year’s Eve. You were having so much fun, being the life of the party as usual. When midnight came around, you came over to me and gave me a quick kiss, hugged me, and went right back to celebrating with everyone.
And for whatever dumb ass reason… that pissed me off. I honestly could not tell you today what my logical thinking for that fight was, because I am quite certain I did not have one. I was just angry I only had your attention for 2 seconds that night at midnight. You gave me plenty of attention day in and day out, why did I care so much about that moment? We were both having a great time until then. I loved that you wanted to be the life of the party, it was one of your characteristics I admired the most.
I got so mad at you though, and I dragged all our friends into it the rest of the night making it a big deal. You tried to reason with me, but feeling that need to retreat again, I fled. I drove home by myself and ignored you the rest of the night. I did even more than that, I broke up with you over a brash text message. I pushed you away so hard. After I realized what a terrible mistake I had made, you were already too mad at me and you did not forgive me until after Valentine’s day. But that was just the start of our issues.
February 5th, 2012. In Indianapolis, the New York Giants played the New England Patriots for the 46th Super Bowl.
I am not a fan of football. I never was growing up. I went to the games sometimes in high school to socialize but I could never be there for long. To this day I still have to wait miserably for the football season to pass. My negative sodality to football comes from that dark night when I was 13 years old and a football player robbed me of something that was the most precious thing I had.
February 15th, 2012, we decided to give our relationship another chance. We were both eager to be back in one another’s embraces and it felt like love lost was found. But that peace between us didn’t last long did it Ryan?
It lasted until February 22nd, 2012. Which is when we had our next big fight. That day I remember because it was the day I truly stopped trusting you. I never told you that, but I did not trust who you were as a person anymore. It did not matter what sweet things you did; this day would remain in the back of my mind for the next 2 years. Before this day, you were Prince Charming, and I was just a no-good commoner with deep issues who did not deserve you. At least that is how I had felt. That all changed when I asked you a question. Your answer was something that would hit me like a big slap across my face. It hurt, and I was completely surprised.
On the quiet evening of February 21st, laying on my tiny red love seat in my apartment, Ryan and I were cuddled up watching a movie. It was a calm night in for us. Dinner, movie, bed. The movie ended and while I laid wrapped in his arms he shut the TV off and kissed my forehead. “Let’s go to bed babe” he said tiredly.
“mmm ok” I said in a hushed tone. I peeled myself off him and stood up stretching to let out a giant yawn. We crawled in bed together, shut the lights off and I nestled back into his arms using his chest as a pillow.
“I love you” I whispered to him. “I love you too” he softly said back.
“I missed you so much” I continued.
“I missed you a lot too, I know it took a while for me to cool off, but I was so hurt, and I was trying to get over you. I thought we were done for good, and that I just lost the love of my life” he squeezed me into him.
“It’s ok, we are here now, and I won’t put you through that again. What all did you do while we were apart?” I asked.
“I drank a lot”
I remembered how Ryan was before him and I dated, how he was a frequent one-night stander, it was a normal part of his party routine. I took a slight breath in. I had a ping in my gut. I wanted to ask him if he had hooked up with anyone while we were technically broken up. We were apart because of me, so I was not going to be mad if he had I told myself. A small voice inside advocated that maybe it was best not to know. But I continued the conversation;
“Can I ask you something? You can be totally honest with me, I won’t be angry with you at all. We were broken up, and I can’t blame you, but I just want to know.”
“You want to know if I slept with someone else.” he breathed in and paused “Yes I did, but you don’t know her” He knew me so well, he knew that would have been my next question. Ryan was wanted by so many girls at our school, I figured it was someone who went to school with us. But, ouch. That kind of hurt. I said I was not going to get upset so I didn’t. Still, that did not stop me from plaguing to know more;
“How did you know her? Did you just meet her at a bar? How long ago was it? Was it recent?” I asked as politely as I could to not seem upset.
“Relax babe, what does it matter? It did not mean anything, it was just sex and I was missing you so badly”
“I know that, but I just would like to know…..please?” I pleaded once more. I really should have just stopped.
“Ok, well it was at my Dad’s Superbowl party that he does every year. He invites like 100 people. You were supposed to go with me, it is kind of a big deal. So, I was sitting in a chair, drinking and being mopey. This girl Jo that my family knows came over and sat on my lap. And one thing led to another and it kind of just happened that night. I never spoke to or saw her again.”
Well that didn’t seem so bad. It still hurt though, I was distraught when we were apart. The thought of even touching someone else seemed unthinkable. At least he was honest with me I thought. We drifted off to sleep, breathing in, collectively cuddled in to each other.
The next day we were talking, and again got on a conversation of his Dad’s Super Bowl party. While listening to Ryan tell me the dumb stories of his egotistical father and how he was acting coolly towards his mom during that party, I had a glimpse of panic as I remembered something Ryan had told me right before the Holidays.
The night Ryan told me he loved me for the first time, we also had some deep conversations about our lives and shared some very secret information with each other. He was telling me a lot about his father that night. His father had been in the military when he was younger and then continued on to be one of the top mechanical engineers for Lockheed Martin. He told me that when he was 9 years old his Dad got so angry with him one night that he took him to his room and beat him so bad Ryan thought he had broken his ribs. It was something he never forgot because it was the most physical pain he has ever felt. He cried while he told me and reached out for my hands. I could tell that even though he was only 9 years old, he remembered it like it was yesterday. (I told you I didn’t like Ryan’s Dad) But there was one more secret Ryan had let slip to me that night. He told me his father had cheated on his mom with a woman from work. He said she was basically a gross cougar and the office slut. She had slept with many men from his Dad’s company. The whole family knew except his mother.
This particular secret was the one that struck a pain of fear right through my heart. When he was telling me about his father’s indiscretion that night, he had mentioned this older woman’s name. Her name was Joanna.
Her. Name. Is. Joanna. Wow. There is no way this is the same woman “Jo” he was talking about last night. His one-night stand during our break up? It was enough on its own that Ryan willingly slept with a woman he knew his father did. But his father had cheated on his mother with her.
What was I supposed to do with this information? I felt sick. I sat there still, pretending to listen to Ryan talk. I chose to stay silent for a day to think about how I wanted to handle knowing he had shared a woman with his father. When I did decide to ask Ryan about it, I was in for one more surprise. Ryan had not told me the whole story about that night, and for good reason. But now, I needed to know every little detail.
I sent Ryan a text during my Ecology class the next night. Hey, can you come over after my class? I have something I want to talk to you about. A moment later my phone buzzed, sure, everything ok? I certainly did not want to get into this on text, so I sent a passive reply. I have to pay attention, I will just see you there.
K. I received a few moments later. I let out a big sigh, oh man this was not going to be an easy night for us. Our professor let us out a few minutes early. I gathered my things into my book bag and headed out of the building to walk home. It was a night class, so I was walking home in the dark while the moon shined through the trees on campus. I counted each street lamp I passed on my way trying to keep my mind off of the grenade I knew I was about to unhinge.
Eight. Eight street lamps until I was at the entrance door of my apartment. My apartment was in a very old building right on campus that I could barely afford. I opened up the gigantic creaky wooden door and stepped inside to the grand staircase in the entry room. This building used to be a mansion when the town was first built and belonged to a very wealthy doctor and his family. Someone over the last 150 years had converted it to apartments. They maintained all the originality though and it had a marvelous vintage appeal.
I went into my apartment and set my things down. I poured myself a glass of cheap Savignon Blanc and sat at the bay windows that overlooked the yard in my living room. I silently awaited Ryan’s arrival.
About 10 minutes later, Ryan swung open my front door. He never knocked, he just came in. He strolled over to me in a dark grey sweater and Levi’s. Lost in his good looks, I forgot for a moment why I was mad. His energy was light and happy. Great. I was about to ruin his happy mood.
“Hey babe” He gave me a kiss and sat next to me “How was class?”
“Ecology is my favorite, you know that”
“Thaaaat’s great” He scooted closer to me by lifting my legs over him and gave me another kiss. I hesitated the kiss in return, so he backed his head away.
“Ok….. what is it?” He asked sarcastically.
I exhaled, “Well, I wanted to talk to you about what happened at your Dad’s Super Bowl party…. more particularly the girl you said you slept with”
“I thought you said you weren’t upset about that and was happy I was being honest with you” he said with a stern tone.
Great, here we go. “I wasn’t until I remembered where I heard that name Ryan.” I snarled back at him. “You were not completely honest with me, it was not a girl you slept with it was a woman, and it is the same woman your Dad slept with last year!” At this point I realized I had raised my voice, so I took sip of wine and tried to calm down. I did not realize how mad I was about this until now. I was not just hurt, I was mad.
“Wow… why does it matter, it was just sex. And we were not together” he said forcefully.
“Oh my god, you seriously do not see how gross it is that you slept with a woman you know your father slept with?” I was utterly confused. How did he not understand this? How did he not see what I am seeing in this situation? Ryan remained silent.
“How did this even happen, Ryan, honestly, like where in your mind did you think it was ok to let that woman sit on your lap at your family’s house, and then take her back to your room and sleep with her?”
My need to know everything has gotten me into some tough situations throughout my life. I wish I could have just shut up and stopped asking him questions about it. It just did not seem like something Ryan would do. Yes, he was a man-hoe before, but with young college girls at our school. It did not seem to me that this would be something in his character that he would think of on his own. What I learned that night after much probing was an insight to how disturbing a father’s influence can be.
Apparently, Ryan had been so depressed during our breakup that his father had an idea to cheer him up at the Superbowl party. That idea was named Joanna. His father had instigated the entire thing. He told her to go sit on his lap, he joked about them “fucking”. He took Ryan aside and suggested that he sleep with her. It’s an easy score, I could imagine him telling his son.
The story just kept getting more twisted the more I found out. The entire time, Ryan remained contingent to his innocence. He just did not understand how I thought it was such a big deal. To him it was not a big deal. To me it was a moral depiction of his character. I don’t know what to call a character who would let his Dad convince him to sleep with a woman he cheated on his mother with. I just know it was not good, and a moral boundary for me. This incident was a hot topic to our conversations for a couple weeks. I had a very hard time letting it go. I was starting to feel like a righteous asshole, and I eventually ended up convincing myself that even though it was a moral boundary for me, did not mean it had to be for Ryan.
I told him I would let it go. I never truly did, but I did not let it be a part of our relationship anymore. As disgusted as I was by this, I loved him enough to try and work past it.
It was a snowy evening in March when I had my first what some would call a “flashback” or “episode” of what later would be diagnosed as PTSD. Colorado gets its heaviest snow in March, so Ryan and I were hoping for a cancellation from our classes the next day. We spent the evening doing homework by my fireplace in my old creaky apartment with pizza and soda cans scattered around us. The snow was heavily falling outside the bay windows that looked over the courtyard. The wind was howling so loud you could hear it in the pipes. The building only had old steam heaters that made you feel like you had traveled back in time to the 1920’s.
Being the procrastinators we were, we gambled on the fact of a school closure the next day and tossed our homework aside. We popped in a movie instead and decided on an eerie film to match the weather outside. Paranormal Activity played in the dark and we started making some jokes because we realized my steam heaters made the same noise the “entity” did in the film when its presence came around. Ryan kept trying to scare me by jolting me during a silent moment, each time being completely unsuccessful. Apparently being scared is an aphrodisiac though because we made love twice back to back for a couple hours after the movie before falling asleep. We were cuddled into each other as the winter storm still howled its dominance outside. He pulled me into his arms, hugging me from behind so tightly it felt like we were molded into one person. I felt the muscles in his arms slowly release as he relaxed into a very deep content sleep. I watched the snow through my window for a short while before drifting to sleep too.
Sometime in the night, I am not sure how long after that I woke slightly from a bad dream I was having. I was alone on my side of the bed which was unusual because Ryan was a huge bed hog and always had to be touching me in some way as he slept. He had rolled over to the other side of the mattress. I went to go snuggle into his back and reach my arm around him. I blinked my eyes a little and through my grogginess I saw a man standing at the edge of my bed watching me! As soon as I had saw the man, a giant spider fell from my ceiling onto my blanket in front of me! I screamed a loud shrill and sat up grabbing a pillow for protection. (Why a pillow? I don’t know, I clearly was not thinking straight, that pillow would be no protection for me)
My scream woke Ryan and in one swift ninja move he was on his feet with the lights on. He was immediately in a stance that looked like he was ready to kick some ass. Wow, I was impressed, it took him one second to stand up and be ready to protect me. “What, what is it?” His eyes wide as can be. In the light I was apprehended, there was no man there. There was not enough time for him to of left the room, besides he would have had to walk by Ryan to leave. What the fuck. What the fuck!
Ok so there was no man, but what about the spider! I jumped out of the bed and started scanning the comforter, but I didn’t see the spider either. That spider was huge, basically the size of Texas! It would be incredibly easy to find.
“What Shannon, what is it! Are you ok?” Ryan asked again. I started crying. Why was I crying? The confusion, the fear, it could have been a number of things, but I just started crying. Ryan rushed over to me and took me into his arms, “What is wrong Shannon, what happened?” Through my sobs I said with a forceful and worried tone “Ryan there was a man standing in the room! And then a huge spider fell onto the bed from the ceiling!”
“A man? Are you certain?” He said very concerned as he turned around and pushed me behind him in a protective motion. “Well, I thought I saw a man, at the end of the bed but he was gone as soon as you turned on the light” He still didn’t turn around, he kept his arm strong and flexed pushing me behind him and his gaze was searching the room. I held onto his bicep with one of my hands, very thankful he was there. “Ok, well I am going to go check just in case, are you alright staying right here?” I knew if I moved even an inch it would make him mad when he was worried like this. He needed to be able to control my safety as much as possible. He grabbed an old softball bat from my closet and headed out of my bedroom to the living room and kitchen. I heard him walking around and checking the doors and windows. My apartment was very small, so the search didn’t take long.
“No one is here, and no doors or locks appear to be open, maybe you were just dreaming babe” he said as he put the bat back in my closet. “What about the spider on the bed?” He walked over to the bed and started rummaging through the pillows and blankets. “There is no spider babe, and if there was he is long gone.”
“Could you check a little more and check under the bed?” I pleaded, sounding just like a 7 year old. Ryan smiled and rolled his eyes as he continued his thorough check throughout my bed. “There is nothing here” He crawled back into my bed. I still stood there, feeling better but still kind of concerned about my hallucinations, maybe I really was still asleep and dreaming. He patted the pillow next to him, “Come on beautiful, get in here and go back to sleep.” I laid back down in my bed and he once again took me into his arms, his front pressing firmly against my back. “Everything is ok I won’t let anything happen to you, get some sleep” he whispered gently into my ear as he hugged me a little tighter.
As predicted, the next morning we woke up to emails saying classes would be cancelled that day. Knowing classes were cancelled after our alarms went off at 7am, we relished by falling back asleep until 10am. In college in Colorado a snow day means a day of drinking. In Golden, there is the Coors Brewery factory. They offer free tours every day, however to the college students in town they offer what they call a “short tour”. This is where you don’t have to tour the factory, you just get your wristband and head straight to the lounge area for your 3 free beers. We woke up happy about the snow day filled with freedom from any responsibilities. Our first item on the agenda was to meet all our friends at the Coors Brewery Factory for the short tour at 11am. Ryan had a 4 wheel drive, so we were good, plus it was only a couple minutes from my apartment. After getting ready, we headed to the brewery on an empty stomach ready to consume beer for our breakfast. (I know super classy, right). After that it was junk food and playing drinking games at Ryan’s house with all our friends. We barbecued outside in the snow, and spent the whole day having fun.
Looking back on these days now I realized that someone who had deeper trauma issues going on, that this type of lifestyle was only magnifying my symptoms. During that day I was fine; I was happy, you never would have thought I was anything more than a normal college girl having fun with her friends on a snow day. But there is something that happens biologically to your body when you are consistently feeding it that much depressants. The symptoms may not appear in the moment but after a while, someone with trauma becomes fulfilled with it. So even though I was trying to escape it by using substances, they were in fact doing the opposite. They were opening the wounds even larger making it impossible to heal.