To the guy who broke my heart,
I still think about you. Less than I used to, but more than some people would say that I should. Perhaps you think that it’s mad that I have any more thoughts to tell you about what happened in our five weeks. I have told you so many things that there cannot possibly be any emotion left in the compartment of my heart that was once occupied by you. Some of the things I have told you have been contradictions in themselves. Largely this is due to your unwillingness to engage with any meaningful discussion about what happened. I have been asking you for your side of the story for a very long time, and I suspect I will never hear it… if you even still remember it.
Even if we never speak again, I will always be ready to hear what happened from your side.
Lots of the things I lay down in this letter are thoughts that I’ve already told you, whether you listened to them or not. Some are new – the product of active and passive reflection over the last 13 months. 13 months reflection for a five week relationship.
13 months reflection for a five week relationship.
I have felt so stupid for having such strong feelings about such a short period of time, as if intensity of emotion should be proportional to time spent together. This feeling of stupidity, and the once-held belief that the brevity of our relationship meant the emotional fallout was invalid, led me to believe I was unworthy of recognising what happened as being as significant for me as it was. I think that that was part of the problem: every emotion I had was caveated by “it was only five weeks’. That distracted me from acknowledging so many other factors that led to one of the most emotionally transformative periods of my life.
We met on tinder – I can’t remember who asked for our first date. I remember it was the first Wednesday in June. I’d had a man stay for the weekend just before, he was soon moving to Copenhagen and I was scared that I would become strung out when he left. After discussion with some friends, it was decided that I needed a ‘palate cleanser’ …that was what you were meant to be. After five minutes of our first date I didn’t think about that man for months.
Our first date was perfect. Until the end.
Until you raped me.
I wonder if you identify with that word.
I have never felt so clearly that I didn’t want to have sex with someone that I was attracted to. It was actually reasonably out of character for me. But I knew I didn’t want to – I could explain my reasons here, but I don’t have to, because reasons don’t matter. I was very clear with my words and my actions that I did not want to have sex with you. And you did it anyway. I remember the feeling after you stopped – you didn’t even finish. After I lay there motionless whilst you removed my pyjamas and put your uncovered penis inside me, you didn’t get the response you wanted: I didn’t wrap my legs around you and pull my fingernails across your back, kissing your neck. After a while, a minute, an hour, a lifetime, you said “you’re not into this” and stopped – rolling on to your back beside me.
The feeling I had was one of disappointment, which wasn’t what I would have expected to feel after a rape. My perfect guy was imperfect. Everything was ruined – I knew it then, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it. I was tired of the tragic merry-go-round of dating and only meeting assholes, I decided that the other parts of you were worth ignoring it for. Ignoring the horrible big red flag that I should have waved in the face of everyone you knew. Instead I used that red flag to wrap up that little memory, somewhere in the back of my brain.
Everything should have ended there. When I get to the stage where I can talk more openly about the fact that I was raped, I might end the story differently: tell the sympathetic faces of my friends that I made you leave, screamed at you and chased you from my house, to spend the £40 on a taxi home – the whole reason you were in my house anyway.
You acknowledged the rape only once, on what was maybe our second date – when we did have sex. We had a perfunctory chat about condoms. I acknowledged that you hadn’t used one the first time, and you told me – in a way that I don’t think you meant to be threatening – that nothing was going to stop you having sex with me that night. That comment got wrapped up in the red flag as well.
I remembered neither the rape nor the unpleasant comment for weeks – it wasn’t until a month after our break-up, when I was eating tapas with your other girlfriend, that it came back to me. I told her, and she was sympathetic. I have since told two people – my mother and my sister. Doubtless I will tell more people in time. It occurs to me every so often that it happened, but it isn’t a constant nagging presence. I acknowledge the reality of being a professional, middle class woman in 21st century Britain, with no desire to have my reputation and sexual history discussed in public. No one has encouraged me to report you.
Raping me was not even close to being the worst way you violated me.
The rest of our time together was blissful. Genuinely some of my happiest times. You made me feel so worthwhile and so good about myself. I remember suggesting that we go to the beautiful Lost Gardens, and you commented that you were so happy to be with someone that wanted to do things like that. Hearing you say that made my heart sing with happiness and pride. Not only could you tolerate me – you were pleased with what I was like, you wanted me. No one had ever made me feel like that before.
I asked you once in your kitchen about your previous relationships. You told me of your longest. I asked about your most significant, and you looked as if you’d been caught – you had been hoping that by talking about your longest relationship, you wouldn’t have to mention your most significant. You pretended our whole time together that you and she weren’t so significant any more. You mentioned her occasionally, casually. The American. I don’t know if you thought I didn’t notice that your phone lit up with her name multiple times a day, but you never made an excuse for it. I was sure your feelings for her still lingered, and were stronger than you would have led me to believe, I felt threatened by her.
I had sex with a friend of mine shortly before you and I broke up – over breakfast with him the following day I was lamenting this ex-girlfriend of yours in America, and he commented that I had a significant old flame in London – I shouldn’t be the one who was worried. I am so glad I cheated on you. It felt awful at the time, and part of me wishes I hadn’t done it, then I could feel the smug satisfaction of truly being a wronged woman. But now that all is done, I am glad: I have always been someone who sabotages the good things in her life in myriad minor ways. Sabotaging my relationship with you allows me to see it as an episode in my life in which I was consistent with my own identity. In many ways that five weeks was completely unique in my life, it felt perfect and I was so actively happy, and if it had have been that perfect, happy, unique thing that was taken away from me by your manipulative ways, I would have been even more devastated. The fact that I ruined it a little makes it just a bit easier to swallow.
You knew that I felt insecure about your feelings for The American, you had been clear that you two had only broken up because circumstances dictated. I have a horribly vivid memory of you holding me warmly by the arms – your hands almost encircling my shoulders – and saying, over and over again that you couldn’t be happier.
You couldn’t be happier. You couldn’t be happier with anyone else. I was the thing that was making you happy and you didn’t want anyone else. American or otherwise.
She was part of your manipulation, you used her very cleverly. I remember that night at the theatre, it was like something out of a book: champagne, sunset, play about the kind of shit that I love. An American play. And on the way home, you talked about your American friend’s thoughts on it – she’d studied it in high school. I knew it was her you were talking about. You had told her what you were doing with your evening, except we both knew you hadn’t told her that it was with me. I rationalised that in my head – of course you hadn’t told her yet, it was too soon and you guys had been really significant for each other. I didn’t hold any bad feelings towards you for not telling her about me, I genuinely completely understood.
That’s why it hurt so much more when you told me, the night before the day when everything ended, that you had told her you’d met someone special. An Irish doctor, who was becoming a big part of your life. You told me over dinner – you were nervous to tell me. I hadn’t even asked you, you just came out with it. You’d clearly thought about your decision to tell her. It was incredibly sweet and made me feel like the king of the world.
My guy was so serious about me, he’s told his ex-girlfriend about me.
It was a lie of course, you’d never said anything to her about me – you told me that later: “I never mentioned you, by name or in passing.”
It’s chilling that you knew how to use her to manipulate me. You knew parts of my brain better than I did, you knew how to work them to your advantage, whether consciously or unconsciously. Part of that still makes me nauseated.
On the last night we spent in my bed you put your hand on my back and commented on my ‘frontier freckle’. The last freckle on my back if you’re gaze is scrolling from my shoulders to my hips. You told me that you looked forward to being able to put your finger on it without looking. You wanted to know my body so well that you’d be able to locate my frontier freckle without your eyes. The feeling that you wanted me with that permanence was probably the most exciting thing you said the whole time we were together. You wanted me. And I have longed forever to have someone like you want me like that.
Not long after we broke up I went to the beach and lay there all day with no suncream on – desperate to get sunburnt so that my frontier freckle would move and your special place on my back would be gone. I don’t know if it worked – it felt like it did, I couldn’t lie down for about a week – but I can’t see that part of my skin to make sure. The freckle-map of my back is another part of me that you knew better than I do.
The night before everything ended was glorious. After dinner, where you made me feel like the king, we drank wine, then whisky in your summer house. We spoke about being teenagers, we listened to Regina Spektor and talked about real things. You talked about money. We smoked cigarettes and kissed on your brand new deck chairs. It was so blindingly delightful that the other red flags didn’t even register with me. A girl, V, had been texting you… the V from dancing? V that you used to sleep with before me? V who you hardly saw any more – she’d thrust a graduation congratulations card into your hand when you’d passed each other at your last dance lesson. That’s why that card was sitting on your hearth. She’d texted you a lot that night, she seemed upset. You must have seen some panic briefly register on my face and you placated me with some story that made her seem desperate and then went back to describing our near parallel upbringings. We didn’t have sex that night, but in a nice way – you didn’t force me.
But you knew that she made an impression on me, that’s why you asked me if you could see her the next day. It was a weird thing to ask me as you dropped me off at work. Did I mind if you practised dancing with her today? Of course I didn’t mind! As long as you didn’t sleep with her… oh don’t worry, you said, you didn’t want to sleep with anyone that wasn’t me ever again. Those were your actual words, just before I left your car. I wonder if they rang in your ears as you fucked her that night. She told me that you fucked her in the ass that night – I don’t know if that’s true, or if she just said it for shock value. I’ll never know. It doesn’t matter I suppose.
It sounds silly but I knew. That day I knew. I had been floating on a cloud until about six o’clock. Then I started to feel unsettled. I had about three hours left at work when you texted me to tell me you were going out down south with the dancing crew. I don’t know how I knew but I did. I felt sick at the thought of it, I tried to blame it on the wine from the night before.
In my over-compensation I told some of the other staff about my wonderful boyfriend, it was the first time I’d used that word.
When I got home from work I realised that I’d left my make-up bag in your car. Not the end of the world. But it gave me a reason to explore my paranoia. You’d already texted me to say that you were in bed, your night had been ok, but you were tired now. I messaged back to tell you about my make-up – could I come by and pick it up. I was sitting on the end of my bed writing the messages. I had an ache in my stomach, I knew you were cheating on me. I was scared now: I didn’t want to know. I needed a way to get out of this. I told you to leave the make-up bag in your summer house and I’d pop round and get it without waking you up – if you were in bed with another woman, you wouldn’t even have to come downstairs to see me. It would all be fine.
No, you said, it was raining and your car was all the way at the top of the hill. You’d drop my make-up bag round in the morning. The most un-you thing you could have said. I got in the car and drove to your house.
Your car wasn’t at the top of the hill – it wasn’t anywhere in the village. You weren’t at home. You’d left the door open. Your bed was empty. My toothbrush – the toothbrush you’d bought me – was still in the bathroom, nestled up beside yours. Along with the half-used bottle of girly shampoo that you’d told me was something you’d brought from your old house in case I might like it. An excuse I’d never quite believed, but didn’t want to explore.
I wish I could be theatrical and say the rest of that night was a blur, but it’s not. I remember very clearly finding V on Facebook – she’d recently lost her dog and had put up a public Facebook post saying what neighbourhood she lived in, it was 2am by the time I got there. I don’t know how long your car had been there. You’d left it unlocked. You’d moved my make-up bag from the front seat to the boot, presumably so that V wouldn’t see it. It’s only now – writing this letter – that I realise that you knew the whole day that my make-up bag was in your car. If you had have told me early on that you had it and you’d bring it to me the following day that whole thing would have been avoided. Sloppiness on your part… maybe it was the wine from the night before.
I didn’t even try to keep my composure that night. I threatened to burn your house down. I wasn’t able to get in touch with you, and those threats were my only way of ensuring you wouldn’t ignore me the next day – you could have done.
I didn’t sleep that night.
You called me as I was getting ready for work the next day. You told me, after a tussle, that you’d been with V. That you’d slept together. It was the first – no the second – ok the third time. I couldn’t make a decision. I knew the whole perfect thing was ruined, but over the course of my morning at work, it maybe got a little better. I was working alone and you were in touch. You brought me lunch, admittedly with the wrong flavour of Lucozade, but whatever. We sat on a picnic bench and you told me that our glorious night in your summer house was the closest you’d felt to love in however long. I told you that I’d cheated on you too and maybe this could be the start of ‘Us’ properly. Honestly. You said you wanted that. I said I wasn’t sure. You told me you’d help me decide.
V was in touch too. I’d sent her a message when I found your empty bed that she was with my boyfriend, and she had replied saying that she had no idea… she hadn’t done it on purpose. She was grateful that I’d told her – she’d had her fair share of creeps in the past and was glad to have you pointed out as one. We exchanged messages in a friendly way. Like a sisterhood. It was nice, but unusual.
You picked me up from work that night, you’d brought me risotto in a Tupperware in case I declined your offer to come back to your house. I didn’t decline and we spent the night in your bed. You’d moved it after our glorious night. Upstairs. It was different. You didn’t touch me. The morning was nice. You made me coffee and dropped me to work. I had to call past my house to get changed and you waited – we made plans for you to assemble my new flatpack sofa bed, such banalities reinforced the foreverness of ‘Us’. The sofa bed is still only partially made 13 months on…
You asked me if I’d go for dinner with you that night and I was over the moon. I was really excited to start our new honest chapter.
That day at work things were better. I was almost feeling better. We were going to be fine.
Then V messaged me.
Just to say hello, and check that I was ok after our difficult weekend. It was unmeasurably kind of her. We got talking and it all came out – she was supportive of my plan to see if you and I could make it work again, although she was definitely not going to try anything like that with you. You were very much to be cut out of her life. As part of this discussion it came out that your relationship with her was very different to how you’d painted it to me. To be honest, reading about the things that you guys had been doing made me wonder how you had so much energy: it seemed that nearly every night we weren’t together you were with her. You’d sent us the same selfies, you’d sent us the same “goodnight beautiful” messages. You’d even sent the same dirty messages on your drive home from your friend’s wedding. She replied. I didn’t. I have never felt more sickened or angry.
Anyway, that’s when I decided to try and get a theatrical revenge on you. V and I met up – having an emotional hug in the ladies room, with you ordering our celebration drinks at the bar; you had raised an eyebrow when I told you I wanted you to order four shots of tequila. They were to go in your face after V and I exposed you for what you were. In retrospect it was a stupid idea – but it was the catharsis I needed at the time. And it provided an amusing anecdote to tell in the coffee room, or over a glass of Pinot Noir: then I wouldn’t have to admit how broken I was by the demise of my five-week tinder relationship.
I’d been cheated on before, numerous times. The first time I’d dealt with it nobly, taking the high road and maintaining my dignity. My patience with being cheated on has diminished over the years, and that was definitely a contributing factor in my entirely undignified behaviour after we broke up. I told The American what you’d been up to, in case you guys were still together, as I now suspected you were. She never responded to me – perhaps she doesn’t have the fortitude of V. I plagued you with messages and threats, which I don’t regret – it was what I needed to do.
You could have stopped it all by sitting down and telling me what was going on in your head. But you never did. Your silence made it almost impossible to move on. You had been this incredibly perfect person in my head, and then I found out all this awful stuff, and it was too difficult to reconcile the ‘you’ that I had known, with the ‘you’ that it transpired was real.
We met up a few weeks after this all panned out. You’d been in America I think. I got unfeasibly drunk and am so blessed that I genuinely don’t remember what happened. I remember kissing in an alleyway, I remember asking you to have sex with me and your saying no. I remember running after you in the street. It was too embarrassing to remember any more, so I am grateful to the horrendous sherbet cocktail that pushed me over the edge into oblivion. You were kind about it. We met for breakfast a while later, and agreed you would come round for dinner – I had grand plans to get you back, so when you couldn’t make it I was broken and had to tell you. I couldn’t have any contact with you.
Every few months over the past year the desire to see you has come back, with varying degrees of intensity. Almost invariably, this desire has resulted in an initially casual, increasingly emotional exchange of text messages and a re-drawing of the no contact arrangement. It’s all been one sided. You have sent me one unprompted text message, and you’ve never exposed your real emotions to me. You’re better at this than I am. These exchanges have made me feel embarrassed and stupid, and weak and are definitely at odds with what I would advise any sane woman to do.
I would love to think that you’re pining on the inside, that I take up as much space in your brain as you’ve taken up in mine. But I have to look at the picture as a whole.
You manipulated me, you broke my heart, you raped me, and you refused to take my response to your lying seriously.
As I grow in age and maturity I can’t avoid it anymore, some people just aren’t nice people. Some people really are horrible. And you are one of them. I can’t make excuses for you anymore. You were horrible to me because you are a horrible person.
You are a horrible person and that is why you were horrible to me. I don’t think it’s more complicated than that.
I’m moving away now, not because of you – because of work. Living here has been fantastic for me, I have loved this county and have made some great friends and some fantastic discoveries on this journey to find myself, as a person and as a doctor. I have to be honest though, it was largely sullied by you. Because you were really horrible to me. That made me sad directly, and has had a knock-on response with other relationships.
A feeling I’ve carried with me since I was 11 (I remember the day it first occurred to me) was that no one would ever fully love me, and I would never be anyone’s forever person. And similarly, I would never feel that way about someone. You were the first person who made me feel really loved, even though we never said it to each other. And you were the first person I felt that deeply about. I tried to explain that to you in your summer house on our glorious last night. The line “I never loved nobody fully, always one foot on the ground” was the reason I’d put on Regina Spektor in the first place. The way everything ended showed me that I was right – I probably won’t be someone’s forever person, and probably no one will love me the way I dream of. Because probably that’s not really real.
I’m not expecting a response to this letter, not because I feel one isn’t justified – I think it would be polite to respond; but because I suspect you won’t bother. The part of me that sees the good in people would say that it will be because you’re too sad or emotional about what happened, but the part of me that sees the reality of the situation will say that it’s because you just don’t care.