|Fancy dark, retro, sparkly outfit|
As I type this, it's Saturday night and I'm all alone. The rest of the tenants are out, the only soul in the building is me.
Part Three: Trauma! The Horrible Realization! Calm Before the Storm!The most horrifying part in this story is when I found myself waiting and pleading for the help that never came. "John, please come here, it's an emergency. She and her friends are yelling at me as I'm locked in my car," I texted to him. I waited in vain for the rescue that would never arrive. He never even replied.
The next day, I somehow went to work. I arrived home after school and immediately began writing down exactly what happened the night before, while it was still fresh on my mind. It was a rainy, sad night. I shared my story in a facebook note, allowing only a few to see it. I looked up restraining orders and eviction laws. I stayed calm and motivated for justice.
At 5:30, when I knew John would be getting out of work, I sent another message telling him that if he didn't respond, I would be forced to ask Colleen to throw Meredith out. I told him not to dismiss me. He said he wasn't and was waiting to get out of work or something. Seeing her car wasn't in the parking lot, I took the opportunity to go out and grab a few things at the nearby Market Basket. John and I exchanged a few texts and he mentioned doing laundry at his parents' home just a short distance away. While driving, I pulled over in a parking lot to respond to him. It seemed like he was cooperating for a minute, just not understanding the seriousness of what I was telling him. Then he texted this: "I have a hard time believing that you're not just making this up to make me miserable."
Aaand there went my calm motivation. I started driving up the street towards John's parents' home. I barely remember how I made it, I was in a rage. I remember the Monday after he broke off our friendship, I dared him to come outside and tell me to my face that he no longer cared about me; he declined. It was as if he was too scared. When I arrived at my location, I parked on the dead-end side street right next to their house. I called his phone: "Come out and tell me to my face that I'm a liar!" I demanded. I was enraged. I was struggling with depression, barely hanging on; and then, thanks to his ladyfriend, I had been the victim of some bizarre adult bullying. I'd be goddamned if I was going to sit by and let him tell me I'm lying.
Once again, John refused to come out and meet me. Even worse, he fired back at me with anger for daring to come to him with this. The phone call was heated and lengthy, but I remember most of what was said. I asked him what kind of motivation I would have for fabricating this scenario. "Because you're selfish!" he snarled with anger. "You always have been."
His words were like slaps in the face, each time he spoke. I reacted in tear-filled horror and he immediately took it back. I remember saying that I knew I was not a well person, but after hearing what he was saying that I was honestly worried for him. He told me not to with an angry tone. That voice, those words...they were not his. It was as if I was talking to another person. He was hiding inside the house and I felt so frustrated to be so close and have him refuse to come out. I felt like if I could get him to look at me, to see me, the girl he's known all these years, it would be the slap that he needed to realize the truth of what was happening. He accused me of "going after" them. The very thought was ridiculous. At the time, I was so weak, I could barely function. I was completely powerless. Usually the lifeless, crying mess of a person wouldn't go confronting a group of four drinking, loud jerks. That's not really how bullying works.
"It's me, John," I pleaded. "It's Erica." I reminded him of how just a short time before he was saying I was a good person. In the previous months, people were literally excluding me from events. In one disgusting scenario, a friend made a facebook event inviting people to go the movies on a Friday night. When I responded to the invite on the night of, I was told that since Vinny, the guy I allegedly had a falling out with said he was going, my invite was rescinded. When I told John this, he took the event page in my defense. He was my hero. How in the hell did he change his mind about me like that?
I begged him to hear what I was telling him. I repeated the horrible things she said to me, pleading for him to believe me. At the end of our conversation, I thought I was hearing John's voice again. It sounded like he was starting to break. "That's really what happened? She really said that?" he asked in that calm, understanding voice that I remembered.
"Yes. Please believe me," I answered. He told me he would get to the bottom of it. He would find the truth. After hanging up, I responded to the missed call from my mom. She was at my apartment waiting for me. I drove home to meet her and once again, started crying in her arms when she met me at the door.
Mom had slept over the night before. She stayed on my couch, keeping guard at the window. She said that in fact, John did show up that night. He waited until things had died down, and went straight to her and her buddies.According to mom, they were outside talking to Jesse, who at one point shouted and they fled up the street to John's place like scolded dogs. The male roommate, a young flamboyant man and the rest of the crew caused all sorts of ruckus. At one point, he even shouted a racial slur, threatening to bash someone's "n-word" head.
Since the owner is my mom's closest friend, she was in the know. "Have you been following him?' my mom asked me, causing me to rage in disbelief. "Why, yes!" I said. "I have to drive by his place, every time I go to work. His idea to live down the street!" She said that he told Jesse I went to his work. I was horrified. No, I was working two jobs of my own, and I saw enough of him at my place. I sure as hell wasn't going to his work.
I opened up my facebook chat log and my text messages. I read to my mom all the times when John was there for me, where he said he would always be there, right before he took it all back in the blink of an eye. She shed a tear for me, said that I had a book with my story and chat logs.
"I don't want to upset you. I'm seeing someone."
"That's good news."
"I am still here for you."
"You must know that you are so very important to me and I miss you. I hope that we can always be there for each other."
"We will be."
For the next couple of weeks, I was afraid to leave my apartment. I would go to work every day and then as I walked out of the school, the thoughts that had been suppressed would come flooding back. I had to stop working nights; I just didn't have the strength, nor did I want to be coming and going any more than I had to. John never did "get to the bottom of it" or find out the truth. I remember waiting with a sliver of hope in that first week after the incident that he realize what happened and justice would be done On that Friday, I looked and saw him picking her up for a date or something.
My family,(who had never really "forgiven" me for breaking up with John) and Falcon where the only ones who believed me and understood what I was going through. I wrote John a letter and emailed it some time around Memorial day or the week earlier. It was spot on. I really nailed him to the wall, calling him out on his actions and how his choices created a huge problem. A few excerpts:
On Tuesday night, you once again refused to have the decency to speak to me. You framed the altercation as some kinda two sided interaction, saying you found it hard to think that I wasn't just out to "sabotage your relationship." You're implication was that I made the whole thing up just to break up your stupid little union. You argued that Meredith wasn't cruel or mean like I claimed, but you know damn well that she is, you just don't care. She hated me as soon as you started dating her, and you knew that she would curse me out when she had the chance. I do just want you to be happy, but I find it hard to believe that you could ever be happy with such an asshole.
You were once the master of conflict resolution, quelling tensions before they get out of control, and meeting people with issues face to face. For once, you created this mess. You chose to date someone who lives in my building. You chose to love an immature person. And you chose to go back on your word that you would be there for me without so much the decency of a fucking phone call.
I had been conditioned for 13 years to see you as the one person I can trust to do the right thing, even when myself or others aren't. The one person who would never hurt me or anyone else was you, that was an ingrained fact for me. So, when you pulled the damn ground out from under me without a shred of preparation, did you not think that I would be plunged into a serious state of confusion? It was like you ripped a mask off and showed me that you were in fact just another one of the people who didn't care about me, instead of the face of compassion that you'd always shown me.
In your eyes, it's totally acceptable for her to drunkenly shout for me to kill myself while she laughed with her buddies. Who cares? You've got a brand new exciting life with your pieces of shit friends and I hope you can live with yourself. Hey, maybe I'm confused and I'm taking this all wrong, but it's hard to get your side of the story because you won't talk to me. The way she spoke to me is inexcusable and she lied to you. Just be honest and say, "yeah, Im dating a total scumbag, and that's ok with me!" I hate the new you. Next time you see me, I'll be an enemy because that's how you want it.
Boom. Roasted. I kinda figured that he would not even respond. There was really no way of getting around my words, unless he was going to stick with the "you're lying!" defense. He chose to respond by sticking his head in the sand and pretty much ignoring the damning evidence parts of my letter. It was creepy. I won't reproduce his response, but it included rage-inducing lines like these: "I feel bad for this whole situation. I believe both you ladies said some things in the heat of the moment."
"I'm sorry you think my girlfriend is not a nice person but she is. If she said anything rude to you it's because she saw you as a threat that was trying to get me back. But she is a nice, caring person. I wouldn't be with someone who is an asshole.
"You can hate me that's fine. And if it helps you to get better to think of me as a bad guy, I'm ok with that."
Then my head exploded. WTF? Usually, claims are backed up with facts. I made my claim that Meredith was a cruel bullying POS and then defended that claim with evidence. He ignored said evidence with "nu uh, she's nice." And that last statement? I have to hate him to help me move on? No, John, I had to to hate you because you were being a horrible person. He was trying to act like the bigger person, by completely ignoring my valid anger and hurt.
I was crushed. He just wasn't hearing the truth, he was purposely avoiding it. Knowing that it was useless to continue, I replied one more time: "she's such a nice girl, ill go outside right now and tell her much it upset me when she told me I should kill myself because no one cares about me and how she mocked me. I'm sure she'll speak to me like an adult because she's just so damn nice!"
He did not respond. Probably because they were out of town or something. Probably because there was no way to respond to that without admitting that she was in fact, not a nice person. I was angry. I remembered that bullies are pretty much cowards. This woman had nothing to say to me until she had some friends to help her out. John was a coward, too. My rage took over that initial fear. I put on some tight jeans and boots and grabbed metal record stand I had recently acquired from Goodwill. I dragged that and a can of spray primer outside and set up a tarp. I was going to do an activity, and I was going to do it in my rented space. I sweated and spray painted, looking up defiantly at her window.
|The strawberry necklace ($4 from Savers) makes the outfit a little more fun|
"Uh uh," I started. "Your place!" I shouted, pointing down the street. "Your place would be a good place to hang out."
"Sorry," he muttered, shuffling to her door.
"Coward!" I called out. You would think he would want to avoid me. That would be easy, just meet up at his place! But, I guess she had some friends over and he couldn't just tell her, "sorry, Erica's outside, maybe I shouldn't get in her space." A third option would have been to defend his right to be in my parking lot and tell me to shut it. He did none of those things. Just walked by, the passing ghost of a formerly great man. Later that night, I watched out the window as they got out of her car with some beers and what looked like one of the jerks from that horrible night. "Really?" I called out. Then I just slammed my window shut. Another booze-filled weeknight for the gang.
|That awesome sequin shrug sweater was picked up over the summer for $2 from Family Outfitters|
Summer came, and the problem remained. I alternated between angry and bold to scared and weak. My counselor wanted me to take baby steps towards meeting new people. Since Meredith no longer worked at the bar down the street, I had a crazy thought of putting on one of my adorable outfits and walking up for a quick drink. Just a thought. I was chatting with Falcon on the phone (he would be at work soon.) and he suggested I go for it. So, I actually did.
It was still early in the night, I thought the place wouldn't be too busy. I could call my sister and ask her to meet me there. Just walking in would be a big step. And before I could do that, I saw something to stop me dead in my tracks. The goddamned WGIR Rock 101 van was parked outside. What that meant was a radio station event was being held inside, like a ticket giveaway or something. But. John had coworkers, maybe it was one of them. I texted Falcon and told him what I saw and he confirmed via John's facebook page that it was him! Come on!
I wasn't going to waste my courage. I was going to walk in, and it's been a while; maybe he'll talk to me. I couldn't just "let go" of my anger, pain, and confusion. Not with the problem in my face each day. I needed answers. I needed him to face me and hear me; to know what he had done. Nervously, I sat alone on a bar stool next to the door. It was busy, so I didn't have the guts to go get a drink. I played with my phone, but didn't even bother texting my sis. Eventually, he packed up his work stuff and headed towards the exit; right where I was sitting. He pretended not to see me, and sprinted past.
"What is wrong with you?!" I called, as he tried to escape. He was acting like he was scared of me, when what he was really running from was the truth. If he faced me, he would be forced to admit the horrible truth about his girlfriend, about himself. Patrons outside watched as he fled down the street. (Seriously, what about the van?)
Now, I was pissed. I stomped down the street into the back alley on which both of our apartments were located. I stood in front of his building, not on the property, just the street. I didn't really have a plan, but I was thinking, "this ends tonight." Soon, he walked up. "I live here!" he cried to me, mad that I was near his home! Dafuq? Day after day, I had to deal with watching him invade my space and he was going to cry foul for standing in the alley?
"Ok," I said calmly. "I'll grant you your space. But, don't you try to step on mine. Because when you do, you'll have to deal with me." I rage-stomped to my driveway, and tore open my car door. I pulled the fold up camping chair that I used to bring to WAW each week out of my car and set it up. I sat my ass down and kicked up my feet on the car bumper. I was standing my ground...figuratively. I was tired of being uncomfortable at my own home. Having to see the person that tormented me was hard enough, but having to watch a former hero who stabbed me in the back come onto my turf was making it really hard for me to recover. "This needs to end," I thought to myself, unsure of what was going to happen.
Within moments, Meredith stormed out. I was scared as hell, but stood firm. She ignored me as she walked up the street. "it's about time," I called. "Don't you think we'd all be better off if you guys spent time at his place?" But, no sooner had those words left my mouth, the two of them came walking back. "Ok, guys. I'll be right here! You know I've got no place to be!" I said, settling back into my chair.
It was a big scene, but I didn't care. They were cowards. Chickens, even...
Recently a new season of what was John and I's favorite show came out on Netflix. Arrested Development. When it was first on the air, we watched it religiously, never missing a running gag. One of the best was how each family member had an interpretation of a chicken dance which they would use to taunt each other. As the couple looked out the window, their panties all bunched up; I sent John this message:
"You could've always just talked to me. But you won't. Here's why:
Arrested Development chicken dances "
He actually responded: "I was going to talk to you, but you came at me hard. That was neither the time or the place."
Bullshit! My response, "Yeah right. I begged you to talk to me when you ended our friendship, I begged you to talk to me after that incident in May. You were never planning on talking to me." I continued to do my GOB Bluth chicken dance, with the clapping and the "cocka cocka co!" He didn't respond. "See? I told you, you're to afraid to talk. Chicken dance it is!"
Eventually my landlord, Jesse came out and I told him what I was up to. He was totally on my side and had previously called John a wimp. He was concerned that I was instigating, but agreed that maybe I was starting a dialogue. For a minute, he actually joined in and chicken danced with me. Then John walked out and tried to escape by creeping alongside the building and running towards the front, away from us. Priceless. My target retreated and I put my chair away.
I felt so powerful, like I had reclaimed my space. These people created a huge problem and I was suffering for it. What did they think was going to happen? When you pick a fight with people who are your neighbors, you then have to deal with the fallout every day. If you want to erase someone from your life, like John did; you ought not continue to set foot in the building they live in. They wanted me to disappear. I wasn't going to. I started a "peaceful protest." I wouldn't be rude or mean. I wouldn't break the law. (Can you imagine that call to police? "Officer, there's a woman doing a chicken dance outside!" Did you ask her to leave?" "She lives here." "Did you ask her why? Or maybe just ignore her?" "Well, no.") My goal was to be present, to take up space. I was tired of feeling uncomfortable in my own home; it was his turn. But wait! There's more!