WWJD

Drummer #2 coulda been Jesus. He grew out his hair to his lower back, dark brown with tight natural curls, and had light grey-blue eyes. He even had a full beard and mustache. The overall effect was Jesus, at least the Anglican version of that religious figure. Funny thing is that he was raised Jewish and was basically an atheist. Drummer #2 grew up in Manhattan in a lower middle class family that was ruled by his father’s violence and his mother’s indifference.

We met when I accepted an invitation from a guy I didn’t know well to join a group of people I didn’t know at all to hang out at a dive bar and sing karaoke and talk politics. Jeff worked at GoDaddy and he had rounded up some co-workers for a night out, and Drummer #2 was there. The joint’s decor was sad vinyl chairs from the ’70s and even sadder regular drunks sitting in a circle around the bar and staring vacantly into their drinks. I have never really shied away from meeting new people and hearing their stories – I mean, how else are you supposed to make friends as an adult? So we had some great conversations going around the table, but then Jeff had too many drinks and became a little belligerent. I was explaining to him some of the volunteer work I had been doing (being a “hugger” at a children’s hospital), and I was a little baffled to find that I had to defend myself to him when he wondered why I thought my work was benefiting anyone. Drummer #2 jumped in and that as difficult as it was to see very sick children, I was doing a great thing in comforting them. That immediately endeared him to me. In the parking lot, he gave me his business card and told me that he would like to stay in touch and his website was the easiest way to contact him.

I don’t remember how or where our next outing was, but we ended up spending a lot of time together, at least a couple of times a week. I had vowed to remain celibate for a year when I met him, so I did not see it as a dating opportunity. We would look for new and unusual (and inexpensive) things to do. I took him to the Paper Heart in downtown Phoenix, which is no longer in operation, but it was a multi-purpose art space for performances and poetry jams and live painting. It turned out that he was a photographer as well as a musician and I knew that that place would be right up his alley. For a one-month stretch I had a wild hair to go play some bingo – but not at a casino – so I tried to find places where we could hang out in a church basement with a bunch of blue hairs. All of the events calendars were outdated so we would end up driving up and down these streets where bingo should have been, and eventually we’d give up and go to a restaurant instead.

We carried on as friends for an entire year. Eventually I trusted him enough to talk to him about an idea I had for photographs, which was to paint my face, bald head and neck in white, and then make swirls on one side of my face with gold paint, quite like a Klimt piece of art. I went to a costume shop and found some really great face paints and we invested in an airbrush for the base coat. The photographs turned out better than I could have ever hoped. Some were black and whites, where my torso and shoulders were wrapped in white gauze, and that combined with the white paint and black backdrop made me appear as if I were a marble statue. Another was a full body shot of me wrapped in a quilt sewn with intricately printed fabrics where the gold swirls on my face contrasted with the white base paint, and the overall effect was stunning. We laughed over the fact that at times when I tried to look serious and intense, it really came off as a resting bitch face.

My lease with the current roommate was ending, and Drummer #2 and I decided to become roommates. We wanted to look for a house we could comfortably share that would have enough room for him to do his photography, and we settled on a 3BR/2BA on a little man-made lake, complete with ducks. We even acquired a paddle boat from his best friend. I had the bedroom at the front of the house next to the garage, and he had the master suite with enough room to shove his bed into a corner and set the rest up with black backdrops for his sessions. The middle bedroom was our office where we set up dueling computers. He was often working on editing his most recent photos or moderating a heavy metal website.

Not long after we moved in, we were laying on his bed talking about our days, and he raised up over me on one elbow and leaned down and kissed me. This is one of those times where ignoring my instincts resulted in dire consequences. I loved him as a person who was a large part of my daily living, and he seemed to accept me as I was, even with my quirks and less-than-conventional appearance. But I had all kinds of warnings going off in my brain and I wasn’t sure why. I fought them. I told myself I was being stupid. So at Drummer #2’s insistence that he wanted to be close to me, intimately, I broke my self-imposed celibacy.

Drummer #2 insisted that he wanted to show his affection for me by being intimate, but he absolutely did not want to get into a romantic relationship. I couldn’t reconcile that in my head; we were friends, and we were lovers, and we were living in a house together. Why couldn’t it be a romantic relationship?

I found out the hard way that I should have trusted the warning bells. As soon as he stuck his dick in me, everything changed. I became a possession to control. He didn’t want to be in a relationship with me, but he certainly didn’t want me to find anyone else. He also became incredibly critical of me and tried to control every emotion that I felt. Drummer #2 claimed that he was really “in tune” with me and could sense my thoughts and feelings. There were so many times I would come home from work and it hadn’t been a particularly good or bad day, but he would insist that there was something bothering me and that I should tell him everything. He wanted me to have bad days. Sometimes I would just make up stupid shit to get him off my case, like, “Oh, yeah, you’re right, this thing happened at work today.” Then he would make a big show of comforting me, as if he was the only person on the earth who could help me.

I was starting to feel really smothered. Every look on my face was scrutinized, and he was constantly telling me what I should be feeling instead. The only way I can describe that feeling is like he had is arm constantly over my shoulders, and I couldn’t shrug him off.

The co-habitation started in September of 2008. In February of 2009, I went to an event that involved group meditation. I had had many bouts of bronchitis for the prior 12 months and was fighting another round at that time, but I really wanted to get out of the house and find some peace. I got home and found him waiting on the couch with the TV and computers turned off. He was furious that I was gone for two hours, even though he knew I was going and where I would be, and he started raging. I don’t normally just sit back and accept someone screaming at me; I yell right back. It was a long, drawn out fight that lasted for four days.

We had opposite schedules and would sometimes leave notes for each other by using dry erase markers on our tile counter tops. On the fourth day I awoke to find all of the counters in the kitchen covered in black dry erase marker, telling me how horrible I was and that he had wasted his time with me by doing all of the fun things we did like try to find bingo and take photos. That was about 46 sq. ft. of counter space covered with tiny black letters. He told me that if I would just allow him to guide me that I would become a better person. He told me no one would accept me or love me like he did. At that point I was emotionally exhausted and hurt, and I apologized to him for yelling. But after that first big fight, there was always tension.

In March of 2009 I went on a date with a guy from work. That triggered another drawn-out fight, and more hate messages on the counter tiles. Drummer #2 claimed that he wanted to be in a relationship with me and that I was cheating on him by going out with someone else. It was news to me, but I agreed to stay exclusive with him. Again, I apologized.

There were so many fights and so many hate messages written on the tiles. He would also send me emails whose word counts were in the thousands. To this day I have a folder dedicated to him and all of the correspondence is in that folder, but I can’t bring myself to read it, so I can’t give you any specifics, but the fights always ended with him insisting that I should feel what he told me to feel and if I would just let him guide me, everything would be okay.

In June of 2009 we had another fight. That time, though, something sent him over the edge. I can’t remember what exactly – I probably raised my voice back at him – and he threw a drinking glass across the room at me. I do remember him calling me a fucking piece of shit, a bitch, a whore, yelling that I had made him try to kill me. I had been cooking something on the stove and there were thousands of pieces of glass all around me and in the food. The glass had ended up breaking the wooden blinds at the window next to me. I didn’t say anything but went straight to my room and locked my door. I called my friend and made arrangements to move into the empty third floor of her house, and I hired shitty movers off of Craigslist who broke every piece of furniture they moved.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. It rarely is in an abusive relationship.

It took three months, but he worked on me and wore me down until I agreed to go back to him and try again. At first he cried and tried to make his eyes as big as possible (a trick he admitted later as one of his go-to moves for manipulation), and then he started back in on telling me that if I would just feel what he told me to, everything would be okay. The fighting was constant. I remember curling up into a ball and sobbing because he told me I was worthless and that he should just leave me, and it was my fault that he was falling apart again after never intending to get into another romantic relationship in the first place.

Still, I tried. I constantly walked on egg shells around him, afraid that if I showed the “wrong” emotion, he’d freak out. We even tried to celebrate the holidays. I bought Christmas gifts for him based on what he had mentioned in casual conversation as wanting, and I jokingly told him to try not to buy anything for himself for a few weeks because it might be in my stash for him. He responded by saying, “What kind of piece of shit person do you have to be to tell me what I can buy?”

We didn’t make it to Christmas, though. I can’t remember what prompted me to leave besides the obvious, so maybe I was at the end of my rope. I emailed him and told him I would be at the house on Saturday, December 12th to get the remainder of my dishes from the kitchen and other odds and ends, but I didn’t want him there and I made that very clear. He was supposed to be working the early shift that day and should not have been there when I arrived.

When I let myself into the house carrying a brand new monitor still in its box that he had given to me, the house was silent, and I didn’t see his car. I took off my shoes and walked toward the back to the office to return the monitor. The rooms were dark and I didn’t see him in the corner of the office until I set the box down and I saw movement from the corner of my eye. He had called in sick to work and had been waiting for me. I ran through the kitchen towards the front of the house and had to pause to try to slip my toes into my shoes while opening the front door. He caught up with me there. He hugged his arms around me so that I couldn’t move without dragging him and I couldn’t raise my arms – and he also knew enough to not put too much pressure on one area to leave bruises, like grabbing me with fingers. We struggled at the door and he repeated over and over, “Don’t leave!” I finally managed to get mostly free of him and then I tried to get to my car, but he was pulling on anything he could get his hands on, mostly clothing. I got my flip phone out and managed to dial 911 but then hung up immediately when we continued to struggle in the driveway. The operator called me back and I was completely panicked and shaking, and I told her that he wouldn’t let go of me. When he realized I was on the phone with 911 he let go of me and allowed me to close the door. I started the car and tore out of the driveway, the operator asking if I could get to a safe place and wait for officers.

When the officers arrived (one male, one female), they questioned me. I couldn’t show them any bruises because I knew he hadn’t left any. When they went to the house to question Drummer #2, he gave them the big eyes and worked himself up to force his eyes to water. They came back to me and said since there weren’t any witnesses (this was too early in the morning for people to be out in the neighborhood) and he didn’t leave any marks, they weren’t going to haul him in AND if I called in another report, they were going to arrest me. I was absolutely dumbfounded. This is the stuff you read about but can’t imagine happening until it actually does. I started shaking and sobbing, and they told me to call a friend if I wanted to whine to someone.

After crying in my car for a while, I drove back to my friend’s house. A few hours later I received a call from Drummer #2 wanting to know what I wanted to do. I told him to get the fuck out of the house and stay gone for two hours. He told me he could stay and help. I told him I never wanted him to be there while I got the rest of my stuff and I never wanted to have any contact with him again. That was the last conversation we had.

Drummer #2 always bragged that he was smarter than everyone else, that his IQ tested off the charts and that he could get away with anything he wanted to because all cops and lawyers were stupid – and he proved it when I called 911. In 2010 I lived in two different apartment complexes. Every night of that year, I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I was afraid he had somehow tracked me down and broke in and was standing over me, waiting for me to wake up.

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