Pick up pick up pick up, I screamed. Internally, of course. I didn’t want to bother anyone at 2am with the catastrophic levels of panic I was currently experiencing. Is this idiot already in bed? I paced restlessly around the unfamiliar Hoboken garage I was locked in, my coral heels clacking against the pavement. The rhythm of my steps matched the anxiety that repeatedly raked against my sternum. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of this complex’s carpark; the doors to the outside world appeared to need a keycard to open. The moron I had just opened my legs for didn’t tell me this, and he wasn’t answering his phone.
Clack clack clack clackclackaclack… I finally found controls to the garage door, the one meant for cars and not people, and decided to press a button on the panel. I figured the green one was my best bet – and it was. The metal slowly lifted off the ground, groaning as it made its journey upward. The tension in my body dissipated somewhat, but my burning calves reminded me that I had wasted over a half hour trying to find my way out. This night fucking sucks, I thought, making my way to the sad-brown (yes, that was its color) Corolla I called my car. I fumbled for my keys so I could unlock the door.
I texted Sean to let him know the night hadn’t gone well for me, even aside from the disappointing sex, and that I was finally just getting into my vehicle. He didn’t text me back. That idiot was asleep too, mostly likely, curled up alone in our bed.
How did I end up here? Not here as in my physical location, but here as in this isolated moment in time? I was finally sitting down in my car, ready to drive over thirty minutes until I was back home. Utterly alone. I briefly wondered what I’d have done if I had been too stupid to find my way out of the garage, as Sean wasn’t answering his phone either. Maybe I would’ve been stuck in Hoboken all night. Up until finding the control panel, I was trying to determine which corner of the concrete garage was coziest.
The reality of your fantasy is less interesting, isn’t it? I wanted to tell Sean this and more. I wanted to, but I didn’t. I simply drove home, prepared to not let myself cry.
“How’d you two meet?” one of Sean’s friends asked. Our story was garbage, like the rest of our relationship. I felt ashamed responding.
“We met online,” I said, my hand resting on Sean’s lap. “On a dating website. We met up for coffee.” When he put his hand on mine, I thought he was about to hold it, but he just pushed it off his leg instead.
How did a relationship form out of that date, I wondered. I still remembered how much he spoke, and how few questions he asked. A one-sided conversation about his college friends and the way shirts should fit men. He worked at J. Crew for a couple summers, after all. He knew these things. Did he mention his friends?
“Our second date was more interesting,” I said, and immediately frowned. Sean’s twin brother smiled from across the table, as he already knew what I was about to say. “We went to a bar around here. I picked it. When we got there, he looked at the menu and decided to let me know then that he didn’t have any cash on him. He asked me if we could just leave. He wanted to go back to my apartment and microwave burritos.” I left out the part where he fell asleep right after, exhausted to an extent I apparently couldn’t understand. He was a new teacher, and I was just a girl who was both working and going to school full time.
Sean’s brother laughed raucously, while his friend appeared mildly perplexed. She muttered something that sounded like “oh,” and went to picking on the fries that sat on our table. I felt my stomach churning already. I wanted someone to tell me I deserved better, or that was shameful of him, or anything which would validate my worth. But they were his friends, not mine.
My friend was a toilet bowl. Yeah, it was a shitty friend, but at least I could say I felt some kind of better after pouring myself into it. Sitting with Sean’s friends and brother, eating burgers, I just felt uninteresting. Inadequate. A fool’s fool. There was no space for me to exist as myself, not that I had a particularly solid grasp on Amber.
“This huge guy at the gym said I had good bench form,” I proudly proclaimed, setting my bag on the floor.
Sean shrugged in response, not bothering to look away from the game of Overwatch he was playing. “He was just hitting on you,” he said.
“O-kay?” Was that true? I didn’t think so. The man who told me this was one of the few people at my gym who trained with powerlifting in mind. That was my focus – and I could bench more than a lot of girls my size. I was doing something right. Right?
“Guys just want an excuse to talk to you,” he said, still not removing his attention from the game. His follow-up was delayed, too, likely formulated during a lull in the match. “They just want to fuck you.”
“It’s not possible they’re complimenting me?”
“They wouldn’t bother,” he said.
When I went to print a form using Sean’s laptop, the only device connected to our wireless printer, I accidentally closed the tab I needed. I went into the “History” part of the browser to reopen it easily, and to my horror (and yet not to my surprise) saw that he had pages upon pages of browsing history related to my friend’s Facebook. Opening some of the links, I saw that he was browsing her pictures – with a focus on an album from when she went to Atlantic City for her birthday. I felt sick to my stomach, knowing what was likely.
Part of me wanted to bash his laptop against the floor. I hate you, I thought, my anger wild and without direction. Was it OK for men to do this, to objectify women in this way? Was something wrong with him, or was he just like every other guy? Masturbating to a girlfriend’s friends, using pictures where the friend in question thought, wow, I look pretty/beautiful/hot as their material? Was I being a prude?
It wasn’t just this, though, the persistent Facebook violations. (He did this with other women, too. I caught him once when trying to approach him for a hug while he was on his computer. Another time, he decided to masturbate inches away from me after I had fallen asleep. I didn’t confront him. I tried to accept the person I loved, even when what he did made me uncomfortable and upset.) He was so compulsive in his behaviors, and I felt as though the Internet was to blame. I tried to work with him on so many different levels; I wanted to satisfy his needs. But his idea of “watching porn” together involved browsing Reddit’s “tightdresses,” “boltedontits,” and “bimbofetish.” Hearing him tell me he wanted me to look like those girls, and not like me.