Leaving my girlfriend

[Ed. Note: This entry actually spans two weeks and is a composite of several private entries that were never mailed out. They first appeared on the web six months after they were written.]

I feel like I’m in a nightmare, or at least a bad dream. The kind of dream where no matter how fast you can run, you can’t run fast enough. The kind where you’re not sure if you’re certain you’re not awake, but you can’t tell if you’re dreaming. It’s where the world is hazy and you’re a minute or two behind the world.

I hate myself for what I’m going to do, and I haven’t even done it yet. I’m going to leave Allison. But I’m not letting her know. Not until after it’s done. I can’t bear the thought of having to tell her. I can’t bear to look on her face as I tell her. I’d actually be able to see exactly when her heart shatters into a million pieces, and her world crumbles to dust. And I would be utterly responsible for it.

On Tuesday the 29th, Allison has a night class in French. My brilliant plan [insert scathing sarcasm here] is to drop her off at class, and then empty my stuff from out apartment into a U-Haul truck, and leave the Lower Mainland forever. This is not what I would call an ideal solution. But there isn’t one available. I don’t want to leave her high and dry, abandoning her like this, but I need my sanity.

By leaving her like this, I become a coward. I’m too afraid to see what I do to her. I’m too frightened to bear the knowledge of destroying a person’s life. You’ll note, of course, that I don’t use the adjective "innocent". Allison is as far from innocent as I can imagine.

It started when I arrived in Vancouver two years ago. I came here, hoping that the relationship Allison and I had started might blossom into something wonderful. Instead, it went sour almost immediately. Allison started manipulating me right from the start. We’d get into a massive fight where I’d be blamed for doing something wrong that I didn’t even know I did. The fight would get to the point where I was furious, and I’d yell. Allison would then cringe away from me, begging me not to hurt her. I’d walk away, convinced that this was not going to work. A phone call later, everything was dandy, and we continued.

And so the noose started to form around my neck. I let myself be drawn in by Allison’s ability to convince me that she needed me, and I needed her. I let myself take the full brunt of her pains — if she was unhappy, I was made unhappy. I had to make her be happy so I could be happy. Her moods were never private — if she was upset, she would make sure I knew. Even if it was something as simple as sighing loudly in bed ever few seconds, I always knew when she was dissatisfied with something.

My upbringing was always of concern. Because I was not brought up by Allison’s mother, I seemed to be inferior. I couldn’t cook like Allison, I didn’t clean like Allison, I didn’t eat like Allison, and I certainly didn’t watch my money like Allison.

In fact, money was a massive problem with us. I spent a lot of money getting myself up and running here. I moved into an apartment with virtually nothing. I needed things so I could cook and eat. And for that, I got in trouble. A lot of it. I got bawled out. How could I consciably spend over $500 in items for my apartment? What gave me the right to do that? Did I know that Allison’s entire family didn’t have that kind of money to spend? Did I not care that they were in unions? Did I not care that my debt was killing her? I let her make me feel like dirt.

Trust was a problem. I trusted her too much, and she never trusted me. Even after she moved in with me in Burnaby, there was no trust. In early August, this got to the point where Allison told me that I would never be fully trusted until there was a ring on her finger. Before me, Allison had claimed she never wanted to get married. I never did — I didn’t see any benefit, or any point for that matter. But trust was what I wanted the most, and I was willing to sacrifice my beliefs for her — I proposed.

Things were great for about a month, until Allison decided to quit her job for another one. The new company pulled a fast one on her, and suddenly Allison was without a job. Most people would shrug their shoulders, and find a new job. But not Allison. Her black-and-white view of right-and-wrong dictated that she get even with the company — get what she was owed. So I became embroiled in a rather nasty fight for money Allison never earned. It was on a contract that she signed, but had never worked for. She spent months working at making this company pay.

Allison took them to small claims court. This also meant she had to serve the company (specifically the two people she fingered) with court notices. But Allison didn’t want to — she made me do it. I panicked (I didn’t want to get into all this in the first place), and didn’t hand deliver one of the notices. Allison freaked. On me. It took me down like collapsing brick wall. She made me go back and attempt to make sure that the letter was actually delivered. Before I knew it, we were calling the police and claiming theft.

Then winter set in. Allison, who had to constantly look for work (in order to show to the court that she was actively trying to recover from the situation) became depressed. Things hit bottom in early February of ’99. We got into an argument. Over what specifically, I don’t remember. It took only a few minutes for Allison to reduce me to a bubbling mass of tear-filled nerves. I was an utter wreck.

I had been very upset for a while, not sure of what I was doing. I didn’t have the clarity of mind to know what I needed to do, or what I should do. I wish now that I had called somebody and been able to tell them what happened. But I didn’t, and when Allison laid into me that evening, she completely broke me.

Allison then excused herself, saying she was leaving. She got up, but her jacket on, said "goodbye" and left the apartment. I was so distraut I didn’t know what I was doing. Before I could even lock the door, it burst open again, and Allison started yelling at me — "Are you just going to let me leave?!" "What’s wrong with you?"

Then she asked me if I wanted to see her die. She told me I could watch her slit her wrists and watch the blood flow out of her. I couldn’t have been any more upset. Then she lowered the boom on me: "Will you die with me?"

I never recovered from that. I still wake up with nightmares. I still shake at the thought.

And I stayed. I have no idea why.

As a result, I don’t remember much else from last year. I know I was still mistreated, as I am now. The constant orders (not requests — she seldom asks, and hardly even says the word "Please"), using me as a slave (she rarely offers to get things from the store, and even when I’m sick she doesn’t want to do anything), and making me a part of all her misery. Even the simple things degrade me. She holds out her arms (as when preparing to hug someone) when I’m sitting in a different chair. She doesn’t get up and come over to me, but gives me hurt and pained looks when I don’t come to her. I’ve been reduced to Pavlov’s Dog.

She exercised control over my life that I only describe as near-totalitarian. She nitpicks everything I do — makes comments about my Observer’s Logs to everyone I know. If I don’t make the corrections, I get in trouble. And in the kitchen, Geoff can do no right. I’m not fast enough, I’m not attentive enough, I’m not good enough. I make a mistake, and I never hear the end of it — Allison makes a mistake, and I let it slide. Why? Because it’s not worth getting worked up about. It’s really not worth it!

Then there’s my personal time. Allison’s always on my case about taking courses and meeting new friends. But if I decide I’m going to stay late with people I work with and have fun, people I already know and could get to know better, I get yelled at. Oh, and if I forget to call and let her know when I’m coming back, I’d better be prepared for a good skinning, because that’s just what I’ll get. Heaven forbid I should be late — especially around dinner time.

And then there’s money. I already told you about the time I went to IKEA to get some things so I could live. Well, there’s the issue of Allison’s obessiveness with debt — she won’t do it, under any circumstanes. Allison never wants to be poor — it’s some hang-up from when she was a kid. So of course, she wants to show how she isn’t poor by living a good lifestyle. She wants all the fine things so she can show off to her friends how well off she is. But if she forgets to pay her credit card by one day, she complete freaks, convinced that her perfect credit rating will crumble instantly.

I’ve since stopped telling Allison what my credit card bills look like. I’ve spent so much money trying to keep her happy, I’m actually ill. I’ve wasted money on all sorts of things, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of trying to make her happy. I’m tired of not having money to do the things I want to do, and the time to do them.

With all this, you’d think that I’d have left long ago. But I haven’t. It wasn’t until I spent an evening talking with Allison’s best friend that I realized that things were wrong. About two weeks later, I made my decision to leave. Now I’m just waiting to go. And the waiting is killing me.

24 February 2000

T minus five days and counting.

On Tuesday, I started preparations. I moved several boxes down to the storage locker, and made sure I cound find everything I wanted. Some parts of the apartment I will not need to look at ever again. I know that what I want isn’t there. I’m abandoning a lot of things. I consider it making room to allow myself and my sanity to return.

I’ve had a minor problem crop up — Stuart can’t come to help. His company put him on a high-pressue, short-deadline contract that will keep him in Calgary (and likely his office) until March 8th. It basically prevents him from coming here.

Luckily for me, I’ve got a backup. I took my friend Greg (one of my co-workers) out the other day, and told him what I was doing and the reasons why. I then asked him to help me. All I wanted was for him to give me a hand emptying the apartment. But he offered to help drive. By lucky chance, Stuart’s sudden inavailability was negated by my saviour.

The planning is mostly done. I need to change addresses on my bills. Some of them I’ll change when I get to Calgary — I don’t want anything leaking early. This means I won’t be putting Allison’s name on the bills until I’m safely out of the province.

Each and every morning and evening when I’m walking to or from work, I think about what I’ll do on Tuesday. I think about how I’m going to get the truck from U-Haul, how Greg (and whatever other helper I can get) will meet at our apartment and wait for me to leave with Allison, how they’ll get the keys to the apartment, how they’ll start while I’m dropping Allison off at her class, how we’ll load the truck as quickly as possible, how I’ll make sure there’s a taxi to pick Allison up (I’m not completely heartless), how I’m going to leave Allison a note (and what that note will say), how I’m going to mail Allison’s parents a note (because I really feel I owe it to them), and how much I want to get myself out of this mess.

And I think about what this will do to her.

I’m going to destroy her life. That much is certain. She’s based her entire view of the future around me. She expects me to be there for her any time of the day or night. She doesn’t see this coming, and it’s going to be the worst possible surprise she could ever imagine. If I’m lucky, she’ll just cry. If I’m unlucky, I’ll get to carry the knowledge that I drove her to suicide. I’d like to think I’m prepared for any eventuality, but I know that’s not possible. Reality is always far harsher than your best wishes.

Cathy has been so supportive through all this. Mind you, she’s been on my case for a while for me to leave. She knows I haven’t been happy for quite some time. It’s amazing how someone you hated as a child turns into your biggest supporter. My mother had always claimed that we would be each other’s best friend when we got older. We thought she was nuts. I guess "mom knows best" is right.

Mind you, I’ve found that most of the people I’ve talked to are supportive of me leaving, though the reason varies between people. For some, they know it’s because I’m not happy. For others, it’s because they know the reason I’m not happy.

I’m running out of time. There’s not enough to do everything I want to do before I leave. I need to finish documentation ... I haven’t the information or the days to complete it. I want to finish overhauling the intranet ... I simply can’t. I’m leaving so many loose strings, I’m actually embarassed. I had been hoping for a simple and straight-forward exit. But I’m not getting one.

In fact, I had hoped some time ago to stay here for several years. And by all appearances, that was entirely possible. It was one of the two reasons I felt like I didn’t want to leave Vancouver. I liked it at Radical. It was a good job, with good people. I was respected and well compensated for my time. But when I came realize I wanted to leave Allison, I knew that I had to leave Radical as well.

You see, I’m worried about what Allison will do. Based on her general habits, and her previous actions, I’m certain that I can’t simply walk away. She’ll come after me, either to just yell at me, or to physically hurt me. I don’t know which — possibly both, I guess. No matter how I look at it, I don’t want to be around here. It’s too uncomfortable.

Now for the other reason I kept not wanting to leave. Believe it or not, it was Allison’s family. Irony of ironies — I love the family, but can’t stand the woman I was to marry. From the moment I walked in the door, I was immediately accepted and trusted by her parents. (Well, except for the fact that they wouldn’t let us sleep in the same room for about a year.) I got along very well with both Randy and Jane (Allison’s brother and sister). I felt like I was part of the family.

They made it bearable for me to exist here. They made it so I had something to look forward to. And it hurt a lot to realize that I had to betray their trust when I leave Allison.

26 February 2000

T minus three days, one hour and 10 minutes.

I’m getting scared. I don’t know how this is all going to work. I’ve got some more help moving things out of the apartment, and I’m going to try for one more person. But it’s the truck I’m worried about. According to U-Haul, the only carrier who will do one-way trips to Calgary, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to get a truck on Tuesday. If not, I’m in deep trouble. I need a truck. I need the ability fork all my junk into one vehicle, and hit the road.

I haven’t slept well in days. I’m always tired. I’ve been living on Coca Cola for a week, and it’s causing me to have shaking of the hands ... either that, or it’s the stress.

We watched "The Story of Us" last night. It’s about a marriage that’s breaking apart. I supposed to most people it would be a good movie (it actually is, at least I think so). But to me, it was like looking in a mirror, watching my relationship with Allison for the past two years. But my relationship won’t have the happy ending...

Well, I’d better get home. Allison’s expecting me. I shouldn’t be late.

28 February 2000

T minus 30 hours.

Yesterday I spent my last sunny day in Vancouver. I woke up late. We got up slowly, and moved with no intention of amounting to anything useful. The day, predicted as rainy, was in fact sunny and warm (it barely broke into the double-digits, admittedly, but it was still nice).

We played with "The Sims" for a while (a new game from Maxis, by the creator of SimCity), then decided that we needed to go out. Rather, I decided that we needed to go out. I wanted to experience one more good day in Vancouver.

We walked down to the seawall, and walked over to the False Creek Ferry depot. We walked within metres of where I’d first told my sister that I was leaving Allison. The sun was bright, the breeze scarcely blowing. The water was clear — we could easily see the starfish on the bottom. People were out walking, running, biking, wandering. It was a good day.

We took the Ferry over to Granville Island, and proceeded to head into the market. We had our favourite, perogies and cabbage rolls. Our server gave us more than the usual amount of perogies, which was fine because they are tasty. We ate outside, in the sun and fresh air, listening to a trumpeter busking in the courtyard of the market. It was a good day.

The market itself was full of people, all looking and buying. All we got was a container of cottage cheese and some strawberries.

By the time we got home, we were a bit chilled, but otherwise fine. The sun was beginning to set (we’d headed out late that afternoon), and the temperature began to drop. It was my last day in Vancouver. From there on in, all I would (or will) do is work, entertain Allison, eat, sleep, and pack.

I’m going to miss this city. I never went swimming at the Aquatic Centre. I never went to the Marine Museum, or to the Space Centre. I didn’t get to spent spring or summer in the West End. I didn’t get to play softball again. I never got to go skiing at any of the ski hills in the area. I never got to go to the Mining Museum. I never saw Molly’s Reach. I will never see Allison’s family again (yes, this is a regret). I’m going to miss Radical, and all my coworkers horribly.

Change is never easy.

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