Amongst the flashing lights and two-steppers in a Santa Monica karaoke bar, I am crying. The half-shaved head of the DJ bobs to the music, with a reduced swing of lank hair, and I bury my head in the chest of my classmate.
Moments earlier, we had been talking about the difficulties of our lives; he, a medical emergency in his early adulthood, and me, a de-personhood caused by a myriad of situations.
“I’m pretty sure everyone hates me,” I said, for the thousandth time.
“No. No one hates you. Everyone loves you,” he replied, holding my shoulders in his hands.
I gave him my side-eye. Eyebrows were raised.
“I am not someone to bullshit. I don’t make things up,” he continued, shouting into my ear as another drunk Angelenos attempted a Bon Jovi song. “Everyone loves you, but we all wonder- why is she so hard on herself? I mean, why are you so hard on yourself?”
And the tears started flowing.
I get anxious, I get antsy.
I go outside and smoke a cigarette. I pace across the cold concrete of my front porch. I know what I’m going to do.
I twitter stalk him out of anxiety. It’s a habit I can’t break, no matter how many people have told me to stop.
I compulsively check: is he anywhere near me?
Is he writing death threats about me again?
Has he split up with his incredibly young and vulnerable girlfriend?
I hope not,
I hope not,
I hope so; a triptych of identical prayers to some unknown goddess in witness protection.
I feel fear flame up hot in the deepest pit of my stomach. He was in Iceland a week before I was there. He was in a part of London I had been in days previous. A specter is haunting not Europe, but me.
I get anxious, I get angry.
“I bet you’re kicking yourself,” the court appointed lawyer told me in her £1000 suit. “You should have just not responded to him.”
My hands shake in class as I watch, or try to watch, two people in a domestic scene. My throat closes up during the Wolf of Wall Street. My heart beats faster writing these words.
And I ask myself for what seems like the thousandth time, why am I writing them?
I get angry, I get scared.
In a bar in a town at the edge of the world, he took a sip of an alcopop.
“I had a date.”
“With a girl. She looks like Rihanna.”
“Good for you.”
“No. Not really. Someone asked me out too.”
He turned to me.
“I don’t believe it. Show me.”
In a bar in a town at the edge of the world, I showed him my cellphone.
He cocked one eyebrow, and those sickeningly blue eyes swiveled in their sockets in my general direction.
“So… he asked you out?”
“Where did you meet this guy?”
I met the guy at a friend’s birthday party at a club in Carnaby Street in one of the several stretches of time I managed to break up with him. The guy was nice, and polite, and was dressed expertly, and was studying music. All good things to a recently single girl. He had asked me where I had bought my clothes, and complimented me on my ability to pull off a quiff hairstyle.
“And so, what? He wants you to come with him to find a denim jacket?”
He took a large gulp. He gnashed his teeth, his most characteristic pre-antagonistic move, and laughed.
“You’re a whore.”
“How am I a whore?” I started to bellow, before he widened his eyes and gnashed his teeth; to mean, shut up. “You had a date with a girl who apparently looks like Rihanna, so…”
“I made that up.”
“I made that up. I knew you’d be a whore.”
In a twist of conversation I cannot remember, he somehow persuaded me to drink three or four shots as penance for my sins as he berated me, from head to toe, from strength to weakness. At a certain point, he stopped making me drink and I just drank to escape the neverending torrent of words.
I remember a woman on the street. A flash of someone asking me if I was alright. Him dragging me, or pulling me, back to his house. I remember screaming something, I remember being upset about something.
In a hospital in a town at the edge of the world, I woke up in a bed with no shoes. I was in a gown covered with vomit. I righted myself; the vomit was mine, I concluded. There were no nurses or doctors on the ward. I just left.
I didn’t break up with him for another six months. I didn’t go out on the date with the guy who wanted me to help him buy a denim jacket, either.
We sat at the edge of the sea by the castle and talked about Julian Schnabel. Guillermo del Torro. Alfonso Cuaron. Ozu. I mentioned Godard and Truffaut; he mentioned Akira and Ghost in the Shell. He was into Miyazaki. I cajoled him into reading Faulkner. He made fun of me for liking Pete Doherty. It was 2008, it was okay then to like Pete Doherty. Sort of.
We went to a cinema in London co-founded by David Lynch.
“I can’t believe you haven’t been here,” he laughed. “And you call yourself a Londoner…”
We saw Amy Winehouse in a bar in Camden. It was 2008, it was okay then to be in Camden. Sort of.
In Marylebone station he grabbed my hand and chased after Jason Segel. Jason Segel escaped into the back of a cab.
“Did you see? Did you see?!” he exclaimed, panting, flushed to his Anglo-Saxon bones with anticipation. I hadn’t really seen, but I pretended I did.
He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen. An ice blue not completely unlike the alcopop WK-D. They were wide and transfixing. I sat in a McDonalds with a group of his friends and noticed I was the only person without blue eyes at the table. I commented on this; the boys shrugged in their rain-soaked football gear. “‘S Northern Europe,” someone replied. “Vikings and shit.”
“Not like my beautiful American girl,” he whispered in my ear with a smile.
We woke up early in his bed with the sun shining from his second-floor windows. I rolled over and looked into his eyes.
He stared ahead, not responding.
“Don’t you think it would be nice to die together?”
I sat up. I looked at him.
“What are you talking about?”
“Sometimes I just wish we could die together. That I could kill you, and then kill myself.”
I decided to make him a cup of tea.
We walked up the hill to the 90s party hosted by his friends in the art school. I was dressed as Courtney Love; he, a member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, either Michelangelo or Donatello.
A crowd of drunk accents crashed upon me. I was the American entertainment for the evening. He slipped off upstairs with some friend of his from first year dorms. I paddled in the shallow conversational pool for about an hour before it all got stale.
“Where the fuck is he?” I asked his roommate, dressed like Penfold from Danger Mouse. Penfold from Danger Mouse went and retrieved him, my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
His eyes were wild and searching; pupils dilated and mouth gurning. He seemed fucked.
“I’m going home.”
“Why are you being such an asshole?”
“If you want to be a bitch and go home, then fine.”
“I don’t want to walk home alone!”
Someone from Buffy the Vampire Slayer walked me home. She texted him: I think you should come home to your girlfriend. He didn’t reply.
I fell asleep in his bed.
At 4am, Penfold from Danger Mouse woke me up. His little rat face was inches from mine.
“Paige… Paige… wake up.”
I squeezed my eyes together and turned on the light. My Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle was not in the bed with me.
“I have some bad news.”
I sat up.
“He… he’s in the police station for the night.”
“I thought it would be best for him. He tried to kill himself. Well, he did kill himself. He took a bunch of drugs. He collapsed on the side of the road and his heart stopped. A doctor just happened to be in front of the house where he collapsed and revived him. I… I took him to the hospital but they couldn’t keep him against his will.”
“He kept running into traffic after he got out, screaming that he was going to kill himself… stupid arsehole didn’t realize I could easily out run him… the hospital wouldn’t take him again. So, I took him to the police. At least there– he’s… he’s safe.”
I sobbed the hardest I had ever sobbed in my entire life.
Back in London, a few days later I got a text from him.
I’m sorry. But if you hadn’t have left the party, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
I met his mother for a lunch shortly thereafter. I stared at her chubby face for an hour.
“Stop fiddling with your fringe,” she instructed. I stopped. “I think part of the reason he did it was because of your relationship. Don’t you think?”
We are no longer together.
I hate myself. I’m so depressed. Something needs to be done. Something needs to change.
I need to leave this city. I have to get away for a while and I’m not going back to [his hometown]. I could do a Stephen Fry and just disappear abroad for a while
Don’t worry about college- you’ll throw yourself a curveball. P.S. He isn’t the one.#tweetyour16yearoldself *
*NOTE- this email references a tweet I made, days before, completely unrelated to the situation and actually referencing someone else
p.s. he isn’t the one
Have you actually seriously written that about me? Do you want me to kill myself? That is so heartless. Time to do something really drastic then.
P.S. I still feel like you were the one. Bye.
Some really interesting videos of you have just emerged on the internet. I wonder who would enjoy a link? [The university you are attending]? [Your employer]? Any prospective film schools you might want to apply to? Family? Friends?
Perhaps you need to tweet your 16 year old self a warning about filming yourself fucking and then cheating on, breaking the heart and ruining the life of the guy who owns those videos.
or maybe you just need to apologise and persuade me to change my mind.
the clock is ticking.
He knocks on my window at 3am. He sends the text
either you let me in or i’m throwing a brick through it. the window, that is.
He stands crying in the rain as I phone my mother. “He’s outside,” I keep saying. “He won’t leave. Oh fucking god, he is following me through the window wherever I go in the house.”
I call the police. They arrive.
“I’m just so in love with her.”
“You have a funny way of showing it,” they reply.
They told him to not speak to me ever again, and issued a warning. They told me to call them if he tried to speak to me again.
you left me no choice
Paige I know you really hate me, but if you have absolutely anything left in you at all I need you to come over to my house tonight. I have something very serious to tell you and things are really not good for me right now. I’m a very very sick person. I know I haven’t gone about anything the right way here, but please come over. I really need you to be here. My Mother is also with me at the moment but she will leave later. I can’t stop crying as I type this. I have to go away tomorrow and I currently cannot leave the house. I just want to see you before I go and tell you everything that’s been going on. The truth. If you can please find it in your heart to do this for me then I promise I will never bother you again. Please if you do choose to come I also need to to bring something with you, I gave it to you a while back and I hope you still have it. I’m sorry for everything. Please don’t contact the police again.
also i no longer have a mobile phone so you can’t call
Please try to remember that life is cruel but you are wonderful. People will always try to hurt you and do mean things but you are one of the most special things to be put on this earth. You are a fantastic gift to anyone who is fortunate enough to meet you. I wish we could have spent an entire lifetime together. I messed up and I will never forgive myself but I will always love you. x
I promise you that when you wake up in the morning you will be happy.
Please know that I love you so much. If there is anything I should or could be doing to win you back that I’m not please let me know. I will not phone or text you (i actually can’t i don’t have a phone). I can’t stop thinking about you and all the bad things I’ve done. I love you immensely and I want to win you back. I promise that if you gave me one more chance I would never mess up again. I realise how much I’ve done to hurt you and how much i’ve done wrong. Seeing the expression on your face through the window the other night has completely broken me. I’m suffering so much and I’m sure you are too. I love you incredibly and although this hurts I never want to lose this feeling of love. If you feel that these emails are intrusive or harassment in any way then let me know and I will do everything I can to resist the urge to contact you again.
I’m in an absolute mess. My hands are shaking so much and I can’t control them. There is this uncontrollable churning in my stomach that makes me feel constantly nauseous. I believe that if we could only have one conversation then I could show you how much I want and need you. We will never have problems again, I want to be the perfect boyfriend and the perfect guy. I have to deliver a script by 9am tomorrow but I can’t think and I can’t cope. I love you so much, please reply something back. Please this is intolerable.
This is crazy. We are meant to be together I know it. We didn’t see each other for 4 months and we still love each other so much. I know things haven’t worked out in the past and I know you have given me more chances than I have deserved, but this type of love is not going to go away. I need to see you.
I’m seriously troubled and depressed. I know any sort of contact from you would lift me straight out. I’m so completely in love with you.
those videos are cracking up some serious hits!
At night, only when I’m alone, my ritual before bed is to first cover the mirror. Then, to put a towel or a pair of pajama bottoms between the doorframe and the floor. Just in case.
I shut the curtains. I leave at least one small light on, sometimes two. It’s never dark, at least.
I tell people it’s because I’m scared of ghosts. That the medication I take to help my anxiety and mood makes shapes shift, and blur. Which is true, both are true, but the other day I realized the real reason.
Whenever I’m scared in bed, I can’t look towards the window.
Paige Elizabeth is a 24 year-old writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles, and she’s an MFA directing student at UCLA. She’s been published in Thought Catalog, Everyday Genius, Have U Seen My Whale, and Sadcore Dadwave featured on the Guardian and on Dennis Cooper’s blog.