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Honestly, I feel like I’m losing my mind. Everyone I've tried to explain this to just gives me a skeptical look and an eye-roll, and really, I don’t blame them. I sound pretty damn crazy, even to myself. I thought if anyone would be a little more open-minded, it would be you guys. Also, sorry if this is all over the place. So much happened at once that it’s hard to get it straight in my head.
This all started about three weeks ago. I’m a college student in a city in the Midwest, and I live in an apartment with my boyfriend, Cole, and our best friend Kyle. Things were going pretty decently for me, Cole is wonderful, I’m on track to graduate with high honors next semester, and I have a good job at a local Italian deli a few blocks from where I live. And, I thought, I was pretty emotionally stable. Until this happened.
It was mid-December, a Wednesday, and I was walking home from the class I am the TA for. Winter out here can be mind-numbingly brutal, and I was trudging through the flurries with only my eyes visible through my heavy coat, hat, and giant turquoise scarf (a gift from my mother, not very appealing to the eyes, but practical at least). I remember watching my feet marking the newly fallen snow, concentrating on the disagreement I had just had with the students in my lecture, and then I was standing in front of my apartment door, key in hand. This wasn't a case of absent-mindedness, I know you all understand, how our minds stop paying attention when going through a well-worn routine. How when you drive home from work every day, you’re not focusing on where you’re going or how fast to drive. You’re thinking about what you’re going to eat for dinner and how much your feet hurt. The routine just blends in, and our brains go through the minute details for us.
This wasn't like that. Not at all. I’m saying that one moment I was stepping onto the curb at a crosswalk fifteen minutes from my house, and the next second I was halfway up the stairs to my door. The entire walk, almost a mile, under the bridge on 4th, me grumbling at the cold weather, it felt like it had been wiped from my memory, and I had been fast-forwarded to this point. It was like it just hadn't happened, and under different circumstances, I would probably have been freaking out. But here’s the thing: this was part of my routine. I could easily tell myself that I followed the same walk as always and made it to where I was standing. I did it almost every day. That a lack of sleep and a wandering mind surprised me, making me feel like I skipped forward in time. I could tell myself everything was fine. So you know what? I did. I opened the door with the key still in my hand and went inside. I checked the mail, walked my dogs, had a glass of wine after dinner with Cole, and fell asleep with the TV on. Normal. Routine. And by the morning’s light, I had put that afternoon out of my mind.
Skip ahead a day or two, and I was at work. Although I moved away from my hometown and all of my family on the east coast for school, I couldn't help but stay close to my Italian heritage. So you could find me working twenty hours a week at an authentic Italian deli and butcher’s shop. Work was passing slowly, and my desire to leave and crawl under the covers at home was heightened by a throbbing in my head. I have a tendency for migraines, and I could feel the ache under my temples beginning. While I re-stocked the shelves, my thoughts couldn't help but wander to Cole. He had been acting strange the past few days, being more closed off and secretive than usual. I talked to Kyle about it and he guessed that Cole was just stressed at work, and I had agreed. As I worked, however, I couldn't help but think back. He seemed so hostile towards me, something I had never experienced. The way he was acting just made me feel so uneasy. One moment, I was wiping down the glass of the deli cases, and the next I was sitting in a booth next to Kyle, a half-eaten fish taco sitting in front of me.
I was sitting in Guadalajara, our favorite Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood. I would often meet Kyle and Cole here after we all got off of work for dinner. But I didn't remember it. I didn't remember finishing my shift, clocking out, or walking down the street with the cars moving by me in the gray air. I don’t remember the cold handle of the door as I entered the restaurant, or Cole’s lips on my cheek when he joined us, his dark hair flecked through with flakes of snow.
“What the fuck?” I said, wide-eyed towards Kyle and Cole. I remember that feeling, like someone had just jumped out from behind a door and shouted “Boo!” and although I wasn't really scared, I couldn't catch my breath.
They looked at me with passive confusion on their faces, Cole finishing the last of his beer.
“Dude, what?” Kyle asked, his mouth half-full of rice and beans. I rubbed my temples in an effort to ease the pounding of my head.
“When did I get here? When did you get here? What…?” I tried to articulate further, but what could I ask? How this normal and routine situation occurred? I wanted, so badly, to tell myself that I needed more sleep and I had checked out of the past few hours of my day, too absorbed in my head. But the time was missing. I couldn't recreate the moments, and to be honest, I was terrified.
Unsurprisingly, the faces in front of me were ones of confusion. Kyle scoffed at me and told me to stop smoking so much weed. Cole didn't say much, though he raised his eyebrows in surprise as he appeared to attempt to calm me. The thing was, I felt like he wasn't himself. Usually he would be one to quiet my shaking hands in his, remind me to breathe (I have a tendency to stop breathing when I get panicky and I get light-headed) and speak in soothing tones. That’s one of the many reasons I fell in love with him. But when he took my hand in his, it was too rough. And there wasn't any love in his eyes when they met mine, just a passive stare, as if he didn't care. And looking back on it now, it felt like disgust.
This is where things start to get weirder, and my memory gets shakier.
After the first few times, I got nervous. I called my best friend from home, I called my therapist, I called my mom. I did my best to calmly explain to them what had been happening, but I only caused alarm. My family told me to talk to my psychiatrist, and when I did, she handed me a sky blue prescription, little white pills that she said would help ground me. I was almost offended when I realized what she had prescribed. Anti-psychotics? Didn't she believe me? I stood outside the clinic, the sun surprisingly bright in the midst of this dreary winter, and I felt the sting of warm tears on my cheeks amid the biting wind. I felt like my life and my surroundings were beyond my control. And I felt more alone than ever.
I took those pills, the day after I came home from the pharmacy with the slim white bag. But they made everything too clear, every detail was in crystal focus, much too sharp, and it made my head ache more than before. It also made me resoundingly depressed. I struggled with depression and anxiety as a teenager and now functioned on a manageable dose of Zoloft and Xanax. I hadn't felt that bad in quite a while — and it stole the air from my lungs. The day after, when I was supposed to take my next dose, I threw the entire bottle in the dumpster on my way to work. Clouding my head with their drugs wasn't going to make dealing any easier.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. While all of this happened, the phone calls and doctors and drugs, I lost ages. After the incident at the restaurant, these gaps only increased. I would go about my day as normal and find myself jolted ahead hours, and sometimes entire days. I would be sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast, and before the second bite of cereal made it to my mouth I would be climbing into bed next to Cole, with the curtains drawn over a darkened sky. It was hours, and then days. I went to sleep on Saturday, snoring heavily after a night of drinking and I woke up on the bus on Tuesday morning. I was so shaken that I promptly got off at the next stop and threw up all over the sidewalk.
And if all of that wasn't enough, the most terrifying part of this story that I so wish wasn't real was my boyfriend, my best friend, Cole.
Some back story so this all makes a bit more sense: Cole and I went to high school together, although we weren't really friends. Shortly after graduating we started talking, and one day he showed up at my house, got me stoned, and then took me to a used bookstore. We sat in the aisles and read passages of our favorite books to each other. Needlessly to say, I was in love. That was 2009, and almost five years later, we’re just as happy as we were that day all those years ago. I love him so much, don’t you understand? I would give my life for him. I just wish those words didn't feel so bitter in my mouth as I write.
The days that I managed to make it home and into my bed without losing time were miracles. I was so grateful for the peace. Nothing felt more at home than being snuggled up against Cole in bed, him snoring softly. It was safety.
But about a week before I started skipping ahead, losing hours and days to the unknown, he abruptly stopped touching me.
We've always been very affectionate. I cherish his hugs, his warm hand in mine, and his kisses on my forehead. It’s a comfort, one I had grown quite accustomed to. But one morning I woke up and I swore I had lost him. He wouldn't kiss me anymore, and my hugs were always met with limp arms around my shoulders, if at all. He stopped spending time with Kyle and me, instead shutting himself off in various rooms of the house.
Then one night, I woke up in a stupor at the sound of a noise, a door closing. Since I started losing time, I couldn't sleep soundly. Nearly everything startles me.
Cole was standing in the doorway, expressionless. He wasn't moving, just staring at me with unwavering eyes. I was still half-asleep, and I grumbled at his form.
“Baby, what are you doing? Come back to bed.” I mumbled, rolling over and drawing the blankets around me. I expected him to respond, or to get into bed, or something, but he just watched me. Steady, and without movement. His eyes were so hard, so bitter, I swear my blood ran cold.
“Cole? What are you doing? You’re scaring me.” I sat up and looked at him, trying to understand. When he remained immobile, I started to climb out of bed, hoping to rouse him from whatever kept him in place. But as I began to move, he turned slowly, eyes never leaving mine, and started towards the door. By the time I was on my feet I could almost reach him, and then I lost him, my hands grasping air. I was sitting in a café with a coffee in front of me, my heart still pounding, and my phone told me that it was Thursday, two days later.
I nearly cried.
Things only got worse. When I slept through the night I would wake up with the strangest feelings. Along with the physical contact that I lost went the intimacy Cole and I hadn't made love in weeks. But I began waking up feeling used, somehow with dark bruises on my arms and between my thighs. My body felt used in a way that scared me, as if he had been taking advantage of me while I slept. But I could never confront him. I didn't have control over my life, or my actions. I was at the whim to the spinning, the constant jolting of one day to the next.
All I feel is a constant throbbing in my head, and there’s a shadow running around the edge of my vision. At first I thought it was the lighting, or my contacts maybe, but it follows me everywhere. The edges of my view is always shrouded, as if I’m being closed in on by the dark.
I think I've got you all caught up now, sorry it was so long. I feel like this is my last hope for understanding everything that’s been happening, and I might as well get it down while I can.
It’s almost three in the morning, and I’m typing this from the bathroom. I can’t let Cole know that I’m writing any of this, god help me if he somehow finds it on here. He’s not the man I fell in love with anymore, not by a long shot. God, I swear sometimes he’s not even human. He’s never home, and if he is, he acts like a damn zombie. He speaks in broken sentences, as if he has forgotten how to talk. He’s always watching us, listening to our conversations, and constantly questioning where I am. I feel like I’m being stalked by my own boyfriend, and I’m helpless. I wake up with bruises and scratches all over my body, from god knows what. I've given up trying to make him understand what’s been happening to me, and I’m too terrified to confront him. Last week, while we were all home, I got so frustrated that I grabbed Cole by the shoulders and begged him to listen. His arm moved so quickly I barely saw it, the next thing I knew I was crumpled against the wall and my jaw was on fire. He left that night and I skipped ahead long before he returned.
Guys, I’m so scared. I've started spending most of my time out of the house, or with Kyle. We would have left already but we have nowhere to go. I lost my job last week (I couldn't keep track of time enough to make it to work, and couldn't remember if I had) and we have no family in the area. We can’t speak freely, whether we’re at home or out somewhere. I've caught sight of him following me while I've been out running errands, and he’s doing the same to Kyle. Cole is usually gone during the day, so Kyle and I are going to get our shit together and probably stay in a hotel tomorrow night. The semester starts in a few days but honestly, that’s the least of my worries. I feel like my life has fallen apart.
I’m exhausted, and I can’t be sure whether I’ll even get to post this before I lose myself again. I can’t be sure when or where I’ll find myself the next time I lose time, but I promise I’ll update as soon as I can after tomorrow.