I remember how you would look at me like I was the only person in the world. I remember how your fingers would trace my body and how your words would compliment every inch of me. I remember how you would take me to the ocean because you knew how much I loved it and how you would sit with me there surrounded by love.
I remember camping under the stars, sharing all our stories from the past and all our dreams for the future. I remember driving through the mountains with the roof down in your sports car and your hand holding mine.
I remember waking every morning to messages you’d sent during the night when you’d awoken and thought of me. I remember how you would drive forty minutes from your house to mine if there was a chance to see me for two minutes.
I remember how you would make my meals and carefully iron my clothes. I remember nuzzling my head into your chest and falling asleep there with the smell of you and all the safety your arms provided. I remember you as my soulmate in all of these moments.
But I also remember how you said my phone was tracked so you could know who I was speaking to, how my car was tracked so you’d know where I was.
I remember how you said you’d been trained to kill and how easily you could make me disappear just by making a phone call. I remember how you said you would pay people to watch me and follow me.
I remember every ounce of fear you provoked in me. I remember how you said you had an incurable brain tumor to gain my sympathy and how you said all of your family had died so tragically so I would feel too guilty to leave you too.
I remember every cent you stole from me until I had no money left and then I only needed you more. I remember how the silent treatment progressed from hours to days and I remember waiting by the phone to hear from you, each time the wait becoming longer.
I remember losing friends for you and the rage you had when I tried to make plans with the few friends who stuck around.
I remember how you would drug my drinks when we were out and then stand over me with a terrifying coldness as I drifted in and out of consciousness. I remember every ultimatum and how I constantly strived to be better and how I constantly failed.
I remember seeing the pictures of you with her when you said you were on a golf trip and how you convinced me I was seeing things and losing my mind when I confronted you.
I remember apologizing for being too crazy and I remember believing that maybe I was.
I remember waiting by the phone for you to want me and then driving those forty minutes in the middle of the night to see you when you called.
I remember those drives so vividly and the feeling inside me when everything was screaming for me to turn the car around, give up on you and go home. I remember ignoring that intuition.
But I also remember every single time I worked up the courage to leave and how you would threaten to kill yourself if I did. I remember how I would sit up all night apologizing and begging you not to.
I remember feeling like I was drowning and suddenly the ocean didn’t seem so beautiful anymore.
I remember that day the most. When you waited for me to go on holiday with my family, when you waited for the perfect moment to make that call.
I remember sitting at dinner with my family and how cold your voice sounded when you told me she was pregnant, and you were leaving. I remember running from that restaurant screaming, as if to escape the world that was crumbling around me.
And I remember your parting gift, how you threatened to kill me. I remember feeling as if you already had.
I remember the months that followed that day. How panic attacks kept me from leaving the house, how hypervigilance kept me from sleeping, how grief kept me from eating.
I remember screaming through the tears, “How am I ever going to come back from this?” I remember seeing my face in the mirror and feeling pity for the broken woman reflected back.
I remember looking at old photos and recognizing my face but not recognizing myself. I remember making friends with the heavy fog that hung over me and how I clung to the pain because it was the only piece of you I had left.
I remember sleeping with the smell of you until that left me too and how every word of every song reminded me of you.
I remember coming across the word ‘narcissist’ and how suddenly all the pieces of the puzzle fitted together.
I remember how the grief intensified as all those happy, loving moments changed from memories to mirages—how love was nothing more than a figment of my imagination that I so
desperately searched for when I was in need.
I remember the nights spent searching the Internet to uncover the truth behind every lie you had told me. I remember reading every book I could about narcissism, about empaths, about abuse.
I remember the realization that I was not crazy, but in fact a victim of the evil living inside of you that you project onto others.
I remember searching your name every day, searching her name every day. Waiting patiently to see how karma would be delivered, to see how revenge or justice would take shape. I remember how I wanted to tell the world my story, how I wanted to write a book and speak publicly about it.
I remember how I wanted to save others from the hell I was enduring. I remember the solace, validation and safety I found among the recovery communities.
Most of all, I remember the days when the fog started to lift, when I could see the beauty in the ocean again.
When I stopped searching for you, when I stopped caring about where you were or what you were doing. I remember letting go of the idea of revenge, of justice, of fear, of hatred, of victim hood.
I remember letting go of you. And I remember that night, going out to look at the stars for one last time, to think of you for one last time. And I remember that night, how the stars hid behind the clouds, just as you had hidden behind a mask.
I remember how beautiful it was to see the stars and not have to think of you one last time, as if the stars knew it was time to let go.
I remember finding love after you, finding happiness and light I never thought I’d see again. I remember feeling safe again. Most of all, I remember the first time I looked at a photo of myself and felt like me again.
I remember looking in the mirror and no longer feeling pity, but seeing strength and feeling pride. I remember feeling even more like me than I ever had done. I remember suddenly feeling nothing but compassion for myself, for you, for her.
But now, my favorite thing to remember is how I forget to remember you.