It’s Not You, It’s Me
I had heard about you from girls who dated you in high school. I knew you were responsible for sending two of your exes to therapy. I hated you before I even met you.
So when we both wound up at the same university and I suddenly found myself in your bed, I should have ended it right there. I should have trusted the whirl of bad stories surrounding your name, but instead I began a three-year long journey through hell.
First year was hard enough without the second-guessing, self-doubt and complete lack of confidence that you hammered into my lifeless body. You moulded me into a person I didn’t even recognise.
Fridays would find you sweating and panting with some other girl; Saturdays would return you to my bed, hugging my side like you needed me.
That was if I was lucky.
Some weekends the two occurred in the same night, as you crawled from her bed to mine. Sundays left you busy in your room, typing away on your computer, unaffected by the pain you had inflicted on me the days before. And Monday it would start all over.
I remember one night when we were eating together in the dining commons. I was eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Why don’t you try a yogurt?
I gained fifteen pounds that year.
Sophomore year I moved into the same house as you, with nine other roommates. At least I could keep tabs on you, but that also found me just a few feet away while you grunted and moaned into some other poor girl. You made me believe that every reaction I had was an overreaction.
Stop being so dramatic.
You won every argument. I always found myself at a loss for words, while you talked around my pounding head like you so often did. By the end of it, I couldn’t remember why I was mad in the first place. Your intelligence was always your greatest weapon.
I remember discovering you with someone the night before your birthday. I was supposed to drive us to San Francisco in the morning for a concert. I still went. I drove five hours, in my car, to celebrate the day you were born.
You had drunkenly said you loved me just a few nights ago, before blacking out. You loved me, and that was enough.
When you told me the deeply thought-out reasons why you didn’t believe in university relationships, why you didn’t want a girlfriend until you graduated, I believed them too. I believed you. I held onto the vague notion of our future after graduation, which you slowly engrained into my head. Until then, being exclusive was enough for me, not that you ever kept that promise for more than a few weeks at a time.
Your exploits left me running through the night, searching for my own midnight flings. I lied lifeless while a stranger kissed my neck, thinking about you, only to tell you the next day how wonderful it was.
I pushed through the tornado of women with the comfort of knowing that I was still number one. You always made sure I knew that. I was different from them.
Sophomore year ended and summer came around; you were leaving to intern in Europe. Suddenly you were all too interested in me. You texted me every morning, all day, all night. Begging me for seductive Snapchats, to FaceTime, to talk on the phone. Finally, I thought. You finally wanted to be with me.
I should have known that it taking you leaving the country to realise this was a bad sign. We planned a 10-day trip with another couple for when you returned. You conveniently waited to tell me that you had slept with another girl in Berlin until after I purchased our tickets.
Within a few days of us returning, you told me you didn’t want to feel obliged to see me or talk to me every day.
The whiplash was frightening. But still, I stuck it out. I held onto the pieces of you that I loved, the good in you, but I shouldn’t have.
I should have realised that every word, every touch, every feeling was just a manipulative scheme to stroke your own ego. A ploy to give you exactly what you wanted and deny me everything I needed.
Halfway through my third year, things started to feel different.
I was at your house party and instantly recognised five other girls you had been with. I couldn’t sleep at all that night as you snored next to me. I decided to sneak out and walk home. I’m not sure if you heard me leave, but I’m sure you wouldn’t have cared.
You blocked my number, my Facebook, my Instagram, and suddenly I was the one who was being punished. I was the one who had done something wrong.
Your manipulation was almost beautiful in its complexity.
The silence broke when you unblocked me on my birthday to send me a message. I clicked on your profile and my heart stopped as I read: In a Relationship.
21 never felt worse.
Three years. For three years, I understood when you said you didn’t want a girlfriend in university. But within a month of me cutting you out of my life, I guess you somehow changed your mind.
Happy Birthday. I’d be down to grab a legal beer anytime. I hope we can work out our issues soon, because I really miss talking to you. And by the way, awesome job on your fitness: you look great.
I’m not angry anymore. I don’t hate you. I don’t lie awake at night anymore, staring at the photo of you two in front of the waterfall, almost identical to our own picture. I don’t torture myself wondering why she was enough, while I never was.
If you ever read this, I hope you’ve changed. I hope you actually care about her. I pray you never do to her the things you did to me, and so many others before. I hope the pictures of you two smiling and looking in love are real, because I hear she’s a nice girl and I used to be a nice girl too.
But more than that, I hope that anyone who’s reading this and asking themselves the same questions realises that they’re not the problem.
There is nothing wrong with you.
You deserve better.
And if you’re like me, I know I’m probably the 100th person to tell you this. And I know it won’t be over until you say it is.
So when he smiles at you softly, pretending like he’s been a great person all along, and says It’s not you… it’s me, believe him.
It’s probably the first and only time he’ll tell you the truth.
Cover by Xavier Sotomayor