A Delicious Torment
Chapter One: Prelude to a Disaster, Part 1
Most of that day is a blur now. I remember coming to an important decision. The relationship with John had long since reached its zenith and was crashing to the other side of the mountain. I assured myself that we’d given it two years and very little had changed. He’d sucked me as dry as I was willing to allow. I would not become mere bones for a man who cared more about his own wants and needs than that of us as a couple.
John was a bit of an oddity. He preferred to play Dungeons and Dragons with his friends when he wasn’t working. At first, this didn’t bother me. I was on my last year of college and didn’t have a lot of time for our relationship anyway. We’d only been dating a few months and lived in two different cities – I was in Roanoke and he was in Lynchburg. We mostly got together on Sundays. His obsession for D&D got him into trouble at his job because he would stay up late playing and then be late for work the next day. After several infractions, he was fired. Then his roommates kicked him out because instead of looking for work, he just kept playing D&D. I only knew he lost his job. I didn’t know why and I didn’t know why his roommates kicked him out. Still, I enjoyed his company enough that I invited him to move in with me with the understanding that he would get a job.
After a few weeks of not finding work, I gave John an ultimatum. Go to a temp agency or move out. He chose the temp agency. This began a series of jobs that lasted a week here, two weeks there, and sometimes for a month. Either he was fired or once the contract ended, he wouldn’t be hired on permanently, which many of these companies did at the time. After a serious infraction, he was terminated by the temp company. To this day, I still don’t know what he did to get fired. However, instead of checking with another temp company, John decided not to even bother. He hung around the house, played an online video game, and as I was later to discover, began an online affair with some woman who also played the game. My bills mounted to cover household expenses, forcing me to forego payments on my student loans which I had to defer and on my credit cards which went into default. I was in a financial mess.
Our troubles didn’t end there though. About eighteen months into our relationship, John got it into his head that he wanted to get married. He was Catholic and at the time, I was Wiccan. Our religions were never a problem until he decided that he wanted to get married. He begged me to convert to Catholicism. I refused. We argued constantly. And then the issue of children came up. I’d already explained to him when we first began dating that I could not have children. He wouldn’t let either of these ideas go. Day after day, he pressured me about both. Maybe the doctors were wrong. Maybe I could get pregnant. Maybe it was worth checking into. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I was on the brink of the abyss.
By this time, I’d finished my last year of college to disastrous ends. The college had revoked one of my grants after the semester began without informing me. I had worked it out with the financial office to leave enough money on my account to pay for any extras that might have incurred, but when they took that grant away, I had no means to pay for an extra class that I had taken. If I had been informed, I would never have taken that class. Since I couldn’t pay, they froze my transcripts and refused to allow me to graduate for my Certificate of Advanced Studies. I tried to fight the decision, first by proving that the grant had been revoked illegally and without notification, but the college board wouldn’t even hear my case. Then I attempted to hire a lawyer, but it would have cost more for the lawyer than the money I owed the college. Eventually I gave up. I would never obtain my final degree or my transcripts. I would never be able to go on for my PhD, or teach, or work as an editor. My dreams were shattered. I ended up taking a job with an insurance company as a computer software technician instead.
John still wasn’t working, but he was still pressuring me about marriage and kids. I hated my new job even though it paid well and I was able to catch up on my bills. John grew jealous of my job because he had worked as a computer technician in Lynchburg, but couldn’t get hired on anywhere in Roanoke as one. With the stress of the job, John’s jealousy, my failure to pursue my dreams and the constant bombardment to get married and have kids, I had my first mental breakdown. I had not only fallen into the abyss, I was swallowed by it.
My primary doctor prescribed Zoloft without even ordering a mental health evaluation. I guess he figured it was just mild depression and no evaluation was necessary. And apparently I wasn’t the only one at my job on an antidepressant by this doctor. There was a running joke that you could only work there if you were medicated. The medication did help some and I was able to resume work without losing any comp time. I also gained some clarity about my relationship. The decision was made, now I just needed to find the right time to break the news to John.
I fretted over when and how to tell him for a couple of weeks. Finally one evening in late September of 2000, I waited for him to take a bath. I slipped into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet.
“We need to talk,” I told him.
He stared up at me with widened eyes and one of his ‘oh shit, what have I done now?’ expressions on his face.
“This isn’t working, John. We want separate things. You want a Catholic marriage and kids. I can’t give you either one.”
“What are you saying?”
I could tell this whole thing came as a surprise. His face reddened and he was hyperventilating, something he did any time he felt threatened.
“We need to break up,” I said as gently as I could. I didn’t want us to end on a bad note, but I didn’t want to give him hope that this wasn’t real either.
He said nothing. Instead, he slowly slid down in the tub, until his head was completely submerged. Then he began stamping his feet up and down in the water. I screamed at him to put his head above water and tried to pull him up by his arm, but he jerked his arm away and just kept pounding his feet against the porcelain. I finally reached into the tub and pulled the plug. As the water began to drain, he came up for air, but stared at me with those same wide eyes and his mouth agape. He mouthed words at me as though he was trying to speak but could not. Finally, I just shook my head and left the room. I couldn’t bear his antics any longer. He resembled more of a wounded child than a grown man.
I returned to my studio and logged onto my computer. I could hear him storming about in the bedroom. I just sat there. I didn’t want to confront him when he acted that way. Moments later, he emerged from the bedroom and stomped his way down the hallway and out the door. I hadn’t a clue where he was going, but I wasn’t about to chase after him either. It wouldn’t be long though before I knew exactly where he was. John had gone to the back yard. He stood out in the center and screamed at the top of his lungs for a good five minutes or more. I felt that dark hole attempting to swallow me again.
A Delicious Torment @2016 Lori Carlson. All Rights Reserved.
A Delicious Torment is a memoir of my descent into madness and subsequent recovery. I will post new sections of this each Monday.
Jump ahead: C1P2