Leaving The Ghosts

Goodbye, possibly water-damaged kitchen

Goodbye, possibly water-damaged kitchen

I will be moving soon.

I’m sorry to leave here, but I’m also kind of not – I’ve been getting weirder and weirder the longer I’ve been living alone, and drunk on the freedom of knowing no one will see how messy I can let my apartment get before intervening, or how much humidity I can stand without installing the window unit A.C. Kevin left because I don’t want the electric bill to go up. I’m moving to a place where there’s central air, and where the back gate has a lock. Where there’s in-unit laundry (!) so I don’t have to worry about being assaulted in the unprotected laundry room in my building’s basement. Where there’s another person living, who will presumably call the cops if someone breaks in while I’m sleeping.

I’ve been worried about myself for a while, but even more so in recent weeks, since that cyclist grabbed me. I might have been able to get past it by now — written it off as a one-time bizarre fluke — except that I saw him again a week later outside my building. I stared at him and he stared right back: He was on his bike on the sidewalk again, the idiot. I’d been looking for guys of his build and stature ever since it happened, so I might not have thought anything of it except that he HID FROM ME. He saw me staring at him, and I swear he recognized me. He darted left into the first alley he could, looking over his shoulder at me as he did. I stood there stupidly, staring at the spot where he’d disappeared.

A few seconds later he poked his head around the corner of the building behind which he hid, checking to see if I was still there — and I was. “Hey!” I shouted, and moved toward him. He sped up the alley toward Lawrence and I watched him go. He was on a bright orange bike. He has black hair shaped in a bowl cut — shorter underneath, but not shaved. I wish I’d thought to take his picture, or as a friend pointed out, at least pretend to, to scare him.

Did he recognize me from the news? Did he see which car I got out of? I ran up the stairs to my apartment and burst into tears. I remain startled by how much his presence has unnerved me, both times. I wish I didn’t care at all. My blood chilled when, days later, I read a description of an attempted rape in Logan Square: mid-20s, black hair in a bowl cut.

That’s when I started locking all the windows, and dead-bolting the doors. I was lucky the first couple of nights after I saw him the second time; I stayed with Jaimi that night, since we had a race the next morning, and a couple friends came to visit me that weekend. When they were gone and I was alone again, I bolted the back door shut. I forgot about it the next morning and ended up locking myself out of my own apartment. I had to call my landlord to ask him to let me in, since neither Kevin nor I ever got around to telling him he’d failed to give us keys to our own unit’s front door two years ago. But that’s a whole other story.

I am not so sorry to leave this place we lived in together for so long, I tell myself. I’m not sorry to be leaving a place where the kitchen ceiling leaked for months before the landlord finally hired a roofer. I’m not sorry to leave the memories of the fights Kevin and I had late at night, and I’m going to have to eventually be okay with leaving the memories of the good stuff, too. I’m willing to leave the good along with the bad if it means getting out of this place and leaving it all for good.

I found a young couple to take the apartment. They were willing to sublet, but my landlord offered to start them on a whole new lease – better for everyone, really. Who knows why he wasn’t willing to let me go month-to-month if staying on a May-to-April lease timeframe wasn’t so important to him?

I’d been worried for weeks that my landlord was trying to screw me over, but it turns out he was just being lazy. He never responded to my letter stating my intent to sublet, which I’d asked him to acknowledge in writing, so I went about finding a tenant anyway since I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d asked him back before I signed my third lease, without Kevin this time, if I could go month-to-month or have someone live with me for the summer to help pay the rent, but he’d refused on both points. He didn’t give me any other options, so I re-signed knowing I’d either have to cut back on spending for the next year or buy myself some time right then, only to break the lease later. Once things settled down at work, I decided to move before it got cold, and harder to find a place.

I found a woman in Albany Park whose roommate had had to leave Chicago for a job in another state. She and I got along well when we met. Her apartment is gorgeous, and she owns two cats. She works with animals, she is a runner, and she has a good sense of humor. I’m optimistic, and even if six months from now we don’t get along as well as I hope we will, I’ll have my own bathroom attached to my room so I will have my own space, at least.

I do hope we work well together, though. I’ve been spoiled by wonderful roommates my whole life and I’d really like for that streak to continue.

I got nearly 100 emails asking about my current place. I showed it to a parade of strangers, all asking about the water pressure and the obvious kitchen-ceiling leak, and marveling at what a steal the place was.

A steal. It IS a steal, when there’s two of you. Don’t tell me how cheap and wonderful the apartment I have to give up because I can’t afford it is. I’m aware.

I liked the couple I met, one of few couples who inquired. Everyone else was alone, and probably made way more money than me. I’m glad the couple was highly motivated and the first to apply, right there on the spot. Even my landlord couldn’t find any reason to not move forward when they made it so easy on him.

I didn’t want to tell them that it’s haunted by a break-up. I hope they won’t mind that I’ll leaving a few ghosts behind.

I’ve said it before, but I’m saying it again: I will never live with a boyfriend again unless I’m sure I have a future with him, and that I want that future. Starting over post-live-in breakup for the second time has taken a toll on me and I am just so, so done.

I’m hoping having a roommate will force me to be a little more social because as it’s been lately, I get home from work, eat dinner, watch Netflix, and go to bed early most nights. I love my job, but it makes me keep earlier hours. With commuting, I’m pulling 11-hour days. I’m still making the most of my weekends, thanks to people like Stef, Becca, Jaimi, Becky, Brianne, and others, who continue to ask me to do things and get me out of my house. If it wasn’t for them, I might have slipped off everyone’s radars and gotten used to staying in even more than I do, and I never want that to be the case. I’m lucky to have them as friends, especially now in Sarah’s absence.

I really have been meaning to post something positive here, but I’m always, always more inspired to write when I’m feeling like this instead. Right now it’s literally dark and stormy outside, a bleak Monday night, and all I wanted to do was write about how sorry I feel for myself.

There are wonderful things in my life right now too, I swear.

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Three more steps

Not this year

Not this year, delicious ribs (source)

This week’s chilly, rainy weather has mirrored my mental state for the last several days a little bit, and it’s been a drag because I can’t even take my bike out to get my mind off things. This past weekend was great because even though I was deeply, deeply depressed, the weather kept me outdoors and friends kept me distracted.

I needed distracted, because Rib Fest 2014 was in full swing near my house and three years ago Kevin and I went to Rib Fest 2011 for our first date. We went every year after, and saved two tickets from each event as our own small tradition. Going to Rib Fest for a first date always seemed to make for a cute story, but now it’s just embarrassing that a neighborhood-organized public rib-eating contest can cause me such turmoil and mental anguish.

Last weekend would have been our fourth Rib Fest, because today would have been our third anniversary — had we not agreed we were probably never going to see eye-to-eye on a future together and instead decided to pack it all in.

It’s infuriating and sad that after five months, I still feel this rotten about the whole thing and I don’t even understand why. I’ve very slowly moved along in the stages of grief, on a much smaller pain level of course, and have now gone from denial to anger. According to the internet, I’ve got three more steps to go before I can be a person again.

I don’t know, maybe two-and-a-half. Sometimes I feel like I veer slightly into bargaining territory.

I’m definitely mad, though. I’m mad that he doesn’t feel the horrible way I feel. I’m mad I have to give up the awesome apartment we picked together and go live with someone I don’t know instead of marry my live-in boyfriend. I’m mad about fights we had years ago and I’m mad that I can’t pick up the pieces and get it together. I’m mad at him, I’m mad at me, I’m mad at people I don’t know on the street who have the nerve to look kind of happy together. I am mad all the time this week, and while it’s kind of exhausting, it’s also strangely empowering.

I can’t let it go, I feel like it’s helping. Nothing helps, but this maybe helps a tiny little bit. I’m just gonna run with it.

I know this for sure: I deserve to be with someone who cares enough about our relationship to be willing to plan a future around it, and not just string me along, hoping I change my mind about what I want.

My friend Jaimi has offered to make up some fun, surprise plans for tonight, and I am very, very thankful for her willingness to do so. I need kept out of my apartment, at least. There’s too much to feel crappy about there, and part of me is relieved I will be leaving it for good soon.

The Aftermath

It’s been a while since I posted, and it’s not because nothing’s been happening. I’ve been doing well at my new job, where I like my co-workers, my boss, and the work I’m being given.

I keep telling people the only bad thing about it is the commute, but at least now I’m working 8-4 instead of 9-5 like I was the first three weeks there. Now I get home around 5, instead of well after 6:30. It’s a little hard to feel motivated to do much after work though, since these days I have to go to bed around 10 if I have any hope of getting close to eight hours of sleep. I’ve been a little more of a recluse in recent weeks than I’d like. I don’t even have winter as an excuse at this point. Not that I’ll complain about it no longer being winter.

Another thing that’s been going on is that I was seeing someone. In all honesty, I’ve quietly dated two people since Kevin and I broke up, and both relationships went pretty similarly: I rudely interrupted some poor guy’s life for a month and turned it upside down before getting scared and breaking things off pre-maturely. I am kind of a nightmare to date, when it comes down to it.

Both guys were a lot of great things: They were smart, funny, great-looking writers, and they were nice to me. They were ambitious and following their dreams. They had, to varying degrees, a dark streak that drew me in because, of course it did. That said, they were also very different people, but neither of them could pull me out of this circle of Hell I’ve carefully constructed for myself.

Things with the second guy fell apart this week, and I feel awful about it. I had a crush on him for a couple weeks before we went out, and there were about 10 days during which we were together and I was happy. Then, to my panic and horror, a switch flipped, and suddenly I found myself thinking again about Kevin, and missing him. For those 10 days, I really thought I was starting to move past him, but I was wrong. I was just distracted by a great guy I didn’t deserve.

I don’t know what happened, but I couldn’t get the feelings I had during that first week and a half to resurface. Instead, I ended things and hurt someone who didn’t deserve it. I am trapped by the feelings I still have for someone I can’t be with anymore. It’s been months, and I worry I will never not feel this way. Will I always have to worry it will all just rush right back, out of nowhere? What was different about those few short days when I was feeling okay with moving on and actually doing well?

Why couldn’t I keep that?

I just know that I need to stay away from guys right now. I’m hurting people other than myself, and no one else deserves to get taken down with me. I thought I was ready, and then I thought I was really ready, but I was wrong both times. I no longer trust myself. I’m still hung up on the past, and on the idea of a future with someone who never seriously considered a future with me.

I keep trying to make something happen to change how I feel, but what I really need is time. That, and some fun summer plans to look forward to. At least that’s something I can try to plan. There’s nothing I can do about the time frame and its unknown parameters.

I wish I could un-do a lot of what I’ve done so far this year. And I’m sorry.