***I generally do not feel that I need a content warning for my posts, but I think I do for this one. This contains an instance of sexual assault. If you don’t want to read about it please stop here. Also, if you’ve experienced any form of sexual assault, I’m so sorry. I love you and I’m here for you.***

It’s midnight and I present a project I have spent the entire semester on in the morning. I can’t sleep.

I’m not nervous about the presentation. Well, I am, but that’s not why I can’t sleep.

There’s a boy in my living room. 

This is normal. One of my roommates is a guy, but he has a friend over. I don’t want to use his real name, so I’ll call him Harry. 

Harry and I used to date. It was a horrible relationship. Manipulative, destructive, cruel.

It was freshman year of college when Harry and I started dating. We were friends with the same people, had similar interests, and even accidentally dressed in matching Halloween costumes. By the end of the night my Catwoman costume had Joker makeup all over it.

Photo by Josh Appel 

It started out well. I was his first kiss. He was my first sleepover. We slept, nothing else. 

We spent a lot of time together. My roommate was never home, so he’d stay over most nights, walk me to class in the mornings, walk me to lunch and dinner, walk me home at night. We’d spend every second we could together. 

He told me he loved me after three weeks together. It was too soon. I pretended I didn’t hear it. We hurt each other. 

After a few more weeks he said it again, and I said it back. We said “I love you” the way most people said “hello.”

We didn’t have sex, or at least the official, heterosexual-type sex, but we definitely made out and more.

One day, while we were making out and more, he said the wrong name. 

I honestly don’t remember this girl’s name anymore. After three years, it became irrelevant. Who she was was besides the point. 

I didn’t confront him then. I waited. Hours, or maybe days later, I asked him. 

He told me it was no big deal, that yes, he had feelings for her, but he was with me. It should’ve bothered me more. It didn’t. As long as he was happy. Why did it matter? It shouldn’t. Right? 

We moved on from that. 

We fought. A lot. Usually over nothing, just little things.

Photo by Kayla Harris

I wanted to get to know his friends. I wanted him to get to know mine. He didn’t like either of these ideas. 

Some nights, I wanted to hang out with my friends, he wanted me to hang out with him.

He wanted to be my everything. That shouldn’t be a bad thing, should it?

He hated one of my best friends. To be fair, this friend had admitted he was in love with me. I had turned him down, and we continued to be close friends. Harry despised this. He didn’t trust my friend, and he didn’t trust me with him.

On multiple occasions Harry told me that if I hung out with my friend it would make him want to kill himself. 

He just wanted my total affection. He just wanted me to be safe. Right? 

Our worst fights were typically over his neighbor. A giant, evil 18-year-old boy who had decided it was his mission to destroy Harry’s life. 

Photo by Pawel Janiak

Sometimes this boy, I think Harry called him Justin at one point, would threaten Harry’s brother. He would tell Harry that he would beat up his little brother if Harry didn’t send nudes to him. 

Other times, Justin was threatening Harry with a picture that looked like Harry’s dad running Justin over with his car. Conveniently, Justin’s dad owned a newspaper and would be perfectly happy to print this picture. The punishment for this one was usually Harry sucking Justin off.

My personal favorite punishment was Harry breaking up with me. It couldn’t just be on social media either, Justin would know, even though he lived an hour away and had no contacts on our campus as far as we knew.

None of these stories were true. I can’t explain why I believed them for so long. Looking back, they’re clearly lies, but I believed them. And because I loved him I would do anything to help him. 

Thankfully, I never sent anyone nude pictures of myself, or had to get one of his friends off, or anything in that realm. I honestly don’t know if I would’ve done those things if Harry had asked me. I’m glad I never did, but the possibility that I might’ve been willing to terrifies me.

His stories always scared me, but none terrified me as much as when “Justin” told him to kill himself.

Harry had depression. He had told me before that he tried to kill himself. I had been at that point as well, years before. We bonded over it. Our mutual self-destruction.

“Justin,” who at this point I don’t believe ever existed, had told Harry to kill himself. I don’t remember who this one was meant to protect. I don’t know that Harry ever gave me a real explanation. 

I did know that Harry needed some serious mental help. 

I told him to email the school psychologist. He always said he couldn’t go to a therapist because of money, but her services were free for students. I told him to send her an email and to talk to her or I couldn’t be with him anymore.

It was an ultimatum. Like I said, neither of us were good for that relationship.

He agreed. He said he’d email her that evening. We slept on our own for the first night in a while. 

The next day I asked and he told me that he had emailed her. I asked to see it, but he said he’d deleted it. 

He told me she had responded with something terrible and mean. She had called him a loser and told him to get over it. He had deleted that email as well though. It wasn’t even in his trash folder.

Even 18-year-old, gullible me had trouble believing this. 

So, I emailed her and wound up meeting with her myself. She told me that she had emailed him to see if he could meet, but never heard anything back. She was even able to show me the email. It didn’t say anything nasty.

I confronted Harry. It took every ounce of bravery I had, but I did it. I asked him why he had lied to me and why he wouldn’t just go see her. 

He ran away.

I found him pretty quickly. He was hiding behind a dumpster.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas

I demanded that he tell me what was going on. He confessed that he hadn’t emailed her because he was scared she would tell people. He didn’t want me to be upset with him, so he lied. Just a little lie. He had my best interests at heart. He only wanted to make things easier on me. Nothing bad about that, right?

I think it got easier for him to lie to me after that.

He told me that his father was abusing his mom, and that he wanted to protect her, but they couldn’t get out. His little brother had sided with his dad. 

He admitted that he never tried to kill himself.

This one hit me hard. I don’t know why he admitted it. Maybe he had a moment of remorse. I don’t know. I didn’t even yell at him. I didn’t know what to say.

All of a sudden it was summer and time to go home. I live three hours away from campus, four from his house, and I had never driven that far before. I didn’t know when I would see him.

Photo by Despo Potamou

I went to see him for my birthday. My parents bought me a hotel room in the city and a bus ticket out there as my present. We had a good time. He stayed in my hotel room, something my parents didn’t know, and we didn’t fight for the most part. He gave me a birthday present. It was sweet.

About a month later, he came to visit me. My parents loved him and even let him stay in the spare bedroom of their house for the weekend. There were rules he had to follow, like not going into my bedroom, but for the most part the rules were easy. 

I had made loads of plans for the weekend with him. One of my neighbors was having a party, and I had already agreed to go, so I just brought him with me. My neighbor was happy to meet him. He was not so happy to meet her. 

I don’t remember why, but he very much did not want to go. I promised him it would only be a few minutes, and I wouldn’t leave his side, but he only went because my mom insisted. He sulked the entire time we were there.

My neighbor, a very friendly woman, tried incredibly hard to talk to him. She made every effort, and he was rude. This had me pissed off. He wanted to pout in a corner, so I decided to just let him. He sat at a princess picnic table and refused to talk to anyone. I socialized without him. 

Eventually my mom suggested that I take him home. I didn’t want to reward his behavior, but I knew it was best to get him away from other people he might offend. 

I dragged him back to the house. He fought with me about leaving him, about bringing him in the first place, about wanting to go to a party during the short time he was there. 

I was finally starting to realize that he was not someone I wanted to be with. 


We decided to go to the amusement park where I work at home. I get in for free, along with a few free guest passes every season. I wanted to show him around and introduce him to my friend, the one he had already decided he hated. 

We rode rides all morning, took pictures together, and had a good time. I snuck food in so that we didn’t have to pay for overpriced snacks. Everything seemed to be going well. 

I wanted to see the costume characters. I work as one, so I always get to dance with them, or take the best pictures. Besides, I love it. It’s my favorite part of going to the amusement park. 

I pulled him up to one of the “shows.” It’s a line of characters who dance to music and take pictures with people. I asked the guides who was in costume and proceeded to run up to one of my friends. When I turned around, Harry was gone. 

I tried to call him, but he hit the button to send me to voicemail. I started searching for him. Eventually I got sick of it and went to the bathroom. When I walked out he was sitting in front of me. 

I sat down next to him and asked what happened.

He told me that he was terrified of costume characters, but he knew I loved them so he didn’t want to tell me. 

He told me that when he was a little kid, his best friend had a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. 

Photo by Taton Moïse

He told me that he had walked into the bathroom and seen the giant mouse groping his friend. 

He told me that he had never told anyone about it, but from that day forward he was terrified of all costume characters. 

It was a load of crap. 

I don’t know why he didn’t want to come over. Maybe he really was scared of characters for some reason. Maybe he wanted more attention. Maybe he didn’t want to meet my friend. 

Whatever the reason was, he didn’t tell me the truth. I didn’t call him on it. I just wanted to get through the weekend. 

We went back to my house after that. I got changed out of my sweaty park clothes, and he did the same. My parents weren’t home yet, but my brothers and grandmother were downstairs. The door to the bedroom he was staying in didn’t close all the way. 

I went into his room. We were talking about something and he started to kiss me. He pushed me up against the door, trying to close and lock it. I told him that it wouldn’t shut. 

Photo by Annie Spratt

He continued to kiss me, putting his hands up my shirt. I pushed him away. I told him that we shouldn’t be doing that. My parents could be home any minute. He told me it was fine. 

He lifted me up and threw me onto the bed. Normally I found this very romantic, but I didn’t like where it was going. 

I told him that I didn’t want to because my grandmother and my brothers were downstairs. They’d hear us. He told me that we’d be very quiet as he pulled down my pants and underwear. 

I told him I thought I heard the garage door, that we’d better stop, as he kissed my stomach and my thighs.

I told him no.

He covered my mouth as he went down on me. I wasn’t to make noise. I knew that if I did, we’d be caught and we’d both be in major trouble. He would be leaving the next day, I couldn’t ruin it then. 

Finally, I pushed his hand away from my mouth, and shoved his head out from in between my thighs. 

We broke up a few days later, over the phone. He threatened to kill himself. I broke up with him anyways.

Photo by Daniel von Appen

I can hear my roommate saying goodbye to him. I can hear the door clicking shut as Harry leaves. He’s out of my apartment. My roommate went into his bedroom. I can hear a YouTube video blaring through his phone.

It’s finals week, I have to present in the morning and I have two papers due later. I should go to sleep.

I can get up and unlock my bedroom door. I can go to bed feeling a lot safer than I have been for the last hour. 

But as I’m sitting here, still writing, still terrified, I’m not unlocking my bedroom door. I’m not going to sleep. I don’t think I can right now. 

It’s been almost three years since I ended my relationship with Harry. It still tortures me that I believed his lies for so long. That I let him use and manipulate me. That I didn’t push him off of me the second he started to touch me in my house. 

But it’s the past, and I can’t change it. All I can do is better now.

Harry has barely said two words to me in the last two years. He’s hidden from me, he’s run from me, and he’s spoken about me, but he’s too afraid to talk to me. And I’m glad. I don’t want to talk to him.

“The past can’t hurt you anymore, not unless you let it.

Alan Moore

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