I have always prided myself on being very intuitive in regards to the people around me. I feel their energy in the same amount of time it takes them to introduce themselves and keep it in mind as I continue to get to know them. I like to think I can see things coming or expect a certain behavior from someone based off my reading of them. I like to think so, at least.
The truth is, I was placed into a situation in 2015 that has made me very cautious of other people ever since. A situation that shook me to the core and made me question whether I had the ability to read anyone at all. I try my best to get a feel for people but the truth is, I question my own judgement constantly.
In the beginning of 2015, I started a serving job at a high end restaurant in a small town in Connecticut. I was 1,000 miles away from home back in Kentucky and beginning to feel my independent act of moving far away in an area where I knew no one was a mistake. I was lonely, not old enough to drink, and too nervous to seek out new friendships.
Then I met Evan. Evan was the sous chef at this fine establishment I worked at and also the only other person near my age. I was surrounded by women who were either lifetime bartenders or servers and either way, despised me for being a young woman coming in and in their eyes, taking their shifts and money. My age was enough reason for them to hate me so I was conscious of making noise as I rounded corners to allow them a chance to stop gossiping about me before I came into sight.
The combination of feeling lonely in and out of work pushed me closer to this quiet stranger, Evan. He had a very timid manner from the moment I met him and all the way through our relationship. His dirty blonde bangs hung in his face, pushing them out of his eyes constantly being preferable to not having something to hide behind at all. He was soft spoken and it was me who made the first move to ask him out, desperate for companionship in this strange place.
We began seeing each other regularly and in an attempt to completely kill the ache in my chest for company, I invited him to live with me within six months. I desperately needed help paying rent and he was living in his parents house, looking for a place anyways. It seemed perfect, me the more colorful, creative partner and him quietly creating beautiful dishes, using his hands to speak more than his mouth ever did.
We adopted a cat together, something I thought I would never do but I was loving this role of playing House together. I set to work making my apartment a home for two while he retreated further and further into video games and his computer. His quiet manner began to drive me crazy and any issue we faced, there seemed to be no way I could get him to talk to me about it.
Eventually as all relationships like ours do, it began to crumble until eventually it fell apart and I was faced with paying $1100 alone each month in an apartment shared with a cat who had never liked me from the get go.
My sweet, quiet partner had disappeared leaving the house just as empty as it was when he inhabited it.
We won’t get into my awful tendency to seek out relationships immediately after ending one but I’ll just say two weeks later, I had a guest over named Matt. It was the middle of the day and he had swung by to pick me up so I was getting my things together, the memory of this awful last relationship fading because this new relationship would be better, I was sure of it.
We were in my room when I heard someone enter the front room of my apartment without knocking. I looked at Matt with wide eyes and walked out alone to see Evan staring at a pair of men’s shoes on the floor, with an unreadable expression on his face. He raised his eyes to meet mine and I began to speak but he cut me off by turning around and leaving. My heart ached, feeling terrible for hurting him and unsurprised this was his reaction because he had always been so sensitive.
Then all of a sudden I saw him coming back. Only this time he was carrying a hockey stick in his hands.
The Canadian equivalent of a baseball bat was gripped in his fists and the expression on his face was replaced with rage.
My heart began to race and I acted quickly, locking the front door.
He began to swing the stick into the windows leading up to the front door and the soft set mouth I thought I had known so well began to fling curses louder with each swing of the stick.
The front door took a huge blow and I ran back to find Matt, quickly explaining the situation I did not fully understand myself. I heard Evan moving from window to window, smashing my window AC unit in an attempt to knock it in so he could come in. My heart raced as I dialed my next door neighbors number, a big guy who looked out for the apartment complex. There was no answer and my fingers shook as I began to dial 911.
There was a moment when I sat there, hunched in my small apartment bathroom, fingers hovering over the three digits.
I loved Evan and up until five minutes ago he was still this depiction of a quiet, sensitive boy who despite his inability to be a good partner, was a good person. With each crack I heard of the stick connecting with a window or the splintering of wood on my front door, that idea cracked and faltered.
I dialed and waited.
We were urged to go out through the back while the cops headed in our direction. I could still hear his painful cursing screaming,
“LET HIM COME OUT AND FUCKING FACE ME!”
I shook my head at the rising memory of seeing him being unnecessarily chastised at work by our head chef. He would patiently wait for him to finish then calmly explain the logical reasoning behind his actions. He had a soft half smile when he talked and a way of looking you in the eyes, making the other feel abashed for getting upset in the first place. He had done this many times to me. But there was no smile today.
I was half way out the door when I remembered Tiny, our adopted cat and feeling a sense of loyalty to the overweight tabby, I ran back in to grab him. That cat had hated me from the time I rescued him and despite the loud racket outside, he had no desire to escape with me. We were the same in the sense we both adored Evan and even in this moment, were confused at the prospect of fleeing from him. I scooped Tiny up in my arms and headed for the door feeling like a brave fire fighter when he began to claw my forearms and yowl with hatred for the person who had saved him, fed him, and cleaned up his shit for months. I dumped the cat and bolted out the back door.
My friend and I sought refuge in the neighbors apartment, knocking boldly, asking to come in before explaining what had happened. Blood had begun to drip from my forearms, increasing the drama of the event and we explained while we waited for the call it was safe to come out.
The call came and I returned to the house, looking through my broken front windows, at an even more broken sight.
Evan sat in the front yard we had once shared, hands tied behind his back, head down, his dirty blonde hair falling into his eyes. The anger was gone, hurt and defeat being the only remaining emotions I could see. But I knew he felt embarrassment too and I felt like it was my fault.
The police recommended pressing charges but I couldn’t bring myself to sign the paper, thinking of his mother who I adored and her son I thought I loved. They had me sign a paper saying he could not be within a certain distance of me and for months afterwards, I would receive notifications in the mail letting me know if he had changed addresses and it would bring back the memory of that day all over again.
I felt real danger in that day, could smell my own fear on my skin, and it was almost tangible but it paled in comparison to the danger of trusting someone wholly who was an entirely different person than I thought. Or was he? Can one event like this define a persons character?
For months after and now years, these kinds of questions raced through my head. I still question my own ability to judge someone accurately.
It seems scary to trust someone one day and the next day have the veil drop and reveal their true character. It’s somehow even scarier than an angry Canadian beating down your front door.