This morning, while waiting with my bicycle at a traffic light, I saw this young woman crossing the street in front of me. Even though she was attractive enough, I nevertheless felt extremely uncomfortable, as she reminded me too much of this one person who once made my life a living hell.
About four years ago I was just in the process of finding a job in the Netherlands when I encountered this rather odd girl. Long story short, I agreed to help out with her laptop at first, then she managed to worm herself more and more into my life, asking for help with her parents and sister. She'd accompany me to some job and media interviews. It was frankly quite bizarre.
Then, despite the warnings from my mother, I agreed to rent an apartment together near the new work I had found. While the original idea was to each have separate bedrooms, for reasons I cannot distinctly remember any more - but likely born out of inconvenient compromises and wishful thoughts - suddenly we were in a 'relationship' and sharing the same bed.
Maybe it just wasn't that I wasn't occupied with any critical thoughts regarding what was happening that I missed or dismissed the obvious first signs of manipulation and physical violence, but after a few months my days consisted out of getting up early to head to work, get home late to cook, do the dishes and go to bed far too late. During this time I'd often find myself struggling to stay awake at work.
Sleep-deprivation was one thing, but the endless arguments were something else. Everything I said was wrong. Everything other said or did was wrong. There are no words to describe the incredible amount of negativity and paranoia I had to deal with over the about eight months that I stayed in that apartment with that woman.
I'm pretty sure that it was a combination of things slowly getting worse combined with my boundless optimism and naivety at the time, thinking that I could change people. Instead my life turned into a real-life version of The Shining.
Often when I'd be taking a shower, I'd turn around and she'd be just standing there in the door, staring at me. Not saying anything, only looking at me. Then when at other times she did talk it was only to deconstruct everything about me, and change me. It was like some evil spirit had taken over my life, invaded my body and mind, with me only able to watch on as it lurched inevitably towards disaster.
And that wasn't even the worst of it. The absolute worst part of it was the sex.
There's absolutely nothing more base, more disgusting and repulsive than sex. Almost all of my experiences with sexuality have been negative, with what I experienced during those months topping the list. I'm not even sure why it happened. Just that it happened a lot. Too often. It was unpleasant, uncomfortable, even painful, both psychologically and physically. I just got used.
Near the end things became more and more violence in a physical manner. As I began to show some signs of independence, even considering taking up this job offer in Germany, she began to threaten me. At some point I remember lying wrapped into a blanket against the inside of the bedroom door, barricading it, while the woman was talking with my mother on the phone, assuring her I was fine, that I was just having psychological problems, but that she would take care of me.
If only that was the truth. The reality had been her yelling at me and calling me names for what may have been an hour straight, continuing even as I was lying curled up on the floor, covering my ears with my hands. Thus I ended up barricading myself, nursing a bloody lip and other injuries.
Then my mother requested to speak with me, after which I was given the phone. I was so thoroughly brainwashed and broken at that point that I actually assured my mother that I would be fine. That I would manage somehow. Yet of course my mother understood that this was all a complete lie, instead convincing me to pack up some belongings while she would drive with the car to my place to pick me up and take me to her own place.
Moving forward again, the manipulations by this woman didn't stop. She'd try to convince people around me that I was the evil manipulator and attempt to worm her way back into my life. In the end I gave up on trying the apartment back, heading there with a moving company to just rescue my belongings. Naturally, once we got at the apartment, we found that she had (illegally) changed the lock.
Eventually she opened the door, to first attack me and my mother. With the police joining the fray, I was able to enter the place and discover that it had been stripped clean. None of my belongings were left. I had lost virtually everything I had ever owned.
For more than a year after this, she would still be harassing me, breaking into email accounts and pestering journalists and others. She can at least be proud of having been the most persistent and most aggressive and violent of my stalkers so far.
At the risk of making this woman feel even better about herself, I must admit that the effects of this domestic abuse will probably take a very long time to subside. Last time I spent some time together with a woman, even sleeping in the same room, I'd have vivid nightmares involving this perpetrator of the worst domestic abuse I have been a victim of at this point.
How can I learn to trust people again after such an experience? How can I possibly date women again when such instinctive, paranoid fears linger in the back of one's mind? How can I ever live in an apartment again without jumping at every sound of footsteps, a running faucet or with the sudden feeling of absolute, terrible certainty that she's standing there again.
Just watching. Staring, soundlessly.
At this point I would probably welcome living, isolated, in some mountains or forests somewhere. Away from people and from the unwelcome memories they too often trigger for me. Somewhere quiet, with just the sounds of nature. A place whose tranquillity can calm the blood-tinged seas of my memories and maybe allow me to brave the ravages of society once more.