“How the hell did I get away with it? I was a cheater and a liar, and it takes one to know one. That’s why he never suspected me. Because he’s not a cheater and a liar. He never thought in that way.” From “A Brutally Candid History of Breaking Up” by Adam Sternbergh, New York Times, March 11, 2011
Ken and I had been dating exactly a year. I knew that I was in love with him and cared deeply about our relationship. I believed he felt the same way. However, I was aware, from the beginning, that he had emotional problems. I thought with enough love and support, we could overcome those difficulties.
Ken had been raised by a mostly absentee career military Dad and a stepmother who supposedly despised her stepchildren. Ken spoke of cruel punishments and neglect when he referred to his childhood. After a failed first semester of college he went into the Army and spent the next ten years as a soldier, he spent time in Bosnia and did two tours in Iraq. His time in combat had left him deaf in one ear, impotent and physically scarred. He was also hyper-vigilant; he had loaded guns throughout the house, had an alarm system installed and talked of making our master closet into a safe room with a panic button. Once, when I was still living at my apartment and Ken was visiting, I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I didn’t turn on a light and as I was shuffling, half-asleep down the hall I was met with the loudest, most fearful screaming I have ever heard “GET THE FUCK OUT, GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” I stopped dead in my tracks, was he having a flashback? “Ken, it’s me!” I yelled, “It’s just me!” I turned on the light; he was standing next to the bed, clutching the only weapon he could find, a water bottle. His adrenaline was pumping so hard he was shaking. I realized that had we been in his apartment, I might have well been shot.
The last day of our life together was Sept. 6, 2010. We spent the morning in Mexico soaking up sun and made a leisurely drive home. We were at the border crossing waiting for hours and when we finally made it back home it was late at night. As we pulled in I could see there was water on the front porch and also on the driveway; as we opened up the garage water came rushing out. I threw open the door and stepped into three inches of water on our brand new floors. Ken rushed past me and pulled the refrigerator from the wall, the icemaker hose was gushing water from a small hole. I whimpered, “my beautiful house...” and Ken screamed “don’t you DARE cry, that will NOT help the situation.” I called my Dad and asked what to do. Spend the night in a hotel and call your insurance company first thing.
The amount of damage was overwhelming; the house was unlivable. All 2,500 sq. feet was flooded, all the floors had to be ripped up, the sheet rock 3 ft. up on all the walls had to be torn down, cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom had to be replaced. The legs of our furniture soaked up water and buckled. Clothes and shoes we had in cloth totes bled color into each other and got moldy and stiff. Boxes stacked in the garage, still unpacked, were waterlogged. Luckily, the insurance company agreed to pay for everything: just make a list and we will reimburse you for your losses, they said.
We were separated again, me in Tucson and Ken in Sierra Vista (we had chosen the house because it was half way between our places of work, but we couldn't find temporary housing there). Ken seemed completely fed up and freaked out. A couple of weeks after the flood, when we were spending the weekend at my temporary rental I let a tear roll down my cheek, a single tear. It made him absolutely livid and he screamed at me that I was the weakest person he had ever met. I was picking up a lot of the slack - talking to contractors, going to meetings he couldn't make, and making living/food arrangements. And yet with all of that, he acted like I was a burden and needed too much from him (I couldn't ever figure out what exactly I was doing that was taxing on him). I decided that his inability to deal with personal stress (he would be mean and critical and even got physical with me a couple of times), wouldn't bode well for our future. What if we had an autistic child, or one of us became disabled? I was seriously concerned about his ability to deal with life and felt that if I stayed with him and at the house that it would be a bad decision in the end. I wanted a partner who was supportive and worked as a team in times of crisis. I was also concerned that his career decisions would take him away and lead to other opportunities and adventures, that, of course, I would want him to take. Although he said he would go anywhere that I went, I was concerned that I would wait around indefinitely and in the end, he wouldn't come back and I would have just wasted a bunch of time.
So, I broke it off. He left the apartment in a rage. Later, when I went into the bathroom I noticed he had left his toiletry kit sitting next to the sink. I opened the inside pocket and found condoms (which we had never used), his prescription for Viagra and a prescription for Adderall in Molly’s name dated March, 2010. My heart, hovering in my throat, sank to the pit of my stomach. I called Ken and asked him how he got Molly’s prescription. “She gave it to me,” he said. “Have you been betraying me, lying to me, this whole time?” I asked in a panic. “It doesn’t matter now,” he said.
I never saw him again and once he realized that I had communicated with Molly (conveniently, he was still Facebook friends with her) I never heard from him again. Not a call, not a text, not an email. He collected the insurance money and I never saw a cent. I packed up what was left of my belongings and moved out of state.