“And you may ask yourself, ‘Where does that highway go to?’
And you may ask yourself, ‘Am I right? Am I wrong?’
And you may tell yourself, ‘My God! What have I done?'”—Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime”
My memories work in a montage kind of fashion when I think back to past events.
I’m walked down a very familiar side walk, hip store fronts on my left and parked cars on my right. As a child I came here every other Sunday with my family. In high school I came here after school on the days I wasn’t working. I’d do home work in the cafe and then stay as late as I could into the night to talk with poets and old beatniks who refused to give up their ways.
This is my place. I am supremely comfortable in my skin, an uncommon feeling. I look to my right, glancing over the cars, and, as if to confirm my rightness in this place, I see a front license plate displaying the name of my favorite band. Truly, this is my place.
A handful of people are clustered outside my destination, sitting or standing around tables, chatting in various states of animation. I see my friend. She’s standing next to a large glass door, the entrance to our destination. She’s there to meet up with an old friend. I’m there to meet a him too. He’s my blind date.
There he is, striding away from the pool tables at the back. He doesn’t see us yet. He pulls a black ballcap smoothly over his wet looking hair, a practiced gesture. The cap is backwards. This is not love at first sight. I’m inexplicably repulsed and he hasn’t said a word.
I don’t remember clearly what happened next, but my friend and I drove together to nearby restaurant. He followed in his car. It was the car with front license plate of my favorite band.
Somehow, that sense of revulsion disappeared like the food on our table. By the end of dinner it was gone. We went back to the cafe. My friend left, but he and I stayed for hours talking. That was the first of many such nights.
It was a whirlwind courtship. Three months later we moved in together.
I think back to that first unsettled feeling and wonder why I didn’t listen, why I let it melt away. I know that feeling is not hindsight. I remarked upon it many times before the beginning of the end, before I realized I was in a terrible place.
I wonder why the pace of the relationship didn’t raise a red flag. Why didn’t I know what he was or would become before I allowed our lives to become entwined?
It’s my life. Those were my decisions, my choices. I’m the captain of my ship, after all. Life is what you make it. Never quit. Work hard and you’ll succeed. Dream big. Never give up on your dreams. Keep your commitments. Never bite off more than you can chew. Don’t admit defeat. Never let them see you cry. Try, try, and try again. Never make a promise you can’t keep. Ad nauseam.
All these axioms help keep me blaming myself for being the victim of a narcissist. “How did I let this happen to me?” is the question I’ve asked the most. I realize that’s the wrong question, but I haven’t found the right one yet.