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  • Writer's pictureKatie O'Hara

The Game

He crept along the wall, machine gun held high, gaze locked on the end of the barrel. The sounds of metal clinked on the ground as cartridges of other guns emptied out and chimed softly in the background. Men coughed and cursed, their footsteps echoed all around. He rounded a corner and unloaded his gun into the unsuspecting man in front of him. Fate favored his victim, who was lucky enough to have his back turned and never saw it coming. With his gun held high, anticipating his next victim with excitement, he abruptly paused the game and looked over at me.

“I had a sex dream about you last night.” He said to me.

His espresso colored eyes locked mine and swam with an intense desire, intrigue, and that same fucking cockiness that guys like him always have. You know the type – these guys who know that they’re hot shit and can have whoever they want, whenever they want. When their eyes land on you, you feel like the luckiest gal alive, because just as quickly as they sought you out, they can find someone else to conquer.

He stared at me unblinking, waiting for an answer. The length of eye contact being held was unnaturally long and was quite honestly making me nervous. He could tell, and he relished in this fact. I paused and swallowed hard, trying to think fast, which, in general, is not really my forte. I was utterly shocked and felt some pretty extreme whiplash. Seconds ago, I had been watching him annihilate strangers in some grotesque video game he was playing while I waited for his brother, who was my good friend at the time, to finish getting ready so that we could go out. And now this guy was looking at me like he wanted to devour me.

“Well, how was it?” I replied, mentally high fiving myself for my whit.

He threw his head back and laughed long and hard and looked back at me, eyes twinkling.

“Incredible.” He smirked as he hit play on his game again, never missing a beat as he slaughtered yet another player.

At that moment, his brother walked out of his room and asked me if I was ready to go. Head spinning, I jumped off the couch and headed for the door. We asked him again if he was sure he didn’t want to join us that night. He said no, he wanted to stay in and beat the video game. He then turned to me and added in a tone oozing with determination and hunger, “I’ll see you soon..?”

“Yea, sure pal, in your dreams…” I quipped and we both laughed as I walked out the door. My heart was beating through my chest. All I could think to myself was what the fuck just happened…?

And just like that, I was his.

Looking back on this conversation now, it seems so prophetic that the moment our stars aligned and I fell into the abyss of love and chaos with the man who would ultimately become my undoing, that at that exact moment, he was playing a fucking video game in which he had to hunt and kill people. The irony of that moment would be comical, if only it hadn’t escaped me so at the time.

All these years later, it still breaks my heart to know that I was just another pawn in his master game of manipulation, control. He later told me that he lied about the dream to gauge my reaction to him. He was a calculated hunter and I was just his prey, and no stars were aligned that day. I used to believe he did actually love me – fuck, I use to hope he still might – but then again, how much can someone truly love you when they make their first move on you while simultaneously blasting someone else’s head off?

* * *

7 years ago, I found myself in a relationship that would forever alter who I am as a person. Sharing my story with others beyond the basic ‘oh, he was a shitty boyfriend’ sentiment use to be excruciatingly difficult. In fact, I use to only be able to tell people what I had gone through after several drinks, and at that point, my anger, fear, shame, guilt, and pain were so palpable my blood would boil and my previously fun night would be ruined. And with that, I’d lose yet another moment of my ‘one wild and precious life’ to him. When I’d talk about our relationship when I was sober, I would often find myself making excuses and justifications for him by following up a particularly painful story with something along the lines of “but I mean, it wasn’t that bad.” I felt a constant push and pull between identifying as a victim and identifying as someone that that could never happen to and somehow simultaneously wanting both statements to be true.

Last year, I decided that the only real way to purge this shit out of me was to write about it. So I went back to the beginning and started with our first interaction and as soon and I finished the last sentence, I felt an instant release and sense of grace, gratitude, and forgiveness. Forgiveness for him, from whom I will never receive an apology, let alone an acknowledgment for what he did to me, but most importantly for myself. I forgave myself and stopped blaming myself for the things that were done to me, for the things that I didn’t protect myself from, and for not knowing the difference between true love and a sick man’s obsession at the time.

Do you know what’s scarier than pulling yourself out of a toxic relationship? Talking about it. But, you do it anyway, because by talking about it, you’re eventually able to get through it. To move past the pain and the shame. To find yourself again and to love yourself again.

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