My stalker just recently resurfaced. I have no idea what compels them after all this time, even though I know they're just repeating the same things that they always do whenever they come around. I'll never confront them directly, so I'm trying to write in those mysterious crevices to try and satisfy my own anxiety about the whole affair. It feels good to get it out there with a little bit of flair.
It’s our anniversary. We’ve been at this for 11 years. For as young as we were and as young as we still are now, it’s hard to imagine committing that long to anything. But I want to end things for once and for all.
We were kids on the internet, unsupervised and acting out beyond anything Harmony Korine could ever imagine. You were punk rock in the GG Allin kind of way. You exposed yourself on 4chan and hacked your exes’ myspace pages to post graphic images from Rotten.com. I can’t remember if I liked that about you, or if I was just ambivalent from being so desensitized by the outlaw internet of the aughts. But I liked you well enough that we were friends on LiveJournal and I gave you access to my private filters.
I remember that we had shared interests—Neopets, DeviantArt and Roleplaying—but we didn’t really engage much in the before times, except to commiserate over mutually having difficult upbringings and having complicated relationships with our families. It wasn’t until the middle of my first year in college when we really hit it off. I reveled in my newfound freedom 500 miles away from home, and you were happy for me and jealous that I found my wings and flew far, far away. I stopped posting as much about my life on LJ, but you wanted to be a part of it.
I don’t remember much about the summer of 2009. My brain has tried for many years to purge it from my memory, though it keeps coming back in quick flashes when I least expect it. But the forever friends that I’ve grown old with remember you well. They remember how you would touch me and laugh when dodged and told you to stop. They remember me gritting my teeth and looking down when you would open your mouth and racism, ableism and body shaming flew out. They remember being concerned that their last memories of me would have been when I got on that plane with you back to New Mexico.
The Jemez Mountains were beautiful, and I eagerly swallowed on the earthy taste of psycociblin and wanted to be swallowed by the humming Santa Fe National Forest. I pretended that you weren’t there, which was easy when the leaves would sing in the wind. I had already known that I made a grave mistake well before you totaled your little coupe on the jagged volcanic rocks, and I thought about leaping down the ravine and leaving you and the whole world behind. A photo of me overshadowed by the snow-kissed Chicoma is somewhere in the bowels of the internet, and I hope I never see it again. I don’t want to know what you thought of me when you framed me in that shot.
Back in town, you took me on a tour of your backyard. We drove around for hours looking for the boy you had a crush on before me until you got bored and scored heroin. We rendezvoused at a seedy combination adult bookstore and dance club where the middle aged regulars all zeroed in on us with hungry eyes. It was the perfect venue for you to introduce me to all of your friends who had no idea why we you wanted to meet there.
Your parents had no idea you did these things. They were kind, compassionate people. I hated how nice your parents were, because it cleared the air. Everything we shared together, all of our secrets on LiveJournal were all lies. At least, they were your lies. “I’m so glad you’re here. You’re such a good influence,” was what your mom told me after she doted on what a beautiful and gifted child you were. She cooked me a fine brisket even though she knew I was Jewish and she was a Good Christian Woman. Your dad had no idea you salvaged his insulin needles to shoot up, and neither did I. I hated that, and I hated you.
I didn’t tell you then, but in my heart we were already through. I made a reference to Casablanca that you didn’t understand and spent the whole plane ride brainstorming how I would break up with you. It was divine providence that I got T-Boned at a blind curve later that week. My life spiraled out of control, and I didn’t want to take you with me. I didn’t exactly lie. I meant this in earnest. Part of me didn’t want to drag another person down with me to what would be the rapid descent to my lowest period, and none of me wanted to be with you.
At first, you outright refused. I could imagine you screaming through our texts and you confirmed that in our phone calls. I told you repeatedly that it took two parties to consent to a relationship and that I was revoking mine. You didn’t care, until I told you that we could still be friends. We weren’t friends, but I needed you to believe that. I needed you to hang up and let me brainstorm how I was going to get myself out of this.
It wasn’t a week before you started demanding me to explain myself and stated your case for why we should be in a relationship succinctly and eloquently: because you said so. You told me for the first time that I owed you that much. I said “No” for the first time and blocked you. It was thrilling, and it felt good in ways that you never made me feel.
Two months after that, I met the man who would become my first husband for the first time, but you wouldn’t know that until about a year later. My guess is that you saw him and me in a tagged photo on a mutual friend’s profile, or maybe someone told you without realizing that they were betraying my trust. You messaged him hurtful things about my disabled body and how you’d rather f-ck my friends. Just to get the point across, you enclosed your spiteful words with photos of yourself. When he told you to leave him alone, you sent pictures of blood cascading like the Jemez Falls down your arm. That was the first time he blocked you, and it felt right.
With every passing summer, you’ve found me. When the cicadas stop singing their ominous chorus, I know I’m due for a visit from your specter. Your reach extends far across liminal cyber space and grabs my wrist with a chilling grip. "No. That’s not right,” you say, and you always say that. But this time, you’re right.
At first your touch is tender. You blow gentle kisses and tell me sweet nothings. “You’re the only one who understands me. You gave me such good advice and knew all the right things to say. I’m so grateful and I appreciate you so much.”
Then you get a little rougher. "No one else gets me like you do, and that’s why I need to speak to you.” This is when I usually start to pull away, but then you clench tighter. “You owe me that much.” By this point, I’ve normally already blocked you, but that’s never stopped you before.
Your words flurry, and you pummel me with a haboob of nonsequiters. You accuse me of doing things I would never think to do to you, because my brain doesn't let me think about you. I wouldn’t know anything about you if you didn’t fill me in during these regular check-ins.
On our last anniversary, it crossed my mind to send your messages to a scandalous reality TV show and arrange for us to meet. After years of passive silence and feigning ignorance to your abuse, I dreamed about shutting you down for the last time in front of the whole world. You would stand there flabbergasted by the storm of my unbridled fury, and my friends would swoop in to rush me away to a rental vehicle. The license plate would be untraceable, and you could never follow me again.
Instead, my pending approval messages are clogged by your fantasies: how I’ve forced you to reflect on your failures and ignored your pleas for mercy; how I’ve refused to validate your struggle with mental illness and sabotaged your chances of recovery; how I’ve stolen your ideas that never left your brain and robbed you of success.
This most recent time, you surprised me. You messaged my ex husband under the pretense of hiring me for an editing job, but you couldn’t help but accuse me in the same breath. He told you to never speak to him again, and then he promptly told me about you. You didn’t follow me, but I knew you were watching. So I left you a message, out in the open, and you couldn’t help yourself. You liked every tweet, and I blocked you immediately. It doesn’t feel good, anymore, just overwhelming.
After the adrenaline died down, I needed to convalesce. The friends who remember you commiserated with me a while and reminded me of some of your most degenerate escapades. What should have been red flags to me back then are things I just shake my head at, now. I told some new friends about you, and they were shocked to know that you're 30, now, same as me.
However you think you knew me or whatever you thought of me as when we were children is different, now. I’ve changed innumerably, even if you haven’t. Despite how frequently you investigate my social media and pore over my habits, you don’t know me at all. Whatever “closure” you think I could give from speaking to me again is an illusion that you haven’t put much thought into despite obsessing over it for 11 long years.
I’ve already broken up with you once, and I want this letter to be the final time. I want this to be our last anniversary, and I want to divorce from this dark ritual we share.