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My brother is living in the city with me this summer. It’s impossible to express what a wonderful comfort it’s been to have him here. Though he’s at his internship until very late at night during the week, making it difficult to see him, we’ve taken to spending most of the weekend together. We’ve begun a ritual of taking Sunday afternoon creative walks. We walk through the park, trace the glistening water of the reservoir and just discuss whatever creative projects we’re working on in order to flesh them out and figure out which direction we’d like to take our respective works.

On today’s walk we figured out what I was going to write on this blog today. I’ve neglected it the past week, feeling strange and emotionally stunted. As we strolled we began to reminisce about my freshman year of college, which can only be described as a nightmare. It was a dark period in my life that only degenerated further as I would later discover I couldn’t afford to return to college.

Of course it had its glimmering moments of happiness. Many wonderful nights out at the clubs with friends, and hilariously degenerate wine nights in the dorms with Dandelion and our entourage of colorful characters, but overall it was a very damaging experience.

As Junior (aka: CWE) circled the great lawn, watching the sunbathers and enthusiastic baseball players, we started in on a conversation about my love life when I was 19 and first living alone in New York City. I became tangled up in a truly sordid love affair with a boy who had minimal moral judgment, and another girlfriend at home in the woods of Pennsylvania.

The night we met there was an instant chemical attraction that was impossible to resist. We were making out before our group of friends left for the clubs and ended up having the cab turn around on the way to (insert club name here). And that’s how it began. I was hooked. Like a junky on heroin, always waiting for my next fix. He was all I cared about and all I thought about. I liked to wake up with him and I was invigorated by the smell he left on my sheets. I knew it was wrong and I should have known that it would end in disaster, but I couldn’t stop. I kept going back for more. I could really convince myself that the other girl didn’t exist and was so sure that this guy was going to leave her to be with me because that was the only reality I could comprehend. But like most men, he was as cruel as he was sexy. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too.

I remember seeing a text from his girlfriend on his phone one morning when he left it on my night side table. Even seeing her name sent searing pain through my entire body like I had crashed into a tree, sending a branch piercing through my lungs, filling them with hot, thick blood. I should have ended things, I should have stopped. But I didn’t. Like a true addict, I ignored it and continued with the affair.

My roommate came in one morning. She was fidgety, restless. I knew she wanted to tell me something but didn’t know how or was afraid of my reaction, “She’s here. His girlfriend is here visiting him.” I could barely hear her for the piercing sirens in my ears were deafening and the hot tears in my eyes were starting to blind me. I didn’t feel rage. I didn’t feel angry. I felt like someone had just slammed me in the chest with a crowbar and left me for dead in a gutter. She was here and she was going around the city with my friends. Needless to say I wasn’t invited on this excursion. She was here. It was like a nightmarish figure had manifested in reality. This was real. She was real. He hadn’t told me she was coming. Though cowardly, it was understandable considering he didn’t really care about me at all. He just cared about me in my own, foolish mind. I stayed in bed for the whole day, crippled by sadness and regret. I knew it was shameful to let this boy treat me this way—to let him make me feel safe over and over again only to tear my heart out with such vicious carelessness. It was pathetic. And I was pathetic. But I was addicted.

Unfortunately, things got worse that night.

On top of an insidious affair the boy I had been hooking up with before I met my dismissive lover had become a bonafide stalker. Looking back on the time, I can see that this guy was deeply damaged and clinging on to me was some kind of misguided comfort for him. He would show up to my dorm room (dorm life is a truly hellish living situation as there is no escape from anyone) at all hours of the night, looking for sex even though I turned him down—most of the time. When it first started happening I complied—feeling terrible about myself to a degree to where any sort of attention was sought. Then it became creepy and I made it clear that this silliness was no longer taking place. It didn’t stop him. He continued to follow me around like a very horny and aggressive puppy.

It was around 2am. I was still in bed, tear soaked and depressed. I wasn’t strong then. I barely recognize who that girl was.

Then came a knock on the door. It was him. My roommate was sick and tired of this crazy behavior as she was being constantly woken up during the night and forced to listen to angry arguments between my stalker and me until he’d eventually agree to leave. We were all involved in the fight that evening. He was drunk and angry and wasn’t going to leave until he got what he wanted. My roommate got on her blackberry and furiously began texting one of our male friends who lived upstairs, afraid that we were going to need back up. Eventually, I got him to calm down and agree to go back to his room.

My roommate told me all three of our friends upstairs, including my lover/affliction, were about to throw up arms and come down to beat this stalker to a pulp. My lover, lying there in a twin bed next to his girlfriend, coming to my rescue. It was all too much for me. I soon decided to end all physical aspects of the relationship. I couldn’t give him up as a friend, I was too addicted to him, but I knew that I had to take a step back. He didn’t seem too hurt by this declaration.

Things between us ended in a fiery, destructive explosion, for which I still bare many emotional scars.

We went to a club where I met a tiny blonde girl who had had too much plastic surgery. Drunk and dancing, we instantly became best friends. We were all invited to get into her boyfriend’s Escalade and go to what she called an “After Party.” Only my lover and I were stupid enough to think this was a good idea and agreed, “Promise me you’ll take care of her. If anything happens to her, I will literally kill you,” were the last words I heard my friend say as we departed.

This “after party” was actually just my new friend, her drug lord, coke wielding boyfriend, and—what I think was either a security guard or a crewmember—my lover, and myself.

We decided to play dress up with this girl’s lingerie and every few minutes the drug lord would load us up on cocaine. I had never done cocaine. I have never done cocaine since this experience. My lover just stood there, let it happen. Didn’t care. Didn’t stop it. Didn’t do anything. How foolish I was. Luckily, no one was hurt that night. I’m truly grateful considering I put myself in a very dangerous situation. I could easily have been raped or even killed. And, unfortunately, I believe it would have happened with no intervention. It’s moments like these who show you who people truly are.

I was physical with my lover that night—amped up out of control. I’d never felt like that in my life. I was so unbelievably incapable of gripping reality.

The next day, blood stains on my nose down my pillow case, and what was the beginning of a very serious anxiety disorder, was the most awful I had ever felt in my entire life. I told my “lover” everything. That he was a piece of shit, that I hated him, and that I never wanted to see him again. He left. We didn’t speak again after that. Not for years.

I didn’t sleep for three days. My heart felt like it was going to explode. I walked around the city for hours on end just to stop myself from completely breaking down. The reality of the mess I had made of my life had finally hit me. Hard, quickly, and there was no way of going back. I was broken into tiny, scattered pieces and it would take a very long time to glue them back together.

Something changed in me that night. It was a reality check. This isn’t how I wanted to live. This wasn’t the person I wanted to be.

Though the whole thing was a terribly destructive experience, one I am still coping with but, I think it needed to happen. Looking back on that year, looking back on my choices, I can hardly believe it. I’ve changed so much since then. I’ve grown up, taken responsibility for my actions, and I’m using the tools I’ve gained to become a better version of myself. Though there is a long way to go, I know that I’m on the right road to get there. My freshman year of college—and the following year—were the darkest days I’ve ever known, but without them, I don’t know how fully I would appreciate the light of the days that came.