A New Lease on Life
We were fond of our new little lease for a while. By about the six-month mark though, upon returning from Southeast Asia, the news of my grandfather’s passing fell on me. Through the series of events that followed, and the series of events that preceded this news, I one day woke up with the unshakable certainty that I needed to leave. This is the story of precisely how that seed was planted.
As the coming weeks and months drew on, I grew increasingly frustrated with J. I often came home from a full day of work, to unwashed dishes spread across the countertop, and as I tried to grapple with the loss of my grandfather, J continued to remain indifferent to my feelings, with equally adept negligence. At least the unwashed dishes and I had something in common.
At the time, I believed I needed to show patience to make a relationship work, and by patience, I mean undercut my own self-worth. To compensate for J’s indifference, I often found myself complaining aloud, with only the walls hearing me. Any sense of consolation or human empathy within our once comfortable little lease was left up to my imagination. I never asked for an apology, for anything, and he didn’t offer one, not even once.
During that year, he spent his days at his desk in our apartment job searching (unemployed), when the truth was, he didn’t have any intention to find work. J had been aimlessly passing the time since the start of our lease, and it was only when I took a staycation from work, to decompress, that I discovered this. For almost a full year, he had me fooled. Yet when I look back now I am still more disappointed with myself than with him. In continuing to stay with him through years of neglect, I had, in essence, neglected myself.
I knew his actions were unjust, I could see how they were tearing down the foundation I had wanted in building a life with him, and yet, I still didn’t leave. His deceit did bring me one good thing though; clarity, and with it, a newfound strength. I wasn’t ready to leave, but at least now I knew I had to, and that I would.
In the slightest way, I was beginning to feel free, because I no longer held onto the hope that J would change. I knew he wouldn’t. He was always there on the other side of my bedroom wall, awake or asleep, but he was never there for me, and it was then that I began to wonder, had he always been this withdrawn?
The young man I once fell in love with was only truly present with me at the start, his complacency sweeping in as easily as a breeze through an open window. I had convinced myself for years that we needed to persevere, at all costs, and so I carried on and fought through many nights of hurt and disarray. I knew I needed to break the cycle, to have a chance at a healthy and happy life, but I was still building up the strength I needed. I wasn’t yet ready to leave. I hadn’t reached my limit.
The last time I let him get close to me, we were in the kitchen. I had angered him with something I said and stepped towards him, thinking I could calm him down. He reached his arm up, swinging for me. As I blinked I saw something come my way, and I nearly dodged it. His fist met my right cheek, leaving behind a numb, aching pain. I stood rooted to the spot, in shock. Keeping my eyes down, I walked to the bathroom, flicked on the light and leaned over the sink to look at it in the mirror. No visible damage done. Relief.
I could feel blood being drawn to the area. What I couldn’t see, my body knew.
I made a mental note to check my cheek again later that night. I hope I won’t need to cover it up in the morning. I was more concerned with how others might judge me if they knew, than with what he had done. When I came back into the room, J looked at me, equally shocked. His words and body language said to me, I don’t know how I could do that, as his eyes avoided mine. I’m going to take the car for a drive, to think. I won’t be gone too long.
When J walked back in an hour later, he just kept repeating, I don’t know how I could do that. I don’t know.
By the next morning my memory had wiped itself clean. I went about my routine, arriving at the office to commence the day’s work. An unexpected moment arose mid-morning when my hand reached for my right cheek, a trace of the memory still there. I pushed my thoughts away, vowing to not think of it again, and this remained so until five months later, until after I left him. While my conscience was spared, my body remembered. A newfound gravity started pulling at me, prompting me to look within.
I began writing late into the nights when sleep wouldn’t come, candles and lamplight guiding my right hand. I felt a deep sense of peace expressing my thoughts this way, reconnecting with a comfort I had discovered only a few months ago, while on my trip to Southeast Asia. From night to night I didn't know how I would sleep, or if I would sleep at all, but it didn’t matter. Within the confines of my bedroom walls, as the world I knew slept, I was safe.
ALEXANDRA MIREANU self-published Letters to Myself in 2021, encompassing a young woman’s journey through love and loss. Today, she is writing her memoir-in-pieces and expanding her consultancy to guide young writers through manuscript editing and self-publishing, all while studying Creative Writing at the University of Toronto.
To learn more about her, visit her linktr.ee.