When the one you once loved funds your way out

Photo: Naomi Hebert

A little over five years ago, I left one morning while my boyfriend was at work. The night before had just ever so tipped the scales in my leaving’s favor. The night before had been the extinguisher on a fire three years burning.

I had spent a lot of time on Craigslist, in the months prior to that night. I’d log on, and let my cursor dangle over new apartments — apartments that meant a new life. I had even gone to see some, nights while he’d been home in ours. I’d walk through them, asking about the water bill and electricity, and then come home and lie about where I had been. I told him I was out with friends, but I’d been out walking through rooms that gave promises of peace.

So that morning, I got down to business. I knew my search terms, and the approximate price I’d have to pay to stay in my neighborhood. My office was nearby and my dog was well known in the dog parks. It would be a hefty price tag for a one bedroom in a great neighborhood in Chicago, but I would swing it. I made an appointment for 9:30am. I let work know I wouldn’t be in.

He called that afternoon, to make sure he’d broken me, to gauge the depth of the still-fresh wounds. In an Ace Hardware parking lot, I took the call. I’m getting keys made for my new apartment, I said. I signed a lease. It’s done.

He and I, we had just signed a new lease on our apartment. As in, really just signed it. The night I let my pen slide across the line, I knew what I was doing and still, I did it. I wanted to prove to him that I loved him, no matter what. I thought sticking around — even if it meant swimming in shit — was worth giving up my happiness.

Life is funny. It takes your best efforts sometimes and mocks them, and it does so brutally. She mocked me, that hard-knocked lady, and I stood there, with my world spinning and two leases in my hand.

Either he’ll give me the grace to go or the landlord will, I’m sure. There’s no way I will be asked to honor this lease with him.

But no one stepped up to the plate and handed me grace. I owed every penny that the contract told me I did, and I paid every penny too. Six months. For six months, I filled out two rent checks. One for my old life, and one for my new.

A friend walked through my new front door with a lamp, a rug, a window seat and some food for the freezer. I didn’t have to say anything. She knew I wasn’t going to be able to do this without some serious financial struggle. She marched in, proud of me, and quietly went to work making my new place a home.

I had been dining on foods prepared by my ex for years. He loved to cook and he was good at it. The simplicity of vegetables, carbs and meat. They simmered and boiled and burnt — they did what they were told to. Now, I turned to frozen meals. I couldn’t afford to eat out and as it turns out, I didn’t really know how to feed me. The nights I wanted something special, I’d walk five minutes to a Little Caesar’s and buy Crazy Bread. Just three dollars! I had loved the stuff since I was a teen. Now — I was a damn grown up and had earned my life — living free from hatred. Never mind what the life was costing me — I was FREE.

I charged a cheap couch on a credit card and ushered the delivery men into my living room. Here, baby, I told my dog. This couch is just for you and me. Just for you and me.

For six months, I sat on that couch just six blocks from my old couch, with my dog next to me, slumbering quietly. It’s worth every cent, I told myself, knowing it was true.

Years passed, and I left the town that threatened to strangle me with memory. My dog and I moved on. I took a waitressing job while I tried to figure things out. Some friends let me stay with them, but my credit card payments were threatening the money we needed to eat. I wondered how we’d fare. I sent my ex an email one day. I spent over $3k, you know, for you to stay — alone — in our place after I left, and I’m not saying I shouldn’t have had to, but I am saying that it took a terrible strain. The dog and I are under a terrible strain.

He did not reply. I did not expect that he would.

But forty-eight hours later, I noticed that my bank account had increased — by exactly $3,000. Silently, and with absolutely nothing but grace, my ex-boyfriend funded my fuck-off fund.

Life does mock us sometimes. And sometimes, it flat out astounds.

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