If you haven’t had a chance to read part one, you can find it here.
I apologize for the length of this post, it’s quite long.
Time marches on, to red flag number four
Three months went by, and each day things got a little easier. The holidays rolled around and I spent much-needed time with friends and family. It was the typical recovery from a breakup. Life was slowly going on.
One thing about me, in my personal life, is that I’m very active on social media. I keep an updated LinkedIn profile, tweet regularly and the list goes on. Shortly after starting the new job, I checked my LinkedIn page and had a notification that someone had viewed my profile. Figuring that it was someone who wanted to see where I was working now, I hovered over to expand the notification. It was Alex.
A few hours later, I got home and was catching up on emails. There was one from him, congratulating me on the new job and wishing me well. My gut said ignore it, what’s done is done. But, I didn’t.
A few weeks later, we got together for dinner and admittedly, it was nice. From there, things slowly rekindled. The old behaviour of checking the phone had stopped, we laughed and had a lot of fun.
Just before the summer, he broached the subject of getting tested. Knowing that I hadn’t been with another person, and always being on top of getting regular tests, I agreed. We went, and that’s where the paranoia kicked in.
He wanted me to videotape getting my test results. He wanted me to do all these things that I wasn’t comfortable doing. Not because I had anything to hide, but because it was not ethical, in my mind, to videotape the counsellor who was doing my test. They didn’t expect it, and I wasn’t going to do it in secret. Nor was I going to ask them if I could. So, the paranoia was back and the fourth red flag went up.
Things were clearly not going to work. The paranoia, the mistrust… None of that is healthy in a relationship, and to me indicated that there was a deep issue with him trusting anybody. I had nothing to hide, but I certainly wasn’t going to tolerate being mistrusted and accused. We limped along in to the summer, things clearly headed towards an inevitable end.
Red flag number five
Alex left the city in August to go to school a few hours away, for post-graduate stuff. I was happy for him, he was reaching his goal. Obviously, long-distance wasn’t going to be an option. If there were trust issues now, 400 kilometres was certainly going to only enhance those. Things ended; it stung again, but it was easier.
In October of 2013, just before Thanksgiving I was walking home from work (because of yet another subway breakdown). As I was walking, I received a call that came up “No Caller ID.” Usually, I ignore these calls. It’s either a telemarketer, a debt collector calling for someone who had the cell number I now had, or it’s just spam. But I thought if it was, I could tell them off and get rid of some of the stress of having to walk an hour to get home.
I picked up the phone to be greeted by a familiar voice. It was Alex.
We spoke in some detail, and I was glad to hear he was enjoying school. I could sense a bit of loneliness in his voice, and he confessed to it. We agreed to talk later on in the week.
The phone calls became more frequent, and there was a lot of texting in between. In hindsight, I realize there wasn’t a genuine interest in me, per se; it was a desire to not be lonely. I was being used, and I chose to be blind to it because, in all honesty, I was lonely too.
After a few weeks, Alex asked if I would come visit him. He was coming back to the city for something, but needed to fly back to where he was going to school for the weekend. I agreed, booked a flight and we met early on the Friday morning to spend a weekend together.
The weekend was nice enough. Good food, long talks and all the things you expect two people in a relationship to do. At least until the day I was set to leave.
Early Sunday morning, I unplugged my phone and saw I had a Twitter notification. It wasn’t important, so I dismissed it and continued to pack for my flight home.
“Who was that,” Alex asked.
“Oh, it was just a Twitter notification,” I replied.
“Why? Who was it?” Alex asked, getting louder and more aggressive.
“I don’t know, I didn’t even look at it.” I wasn’t seeing why this was an issue.
“Obviously it was something you didn’t want me to see,” he said.
“No… I ignored it because it wasn’t important.” I was getting annoyed at this point.
“Just pack your things and get out,” he said. He started to walk towards me, getting more angry and aggressive.
“Why the fuck would I leave over a Twitter notification? My flight isn’t for another four hours.” I was really angry by now, not willing to back down.
“Get out or I am calling the police.” Alex was becoming irrational at this point, and I was getting scared.
At this point, my backpack was packed. I zipped it up, figuring I may as well leave. Alex walked towards me and grabbed my wrists. Not hard, but enough that I knew a line had been crossed. “I knew you were sleeping around,” he said.
At this point, I was furious. I would never do such a thing. We argued, and I left for the airport. I was determined to never speak to him again after that incident.
The ultimate betrayal
Months went by, and there was no contact with Alex. There was no way I was ever going to speak to somebody who treated me like that.
April of 2014 rolled around, life was moving forward. The ominous “No Caller ID” came up on my phone one evening, and not thinking I answered it. There was that familiar voice again.
"Perhaps my biggest failing is that I’m too willing to give people second, third, fourth and fifth chances."
I was immediately stand-offish and cold. I let him speak, but challenged him on everything. My trust and respect was gone. He said he was coming in to the city since school was over and asked if I would talk with him in person. I was reluctant, but I agreed. I agreed because, at the very least, I was getting closure. I was going to tell him how awful he was and I was going to move on happier.
Perhaps my biggest failing is that I’m too willing to give people second, third, fourth and fifth chances. Or maybe I’m just stupid. Either way, Alex and I met, we spoke and I forgave him. We tried things again.
A few weeks later, in May, I helped him move things back to Toronto. We spent the weekend at his school residence, packing, going for dinner and all the things, again, that couples do. He moved back, and (surprise, surprise) things didn’t work out between us. It ended, and I was determined that this would be it. Little did I know, just how right I would be.
In late May, after things had ended, Alex called me.
“I have to tell you something,” he said, sounding timid.
My heart sank. “What?” I was bracing myself for bad news.
“When I was at school, I got lonely. I downloaded Grindr.”
I was furious; I kept my composure “When?”
“When you and I were together. I invited someone over for the night because I was lonely.”
“You cheated on me?” I was ready to explode. “You have the nerve to accuse me of such behaviour, but you are the one out doing it?”
“Yes,” he replied. I could hear the shame in his voice. I didn’t care how he felt.
“What did you do?” I demanded to know.
“I fucked him.” Alex said.
“YOU DID WHAT?” I shouted. My dog tucked his tail and ran away, sensing my fury and thinking it was at him.
Alex tried to speak. I cut him off. “I don’t ever want to speak to you again.” I hung up the phone, turned it off and grabbed the dog for the biggest cry I think I’d ever had in my life to that point.
What I didn’t do was reach out to my friends. I didn’t tell them what I was going through. Remember how I said I try to be resilient and pretend all is okay? Classic me was back, playing the role of tough guy.
A few more weeks went by, early June arrived and summer 2014 was in full swing. I was excited to move forward with my life. My friend invited me to her cottage, and I was looking forward to it. I needed to get away.
On the ride out of the city, cellphone coverage is spotty. When we were almost there, I got a text message from Alex. It was the worst text message I have ever gotten in my life.
“You need to get an HIV test.”
I thought I was going to be sick.
Part three will be posted tomorrow.
This article previously appeared in Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life here.