There has been a certain something eating away at my mind. Can you imagine that with me for just a second? In my opinion, a single secret is the worst of all viruses to exist to our human nature. A secret will swarm through your insides, affecting the entire body; every move you make, every word you say. You become nervous to come to reality with; to come to an understanding that this virus is now part of you. That this virus and all the precautions that come with it, could potentially change your life and even spread, as a virus usually does, to numerous people, affecting their lives too.
I was not patient zero to this virus. But unfortunately, it got a hold of me about a year ago. Even with this virus a part of me now, I tried to continue to be my optimistic self. I wished and wished this virus might miraculously fade away, maybe make an escape out of the back of my mind. After weeks of only hoping but no change I thought I would let one person under the scope of this virus, to take an outsiders look, like a doctor. I thought maybe this person could help me find a cure.
It was self-evident to them that I wanted this virus out of me forever. I was ready to start yet another new life come the fall. I was proud to have been accepted to study abroad. I thought entering a new country; meaning new scenery, new topics to discuss, new studies to focus on, new people to meet —I thought these things would indeed cure this virus. I wanted to be free and clean. No worries, no blame, no anxiety, no virus, no secrets.
A few weeks in on this study abroad program the,
“Em, what’s up? What’s wrong?”’s began.
They told me it showed on my face as well as in my actions and my attitude. I was a person full of life when they first met me. I was the one to talk to anyone and everyone. They got to know my laugh very quickly. I wanted to explore the unknown beautiful country we were now calling home for the next three months.
After the first month, my laughs simmered to a smile and the only exploring was of my bedroom ceiling. A whirlwind of indecisiveness swarmed into my brain. A billboard painted across my forehead for others to see. My mind began to work like the stock market you check up on so regularly — up then down, back up, back down — decisions changing constantly, constant changing decisions.
Do I tell him? Maybe tomorrow.
In reality, I was crazy to think this virus would leave my mind and body. It has stayed in me for so long. Still in my gut, still replaying in my mind. An unanswered question on my heart.
I realized the virus was now feeding off of me.
I realized it was winning. It getting what it wanted; my mind, my soul, my body.
I realized it was not going to escape me, rather I had to escape it.
I swore I would be cautious. I told more “doctors” about the virus inside me; my secret of keeping a secret.
I took the risk of letting the virus get to them.
They helped me through though. They helped bring me out of a very deep rut I began digging myself in. They made me realize my health was only going to improve if I were to talk through these life problems, or sicknesses, and to not keep filthy secrets inside – They are the virus. They will haunt you.
I find the courage within to share this story with you. I apologize in advance if this virus becomes part of your life, but I am hopeful you are immune, but not so much as to ignore it.
This virus; this secret, started approximately a year ago..
Last November, I was asked if I had ever thought about committing suicide. She said she was worried about me. She also told me when she was my age she almost did commit suicide.
“I thought, ‘So what, no one would even notice, no one would even care’.”
I ended the conversation with an honest answer. I told her I do not use that word, let alone allow the thought slip into my mind.
I loved every second, every aspect of living by myself the six months prior to this question she asked me. I have always considered myself an independent person. Not always the most optimistic, but that was a main reason I took on this opportunity of moving out to the island. I wanted to shape myself into a new person. A more positive, caring, educated and understanding person.
Months went by. We all got along. Things were good. The three of us had lots of fun; a retied married couple and a twenty-one year old young woman.
I think it is fair to say in someone else’s opinion, it was not their description of fun. This came to my attention this past spring, a Friday; a Friday I will never forget.
The Question back in November felt like if a doctor were to tell you you had five months left to live. You feel stunned, surprised, sick to your stomach. This Friday in March felt like if it was that last month, your body coming to a shut down, when you realize the doctor was not kidding; you really are sick and your life is really coming to an end, and quickly.
My best friends and I had just spent the last week together, having the best time of our lives, as you can imagine best friends do, especially those who haven’t seen each other in a year. But sure enough, all good things come to an end and after a long week and many memories, then came the tears, hugs and soppy goodbyes at the airport that Friday night. As I pulled away from them and started driving the opposite direction, not knowing when I would see them next, I received a text message. I thought it was one last goodbye, one that I needed to put a smile on my face after so many tears. That smile never came.
Text Message: “I would like to talk to you when you return.”
I never receive texts from her. I had practically been out of town all week, downtown in the hotel she insisted we rent out. I could not imagine what the situation was. My mind started racing. What did I do wrong?
I went to straight to the condo.
I was expecting her to be waiting for me, properly situated on the couch, maybe a cheese platter and some glasses of wine out, but it was not like that at all.
I came through the door, set my purse on my bed, grabbed a pen and notebook and walked into the tiny kitchen to fetch a glass of water. I wasn’t sure how much talking I was going to be doing, but I thought I would rather be safe than sorry.
To my surprise, in fact I am sure it would be to anybody’s surprise, there was a shot glass sitting in the sink. I knew then, I was in for some serious listening that night. I had a lot on my mind about this past week with the girls; what we had caught up on, where we said we wanted to go in life, but this woman eagerly wanted to meet with me, when you were out of the country and when I was at a low, vulnerable time. It must be pretty important, right?
I remember the rest of the night vividly.
I took my seat on the leather couch. National Geographic or some news channel was playing on the flat screen in front of me. It was quite. The program was the only noise in the condo. Then she finally came out of her bedroom, sat in the leather seat she usually sits in and started to speak to me.
“What’s with the notebook?”
I like to write things down.
She laughs. Not the ‘that is actually funny’ kind of laugh, but her ‘I enjoy cutting you down’ kind of laugh.
Yet another clue as to how this talk was going to go.
She held up some paper in front of her face and began with an explanation about what the document was. “Do you remember this document?”
I recognized what it was, but I could not pinpoint why she was bringing it to my attention at that moment.
Yes, yes I know what that is.
A Roommate Agreement is what it was. Well, is what it was titled. I still have my copy. She never made me sign the thing, not even after I asked her when I first moved in if she wanted me to.
“Nah, don’t worry about it.”
So, I never did.
Yet, she was still trying to wave this document in my face.
Well, this was just her introduction. I was about to ask her why but in an instant she broke down. A shower of tears running down her face. Tissues being pulled from their box.
“You just walk around here like you’re so cute. He agrees with everything you say.”
Her opinions were pouring out as fast as her tears. This woman was clearly very upset. Clearly had some build up of emotions hidden behind her dry sense of humor.
I started to feel a little scared, a little uneasy, a little frightened. She was hysterical. She wanted someone to blame for a misunderstanding in her marriage. I was just the roommate, the document was there to prove it.
She went on about how unhappy she has been the past few months. She told me she had wanted to jump off a cliff two days prior to the confession hour we were having.
Do I call someone? Hug her? Pour her another shot?
That night, while you were out of the country, while I was confused, sad and vulnerable by the absence of my closest companions, while this woman was feeling good on God only knows and he still is not sure how many Skyy vodka shots, she took advantage. I felt I had been attacked. And it does not end there.
After she accused me of being the reason for her unhappiness with your forty-some-year-old marriage, her unhappiness with life, and after she claimed to be suicidal — she tells me she wants me out of the place. She wanted me out by the fall when you two return and to tell you the reason being:
“I want you to tell him that you are leaving because you want a place closer to campus.”
Nice and rehearsed, she wanted me to lie. Her lie, her words, to her husband, about her unhappiness.
I feel ashamed to say I simply took this information with a grain of salt. I nodded my head, told her I never knew she felt this way and that I was sorry.
When she had gotten everything out, I walked into the room you guys had provided me only nine short months prior, but that night it felt like a prison cell. I was in the dungeon of doom. I didn’t want to be there, but I had nowhere else to go. I didn’t want to be in the condo with her, but I couldn’t leave her alone. Should I have called you? Should I have called a helpline? Did she just want my attention by saying that? Or was she really suicidal? Did my friends make it on their plane okay? Were they landing soon? What time is it?
What had just happened?
My life; upside down, my head; spinning, a million thoughts and questions racing through my head. All I could do was lay there in the bed you guys provided.
I fell asleep thinking ‘this will only be a bad dream in the morning, this never really happened, it never happened.’
Surely enough that morning her cold words were still stuck in my mind, a brain freeze. I quietly rushed to get ready for work. As I tip-toed out the door, I knew I would be tip-toeing around the condo the rest of my time there. I was not welcome.
I was quite at work that morning. I usually liked going into my deli job, full of energy and ready for the long Saturday, but that day my brain could not meet the physical needs of the job. I checked my phone around noon. Once again, a surprise text message from her.
“Can we forget about last night. My Catholic conscious is kicking in. Let’s just pretend it never happened. If Jim finds out about this, all hell will break lose.”
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to think. I told my boss I needed some fresh air and ran outside. I dialed my dad’s number, my safety net, my hero.
“Em, what’s up?” he answered.
I lost it.
I balled into the phone to him miles and miles away that my life had just done a 180. I was alone and did not know what to do. I did not feel safe. I did not have a home anymore and I was being forced to tell a lie that I would have to live with the rest of my life. When the words became a reality, voicing out from my mind and into the receiver, I realized this lie she set up for me was not going to see the light of day.
When you returned to the island, I did what anyone would do — distanced myself. I picked up more hours at work, started spending more time on campus, more time with new friends, canceling hiking trips, canceling dinners.
Unfortunately, this only led to a greater misunderstanding.
You both saw me as somebody completely different. Maybe not even a person, but an object you could shape how you wished. I felt I had to do the things you wanted me to otherwise fear would take over my mind; you might think I was not being a good person. Perhaps out doing what all other twenty-one year old girls were doing. I knew I was living a totally different lifestyle than any one my age, but I feel like I missed out on an important part of my life because it was covered up. My life was portrayed as a fairy tail to everyone looking in; friends, family, strangers; you two the authors of a story line I could not escape.
To this day I am confused what her goal was that night.
But weeks later, I was sat down by you. You had a very similar notion as hers on how to deal with other people, people unlike yourself. A magic white sheet of paper appeared before my eyes. Across the top it read ‘Counseling and Development Center’. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. You were begging for me to consider it, to go to counseling. I was furious, I was embarrassed, I felt bad that we had to have this misunderstanding. You thought you were looking out for me. You thought you could save me. You thought I had a drinking problem.
I sat there agitated while you dished me your plan. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk. You didn’t understand, and how could you have? I was keeping her secret a secret, just as she asked me to. I tried to hint at it,
“You know, there may be some other reasons as to why I have been acting the way I have.”
Saved by the bell, your guest arrived for your dinner date as planned. The reservation was made for the four of us. I canceled.
My mind was racing. I wanted out. I was stuck. Trapped in a room that was never mine. Trapped, like when your seatbelt is stuck on that one notch too tight. You can’t move.
My mind calmed down enough to hear your voices trail down the hallway and out the door. I started to pace. Circles around my room. Circles going around my mind.
I distanced myself even more after that talk. I couldn’t help but to think you both hated me or at least didn’t understand what I was going through. I would take my friends aside, seriously asking them what they would do if in my position.
“Tell him”, some would tell me.
Others, “She just wants attention, she just wanted inside your head.”
It is beyond crazy to me how this all played out. I told you only a piece of what she said to me when I met you at that coffee shop in the spring. You took it so lightly. If anything, I became more confused by telling you.
I applied to study abroad, got accepted, and got out of that condo. I was walking on egg shells ever since that night in March. I couldn’t live like that anymore. I am not a fake person, I am not a negative person, it wasn’t my life anymore, I was living your guys’.
Then, I broke the news to you two that I would not be coming back to the island after my study abroad adventure. You called and asked if there had been any other reason as to why I would not come back, other than the misunderstandings with credit transfers with the two universities.
I told you, “No,” but should have not lied to you. I should have told you then.
I respect you as a person, I respect your wife as a person. I should not have let this secret drag on this long but as I stated at the beginning, I thought one morning it would slip my mind and be gone forever and we could all move on. But, that is not real life. Real life to me is happiness, honesty, free mind and spirit.
I only wish that upon the two of you.