I’ll admit it. I manipulated my ex-boyfriend, Patrick. We were dating at the time. I was unemployed. It was Covid. I had less than $10,000 to my name. He was a sweet guy. Only 5’5’’, but as French and as adorable as they come. A software engineer with a deep pocket, and an even deeper heart and love for me. He wore glasses and was very European and put together. He loved Middle Eastern and African cultures and music and food. He was learning Arabic. He was reading Voltaire and all the philosophical classics. But I got him anyway.
I’m kind of an attention whore when I’m in a monogamous relationship. Perhaps like the way my mother plays my father, it is my way or the highway. I only date people when I know they are 1000% in love with me and devoted to me, and that is exactly the situation I was in with Patrick. He was doing all the right things. He was doing the things that someone does in a couple, when they care about the other person. I lived with him rent free for three months. He bought me lunches often. Okay, I didn’t just ditch him. I did pay him back in a decent amount of money. Let me check my Venmo to see how much it was. Damn. $1457. I also paid his other roommate back $1300. So I guess I contributed my fair share to his rent. That was my way of trying to get off scot free. But to him, I remember, it was like a hole in his heart. Turning our love for each other into a single transaction hurt him, I remember. I was trying to do the right thing. Yet I distilled something divine and otherworldly down into dollars, boxing them into a number on a phone.
I had to get out of there, though. I needed a bridge in the first months of Covid while I waited for nothing, putting my employable self out there into the ether of the internet, hoping something that would pay me along so I could start paying rent and move out. Not to mention, his apartment was disgusting and his friends were big drinkers and in love with the coco. I had never lived and interacted with that many functioning and less than functioning alcoholics in my life, and I never want to that ever again. When I finally got that job, I moved out, went back to London, came back, got my own place, broke up with him and, well, the rest is history.
I’ve learnt from my mistakes, or at least I would like to think that anyway. I learnt just how selfish I was, and now looking back on it, I have truly no idea how he put up with me. At the time all this happened, I had a very set list of things that I needed, and that I knew he would give to me if I stuck around long enough. And it all worked out for me in the end. Still, I tried to be a good girlfriend. I was there for him. But most of all, it turned ugly, and I started to feel at the end of it that we were only supposed to be friends. The breakup sex was good though.
Maybe it’s an arrogant thing to say, but this is why I don’t really date men anymore. I just end up breaking their hearts, because after a year or so of being with them, I just want to be set free again, and by that point they’ve already found too much to love, they’ve molded themselves around me like molasses hardening into a piece of candy. And Patrick was sweet, he really was. But I felt like we had no future together.
It’s dead easy to take advantage of someone when they would do anything for you. Any person in their right mind knows that. I just wish I could have been more honest with myself at the time, when it was all happening. I just wish I could have taken myself out of my own head and cared for him more and given him a piece more of my heart. Relationships are only really fun when people are in the same boat together. And somehow I thought it would be better if he bought me the boat, fashioned it for me out of gold and silver, and let me ride around it on the Caribbean on my own. That’s all I ever really wanted to do anyway. Next time, I’ll stop pretending like I want anyone to be in the picture.
This piece was from my first time in the UnMute writing series, led by Ann Randolph, January 2022.