Musical accompaniment: FourFiveSeconds, Rihanna and friends
Drinks pairing: Strong coffee. You’ll want to be sober for this one. I hate coffee.
I love Polaris. I love his teeth, and the way he holds a pint glass with two fingers and a thumb, and how he says “shite like that” in his broadest Leeds accent, and the fact he has trained himself to sleep with his arm over his eyes rather than buying curtains that cover the gap where the searing morning sun punches through. I can still crawl into my bed and weep for the want of feeling his warmth.
He called the police.
My friends asked me not to be kind to him. My friends told me not to say nice things about him, given what happened. But loving him is not a kindness, it is a kind of madness. Unwelcome and unrequited and unbelievably persistant.
He called the police.
When I sat down to write these blogs, I looked back at some of our early messages. On this exact day, two years ago, we first messaged, we first spoke. And in those first exchanges are all the reasons we were together and all the reasons we should be apart. And those reasons exist still – all of them. Both sides of the coin. There is only pain because there is connection.
He called the police.
Shortly after the news broke of the Priscilla lie, Polaris went away on holiday for a couple of weeks. I contacted him on his return and he agreed to meet up at his flat. We talked amicably about his trip for a while. I didn’t know how I wanted to move forward, but I didn’t want the indecision to be drawn out. I told him if he wanted to have a conversation about our relationship, I wanted to have it straightaway. That may sound crazy after what happened but I knew our pattern. At this point I had already met someone I would subsequently go on to date for a few months, and frankly, I wanted the situation with Polaris to be fixed or I wanted it to be over. There were things Polaris could have said or done that might have fixed it. Because I still didn’t really understand why he had done what he had done. There were mea culpas that might have resuscitated the corpse.
He said: I don’t know. I can’t make a decision right now.
So far, so Polaris. And he still didn’t know the next day. I told him again, it was now or never. Relationship lore states that ultimatums never turn out well.
He said: I don’t think we can get back together… because I called the police.
Take a minute. Stop scanning. Pause. Read it again.
HE CALLED THE POLICE.
Start scanning back, flipping through earlier posts. What did you miss? What happened? What did I do?
Was it the glitter bomb? I guess that could be perceived as threatening. Except that it arrived several days after he called the police. He admitted he called them on the same day as I found out about the Priscilla lie. Almost immediately.
I am guessing you want to know why? I’ll tell you…
After the great Priscilla lie of 2017 was exposed, I was confused. I was upset but not really angry – I just wanted to know the truth. I told him I wouldn’t let it lie until he explained (high five for the Vic and Bob reference). I begged him to explain wtf was going on. And I said I wanted to hurt him as much as he had hurt me.
He considered this a “non-specific threat” and felt the police needed to know. A few days later he invited me to his home to talk about what he had done – so he was not that scared of me. The police never contacted me – I only found out because he told me.
Out of context, what I said is threatening. Kind of like when you tell your kids you’re going to kill them if they are not in the car in the next two minutes. Or when you say you’re going to kill yourself if the checkout queue in Sainsbury’s doesn’t start moving faster. Or when your boyfriend does something really fucked up and you tell him you hate him.
He was saying that I could not express my feelings about what he had done, that the reasonable expression of my outrage was somehow worse than what he had done to me. Like magic, from the very ashes that remained of our relationship, he had conjured this further insult. Again I was underwater, hearing sounds from the real world warped and distorted. I realised I was in a deep well of crazy and Polaris was pulling me down with him. I made a break for the surface.
He had called the police and told them that I had threatened him.
The beautiful part of this sorry tale is that not a single friend who has heard it asked me what I had done. I reassured one: “I didn’t do anything.” She cut me off: “Don’t you dare feel you need to tell me that. I know that.” I am happy to be loved. I am happy that people know me.
But I hesitated to tell everyone, particularly those who don’t know me so well. I have thought about it for months now. I could not tell the story of Polaris without telling this final truth. But there’s no smoke without fire, right? I must have done something, right? Maybe I’m a little psycho on the down low, right?
Don’t worry – I expect anyone reading this to think that. People should contact the police more often about domestic violence and sexual harassment and bullying. They should feel assured that they will be believed and supported. The side effect of rightly believing the victims, is that it gives that tiny percentage of liars another instrument to aim at their prey.
I refuse to be ashamed. There should be no shame in the truth. I should not feel guilt for what he has done to me. That’s why I coupled this final part with a post about #MeToo.
I have been slapped around and kicked to the ground in past relationships, and I felt too ashamed to tell anyone. I felt complicit. I thought people would think I deserved it, that I put myself in that position. And here I stand again, with my North Star, trying to work out what I did to deserve it. When someone treats you badly, you feel ashamed that you let them. You want to hide it. You think you made them act that way. They walk and talk like a decent person, a regular friend of the community. They have lots of friends and are full of bonhomie and civic concerns. It’s only you that they treat that way. So it must have been me, right?
Polaris’s attempt to change the narrative was shocking. I was genuinely afraid of what he might do or say next. What might he accuse me of ? What might he tell people about me?
I asked him what he was afraid I might do. He replied: You might have poured battery acid on my car. And you know where my son lives.
Note the specificity of his delusion, the vile details from his own mind projected onto me. He was defining himself as the victim. After all he had done to me, he tried to paint me as the aggressor – the kind of person who attacks kids.
I have thought about whether that was anything rational in what he did. Did he have any reason to think I might harm him? Do I have easy access to battery acid? Do I seem like the kind of person who would do something like that? Do I have a history of violence or vandalism?
I concluded that he had no justification whatsoever. I had barely raised my voice to him more than 18 months of knowing each other. I have rarely argued with him and I have never acted aggressively towards him – not once. His multiple meltdowns have been met with tolerance and concern for his state of mind. I even asked him not to smack his son in front of me, because I don’t agree with it and find it difficult to see. I have been a pacifist and advocate of non-violence since I was child. That’s who I am. I’m the kind of person who sends a glitter bomb.
Polaris is the one who lied. He is the one who did not pull his punches. He is the one who admits to being nasty and vile in arguments. He is the only one who has done what he accused me of – taking steps that may have embarrassed or hurt my child, or affected my job or freedom. And he is the only person apart from me who knows there is even more to this, which is too personal to share in this forum, but makes him calling the police even more unjust.
As I said, I never heard from the police. Because I didn’t do anything that even required them to have a word with me.
When I found out about the Priscilla lie, I was confused about Polaris’s motives. When I found out about the police, I was scared by his motives. What may have been inept and inconsiderate became undeniably deliberate and destructive.
He said he hated how our relationship made him feel. Or in other words, he blamed it on me – my presence made him behave that way. I am telling this story because I will not let him convince me that I deserved it, that I caused it.
Perhaps he did not intend to hurt me as he did. Perhaps he is merely an idiot or a terrible boyfriend. But he has chosen not to relieve me of the burden of not knowing. It is possible that every moment of our relationship was a manufactured cruelty, that he pulled me close only to see the wounds he inflicted in sharp relief. I don’t want to believe that… but he called the police and told them lies about me.
He has never apologised or admitted it was wrong. So I don’t forgive him.
But I refuse to be bitter. If I don’t hold on to the love, there is only the dark to keep me. My anxiety wants me to believe that I deserved it. My anxiety wants me to feel shame. I say fuck that, and I hold on to happiness. I try to stay positive about the possibility of a good relationship (which is a harder pursuit than enlightenment these days), and that means I have to recognise the good parts too.
And instead I choose to forgive myself, for loving and trusting and hoping, for letting him close enough to body punch me time and time again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, still shame on you!
Thanks to friends new and old, and even older, who stuck with this story – even when it verged on the ridiculous, and especially when it verged on teenage angst. Your support has meant a lot to me, and has saved me often.
And thanks to the man who started it all. You know you are.
A little more music to play us out. Excuse me for not using the Chorus Line version but this one is my favourite – because I love of a bit of teenage angst.