I’ll be writing for the next month, the last month of my twenty-eighth year, to purge stories from my “romantic” history (inspired by recent abandonment).
In an effort to not be such a bitch, I’m going to protect the anonymity of my past lovers by calling them all Eddie. I have thereby entitled this series, “Eddie, I hate you”.
Eddie and I went to school together.
He’s slightly older than I am and slightly more achieved in our field (I’ve heard. But, he is. At the time I had no idea and I didn’t care. Frankly, I still don’t care but I can at least acknowledge that Eddie is a beloved talent, known for honourable artistic achievement. Applause, Eddie.)
Eddie was a year ahead of me in school and when I first met him I was excited to get to know him. Again, I hadn’t heard of his infamy yet but (creepy as it is to admit this now) when I first met him he reminded me of my brother: Charming, sweet, quickly comedic, a scary bit of edge but, overall a refreshing take on “man” and an attractive alternative to most egos. Seemingly, unafraid. Seemingly, knowing. Cute too but I only noticed that when he was nice to me.
Within the first month of being at school, Eddie began cornering me into antagonistic conversations. I want to call it “bullying” but I don’t want to project a deliberate character onto Eddie too early in this story. I certainly felt bullied but it was so early on in the year, I knew it was possible that I was just insecurely finding my way and perhaps taking conversations with Eddie a little too seriously, too personally, too heavily which can’t be fair at all times. What if this charming man was just insecure too? Have a little compassion for the waywardly charming, please. Bully? Not yet.
It was hard for me to be immediately sure because I hadn’t yet learned anything of Eddie’s work but it felt possible that he was threatened by me. Eddie is a proudly “dark” writer, pumping out material that scales the walls of societal scum he apparently knows so much more about than the rest of us. I’ve been known to write things that are sad, maybe even gross, maybe even shocking. I really don’t fantasize about being any kind of queen of morose invention. I just write and whatever happens, happens. It’s embarrassing, frankly, that I can’t avoid writing upsetting things. I would never dream of entering a writer’s workshop and claiming the crown of DARKNESS. I’m just a bit of a freak.
I begin writing an adaptation, which is a project we are assigned in our first year. I decide to adapt the movie Saw (The first one) because I love horror and I love that franchise, I just want to see if I can adapt the first installment of the series into a love story for the stage.
Eddie is in shock (he performs Shock, at least).
Eddie will not let go of how provocative a choice I have made in choosing to adapt a horror film. It outdoes his adaption of a very famous, very sad novel. I am not trying to compete with Eddie, though he makes it impossible not to at least think about this school as a competitive arena for artistic outpour. I merely picked one of my favourite movies to adapt so that I can work on something I am passionate about. I was not thinking about ego or reception. I did not even gather the idea of this script ever having an audience. I just chose something that would make my year more fulfilling.
He sits beside me. It is one of my first weeks of school. I am sitting and waiting for lunch to end so I can contextualize myself in a classroom again and not feel so out of place. He sits beside me.
“So you’re adapting Saw.”
“Yeah.” I am staring at a computer screen.
“What made you choose that.”
“Love the film.”
“You love the film.”
I already know he loves to put people on the spot. I don’t have a fantastical answer regarding why I’m adapting this movie and I don’t owe him one. He is absolutely making me feel like an idiot but I can’t fix that today because I don’t have an answer.
“But why are you adapting it.”
“I just love the film.”
“Aren’t you afraid people are going to think—“
“That I’m a dark freak?”
He laughs again. So charming.
“Yeah but that’s what I am.”
He laughs again.
“ “That’s what. I am.” “
He imitates my intonation and I look at him like he’s lost.
There are too many stupid examples of Eddie trying to one-ups me but time and time again I gained proof that he was constantly comparing his work to mine. Comment after comment, interrogative turn after interrogative turn, I was under the eye of Eddie and, though the interactions were brief, they were cutting.
This man knows exactly what to say and if he doesn’t, if he misses the trigger, he’ll try again with specific jabs at specific bruises just to instigate a reaction.
The formulaic power-capture works wonders. I am terrified of Eddie.
I did not want to be alone with him.
It didn’t matter to me that he would take jabs at my work, really sly comments, usually sarcastic which, in an arts school, where we’re all trying new things and hoping to fail just to learn, sly sarcasm is just a defensive garbage layer a student can wear to protect him from being anything less than Genius. I don’t need to prove I’m a genius, I just crave more genius so I try weird things. Eddie is all over reducing them. But, it really doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me when people put down my work.
Here’s what kept me quiet for a while: One evening, we’re all out, our whole department. We’re headed to my house. I’ve made an effort to learn how to communicate with Eddie on his sly, sarcastic level. He says something inane. I reply with a slight tease and he remarks
“Oh Rachel, you’re just like my little sister. Only, she’s pretty.”
Perhaps a woman who is as confident in her looks as I am in my work would roll her eyes. I write it now and I roll my eyes. At the time, I couldn’t do that yet.
I grew up Ugly. The complexities behind foundational cracks in one’s personal image are best left alone between two individuals who are silently rivals. I was silent all evening.
When he left, when it was only the women in my apartment at the end of the night. I repeated what he said and they all chanted their opinions in support of me. But, I still didn’t like it.
If he doesn’t think I’m pretty, it’s ok. The scary part was, he found my trigger. He knew he upset me. He watched me sink when he said it. I no longer trusted that I could be safe around him. I also saw no way for us to be friends. If he’s this manipulative crafting such thoughtful cruelty, I can’t be around him. I grew up bullied. I have zero tolerance for bullies. I think bullies are scum, at whatever age. Any one who goes out of their way to harm someone else, regardless of gender, is a societal blemish. I do not care for bullies. I decide that I am done with Eddie.
I let go of my anger time and time again.
Eddie truly confuses me.
One moment, I’m completely captivated by him. He’s sweet. He’s inviting. He’s a brilliant light worth following. At times he does insane things and I mean a variety of insane things, most of which have nothing to do with this story so I won’t detail his life where I don’t have to but, he’s really unpredictable which I forget constantly because, it’s still the first few months that I’ve known him and all I can do is follow the fog.
December break in Toronto, he invites me to see his band play.
I have no idea, in hindsight, why I went and I feel almost vulgar about having made the decision to go but I went with a friend to see him. At the time I was performing some comedy and the set up that night was an open mic so he had me do a set in front of all his friends and family and it was actually quite fun, they were a very gracious audience, he was a gracious host. I left with my friend, it’s a forgettable evening, actually, because nothing really happened.
Upon returning to school, our teacher asked us what we did for the break. I think I said I went home. Eddie mentions that he played a show and I was there and I did a comedy set. I’m asked about the evening and I say something like “yeah it was fun” or “yeah it was ok”.
Eddie is offended.
It was just fun or just ok? He’s angry. Like a child.
I see a flash of his infantile source of everything mean he’s ever done. And then it’s gone.
It’s just before March Break.
I have pulled back in my work in class. I am less outgoing, less experimental. I write sweeter things, quieter things. I don’t try to work quite as hard to be quite as personally exemplary of what I know I can do.
I just stay out of the way.
It’s very hard to speak in front of a person who jumps at the opportunity to exploit everything I’ve said.
So, I stay quiet.
There’s a dinner party at my home.
Our teacher makes a huge meal, we invite the department.
Eddie sits beside me.
He’s in a good mood and he was a little elate because he had a meeting that day with someone who was working on a project with him.
He’s glowing a little from his successes.
He sits beside me.
I have been drinking since early afternoon and now it’s early evening.
When Eddie puts his arm around me, I like it.
Have you ever noticed that there is no discretion between the Man Right Now and The Man I Use To Have or The Man I Wish I Had, whoever is putting his arm around me in this moment, is truly playing the role of Him, whichever Him I decide he is because that’s what I want tonight. This arm feels good.
The night keeps going with everyone there. We’re a couple, somehow, for this evening. Out of nowhere. We’re sitting together. It feels like we’re a couple, like we’re expectedly sitting, his arm around me, inseparable, shared attitude towards whatever is going on in the room.
Of course he’s the last one to leave.
Of course he left the next morning.
This was our first night together.
It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t the best. I remember that night feeling finite. I thought, ok, we slept together and tomorrow we’ll laugh and he’ll go home.
Eddie didn’t want to go home in the morning. He wanted to hang out with me. I did dishes. I took a shower. I did all the things that kind of hint to the guy that he should go but he wanted to stay there with me. He told me something like that. He commented on my not being able to sleep, my pacing around, my doing the dishes, my nervous habits he seemed to think were endearing but now that I look back on it I think: Wasn’t he just collecting my flaws?
When he’s leaving that afternoon he says “Rachel, you’re really pretty.”
“You know you called me ugly one time.”
“I did, what did I say.”
“You said I’m just like your sister, only she’s pretty. So you called me ugly.”
“Oh, I’m an idiot.”
“You still said it.”
“Just call me on things like that when I do them.”
Classic. Just tell me I’m being an asshole. Just tell me I’m being an asshole so that I can tell you you’re being too sensitive. So that I can gain more power. So that you can cry. Again and again.
After March break, I return to some messages from Eddie. He still wants to hang out. We hang out and he sleeps with me. It doesn’t happen a lot.
One night I have a show. He asks me to come over and I am hosting an open mic downtown so he says he will leave his door unlocked and I can crawl into bed with him.
I think about this for a long time.
I pack a bag and take it to the bar with me.
Half way through hosting the show I grow nervous.
I am nervous because it feels too intimate.
This is when I sabotage things.
I can’t handle the idea of getting closer to Eddie and it might be instinct, it could be because I don’t trust him, it could be because I never used to trust him and it seems ludicrous that I would trust him now, it could easily be that I just had never had a boyfriend before and I was scared to get serious with anyone but the idea that I would go to his house in the middle of the night and just crawl into bed with him, like I know the bed well, like I even know him well, makes me queasy.
Truthfully and above all, I don’t want to go. I feel pressure to go but I don’t want to go. I feel bad about not going. I host an entire comedy show and then, I go home with a comedian.
The sexual encounter with the comedian is horrific for it’s own reasons. I don’t want him there. I am not turned on. The sex is painful. It’s a whole other story but I ask him to leave around midnight because I wonder if I had it in me to go crawl into bed with Eddie.
I don’t go.
The next night Eddie comes to my place so we can “do some homework”.
He tells me he had waited for me the night before. I can tell he is upset. I apologize but I don’t remember even trying to sound sincere.
The rest of the night is forgettable.
Weeks later, it’s Eddie’s week for presentation at school meaning, his work will be read and so will the work of the other writing student in his year.
The first night, I don’t know what’s going on with Eddie because I haven’t spoken to him. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if we are a couple, if we have ever been a couple, if he ever meant to become some sort of couple with me, if I have just kind of whored myself around with a man who I was previously terrified of. I listen to the read of his show. I leave while he’s talking to someone. I tell him I liked it. That’s it.
The next night, at the next read, I walk in and he’s speaking to another woman, a young woman I don’t recognize. He introduces me to her, she tells us she knows the other student in Eddie’s year from the Internet, she follows her online.
She’s a nice enough girl, pleasant to speak with, it makes sense that Eddie is talking to her all night. He asks me why I left the night before, “Why did you leave, where did you go? We all went for drinks, I was looking for you.”
I had no idea I was invited to drinks. I was actually not invited to drinks. Being invited somewhere means receiving an invitation. I received nothing.
“I didn’t know.” I tell him.
The night continues with an after party. I watch him walk her out, walk her wherever she’s going and I know in my heart he’s either kissing her or giving his number away so he can kiss her soon.
When I leave, he hugs me and walks me nowhere.
There’s a read of our shows, the first year shows. I have a small party at my place to celebrate the occasion. This is about a month after Eddie’s reading.
I leave school and Eddie leaves with me.
“Do you mind if I bring someone to the thing tonight?”
He hasn’t spoken to me for a while other than a couple times I invited him over and he left abruptly. He stopped acknowledging me. I go to school with him, he used to take interest, even just malicious interest, in me all the time. There is nothing that makes a woman feel more wasted than the blatant cold shoulder of a man who was just having sex with her a minute ago, never mind the obvious abandonment of that woman for a woman who is classically younger and far “more beautiful.
“Because. I’m seeing someone.”
I fake an ok-ness.
“Oh that’s nice. Who.”
“Her name is ________”
“From the reading.”
“Yeah. Can I bring her, do you mind.”
“Do whatever you want.”
And I waltzed home.
The waft a memory hits me: Months previous to this, Eddie had gotten mad when I didn’t let him walk home with me. He stormed over to the other side of the street and hated me his whole way home.
Now, it was my turn to do the same.
I went home and made tequila into something pink, called it a daiquiri and drank many cups of it. Soon a friend and her boyfriend came over to comfort me which helped but, even writing this, I’m full of complex emotions.
I’ve seen Eddie several times since this happen. I suffered through an entirely new year with him in my second year. I at first couldn’t stand being around his new girlfriend because I was envious and humiliated. She is obviously more attractive than I am. It’s embarrassing.
I have since gotten to know this woman and she is absolutely incredible. There’s a lesson to be learned in just recognizing that mourning the end of my NOTHING relationship to Eddie could have prevented me from getting to know someone so admirable and kind.
Eddie is married now.
The last I saw of him was at a theatre festival in Toronto. I had a show in the festival. He emailed me asking me for two comps. I had only given two comps away and really didn’t know anything about how to get comps for the show. I told him to ask the director, a woman he knows and also went to school with.
When I saw him in person, he told I hurt his feelings.
He then continued to lecture me about how to be more respectful of my own work, in front of his friends who I didn’t know. I felt embarrassed, condemned and intimidated. As soon as Eddie was distracted, I ran out of the party and, afraid to walk by the entrance, went far out of my way to get home.
I’m sure he’s still far more successful than I am.
Applause, to Eddie.