My boyfriend of two years dumped me, so I said fuck it and bought a plane ticket to Europe.
I’m writing about this because I know this is something women fantasize about. This is one of those private thoughts in the dark; the sentient occupants that live between the pixels of all those magazine-quality pictures of relationships and families on social media.
“What if I just left?”
The thought is tantalizing.
Too tantalizing; it’s a termite. Left unchecked, it’ll eat your foundation and turn your life into sawdust. Therefore, most women slam a rock or two down in their river of thoughts, diverting the current around that escape hatch into the unknown. “I can’t leave the dog, the kids,” it says. “I don’t have a bad life, my husband doesn’t hit me.” “I have this nice house in the suburbs, and my friends… when was the last time I saw my friends?” Then the thoughts will flow around that and skillfully get you to stop thinking about escape.
But then, when you’re laying in bed at night and your husband is snoring, you stare at the ceiling and start thinking about that thing he said two weeks ago. A little off-hand comment. A weed in your relationship that you plucked, but you know it has roots and it’ll grow back sooner or later. You know that plant; you’ve dealt with it before. It’s one of the native species that’s commonly found in the men of misogynistic cultures, a plant that grows through a man’s mind and steadily releases a toxin that shapes his beliefs:
Men are inherently superior to women, and smarter, and more complex.
Once you notice the roots are there, you can’t forget.
More termites rush in and start to nibble. You start to smell sawdust.
Does he even see me as a separate person? You start to wonder. Am I just a mirror to reflect his “greatness” back to him?
You start to search through your memory of any time in recent months he’s shown genuine curiosity about your inner world.
You can’t think of any.
In fact, you can’t think of any, ever.
It’s just him talking about himself and inviting you to participate every once in a while.
Oh God, you think. I don’t think he even knows me.
He doesn’t. He only knows your outline and that you can mirror him and your ability to make more of him.
Once a woman realizes this truth and knows it’s true in her bones, there’s no going back. So most of the time, she just dissociates instead of facing it.
But you could leave, that little voice whisperes. You could drop everything and escape.
You start allowing yourself to have private, tasty moments where you fantasize about living somewhere else, somewhere exotic. You imagine a beautiful refurbished factory apartment with huge, half-circle windows, brick walls, and lots of plants and crystals. You imagine an easel in a sunbeam with your latest painting glowing with magic, and a studio cat snoozing on a shelf nearby. You imagine a life of business success, peace, ease, and happiness. You’re a millionaire. You write stories and make art and have millions of fans of your work. You make indie games people love. You travel all over the place and have fabulous adventures. You make tasty food and buy good wine and have legendary dinner parties with other creatives and business owners.
You cannot bear to acknowledge the fact that you haven’t imagined him in all of this.
The river flows around it.
His river flows around it.
And you know.
Then, one day, you get lucky and he ends things himself. He says he wants to be with someone less sure of herself, and you know what he means. He wants someone who will allow herself to be completely devoured; someone who will float just under the surface of his river with her eyes closed like Ophelia.
He wants an assistant; a servant.
A voodoo doll he can stick pins into.
You know that isn’t you. You’re tired of being submerged and criticized and blamed and focused-upon for all of the reasons he’s unhappy.
So the relationship ends and you feel relief. You feel alive again.
And that voice… that small voice in your head you’ve been ignoring says, “Buy a plane ticket!”
So you do. Your heart thunders when you hit that “Complete Purchase” button.
And for the first time in a long time, everything feels exactly right.