I had been off work for two weeks before I could get an appointment with a psychologist. I had been seeing a psych regularly after my infertility diagnosis in 2014. Wendy and I would meet fortnightly or sometimes weekly, depending on how low my mood was. I was taking anti-depressants but it helped to have someone to talk to, even if I usually disagreed with what she would recommend.
One day I remember a particularly angry session where Wendy interrupted me to say that I had talked myself into a corner, where I thought I was unloved, unloveable and at risk of hurting myself. It was a startling revelation because I truly hadn’t been able to see it manifesting that way. My doctor’s response was to increase my dose.
When I started looking for work outside my local area, having decided that moving away from my husband was my only option, I stopped seeing Wendy.
My appointment with Nichole was to be my first session since and I was apprehensive and determined from the outset that I wouldn’t like her. I had sussed her out online and decided she looked too young and too knowing to be able to help me. Clearly I was a great judge of character.
But I was nervous. I knew that my crash, while triggered by ChrisNotChris, was actually the result of many events that I had failed to deal with, I wasn’t sure I was ready to unpack them. I had spoken about the rape to a few friends. I had written about it. But I’d never sought professional help aside from my GP to get tested for STIs.
I also knew I would have to talk about my infertility again, but also about my ex, about my actions of the past few months that had seen me triple the number of people I had slept with. And stupidly, I turned to ChrisNotChris because I had confided in him already about all these things. He knew me almost as well as I knew myself at this point, which made his deceptions all the more heart-breaking. But, it was to him I turned and shared my concerns, my apprehension and, even though I had made it clear I had no desire to see him again, he told me he was going to meet me after my appointment.
The first time I met Nichole, it was a glorious, sunny Saturday winter morning. I steeled myself to hate her and entered her sun-drenched office. We sat facing each other around a small coffee table. I don’t think I quite folded my arms but certainly my defences were up as we began the preliminary chit chat about why I was there and what she was going to do to try and help me.
I had massively underestimated her. Try as I might, I couldn’t dislike this woman. Within about 15 minutes she said something, that I can’t recall now, but something so pointed, so exact and insightful that I was left open-mouthed. How did she know that about me? How did she understand that was exactly why I said that? I had never come across someone who so swiftly grasped my convoluted sense of truth and justice. And I had my first epiphany with Nichole.
The reason I never pursued egg donors or adoption with my ex was because I didn’t trust him anymore. It’s a simple thing to say and let me clarify I don’t refer to infidelity. Over the three years since my infertility diagnosis, he had spent much of his time picking me up, dusting me off and trying to keep me functional. He, deliberately or not, became my yes man. Whatever I wanted to do. Whatever I wanted to say. Whatever I wanted to think or feel, he went along with. And while that sounds lovely in theory to have such a man who cares only for what you want it was – actually – infuriating.
I had no idea in the world what he wanted anymore. I didn’t know if he wanted kids. Didn’t want kids. Wanted to use donor eggs. Didn’t want to use donor eggs. Want to apply for adoption or not. Because whatever I said – and I changed my mind almost daily depending on my mood – he agreed with. Sitting in Nichole’s office, picking at my cuticles and staring at the floor, I realised I didn’t trust him to tell me the truth.
It was my lightbulb moment. Given my own shortcomings, it might seem odd that trust and truth are so important to me, but this was. I wanted to know and believe that when he was saying he loved me and I was enough without children, he was telling me the truth. But I didn’t. Couldn’t. Because I had no idea anymore what this man felt.
The 50 minutes passed quickly and I took the stairs down to the street slowly, processing this revelation, before remembering ChrisNotChris. I saw him as I exited the building, standing beside his car, waiting for me.
A breath. Two. Three. This man was a liar. This man had a partner and a son he hadn’t told me about. And I was oh so vulnerable. I desperately wanted him. When he opened his arms as I approached him, I walked straight into them and was enfolded.
“Go up to your apartment. Grab some pillows and a book and come back down,” he said.
“Just go. I’ll wait here.”
I was confused but decided I actually didn’t want to think anymore today and I remembered I had told ChrisNotChris that over the phone: “I’m sick of thinking. I want someone to make my decisions for me.” I grabbed some cushions off my bed and my book. It was the latest by my favourite author but I was struggling to finish it. Usually I would smash her new books out in two days but right now I couldn’t focus and found myself re-reading entire pages.
“What are we doing?” I asked him as I threw the cushions on the back seat and sat next to him in the car.
“We’re going to the park, to find a place to lay in the sun, and you’re going to read your book. If you want to talk, we can talk, but if you don’t, you can read or sleep. It doesn’t matter. I’m just here to support you.”
The suggestion that he was supporting me after what he had done was laughable but I was still besotted with this man. He was here with me, wanting to take care of me, and I wanted to be taken care of.
In the park, we spread out some towels he’d brought with him and I threw down the cushions and pulled out my book. He had also brought water and Twisties and for a time I lay quietly, enjoying the winter sunshine, breathing in the scent of the grass. I was totally aware of him laying beside me, close but not touching. He didn’t pry but slowly I began to talk about my session with Nichole and he listened.
When I had finished talking he told me about his accident at the snow, acting it out for me on the grass, clutching his ribs every time he shifted about. He knelt in front of me and told me he wanted to kiss me but didn’t know if I wanted him to. My brain was saying “no, we hate this piece of lying shit” while my heart was saying “yes, yes, yes!”. The heart is stupid. I let him kiss me and I kissed him back.
When the sun began to drop, we packed up our makeshift picnic and returned to my apartment. He had saved some Disney movies onto a USB to download onto my laptop, so we lay on my bed while the hard drive ticked away saving Dumbo, Aladdin, Frozen and The Lion King, among others. I wanted him to hold me, to touch me, to put his fingers inside me and make me moan. I hated and desired this man, wanting so badly to believe everything was OK while knowing I was being a fool. He spooned me while we watched Dumbo, and my body responded to his arms around me. I began those not so subtle wiggles and squirms that every woman knows how to do to provoke a sexual response. My arse was grinding against his crotch, his cock hard through his jeans.
I fucked him. I used his body to find my release, riding him to orgasm after orgasm, our bodies wet with my juices before I let him come too. What the fuck was I doing?
He stayed the night. Apparently, I snored but I didn’t care. I hadn’t slept so well in two weeks and every time I stirred he would take me into his embrace and hold me until I fell asleep. I woke to him beside me, a smile on my lips. I was living in a fantasy land but fuck it, it was my fantasy.
We decided to go for a walk as it was another spectacular day. I took him along my usual route that followed the beach, crossed the harbour and past another beach and through a park. I bought a coffee from a kiosk and we stopped for a while watching the waves crash into the shore. We talked incessantly. Conversation was never lost on us. It was like we had known each other forever.
We were nearing my apartment when he stopped me suddenly.
“I need to tell you something,” he said.
“Oh god, now what? You have another kid you haven’t told me about?” but while I was joking my heart had started to pound. What more could this man say to hurt me?
“You know how my name’s Chris …”
“Well, Chris is actually my middle name.”
I didn’t even need a beat. My arms were raised beside my head in the gesture recognised the world over as “what the fuck”. I spun on my heel and stormed off in the direction of my apartment.
“Wait! Where are you going? Stop, come back! Where are you going? I need to explain.”
I didn’t stop. I pounded the pavement like a baker working dough. I heard him half jogging to catch up to me.
“Stop, will you just stop! I need to explain. Please let me explain.”
“We have nothing to talk about. Nothing.”
“Don’t you at least want to know my name?”
“Nope.” I didn’t falter. I didn’t pause. My mind was a raging ocean and if I dared look back at him I would probably push him into oncoming traffic.
“Wait, please stop. We can talk about this. We can sort this out, just like we have the other stuff.”
“I asked you on Terrible Tuesday. I specifically asked you if Chris was really your name and you told me it was. You lied! You lied again! Even while you were confessing, you lied! Get the fuck away from me.”
I had reached my building and a dilemma struck. His car was parked in the basement and his bag and keys were upstairs. I was going to have to let the cunt into my apartment.
I turned to face him, where he was clutching his cracked ribs a safe distance away.
“You’re going to get your shit and you’re going to go and I never want to see you again.”
I swiped my security tag and the lift doors opened. I refused to look at him and he knew better than to try and touch me. In my apartment, I marched up the stairs to my room and glared at him as he collected his things. A march back down the stairs and back into the lift. Kicking someone out when you’re in an apartment with a zillion security points is frustrating. If it wasn’t for being on the top floor, I would have made like the movies and thrown his shit down onto the street.
“Please, please just come for a drive with me,” he said. “Let’s talk about this. I know I’ve fucked up, I’m trying to make it right.”
“I don’t give a fuck about your explanation. You lied. End of story. You lied to my face on Terrible Tuesday. I asked your directly. There is no excuse. You’re a bastard and a liar.”
“But, you were doing so well yesterday. After your session, you seemed so positive, I thought we could talk through it.”
“You thought wrong. How dare you take advantage of me yesterday when I was vulnerable. You knew exactly what you were doing.”
But for some reason, I did get in his car and I gave him five minutes to talk. He drove to the beach we had just walked past and parked on the side of the road.
He talked. I shook my head, not believing a word he said. When five minutes had lapsed, I opened the car door, stepped out and walked away.
He rang me on my mobile and it was more of the same but I kept on walking, almost all the way back to my apartment. I stopped on a seat near one of the beach access paths and cried, not caring about the looks I was getting from the people walking past.
How did I let this happen again? How could I have been so stupid to fall for his lies, again and again? What the hell was wrong with me? I was disgusted with myself and in my head, that was it. I would not fall for this a third time. I was done. Done with him and his lies.
It wasn’t until the next evening that I decided I wanted to know what his real name was. I hadn’t asked during all his pleading. It didn’t matter what it was. He had lied and that was all that counted.
I was sitting in a meeting at work, one where I was there to listen rather than participate, and I text him.
What’s your name?
Do you really want to know?
Don’t make me ask twice.