Down the Mountain
Once I got to Starbucks, ordered my double shot espresso, and had some unrelated banter with the barista I had come to know (we both liked each other’s Dr. Martens boots), I sat down to try and make sense of what happened. I knew that I wasn’t going to get much work done because my nerves were rattled and my mind kept replaying the incident on a continuous loop. But the thing was, I was slated to leave in the morning, it was already 2 pm and I still had a laundry list of things I needed to accomplish. This wasn’t the time to deal with emotions, so naturally, I did what I do best, I disassociated from them and got to planning my next steps.
As someone who organically finds feelings to be a nuisance, setting them aside comes very easy for me. Seriously, if you have a crisis (not involving snakes), you’re going to want me around for the tough calls. That and I spent the last few years with an emotional vampire, so not acknowledging my feelings had also become a coping mechanism. Anyway, still ignoring his texts, I planned my exit strategy, deciding to clean and pack up the night before. This sounds practical, but I’m generally one that leaves that stuff to the last minute. But, in this case, I wanted to leave as early as possible because I just wanted to avoid him. As for the goodbye, I decided to pop in, with Abbey in tow, say a quick goodbye and leave. The good thing was he didn’t know where I was going next and I don’t have social media other than a Twitter account that’s collecting dust. After sorting out my things, I went to the store, got cleaning supplies, filled my tank, and went back up the mountain. There, I grabbed Abbey and made my way up to his apartment one last time, unannounced. If he was going to keep intruding on me, I figure I’d return the favor.
I knock on the door and he yells, “it’s open”. I remember being annoyed because I didn’t have such luxury to leave my door unlocked without feeling unsafe. Anyway, Abbey and I walk in, she begins to create distance between him and myself, of which he blatantly ignores. Before I can barely get out a hello, he hugs me again. This time, I jerked away harder, knowing that Abbey was there should anything get weird.
“I don’t like hugs,” I say firmly, with my arm out creating more distance.
“Ok, ok” he replies with his hands up.
His tone insinuates that I’m overreacting, but I don’t care. I was feeling pretty confident until I saw a white paper on his table. It was just a single white sheet of printing paper, but the only contents written on it was my name. My heart sank down to my shoes. The eeriness of the situation was getting the better of me and I wanted to be done with this. Plus Abbey was picking up on my discomfort and was holding an aggressive stance.
“I just wanted to pop in and say goodbye, so goodbye,” I say trying to not be creeped out by the paper.
“That’s it, you can’t stay? Well, it’s been nice getting to know you. Let’s keep in touch. Do you have an email address. We can write each other,” he says, rushing out the words.
That moment enraged me in the sense that I could tell he was still trying to assert some kind of bonding obligation. One, he doesn’t know me, we had 2 dumb conversations. Two, I always hated how he kept rushing conversation, not leaving anytime to process or think about what he’s saying. Still, the white paper was staring back at me and I just wanted to be done.
So I rattle off my email address and tell him my father is expecting my call. Abbey, who is now on full alert, steps in front of him as he tried to go for another hug. Again, Abbey is the MVP and she will forever get bacon treats from me, but only occasionally because human food makes her believe she’s pack leader and she becomes too cool for her food or obedience. Anyway, we head down to the condo, I turn on the game (Raptors v. Bucks), and get to packing.
You’re probably wondering why I went up to say goodbye. It was to get some distance in interaction. I knew that if I didn’t stop by, he’d probably come to my condor, or manufacture another “random” encounter in the hallway. I just didn’t want to deal with either of those options. Feeling a little better, as there was 12 hours left of me being in this prison, I text my dad and joke about the experience, saying that I’d be free soon enough. He texts me a video of him and my oldest nephew using hover boards. I laugh and the video puts me at ease. I hear a ping from my computer and I realize that it’s my email. I click to view, thinking it might be a client, it was Brett.
I seriously had left his condo 15 minutes prior, so why the need to email, ugh. In there email, there was only one sentence, “I will keep in touch.” I quickly delete it and turn back to the game. I’m not letting him take up any more of my time or space. My phone then buzzes, I pick it up, thinking it’s my dad. Nope, by now I’m sure you’ve guessed it, it was Bret.
“Go Raptors!” It said, which made my blood run cold. I didn’t tell him I was watching the game and his condo is one floor up and on the other side, so there was no way he could hear my television. At this point, I felt so unnerved and destabilized because I couldn’t rationalize my way out of this. I had no logical explanation for the text and I did not want to pontificate why or how he knew what I was doing. I shake off the feeling, block his number from my phone, check to make sure that my front door is locked and dead bolted, and continue with the game.
The Next Morning
I slept horribly, maybe an hour, but when 5 am hit, I jumped out of bed to start the last for chores I had. The place I was staying was an Airbnb and they had made an exception for Abbey, so I wanted to make sure the place was left in pristine condition. Everything was fine, except that every single little noise or closing of a door just sent chills down my spine. It got so bad that Abbey was just as agitated, barking at each noise. She’s not a naturally mouthy dog, but I knew she could tell how uneasy I was. Anyway I finished cleaning, put Abbey in the car, and went back to do one last look over. As I was leaving in the stairwell, I could hear steps behind me, so I quickened my pace. In my rush, I dropped a can of Febreeze, but I was in such a panic, I did not care. I get to my car, and try to hop in and then I hear someone call my name. It was Roger, the caretaker. Feeling like an idiot, I did a neighborly wave. He handed me the air freshener container and wished me well on my travels.
Out of Sight, in my mind
As I made my way down the winding mountain, I could not help but feel a great sense of relief. I call my mom— who had asked for an update on my departure— and I made a few jokes about the experience. I tend to use humor to distill my complex emotions. Logically, I’d never have to see Brett again. But, what I didn’t understand and would later find out, was that emotional processing needed occur before I could put this experience to bed.
To be continued…