William was not the man I had thought him to be, and he’d hurt me for the last time. I couldn’t endure anymore of the turmoil he’d been putting me through, the ups and downs, the unpredictable moods, the unfounded jealousy. There had been rumors about him and his last wife, about his being abusive. I didn’t know what to believe though, since he never laid a hand on me. It was quite evident that there had been some buzz worthy drama since everyone in the office advised me against dating him and then eventually marrying him. But I ignored them all, because we were a perfect match, at least it seemed so in the beginning.
I had been head over heels the first time I laid eyes on him. He was more than just handsome with his sea green eyes and tan skin; he made me feel special in a way no one else ever had. I’d never been tall enough or beautiful enough to be prom queen or anyone’s version of the “it girl” but on William’s arm I shined like a star.
Ours was a typical whirlwind romance that turned into marriage after only 6 months. It was all perfect until shortly after we were married when his possessive nature began to make its appearance. William suddenly began to not trust me and question my whereabouts every chance he got. I would get endless texts and calls whenever I wasn’t with him, wondering where I was, his accusatory words sometimes hurting more than his hand ever could.
But William always apologized, breaking down, begging for forgiveness, but I never understood why things changed so drastically and why he suddenly didn’t trust me. One would think after we were married, he’d feel more secure about my loyalty. But it was like he was obsessed with the idea that someone was going to take me away. But it was all over now; after a year of mental abuse and no end in sight I finally parted ways with William despite his agonizing pleas for me to stay, despite the love that was still alive between us.
One morning, something startled me awake. It wasn’t quite a dream, but something made me feel uneasy. I was up earlier than usual which wasn’t uncommon since I was staying in a hotel while my new apartment was being prepared. I was never quite comfortable unless I was home in bed.
But I was back home, William’s home, in his bed. I was confused; there was no way I’d just come back to him, especially without recollection and I wasn’t a drinker nor a drunk dialer so there was something very wrong. For a moment I thought I’d perhaps dreamed the breakup and I was still living in his hell.
But suddenly without meaning to, I stood up and stretched, making a loud groaning sound that was completely unfamiliar to me. I wasn’t even in control of my movements. What exactly was happening here? I caught my reflection in the mirror and mine was blurred with William’s. There he was, right where I stood, bare chest, boxers, wavy hair a mess, beard needing a shave. He scratched it and I could feel the itchiness on my own face. Was he...scratching my beard? That couldn’t be right, could it? It was the strangest sensation I had ever experienced. There was William, but there I was too, long brown curls, glasses perched to my nose, freckles everywhere, dressed in the black nightdress I’d put on the night before, in the hotel.
How could this be? It was as though I was him and he was me. I could see myself blending in with him, but it didn’t seem he saw me. Before I could try and speak, I felt a sudden pressure in my chest, one I wasn’t used to. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself when I realized I wasn’t the one with the sudden anxiety, it was William. I could feel what he was feeling. It was then that I realized, I was seeing the world through his eyes.
As William I reached over to view his cell phone, my hand melded with his and reached as well. He was controlling this, whatever ‘this’ was. He sighed, staring at the blank screen, no missed calls or texts that would have calmed his anxiety. I could feel his thoughts, hear his voice inside my mind. He was looking at his phone to see if I called.
William sat again on the bed, feeling nowhere near ready to begin his day. He had a meeting at work that would have to wait, because his mind was too clouded. I could feel the muddiness in his mind, like what it feels like to be hungover after a night of partying.
I found it interesting that William was waiting for me to call since I had made it so clear I was done with him. He knew that he’d hurt me too many times and there was enough damage done. I always tried to understand where his fears and anger stemmed from but I was too old to try and save a man who wouldn’t attempt to save himself.
He laid back onto his large bed and thought of Marianne. His ex-wife? Why was he thinking of her now? Word was, he hated her, called her every name in the book. Yet he never told me much about the details of their marriage. Through his eyes I could see Marianne smiling at him from the passenger seat of his sports car, her large straw hat almost flying away in the wind, her perfectly manicured hands having to hold it down. It was a beautiful beach day and her laugh flowed out of her like honey. The feeling in his chest was warm now, filled with so much love as William remembered Marianne, the former socialite, who had given the up-and-coming investment banker the time of day and actually married him.
But I was suddenly transported with him to another time and William as a young boy was standing by his father’s side, staring after his mother’s car, long gone down the street in front of their home. “Don't ever trust a woman,” his father was saying, eyes red rimmed from too much drinking. “They will only cheat and betray you. You will be better off alone, son.” I felt a sense of longing within William, for the mother who cheated and chose her lover over her marriage. The mother who could leave her only son, never coming back for him and leaving him alone with a father who became a bitter broken-hearted drunk.
I was back again with William in his memories of Marianne. They were in a large apartment on the Upper East Side, and she was standing there, throwing his things at him. “I just can’t live in this marriage anymore!” She was screaming at him while William, feeling lost tried to talk to her, to understand how she could do this. “Mari, please explain to me, why him? You’d been back and forth with him for years and things never worked out. I thought we were happy.”
She barely looked at him, waved him away like he was nothing. He felt like that lost little boy needing his mommy. One minute, things were going well, or so he thought and the next he was finding out she’d secretly gotten back together with her high society ex who had now become a senator. “He and I are upper east-siders, William, and if I am to become the wife of someone successful, I need to be with him. That’s just the way it is. This,” she waved her hands around him, “is truly going nowhere and was such a mistake.”
I could feel William’s mind spinning, and my heart broke for him. I could feel the tremendous sadness, his heart beating out of his chest, his world falling apart, the shock he was feeling at the nonchalant way she was treating him as if she’d had one foot out the door their entire marriage.
I could hear his thoughts as if they were my own, our internal voices speaking in unison. His father had been right. This woman was no good, none of them would ever be. He vowed to never let anyone else make a fool of him, that no one would make him feel as his mother had.
Before I realized it, all the emotions had come to the surface, and in William’s body I lunged with him toward the Marianne in his memory and punched her square in the face. But he didn’t see Marianne; he saw his mother, standing in the driveway, about to leave her family. All he wanted was to watch her suffer and die.
But his mother wasn’t there. Mariane’s tiny body flew over the couch, her blonde hair slapping the wind as it came down behind her. She collapsed to the ground screaming, calling for help.
William sat carefully on her beige settee, leaning back slowly in satisfaction, still lost in his thoughts. Seeing the blood flow from her evil face, gave him the release he needed; I could feel his breath ease, his heart beats calm. But within minutes, the anger wore off and by the time the police had him handcuffed and in the back of the patrol car, he had realized what he’d done. He was taken away, questioning his thoughts and actions, wondering who he had become.
He’d hit a woman, his wife, let the void his mother left control his actions. When would it end?
The pain in his heart was what I felt in mine at that moment. How did I not know any of this? I never felt so alone or lost than I did then, experiencing William’s life through his eyes.
I was exhausted living through these memories with him. I knew his dark side stemmed from somewhere but never understood why he hadn‘t confided in me.
I could see him in my own memories, worrying about every little thing, questioning my love and devotion, never believing my words as truth. Of course, it made sense now, why he was the way he was, a little boy trapped in a man’s body trying to figure out how to love with the tiny scraps left of his heart. But what I did feel, lying with him, in him, on his bed was his love for me, the pure emotion he felt that he didn’t know what to do with, the deep regret he had for how he treated me. He knew fear was what guided him, and he wished desperately that he could explain it all to me, finally reveal himself, tell me everything. The anxiety felt like William was juggling his past with his present and I was a ball fallen to the ground.
Just then, I felt myself rising from William’s body; I could literally see him disappear below me and before I realized it, I was thrust through a tunnel at lighting speed passing through his thoughts and mine, my eyes closing at the force of it all.
I woke up, hot and sweaty and back in my bed at the hotel. I sat up alarmed, almost expecting to see William, realizing slowly I was back to being me. I still felt like myself, hurt and afraid, a weight over me with all I had endured with William, but I carried with me a new understanding I didn’t have before, couldn’t have had without seeing his world with him.
I didn’t know what I could and couldn’t forgive and I would make no promises about us being together, but I could call him, and at least see what he had to say.