When we last left my hopeless 16-year-old self, she had accepted the label of Zachery’s girlfriend. No date. No cute words. The next day she just walked into school a taken teenager.
She was going to regret that.
Things started out pretty tame. I’d talk about all my dreams surrounding writing, college and a future. Always the planner, I had big ideas of what my future would look like. Zachery would nod here and provide a blank stare there. He wasn’t really that sociable. I figured he was just nervous. We hardly new each other before we became an item. I was more than happy to take things slow, giving him time to open up.
Not a week would pass before I learned Zachery and I had different definitions of ‘slow.’ A week was all it took for that dreaded L-word to come out of his mouth. I wish I remember the moment better, but I think he first said it via instant messenger(the only place where he was more than happy to contribute to the conversation). My response was a long paragraph detailing how I wasn’t there, yet. I had great respect for that L-word and I would only use it when I truly felt that way. In time, I told him.
Valentine’s Day approached soon after we started dating. I remember what my gift: a lovingly crafted piece of macaroni art on paper. Maybe that would have been cute when I was six, but at 16, it was ridiculous. Never one to care about Valentines’s Day anyone, I just went with it. Zachery was clearly obsessed with me and at least he tried, right? Having read Twilight, I knew obsession was the highest form of romance.
…except his obsession didn’t come of very romantic.
Zachery was uncomfortably clingy. Where ever we went, he had to have his hands on me. Walking side by side in the hallway, he’d have an arm wrapped tightly around my shoulders. It was like a three-legged race. Even teachers commented on how uncomfortable I looked.
I assumed he had the best of intentions and choose not to say anything. If he really knew me, he’d be able to tell how uncomfortable I was. If he really cared, he’d speak up.
Unfortunately, this clingy behavior became a staple of our relationship. When I the movies, I sit straight in my chair with my hands in my lap. Still, he’d wrap his arms around me (both arms, one in back and one in front). I’d keep myself tense and refuse to lean into his embrace, but he would go further to lean his head on my shoulder.This list of examples goes on and on. Not once did he ever act like he noticed my discomfort.
If clingyness was Zachery’s worst quality, the relationship would have been over by this point. By this point, though, I had come to fear him. He kept a tight grip on me. When I tried ignoring him (in a failed attempt to get him to engage in any kind of conversation), he’d get a bit shaky. His eyes would squint a bit and his emotionless voice would take on a slightly darker tone.
Lucky for me, my best friend was dating his younger brother. Whenever Zachery and I made a date, I’d turn it into a double date. I thought that would keep me safe. That would keep his hands from straying to even more uncomfortable places.
For all its benefits, the arrangement with my friend would take quick negative turn. As I built up the confidence and self-worth I would need to break up with Zachery, she let me in on any inside information that would change my mind.
Did you ever go through a phase where you equated obsession to romance? Where do you think that idea comes from? Do you think Zachery’s obsessiveness and clingyness were related to his alleged love or to an ulterior motive? What would your 16-year-old self have done upon receiving macaroni art as a Valentine’s Day gift?