What will it take to break her out?
A Non-fiction Thriller
Copyright @ 2020 By RK Urban
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the written permission of the author.
Free at Last — Hopefully
Ok, time to send the message
As I push the send button, I breathe a sigh of relief. My ex-boyfriend, who I will refer to as my ex, is a bit crazy. He has caused me so much grief. I’m still confused by my role in a healthy relationship, so ending this toxic relationship feels good.
I guess you could say I’m a bit wimpy because of how I just ended the relationship -- I put my safety first. Instead of telling him face to face while visiting him in his hometown in France, I sent him an instant chat message. In fairness, I haven’t seen him in about a year, and I see no point in flying to another country just to tell a guy I don’t trust and I’m a bit afraid of “Hi honey, it’s over—goodbye.”
I am a Korean undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor campus. My Korean name is Mi-young. I love this name because it means everlasting beauty. I have a friend, a mentor. His name is RK. He is helping me learn what boundaries are for dating and in life. Don’t ask me why my parents and religious community in my hometown didn’t teach these lessons. When the topic of sex came up during my childhood, all the elders in my small community had learned ways to change the subject. It is almost as though these trusted sages were afraid to talk about penises, boobs, and vaginas. Why were such beautiful parenting topics treated with such scorn? In part that is what this story is about.
About two months have passed since I sent the message to my ex and I’m feeling good. I arrive at my building. It’s about 4 pm. I’m tired. As I enter the hallway a large person is hanging in the shadows at the end of the dark corridor. I feel safe in the neighborhood and my building, so I don’t take a closer look at the figure in the distance. Ann Arbor is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and that is one reason I love it. It is a safe community as long as you know where to go, and where not to go at different times of the day. I take another deep breath as I look at my phone and consider all the good choices I have made recently, including breaking up with my useless boyfriend. I feel proud of myself.
Although I don’t miss him, on occasion I flip through a few pictures of us. Soon I will probably delete them. My ex is one of those husky types who stands about 6’4”. He is about double my size. I was impressed by him in the beginning for all the wrong reasons. He is full of muscle, former military, and black belt. The more I got to know him, the more uncomfortable I felt around him. He is in his late twenties, a student, and unemployed. He loved to dictate to me what my role was in the relationship, including how to help him out with his sexual needs. If you are a university girl and you’ve dated a guy with too much bravado, then you know the type.
I exhale: He’s in another country, far away. I assure myself. I smile because I recall the feeling of freedom I got when I sent him the message about breaking up. He is the type to respond quickly when he disagrees, so his no-response is a great sign.
I feel movement near me -- like someone is approaching me, so I look up. My heart stops and my breathing becomes constricted. I feel my body shaking. My hand trembles so much that I almost drop my phone.
My ex is standing so close to me that he is literally towering over me.
“Hi. What are you doing here?”
I haven’t seen him face to face in about a year. I’m immediately startled at how weak my voice is. Using baby steps, I retreat into the wall behind me, which causes me to feel trapped.
“Mi-young, I want to talk with you. I’m not happy with how you ended our relationship. I decided to fight for you, so here I am.”
He pauses, stares at me, and asks a stupid question.
“So I’m here for you. I love you. Good?”
“If I don’t fight for you -- I’ll regret it.”
He smiles at me encouragingly, like I should jump up and hug him. Instead, my face goes pale. Since I’m Asian, going pale means my face turns really white. My mouth drops open but no words come out. I’m dumbfounded:
You can’t be this stupid.
As soon as I think this, I fear that maybe he heard me, so instead of saying more, I only stare, looking for any sign of anger from him. None. As usual, he is not watching or trying to understand me. He is gesturing and telling me things, trying to get my submission.
His definition of what is romantic is one of the reasons why I broke up with him. He never tuned in to how I felt. He missed so many cues about why his behavior often startled me. When I confronted him about his not-so-romantic gestures, he told me it was my job to accept his personality because this is how he shows love and affection.
On multiple occasions he said to me, “Get used to it — this is how I express love.”
I’m shaking and I don’t think he realizes he is the one causing it. But then again, maybe he does. What an asshole. But I gotta say something, so I blurt out the first sound that comes to my mind.
I said, ''I'm here for you. Good?”
My mind is trying to make sense of this, so I’m not paying attention to what he is saying to me. I look around nervously and look back at him. Each time he repeats himself, my eyes blink. This pattern repeats at least three or four times. The problem is when I blink, I sort of forget what he just said.
That is the only sound I make as many scenarios run through my mind. One scenario is that we’ll go up to my room, he’ll tell me to relax, and he won’t leave until I agree to start dating again. Then to celebrate it, he’ll force me to have sex with him. I try to stop my wandering mind, but I’m also afraid to say no to letting him go to my home, which is a small one-person studio-type apartment, because I don't know what he might do if I make him angry. He has a temper and I have seen it before, which is another reason I broke up with him.
His demeanor is demanding an answer. Once I realize my blinking eyes are not enough of a response, I say the only word I can.
I’m not sure what I just agreed to, but it triggers a response from him that I’m used to. He likes to do this nod and frown look. It’s his way of saying, “You’re kind of slow today, but I’ve learned to deal with it.”
“Sorry, but you just really surprised me.”
I hate saying sorry, when I really want to say, “Go to hell and leave me alone you asshole.” But I hold my tongue.
I want to express my anger by shouting, but I see little purpose. I tried it in the past and he treated me like I was the crazy one. So I look at him with a nod, giving him the cue that I don’t have more to say.
“Let’s leave this hallway Mi-young and go upstairs to your apartment. We need to talk in private.”
There aren’t any people around, so what he really means is “I am going to force you to take me back as your boyfriend, so we’ll do this in an environment where I have more control.”
Guilt and confusion are now filling my mind. I want to shout “help,” but I feel like a guilty flirt. Being raised in a Christian home, the guilt I carry for having sex with him is also guiding my emotions and their confusing conclusions. He can easily accuse me of leading him on in the past. I can hear him calling me a tease as he describes our past sexual experiences. I was less than a pro in bed with him. Somehow, these memories also have caused me to feel much shame.
What has further fueled all this confusion? I became close to a small group of European girls during my earlier university days. They often commented to me about how I overthink sex. I was confused by their comments -- I am still confused by their comments. I’m open to the idea of having sex with him if it means it will settle him down. How do I make these choices? I’m so conflicted that I want to scream rape, but he hasn’t done anything — yet.
“Let’s go, Mi-young.”
I follow him to my apartment. Upon arriving near my door, in the common areas, I look for someone I can send a rescue signal to, but the place is deserted; either everyone is gone or they are in their rooms. I know that in one or two hours, the place will be busy, especially the kitchen area.
A well known script goes through my mind, “You’re such a flirt. You can’t have a boyfriend like this without getting naked and servicing him. . .”
We approach my room and he gestures for the key. He knows this is inappropriate because I should be the one to invite him in. I submit. He takes the key, opens the locked door and we both go in. I notice how he locks the door and motions for me to take a seat while placing the key in its place near the door. I make a motion to move towards the door, but he uses his whole body to block the opening while he nods “No.” I grab my single chair, which I use at my desk, hoping he doesn’t invite me to sit next to him, so he can get romantic on the bed.
As luck would have it, he starts his grand and well-prepared speech while he is standing. I see him shake a little. It’s a gallant speech about how he has changed in the past year. While delivering it, he stops a few times as though he is reading from a teleprompter and needs a minute to find his place.
At this point, my level of confusion is at a high point. I hate him so much and know I will never trust him again. But as that emotion comes and goes, guilt shows up to remind me what a flirt I am, which arguably makes his actions understandable. I don’t really understand him at all, although we’ve known each other for more than two years. I don’t know my role, so the confusion rushes in more. This was the ideal type of man that my imagination came up with. It was part of my dream world. Now I have him and I’m confused by why I don’t want him.
As he talks and talks about whatever, I spend the time calibrating his mood while smiling and nodding when I think it’s the appropriate time. He probably worked on his speech non-stop for at least a few days. In fairness, he is trying so hard.
He finishes, obviously happy it’s over and happy to take a seat on the bed.
“So, can we give this a try?”
I lie a lot.
“I still have feelings for you but your surprise visit has me confused. I don’t know what I want now, so I need time to think.”
I then make some shit up, knowing it’ll force him to do one thing that is difficult for him to do: think about me. My goal is to force him, if it’s possible, to think about my feelings. If I succeed in changing him, this will be an incredible achievement. I have his attention, so it’s my chance to take back a little control.
“I tried to contact you a year ago and you did not want to see me. I even offered to fly to your hometown. You said no. I had feelings for you then but now, I’m not sure.”
I exhale louder than I had intended as his demeanor changes and he noticeably becomes more relaxed. He nods as though he heard what I said but I’m guessing he is too busy trying to decide what he will say next to sort out what I just shared.
At this point I feel sorry for him. I want to have empathy for him; after all, we have a sexual history and I want it to have some value. You guessed it, I’m getting confused again. When I am left to figure this stuff out on my own, I get confused.
As I stare at him, I force a smile and a nod, now and then. All of this takes so much energy because I know what I really want to say at this moment:
I don't trust you -- you fucking crazy bastard. You are forcing me to stay in my home. I don’t even know if you plan to rape me.
As I think this, I pretend to cough because I like the feeling of covering my mouth as I think these thoughts.
I try to relax, but I’m so confused, so I reassure myself:
Soon my flatmates will arrive. If you touch me, I’ll scream and accuse you of rape!
Another thought rushes in:
Do I have the right to feel this way? We’ve had sex. Maybe I deserve to be treated this way. I just don’t know.
I finally look at a clock and realize that I’ve been sitting and listening to him try to convince me that he loves me for more than an hour. As his speech slows, I find the courage to tell him I want to leave the home to get fresh air and buy something to drink. He appears happy about my suggestion as he waves at me to leave. I’m guessing he is tired and wants to sit and rest.
As I arrive at the first floor and exit the building, a campus security guard notices I’m upset. He asks me if he can help, but a brief movie runs through my mind about how my ex might respond if he is escorted out of my building by security or the police.
“Thank you for your concern. My ex-boyfriend is here but he’ll leave soon. Can I take your number and call if I need help?”
He nods and gives me a few words of encouragement, such as “we are always nearby,” or something like that.
Only one thought has been going through my mind about how to resolve this issue. Only one person’s name comes to my mind. I squeeze my fist to show I have power, and as I head back to the apartment, I make a promise to myself.
If RK agrees with me that my ex is crazy, I’m going to tell my ex to leave me alone — forever. Since I have the number for security, I gotta figure this out and end my confusion soon.
For the first time since I saw my ex over one hour ago, I’m feeling a bit better.
I return to my apartment, still surprised that he doesn’t notice how I’m shaking. Every time I see him, I start shaking. He stays a little longer, God only knows why, and he finally leaves. As he exits the building, I watch him leave. He uses that strut of his; the power walk that I hate.
I lock the door, sit on my bed, grab my favorite stuffed animal and a blanket, and cry for an unknown amount of time.
At first, I mentally try to timeline the events. Realizing my mind is moving too quickly, I grab paper and pencil and do a little writing. As I prepare my case for my chat with RK, it feels like going before a judge and jury with no lawyer. I feel terrible. I know I’ve done questionable things, so I’m ready to be judged.
I rehearse for the call:
“Hi RK. Do you think I’m right or wrong? Do you think he is a bad boyfriend or perhaps I should have been more thoughtful with the break-up? I mean, I kind of stalked him by flying to another country to visit him without notice. I even offered to return if he invited me. Granted he never suggested he was angry or afraid of me. On the contrary, he refused to see me when I surprised him because he was busy with “other things.”
“I’m so confused. What is my responsibility here? Would you say I’m maybe a stalker, kind of a little bit?”
That little voice in my head keeps condemning me by reminding me that RK will explain what I did wrong. I call that little voice my mother because it sounds so much like her.
My world has changed. It took so much courage to send my ex the goodbye message only two months earlier. He never responded to that message by text or a call, instead, he did an act that in my book is unforgivable: He showed up uninvited, made me a prisoner in my own home, and then left expecting more visits in the next few days, with the unspoken expectation of having sex.
Time to Make a Call
I don’t think I can cry anymore, so it’s time to make a call. It’s time to call RK, my mentor and friend. I send a message first.
“How are you?”
“I’m not sure. My ex is back.”
“Your ex is back. What do you mean?”
“He showed up this afternoon, forced me to go to my apartment, and demanded that I let him try to win me back. He told me he loved me and our relationship deserves a second chance.”
“You did send him the message that said it was over, correct?”
“Yeah. But he's here now. He’s in the city, probably a few blocks away in a hotel room. I agreed to meet with him for coffee or lunch tomorrow or soon while he held me captive in my home. I figured the only way to get him to leave was to agree to meet with him.”
“Wow. You must be terrified. So he held you as a prisoner in your own home for a couple of hours?”
“I’m going to ask you a few more questions. If you don't feel comfortable answering, you are free to tell me that, ok?”
“Did he force himself on you sexually?”
“No, but I can kind of feel it coming. He’ll be here for a week. You know how these guys are. You agree with them about everything and then to prove the couple thing is still on, sex is kind of required.”
“Did he use force to kiss or hug you?”
“Finally, you said he forced you to stay in your home for more than an hour as he explained his feelings and actions. Did he physically block the door?”
“At times, like in the beginning. It’s hard for me to remember the details. I thought I heard someone in the common areas, but when I went to check, he kind of pushed me away and blocked the door. He did it with a smile on his face, suggesting being playful, but I honestly don’t think I could have gotten past him and out the door.”
There is a long pause. I think RK is taking notes.
“Before we go on, are you safe now?”
“Yeah. That’s why I’m calling you. I need your honest opinion about this. You know I can’t call my mom.”
“Sure. So tell me, do you want to end this soon?”
“I think so. He’s been gone for a few hours. As soon as he left, I told my flatmates all about it. They said they would not let him in, but one or two of them said I can relax because I’m probably overthinking it. But they all said they would watch out for him. I think everyone has his picture now. He doesn’t have a key to the house and the security guards in the building gave me their number and made a note. One of the campus security officers told me they are always nearby and I just showed them a picture of him.”
“Ok. tomorrow, we’ll get him to see this in a different way.”
“RK, I have a question. I’m struggling with confusion and guilt. Am I overthinking this? I mean, do I have the right to tell him to go away? Do I have the right to break up with him? I’m so confused. I feel like maybe I owe him something, but I don’t know what it might be.”
“Your history with him includes sex, correct?”
“Ok. Your confusion is completely understandable, and you owe him nothing. All you need to do now is accept what I'm saying is true. Soon, you’ll believe it and feel it. For now, just accept that your confusion will pass.”
“Do you think I can do anything else to make me safer?”
“No, I don’t think he’ll return tonight. We can discuss it later. You need to get some rest. If your mind is racing, just remind yourself that you are safe. Can you find a friend to join you this evening and for the events tomorrow?”
“Yes. Some of my flatmates have returned. They’ll be in for the evening. He’s not gonna get past any of them or the security on the first floor.”
“Good. Do the breathing activities also.”
“Tomorrow will be eventful.”
“I’ll get involved. All I need to do is change how you feel about this situation and he will go away.”
"Are you sure? How will you do that?”
RK tries to explain it but I’m too fatigued, so pretend to understand and we end the call.
A Lonely and Scary Night
Hours have passed. I’m home alone. Making this choice was easy. I have a few flatmates that I told the story to. One girl gave me a big hug and assured me, “That guy you just showed me the picture of isn’t gonna bother.”
Lying on my bed with the door locked, I’ve made the choice to be strong — independent — but that childhood voice, who I suspect is the result of my mother’s incessant verbal prodding, continues to remind me of its stupid opinions. I mentioned earlier I gave it a name: my mother. I believe it’s my mother’s voice because of its rhythm and word choices, yet more importantly, I believe it’s her voice because it triggers in me so much negativity. Only my mother has this power. So often when she offers (without me requesting it) her loving-motherly-correction as she likes to call it, I never feel better or empowered. I feel the opposite; I feel needy and confused. In the midst of these "lectures", I notice how good she is at reminding me how great her parenting skills are.
If I disagree with any of her opinions, the verbal shit continues.
I guess you can say that my mom puts me in a zombie trance. I feel dead as she rants, and when she is finished, I’m still able to move around and infect other people with my anger and depression. RK is the only one who consistently notices when I’m in this type of trance. When he hears it in my voice, or sees it in my face, he breaks me out. He’s the only one who knows how to do it.
What does the voice say? There are many variations, but here’s an example:
“You are a pitiful child. So needy. You must be stronger like your mother. She is your model. She is strong and she refuses to let her daughter, her only daughter, be so childish and so helpless. Shame on you.”
Feeling exhausted from the day’s events, but too jumpy to sleep, I have a hard time deciding what to do with the nervous energy. So I stand up and pace and then I sit down and try to focus on my computer to do homework. Instead of being productive, I wrestle with the possibility of what might happen tomorrow. The goal is to make my ex go away. I kind of know I’m going to win this round because RK has dealt with stalkers before. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I fear the possibility of there being a confrontation with my ex and the police, after all, the police are one call away and I put in speed dial the number the security officer gave me.
I check my phone again. Nothing new. I gaze at my watch and feel the heaviness of the night as it comes upon me. My door is locked. My ex must pass through three or four places to get up here and the security officers in my building have his picture and they know I spoke with campus security and I told the building security officers that I spoke with the police. There’s not much more I can do.
I think back about the earlier call and a prediction RK made:
“Your ex’s behavior towards you will change within forty-eight hours. And within two to three days of that time, you will both feel so differently about each other that it will be clear the relationship is over.”
"How can you be so confident?”
“He didn’t come all this way to win back your love. He’s here for himself. He wants to prove to himself that he has the male bravado to do something really stupid.”
“If it makes you feel any better, you’re not that special to him. You’re not the mother of his children. You are not his road to riches and fame. His expectation is to get sex before he jumps on the plane. He’s probably fighting for this relationship, if you dare to call it that, because there is nothing else for him at this time; no one else is waiting for him back home. The two of you ended this long ago. He has probably tried to find another girl to fill your role but you are a hard symbol to copy. He is a simple boy from a small town in France. You are a small and sexy-oriental girl who he is trying to score with. There is nothing in his behavior that suggests he loves you — or that this relationship has long-term possibilities.”
RK makes comments like this now and again. I call it profiling. When he first made comments like this to me years ago, it felt like we were in an episode of one of those crime tv shows.
When I realized this, my attitude changed towards RK. He is the first person that I have met who actually listens and understands what I tell him. However, the fact that we are close friends is kind of mysterious. He’s not a member of my immediate family or a relative, such as an uncle. He’s not even a member of my church community. He’s just a friend of the family that wants to see our family heal.
I'm trying to force my mind into a place of strength, but it keeps heading towards nightmare scenarios regarding what might happen when the messages begin again. Exhausted from the events of the day, I feel myself nodding off to sleep.
While trying to sleep, I go in and out of trance. I toss and turn. Movies are running through my head of what might happen tomorrow. I conclude there are only two potential ways this will go. I’m too confused and tired to know which is true. Time will tell.
The first dream is me standing up to my ex. I walk into the coffee shop with three girlfriends. We take our seats next to him and every one offers introductions. I’m learning how to read people, so I watch him to see signs of him being nervous, like him looking around the room, checking his watch way too often, and not making eye contact when any one of us looks at him to ask a question.
Ashley is the first. She looks directly at my ex and gains his full attention. “Ok, I got a question for you. How can we be sure you love Mi-young?”
“Good question. Do you think I would have flown all the way here if I didn’t?”
We all notice he is speaking as though he’s on trial. As he offers each stupid answer, Ashley just stares at him like he is a terrible liar.
“Creepy,” she says while turning back in our direction. Liz and her exchange a nod and we all get up and leave.
About five minutes later, I send him a message. A really simple one:
He doesn’t respond.
The second dream takes a different path. In the end, my girlfriends like him and they tell me I’m overthinking everything. As I begin to feel all of these people turn on me, I wake up.
I sit up in my bed, sweaty. I feel worse. I don’t know what my unconscious mind is trying to tell me with these dreams, but it’s clear that when I start texting tomorrow, I’ll be tired — sleep-deprived.
I’m not sure that I'll be able to handle this, so I’m making a promise to myself.
“Whatever RK wants me to do, I’ll do it.”
“Mind, stop wandering.”
Some might say I’m overthinking this and some might say I shouldn’t stay in my home tonight, but it was my duty to make the best choices for me and these are the choices I have made.
I struggle with another emotion. I want to call my mother and scream, “Why did you train me so I would never want to call you when I feel this sad, scared or in danger?”
I love screaming this question when having a chat with RK because he changes my focus. He often has asked, “How can we help you to stop asking yourself this question because it offers little chance for growth." When he first said this, I said, “Huh?” He said, “New question. ‘What can I learn from this experience as I move on’?”
At each step in this confusion, I always have one person I can count on to sort this out. You guessed it. He told me he is thankful for broken families because it ensures he will always have a job and he enjoys watching people heal and grow.
However, I felt a bit angry towards even RK a few minutes ago because I wanted this confrontation to have been over hours ago. Now, I feel guilty for thinking badly about him; after all, I called him out of the blue, demanded his time for about an hour, off the books. Yet, he stopped what he was doing to take my call. He has even offered to follow up tomorrow just because he cares about me. Somehow, I found a way to get angry with him.
The guilt returns, I lay in bed and cry a bit more, until I doze off again.