Achilles. (November 16th to December 20th)

(TW: Cancellation, discussions of suicide and a very lazy attempt, abusive relationships, existential issues, arguments, gaslighting, relationship problems, infestation, brief violence.)

The Spirit Room was pretty empty in 2020, especially after October had already finished. COVID was still looming and the recent accusations were not exactly helping.

I’d thoroughly enjoyed using the bar as a safe haven. It was only twenty minutes away from my house and, between that and work, were instrumental in helping me to avoid AJ. Nary would a name or pronoun be out of place– I felt safe there. Therefore, when paragraphs flooded social media by an ex-employee to call the bar racist and transphobic, I made the conscious decision to disregard them. After all, based on how myself, my trans friends, and my friends of colour were treated there– I figured the owner had to get up very early in the morning to lead that steep of a double life.

After all, the first person I heard this all from was fucking Zara, so this information had to have been tainted from the get-go. Later on, I would see firsthand how the collective entity of The Spirit Room behaved to myself and my system and how the accusers, so much like my own abusers, would stalk and harass their former associates in cold blood.

I made the right choice, is what I’m saying.

Fun fact, there exists on my camera roll footage of Jake in the background, taking a swig in response to Vali’s subpar karaoke. I loved scrolling through my phone’s memory and noticing it for the first time.

Jake, the owner, was a tall Appalachian with a red beard and a booming voice and had taken to introducing me to all of his favourite regulars, just so I would have people to talk to when I would come in. Jake had probably done the math– one queer transplant from another state, divided by one polycule, minus the fancy attire that were currently piled in plastic bags, plus getting the Tower card on Valentine’s day… He didn’t seem surprised that I told him that 2020 was not my goddamn year.

We were the only two in the bar one day when I decided to open up to him. First, about the bedbugs. The bar owner then disclosed his heroic story of how he managed to best New York City bedbugs with just boric acid. I explained what my roommate had done with the diatomaceous earth and he stared at me before tilting his head. “What sense does that make?”

“I dunno. D’you mind if I have another prosecco?”

I actually did tell him about my brief stint as the bartender of my New Year’s Eve party, how much fun I had making my own drinks. And– holy shit, he actually offered me a job. “We do an Apprenticeship here with bartenders. You start off as a barback and eventually start learning how to make drinks.”

We spoke about that possibility. He was offering me the rest of my prosecco for free now, so my confession about my enthusiasm for cocktails was now turning into more venting. About how my former housemates had felt about alcohol, what they had taken advantage of, what else they had judged when it was convenient to do so. “Oh, my old allies did something like that with me when I was cancelled–”

To his everlasting credit, he didn’t judge me or even seem confused about my DID. Not the disorder, not about the cult, not even about the faeries. “So, you gave other people keys to the castle before even knowing what the castle was built out of,” he surmised, accurately. Damn, have you been reading my blog? “It’s also not automatically a good thing if someone tells you they shared a past life with you. Sometimes they were a dick a thousand years ago too! Like yeah, maybe I do recognise you from a past life! You owe me money!” At this point, I was cackling over my champagne. “And yeah, let me add inflation into this bullshit! You owe me a wagon of gold and two pyramids now, motherfucker!”

I wasn’t hired immediately– I caught a virus the week after. If it wasn’t COVID, it was, at the very least, COVID-adjacent. Then my memory and crippling anxiety made me believe I’d botched the offer. I would be hired, just a couple of months later.

It would be more than a year from then when I would watch Jake give a job interview to who was soon to be a staff member.

“I don’t remember you giving me a job interview,” I said to Jake, then my boss, afterwards. “I just remember getting increasingly buzzed on champagne and trauma-dumping to you.”

This man looked me straight in the eye and told me, “That was your job interview.”

Oh.

Back in late November of 2020, my blogs were actually starting to gain traction. I never actually intended that to happen and I was honestly a bit flabbergasted.

“Hi, I don’t know you too well, but I started reading your blog. I had a partner start to do something similar with mysticism and spirituality and reading your blog help me make the decision not to move in with them. It ended up being the right choice. I’m also a system and that would’ve been awful.”

“Hey, my partner has DID. I showed them your blog and they got all excited, especially with how you describe your inworld and alters interacting and how real it all seems.”

I was helping people. I was helping people! Traumatised though I was, I was an alchemist in this literary kingdom, transforming my agony into gold.

It was utterly freeing, as if I had come tumbling out of one of the larger closets I’d ever been trapped in. I was now posting about my ‘dubiously real friends’ and inworld stories, conversations I was having with essentially my own brain… and people accepted it. I’d always sought, and usually earned, Facebook validation. But I’d spent years hiding whatever mystery locked inside my head. It was, at the very least, inauthentic.

And now, I was finally being seen.

There was also the entertainment factor. It was clear that I’d found a sort of niche of dark humour that actually had people demanding more.

My usual release date having been Fridays, I’d notice that towards Saturday mornings, I’d have a couple of DMs lamenting that I was late. As an author that was historically lucky to have five of my closest friends read my novels, this was transformative.

“Writing is my purpose now,” I would pen down into my journal. “I bleed through ink.”

My homelife, as doomed as it was at the beginning, fell into a blur around me as I dedicated myself to my blogs. I was digging further each time, starting to uncover the patterns in my partners, in my system, in my own reactions, in the sort of manipulation I was vulnerable to and how it worked.

But it took more than self-reflection to get answers; I needed witnesses. Spectre was instrumental. They revealed that this behaviour was a pattern of Zara’s, but as we spoke, we began zeroing in on Rowan’s history as well. “Reading your blog, I remember feeling the joy you described. Especially when Rowan was called an ‘Unseelie Fae King.’ Because they asked me a similar ‘who are you really?’ question,” they told me. “So, they kept trying to convince me that I was all these fantastical things. Rowan was firm that I had Fae blood. [Arkady] called me a changeling, among other things. And they tried to convince me that the headmate I’ve had since childhood, [ALTER NAME REDACTED], was a spiritual attachment. At one point, it was suggested by them that I take less of my anti-psychotics so I could channel him easier. Rowan just wanted to fuck [ALTER] in my body. Very clearly. Now I’m left questioning what [ALTER] really is. And now more than ever, I don’t remember who I am.”

Rowan.

It was odd, what rose-coloured glasses could do. It was only in this back-and-forth that I recalled a grim story I’d been told by Arkady. See, the couple had referenced early on that once, Arkady had been ‘abusive’ enough to have physically struck Rowan. I grappled with that idea for a while before I’d finally asked Arkady the full story, where he confessed that he had a headmate that Rowan was having issues with. During a nasty argument, Rowan told Arkady that this headmate wasn’t ‘real’, and dared the headmate to hit them in the face to prove they existed.

And this headmate did.

I remember the story had Arkady breaking down in tears and apologising profusely. Last I heard, he’s now regrets that this only happened once. But clearly, Rowan had a history of fucking with people’s headmates.

And, you know, there’s never an excuse to hit a partner. Generally. But I feel like, out of all the stories I’ve heard, that one might actually get a pass.

Oh, come on. Tell me you’ve read this blog and haven’t also wished Rowan had gotten clocked in the face more often.

It was around this time that Jane had contacted me. Jane now goes by Robyn Summers, full disclosure, but I’m not going through this blog and editing her entries with every name change. Again.

She did, through a couple of false examples laced in truth, point the finger squarely at Rowan. Maybe it was because she knew that I couldn’t bear to blame Arkady, maybe it was because Jane herself personally preferred Arkady to Rowan. Given their history, it’d be safe to assume.

But for the first time, I was finally starting to see Rowan as they truly were. She also disclosed a photo she and Vali had taken of my journal, with Vali’s vape and shirt fully visible.

Jane did have her uses, for about five minutes.

Posting this picture and revealing this made Vali mad, apparently. Bafflingly enough, their first line of action was to contact random Facebook friends of mine and babble off some word salad about how they weren’t the only piece of shit in the house.

It worked about as well as one would guess.

It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Obviously, Arkady was on my mind constantly. November 17th, his birthday, passed like a funeral. I still had no answers as to what had happened to him– what was happening with him.

I think it was Aberle pointed out to me that even if Arkady did start to see his predator of a fiance as they truly were, I was the worst to admit wrong to. I was the arrogant son of a bitch that one would double down in the face of just to avoid the agony of agreeing with. To which Kaspar delicately replied, “Oh, the poor dear. Humility? Perish the thought.”

But it was getting to me. Arkady, clearly, was surrounded by abusers. Rowan, who demanded he switch out with someone who wanted sex when Arkady himself wasn’t in the mood. Vali, who held everyone hostage with each and every trigger. Zara, who lied about one of Arkady’s friends simply to separate them. Rowan, who could turn a crowd against Arkady on a dime and has. Rowan, who once tried to kill them both. Rowan, whose response to Spectre expressing suicidal ideation to say they had some Nightshade they could lend them. Rowan, who once poisoned Arkady. Rowan, who could end up fucking killing him and I would be completely powerless to–

Fuck, mate.

Anyway. I had a nightmare.

It’s actually one of my worst nightmares to date. I’d been walking near Monroe Ave sometime at night– it was cold in the dream, too. The Oscar Wilde scarf Arkady had bought for me was wrapped around my neck. There were scant snowflakes falling from the sky. I could see flashing red and white lights in the distance, a stretcher being taken out of some sort of apartment.

I’d tried to draw my eyes away but I heard the distinct sound of Rowan’s keening voice making excuses. They were trying to make themself sound younger, more pitiful, by pitching their voice up. I’d seen them do it before. “He fell down the stairs! I don’t know what happened, he just fell! We had an argument and he was in a hurry to leave. I didn’t see it happen, neither of us did.”

No.

No.

It was then that my eyes were being pulled, unwillingly, to the stretcher, seeing a beautiful, familiar face– all too pale– being covered with a white sheet.

“He just tripped and fell!”

I’d hardly ever felt a dream so real. I don’t even remember closing the distance between Rowan and I, but I did. My hands were wrapped around their neck. I was slamming their head into the concrete below repeatedly and screaming– maybe words, maybe just a wordless howl of grief and rage. I didn’t care about prison in this warped reality. I probably wouldn’t have cared outside of it. A team of paramedics me couldn’t have ripped me away from Arkady’s murderer and they did try. The scene went on for a long time, seeming to stretch out for hours.

I think I’d almost killed them when I woke up.

To say I was rattled was an understatement. I was shaking, gasping for breath, the world around me spinning as I tried to connect my current scene to my last one. I was disturbed by how real this felt, falling into my old Fae House thoughts that maybe this was a vision I’d had of something that had already happened.

I was walking down Lake Ave in a flurry. I’d somehow, but not unreasonably, got it in my head that Arkady, in fact, had gotten killed by the abuser I failed to stop or even identify in time and that my friends were hiding that from me to spare me that heartbreak.

But of course, how would I even know otherwise?

That was an even more maddening thought, all considered.

I was pounding a familiar path to Lower Falls. It was a feature of the area that I usually bragged about, the fact that I lived a half hour walk from a goddamned waterfall. I think I initially started to go there to clear my head. Or maybe that’s just what I told myself.

A song I was somewhat unfamiliar with, ‘Achilles Come Down’ by Gang of Youths was blaring in my ear. I couldn’t remember putting it on. If no one’s ever heard it before, it has two voices in one head arguing about whether or not to jump off the roof or just to come down and make their pain into a motive.

I wasn’t stupid.

Xhaxhollari.

The water was low. The appeal of jumping, for me, was always the fact that there was a sweet moment between lift-off and impact– when I could find out whether or not I regretted it, figure out too late if I had anything much to live for anyway. Funny enough, AJ and I’d had taken pictures of each other there not long ago. I hadn’t enjoyed it for having been petrified that they’d just up and jump the falls in front of me.

Which would’ve been a bit impolite, but I wouldn’t have put it past them.

Don’t even think about it, fucker, you still have to take pictures of me.

Well, what if I beat them to it?

“You want the acclaim, the mother of mothers (it’s not worth it, Achilles)
More poignant than fame or the taste of another (don’t listen, Achilles)
But be real and just jump, you dense motherfucker (you’re worth more, Achilles)
You will not be more than a rat in the gutter (so much more than a rat)”

More out of curiosity than anything, I made my way to the top of the falls, staring down as my knees started to shake.

Then I was several metres away at the statue of Remembering and Forgetting, apparently having been scrolling on my phone for the past several minutes. Oh, we’re playing that game. Okay. I made my way to the falls again, this time at a run. I actually remember laughing breathlessly.

Then I was all the way up at Maple Rose Park above. Xhaxhollari wasn’t speaking to me yet, unless you counted playing ‘Achilles Come Down’ on repeat in my headphones. “Be done with this now and jump off the roof (be done with this now and get off the roof) So, then I really wanted to piss him off and walk directly to the river again– not even bothering with the Falls this time. There was a sheer cliff that looked friendly enough!

This blog has talked about suicide attempts of mine at length but this, my dear viewers, was simply a melodramatic tantrum in the grand scheme of things. I simply just didn’t care about the outcome, or didn’t know if I did. Deborah would have been filed a goddamned complaint.

Then I saw him. Xhaxhollari with all of his white-haired, winged, flustered glory. “Will you fucking STOP?”

I laughed. I’m always passively under the impression that Xhaxhollari either can’t or doesn’t prefer to curse, though that’s certainly not the case. Something about Mr. Be Not Afraid dropping F bombs amuses me to no end. “You intervened! No harm done,” I told him, forcing cheerfulness into my voice specifically to irritate him.

“You didn’t know I would, though!” He spread his wings out, creating a feathery wall between myself and the cliff.

I laughed again, a good indicator I was in the proximity of a mental breakdown. “I didn’t.”

The angel gave a pained look. “That was just a dream. A terrible nightmare, but nothing more,” Xhaxhollari implored.

“Yeah? Seems like the type of thing you’d hide from me.” I watched Xhaxhollari wince. I raised my eyebrows, ignoring the tiny jab of guilt within myself. “You never did tell me why. With the Kirra/Apollo debacle.”

“Would you have listened?” He sighed. “Can we speak about this away from the cliff?”

You know the strange thing? We actually did. I was walking in circles around the garden, damn-near giving myself frostbite, somehow listening to him simultaneously with the song. “Were you part of Neb?” I asked, hoarsely.

“Yes, and no. Up into a certain point. I started seeing her from a third point of view when we were… about twelve. When [Arkady] said it was a roleplay, there were chat accounts involved. I obviously didn’t know what a system was, but I thought Kirra– and those Kirra spoke of– were like us. And that chatting, as in… describing actions and reactions of everyone, controlling none of it, was linking the two worlds together… It was odd, but for a long time, Nebula’s and my life revolved around those Skype notifications. We’d panic if our phone was taken away. We lost so much sleep, just to make certain everything was alright…” He described how it went on for years, how he got to know everyone by essentially being the collaborating stenographer for how my system and Kirra’s characters were interacting. He also describes his horrified reaction when Kirra seemed willing and able to harm hers at will. “The healthier thing probably would have been to shut down communication between the worlds entirely. Amputate the false system to protect ours… But I didn’t know it was false. I thought actual people, like you or I, were in danger. And when you cut Kirra off, I too thought Apollo was another—… alter. And I couldn’t let him be alone.”

Couldn’t let him be alone.

Be alone.

That was what the entire system was fighting against, wasn’t it? Our weakness and our strength.

Somewhere, deep in only theoretical existence in time, was a scared and broken child that couldn’t bear to be alone again.

“Des souvenirs d’une patrie perdue, de l’espoir d’une terre promise, ce divorce entre l’homme de sa vie… ” (Memories of a lost homeland, hope of a promised land, this divorce between a man and his life…)

“We were alone too many times at too many pivotal moments,” Xhaxhollari told me, answering my thoughts. Forgot he could do that. “And it was also for you. You were deteriorating, not being able to understand your place in the world and what you had gone through. You were starting to fear that some of the best things in your life may have all been part of your imagination. You weren’t doing well. I sought to not only help you both, by maintaining access to someone like you, but– if I thought that Apollo was just Kirra by a different name, I would have never–”

“That, I do know.” I was chewing on my lip. I did, reluctantly, recall how I was in 2016– and how deliriously relieved I was that Apollo could see Prosper and Koji and Sumire and Cecil and everyone too.

That was the day we officially made up. He answered quite a few questions for me. At some points, he would refuse my knowing, but I suppose that is how it goes; this strange, fascinating disorder. He was also surprisingly validating, congratulating me on my strength in severing mine and Kirra’s romantic entanglement. “You’re the only piece of the inworld that has ever sustained on the outside. You, like many fictional characters, were created for those without a voice or inspiration. And you’ve done beautifully. Your entire reign as host has been, ‘Here I am, a nuisance, a thorn in everyone’s side, I am mostly discussed for reasons of outrage or exasperation, but I’m too powerful to be forgotten.’”

Flatterer.

We sat there for a long time, either bonding or gathering information for my blog, depending on which one you’d ask. I remember hearing the lyric,

“Where you go, I’m going, so jump and I’m jumping,
Since there is no me without you.”

I remember all those years ago, trying to talk AJ off the ledge when I still had it in me to do so. There was a time where if they’d gone, I would have gone too. But now, my system, my long-suffering system, was doing the same for me.

As there is no Living Fiction without me.

And there is no me without Living Fiction.

I would pen down into my journal, after getting feeling back in my hands– “The past may be horrifying, but with Xhax and I on the same page, we can make sure that it won’t be our future.”

Well, that was the goal, anyway.

It was around this time where the exterminators finally showed up by about early December. They were delayed by the holidays and, of course, they were seasonally busy anyway. I’d asked AJ to clean up the dust, but they pointed out that they now had a full-time job… –which they didn’t have in the days they first spread the dust and left it there for a number of weeks, but, you know. Try pointing that out to them.

Go ahead, I dare you!

We didn’t exactly get in trouble for trying to handle the situation on our own, but one of the exterminators did tell me, “You’ll need to clean the dust up.”

“Yeah, sorry. We were just trying to help you all out,” I lied.

“We appreciate that,” the exterminator said, picking up on my lead to begin this interaction by lying to one another. “We did what we could, but we may not actually get down into the surfaces. The dust is everywhere. It might get to the point where we’re just able to treat the top layer of dust.”

I was grimacing.

“We did spray all we could, though.” The exterminator assured me. “Now, this does take time to work. Over the course of the treatment, you’ll probably see them in odd places, probably plain sight. That’s because they’ll be dazed and dying.”

Well, that was good, at least.

AJ and I had hardly been around one another. Their work and my work ended up having us on opposite schedules, which I found with some awkwardness that I actually preferred. Ever since their comment about Arkady and the resulting suicidal tantrum, I’d considered myself somewhat divorced to them in my mind. I still loved them, yes, but their cons long outweighed their pros.

I didn’t know what I was waiting for.

Well. Okay, I did know. The pages of my own blog told me loud and clear. I had a history of hanging onto doomed relationships long after they’ve stopped working. Hell, I went through an extra fourteen months with Kirra after she’d broken my damn ribcage.

And now I was being mistreated by AJ but had managed to save up $700 to bribe them out of suicide.

I hated to admit it, but this was painfully on-brand for me.

Thankfully, it seemed like the next time the technician came out, he looked around and told me that there was a ‘vast improvement’ in the reduction of the infestation numbers. The bedbug problem was starting to be taken care of, despite AJ’s initial refusal. Their surgery was being saved up for.

I couldn’t fathom what else they could want from me.

December 19th, 2020:

“Do you ever worry that your inworld is so fantastical, whereas your outerworld has mistreated you, that you as an alter might disappear into there completely?”

It was another telehealth session with a counselor. I honestly forget who this is– maybe it was the new one, Megan. Wayne had actually left the practice, but Megan seemed to be doing her damndest to learn my 4D puzzle of history along with me. “No, it won’t work,” I said airily. “I already tried.”

I received startled silence on the other end of the phone. In retrospect, I’m beginning to see why my counselors have been even more short-term than my relationships.

AJ had actually started therapy, which– thank gods. I wanted to look this psychological professional up and kiss them square on the mouth. I was less encouraged by their surmising of the situation, though, in a conversation I will never forget.

“I feel like my therapist is just giving me the run around,” they griped.

I frowned, picturing that maybe this person wasn’t being upfront about the sort of therapy they were doing, or they hadn’t even done sessions yet. “What do you mean?”

“All they want to do is talk!”

Bruh.

I should be given a Nobel Peace Prize for filtering my first fifteen replies out of the equation. I still didn’t do the best job at hiding my incredulousness. “W-W-What else are you expecting them to do?”

AJ fixed me with a withering look, as if the question were utterly daft. “Fix it!” They gestured towards their lower half.

I–

Okay.

I’d been trying to rid the house of finely ground fossil sand. (I am so, so tired of typing out dia– diato– diaotonatious–maceous– Diao– THE DIRT.) Fun fact, if you try to vacuum this stuff up, it will create a cloud of airborne microscopic knives that should probably be outlawed by the Geneva convention. So, yes, not much progress on that.

In my cleaning, I was ordered to stay away from AJ’s largely unused room, as they were working on my solstice present in there.

I was about half-certain it involved a tree. I’d been sitting at the kitchen table one night, listening to an audiobook, when I glanced up and felt my brain scramble to try to make sense of what it was seeing. What it looked like was a living pine tree that opened the door, stuck its head in, and looked around as if looking for its goddamned car keys. What this actually was, was AJ carrying a the tree in above their head.

“Jesus christ,” I exclaimed. “You startled me!”

AJ’s comeback was actually pretty on-point. “What, did you think I was reverse-Grinching the place?”

I remember that I’d gotten them a solstice gift, a tarot deck of anatomical drawings. Despite my finer feelings being driven away from them like a quick erosion in a desert, I was still trying.

We decided to celebrate solstice together on the 19th, as I believe one or both of us worked on the actual solstice. It was this night that the grand reveal of my solstice present took place. It did, as I wagered, involve the tree. It was actually an Oscar Wilde-themed Christmas tree. AJ had decorated it with green carnations, peacocks, gold, green, and purples. It was actually quite touching.

They and I had a good night, for a while. I think we watched a film together. Which film or telly show, I couldn’t tell you. Oddly, I think it might have been Tiger King. I was pleasantly buzzed and somewhat content when I watched AJ wander to where the tree was and suddenly pause, staring right behind it.

It was almost absurd how incredibly still they stood. They reminded me of a pointer dog. “Uh. AJ?”

“I see a bug,” they said softly. “Right… there…” They reached out to point.

I half-expected them to start whispering ‘Red Rum.’

I stood up and crossed the living room to investigate. Sure enough, there was a bedbug, plain as day, on the wall behind my solstice present Christmas tree. “Oh, yeah. The exterminator did say we’d see them in odd places. Hopefully, the poison is working.” I tried to keep my tone as bright as possible, but all my mind could say was, ‘Don’t make it a thing, don’t make a thing, don’t make it a thing, don’t make it a thing.’

It was a lot like how my relationship with Kirra had gone. I’d once seen two full hours lost on someone having a differing opinion of The Dark Knight in front of her. This was all beginning to seem too familiar, and sure enough–

“I don’t understand how they’re still there!” AJ said sharply, as if I didn’t just explain it.

I tried it again, forcing myself to speak more slowly despite my nerves. “Yeah, the poison takes a while to work. Hopefully, this means that it’s starting to get to them and they’re all confused, dying, and limping around and such.”

“It isn’t working,” AJ said darkly, staring at me from the side of their eyes. “Something like this needs heat treatment or a full-house fumigation. The poison isn’t going to work.”

As doubtless as I was that AJ had done an enormous amount of anxiety-researching, I also intimately knew the extent of their blinding pessimism. “Well. The last time they were here, they said they saw a ‘vast improvement.’ Their words, not mine…”

“Whatever. I told my parents about how they’re treating the infestation and they said it’s not going to work. And my parents are always right when they say stuff won’t work out.” I’m not joking, this was their actual logic. That their life didn’t live up to their parents’ expectations and neither would exterminators. Whatever AJ’s therapist was being paid, it wasn’t enough.

Well, I’m sure Mike and Suzanne have plenty to say from the sidelines, but–… “I’d… really rather trust the professional’s opinion on this, if you don’t mind.”

That was apparently the wrong thing to say. They were frosty with me the rest of the night, doing that cliché routine of going to the kitchen and putting stuff away too loudly and slamming cabinets.

I looked at my phone, on one of those little apps for systems to chat with. We were actually starting to be more active– the only problem was that this didn’t give me a notification because, you know– my hands had typed it. I had to keep reminding myself to check and there was, in fact, a new entry. It was from Vex.

… Yeah.

Yeah, I do.

I think this was another moment in particular when that I felt my system supporting me. For months, I’d struggled with accepting my system– with the accidental betrayals, hidden secrets, and my own place as both an inworld-born fictive and a host. The entire business was an existential monstrosity.

But hell– I wasn’t alone. And I suppose I never would be, would I?

I forget exactly what I said as I heard AJ stomping down the stairs to go sleep in the driveway for the night. Something automatic and well-meaning like, ‘Sleep well,’ or ‘Have a good night!’

“GONNA BE HARD TO DO THAT WHEN I HAVE TO NEARLY FREEZE TO DEATH EVERY NIGHT!” They bellowed. I winced as they slammed the door, shaking the floor underneath me.

This… this wasn’t going to get any better, was it?

The next day, I brought it up through text. “You know this treatment takes a few days to work, right?”

The reply back: “Mkay.”

“Did you not know that? Because you seemed to take a lot out on me when you saw a straggler.”

An argument ensued.

I think this is the only relationship where I had to be like, “Can you please stop comparing me to your mum in arguments? It’s a bit creepy.”

Of course, it devolved into AJ obtusely saying, ‘Oh, sorry for daring to be upset in your presence.” I swear, AJ could win an Olympic gold medal for missing the point. They also referenced our conversation the night before, lambasting me for daring to agree with the landlord over them. “No, AJ. I didn’t say that. I agreed with the exterminators on an infestation matter over your parents.”

“I diDn’T SaY ThaT!” They typed back mockingly. “You’re like a shitty lawyer!”

This went on for a good while. I was at work– it was still pandemic slow, so I was able to have this entire quarrel with little or no interruption. Through that, I finally went off on them.

The ‘lying’ was in reference to how they tried to tell Facebook I was for conversion therapy.

You know, it’s a bit similar to how I broke up with Kirra. I was on a subject that I knew had been an area of contention and giving them room to make themselves further revolting to me before finally pulling the trigger. I don’t know if by doing this, I’m giving my partner one more chance to realise how fucked this is, or if I’m proving to myself that it’s this bad.

This person literally knew Kirra broke my ribs and made the ‘sneezes in your direction’ comment. Wild.

I’ve read through the entire conversation and it’s actually a bit hard to follow, as AJ and I were both typing back and forth so furiously that we would be responding to something five texts back. And at one point, I was also responding to them in text for what they were shouting over their Facebook timeline. Publically, while still friends with Rowan, Zara, Sage, and Arkady, I might add. But at some point, a confusion happened.

AJ was lamenting about how abusive/illegal it was for the landlord not to treat his property (He was????) when there resided someone who had an allergy to bedbugs, and that the landlord should have disclosed the issue with the bugs before someone with an allergy moved in.

Now, I’m firmly on the side of ‘Fuck landlords’, but AJ was essentially tearing this fucker a new one for not having a time machine.

I pointed out to them that they’d had no proof that they were allergic, especially as they had a rash by the time they moved in. So, what landlord would take that into account?

Now, looking back, the conversation being as rapid-fire and emotional as it was, I could understand how AJ might think that I was pulling into question the existence of the allergy. (Which… why?) But then I explained that I wasn’t, immediately. Which should have remedied the situation for basically anyone else.

As it happens, the A in AJ’s name does not stand for ‘astute.’

Looking at the timestamp, it took me a good hour to process that they had even said that. It was like taking a fall and only limping after the shock had worn off. I actually had to scroll up and read it again.

Well, thanks, Darling. I had plenty of reason, but I appreciate you making sure I’m current.

Did they just “I know you are but what am I?” THE BREAK-UP?????

Well, that was one chapter on my life closed. They would later on call me a coward for breaking up with them over text, but so be it. I broke up with Kirra that same way, so they should take all the meaning from that they can. Apparently, I’d lived more within text than outside of it anyway. I immediately had some rewarding feedback to this decision.

Though I have to admit, Casey’s reaction in particular was gold.

Whenever I reference breaking up with AJ, I will think back on the text they sent me November 9th. The one referencing Arkady, something entirely crafted just to hurt me where I’d already been destroyed. No partner worth having does that. The Gaslamp reference was less damaging, but an echo of what they felt ‘so bad about’ and were willing to repeat.

To this day, AJ and Kirra are the only ones in the outerworld where I actually initiated the break-up. Of course, I had my usual processing delay, but six weeks is still better than fourteen months.

I did worry about AJ possibly giving information back over to the Faerie house for revenge, but as it turns out, I need not fret–

They were doing that already.