Dating Red Flags: Desensitization to Seething Anger
Originally published on ChapterTK.com
I don’t know what teenager TK thought she’d get out of prom night. She was never the type of girl who fit into the stereotypical high school mold. She looked at the world differently than many of her peers yet, for some reason, prom was important to her. It was an experience she’d only get twice. Her thought process was that, even if it sucked, she’s have the experience. What was one more night of potential horror after all her years?
I not only valued the experience of prom for myself, but for those around me. Having heard that my clingy, obsessive boyfriend Zachery had declined to attend prom as a junior, I knew this was his last chance. If he needed to keep me as his girlfriend to go, then that’s what I would do. Also, breaking up with him just before prom would look just as bad as breaking up with him just after my birthday.
I may have looked at my world a bit differently than my other peers, but clearly I was still a teenager with that ignorant train of thought.
After the red carpet event had ended and the parents left the roller rink, prom proceeded much like any high school dance ever did. A small group of people danced near the DJ. Everyone else stood in small clusters talking and laughing. Maybe that sounds like a lame dance, but I was more than happy to chat away with my friends. Besides, after the way Zachery had been acting all night, I was in no mood to dance with him.
Of course, Zachery had his ways. I could see him shaking and feel his grip on my arm tightening with every passing slow song. Eventually, I relented to one awkward dance. We did the hug and sway. I wasn’t completely comfortable with even that contact, but at least he kept his hand off my ass. As an added bonus, I didn’t have to look at his face with my head rested on his shoulder.
After one song, I figured I had done my duty as Zachery’s date and returned to my circle of friends. Really, I was the only one talking to anyone. Zachery maintained his usual silence and didn’t appear like he even wanted to be a part of the group. He stood clearly outside of our circle, the only indication he knew anyone there was his death grip on my arm.
By this point, I was determined to have a good time in spite of his animosity. So long as he wasn’t grabbing my ass or boobs, I was happy to leave him be. Let him grip my arm. Let him stand outside of our group. I didn’t care.
I think a part of me had become desensitized to Zachery’s behavior. His glares, the way his body shook when he was angry and the tight grips he kept on my arms or hands were all normal to me. I figured I was doing a good job of acting like nothing was wrong. Besides, who would see anything wrong with a boy hold his girlfriend’s arm? What a petty thing to complain about.
At one point during the night, Zachery and I sat at a small table by ourselves. A friend approached and asked if she could talk to me, motioning me to go towards her. I told Zachery I’d be right back and went to see what she had to say. She walked me to the other side of the roller rink and into the women’s bathroom.
“You have to stay away from him,” she said.
Turns out, Zachery’s actions weren’t going as unnoticed as I assumed they were. She saw the way he looked at me and noticed the death grip on my arm. Feeling like I finally had the go ahead, I vented all my worries onto her.
Zachery not only made me fear for my safety, but the safety for others. I’d seen him purposely try to run over baby rabbits. I’d heard him joke about bringing guns to school events. I’d read the emails and random poems he sent me, which left me thinking he might take his own life if I broke things off. I was at a loss, but that dear friend showed me the failure of my thought process. If my breaking up with him motivated him to take his own life or doing something else horrendous, the fault would not be on me.
You can’t imagine how monumental that realization was for me. I’m not sure how long I would have gone on dating him otherwise. Sure, I had plans to break up with him two weeks after prom, but I’m not convinced I would have followed that plan through had I thought I would be at fault for any action he took against himself or others.
I assured my friend that I recognized all that was happening and that I would be done with him in two weeks. Still wanting me to stay away from him, we left the restroom and joined our group of friends without seeking out Zachery.
For a short time, I truly enjoyed prom. I talked and danced with friends free of a shadow or grip. Eventually, Zachery found us and I made some half-assed excuse about how we didn’t see him in the crowd and figured he’d find us eventually.
I could see his anger seethe and was grateful to be in such a public space.
We’re nearing the end of the series. What do you think will happen between TK and Zachery after the dance? Will Zachery’s anger become to great? If it does, how will he lash out? Will anyone be there to bear witness?