Just so you know, there was enough penance to go around. Even though it was an explosive mess, there were little triggers all over the place I started to take stock of almost immediately. Besides the little moments that I scoffed off as two erred people in a partnership, there were big ones. Like the time we were heading to an evening of performances by solo youth symphony performers and I was griping as per my usual custom in the car, but M stopped the car in the middle of the road and screamed at me. I was stunned by his extreme reaction, whatever it was he said, out of nowhere, but I had apparently said the wrong thing in the wrong way and we almost turned around. I only felt momentarily attacked but then admitted that whining about things as I had done with K was probably not the best way to continue.
When I was on the back porch reeling and rocking night after night, or crying, or both, his reaction changed from stoic observer over a week to a rigid, red-faced pitch. I thought he was frothing at me out of tough love. He was actually quite stern with me on a number of occasions, and I would have only registered the sum total as amounting to nothing more than relationship hiccups, except when I couldn't understand other emotionless, arbitrary stances he had and question him angrily, it would invite draconian responses.
I remember sleeping away many mornings believing there was nothing on the agenda, only to find M had been up for hours, hadn't bothered to wake me, and scornfully contemptuous about all his plans that I was ruining with my alleged flaw. But when I asked that he let me know of any plans he had the night before, a simple solution that would have alerted me in advance to be up in good time, he would not respond, not even so much as to agree or disagree and continue on his haughty path. This pattern eventually resulted in huge fights because I would feel
guilty and angry and he didn't even so much as refuse to provide
me the courtesy of including me in his next-day plans. I was just the lazy ass.
His extreme patterns brought me instant self-awareness, if for no other reason it was a type of shock therapy. Here was a person I assessed and deemed to be both more vocal and far less bound to put up with my shit than my ex. I don't know that I was so much as scared that M would dump me on the side of the road or abandon me in a province a trillion miles away from anything I ever knew, but I was mindful that he could. I let M call me out on my bullshit, let him have the upperhand, even when my temper was going to boil out of my mouth, even when I knew he was being unfair because I couldn't find my words. But I began approaching him with an increasing, heightened sense of caution.
In addition to and in complete contrast to the mounting tensions, there were all three activities I had that he would follow me to in the meantime. Community band, French class, but then finally youth symphony. They were suggestions he made and helped intitiate. But he came along and stuck around as though I was so broken that I couldn't handle it alone. He seemed to be so proud of me getting back to playing bassoon and helped me acquire the rental of one. But he was always around. A little too much. I learned how to understand music conducting in French, I could infer that without his help. I didn't shy away from being instructed in French, either, but I wouldn't have done that anyway. The instructor seemed to mind but not say anything and eventually M would let me go alone. My French instructor, however, asked him to not be there explicitly; and so by the time youth symphony came into the picture, M was only ever mildly involved in being around during practices. But my half-my-age friends in the symphony noticed and remarked how much he must love me because he was always pacing the lobby when we came down after rehearsal.
His awkwardness filled all the rest of the gaps. From his superficial views on religion and relationships to the vexed brooding brewing below the surface, he slowly, unwittingly revealed an inflexible and unrelenting monster. Fights between us increased in number and voltage. He would often refer to himself as "innocent" and it would catapult me into the fourth dimension of anger. He was anything but innocent.
By the time he got the job that moved us back west, I was quite sure we were done. I had no idea of how to ensure my exit, but I know that I wanted to. And that meant sucking it up and playing the game back until we got here. There was something intrinsically wrong with him. It wasn't just me anymore. Between the incident where my legitimate questions provoked a fight and resulted in him screaming and pleading with me to understand his pain and finally digging the plastic part of a razor into his arm and the other random vitriol, I knew it wasn't just me.