“Don’t worry,” my boyfriend said.
He was relaxed in the driver’s seat of his truck, tapping his fingers gently on the steering wheel. His face was flushed from our earlier argument and my declarations of displeasure – I’d complained that he was way too possessive, and I didn’t really love how he always demanded to know where I’d be and when – but his voice remained soft and calm. “Just stay calm,” he instructed again, and drove past the exit that would have taken me back to my small apartment, to my friends, to people who knew me. “I’m not going to let you run away from the way we are together. We belong together, no matter what. So we’ll talk this out as long as it takes.”
He’d never been violent with me, though his embarrassingly possessive nature, his obsession with my schedule, and his over-the-top declarations and acts of love both concerned and mortified me. I’d had more than enough, and I didn’t want to talk it out or be together. Yet here I was, locked inside a truck with a man who had no intention of returning me to my home, even though I’d stated clearly and repeatedly that home was where I wanted to be. His need to prove our love was greater than any need I had to feel safe, and I wondered what to do as he sped up to pass yet another exit. I was excruciatingly aware that both my phone and purse were out of reach, tucked away where I couldn’t get to them. So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time:
I punched the window of the truck with my hand.
It accomplished nothing, of course, beyond causing bruises that would take days to fade. But the dull thud got his attention. And as he glanced over at me, I unbuckled the seat belt, unlocked the door, and wrapped my fingers around the door handle. I remember that I spoke with absolute calm and absolute conviction. “If you do not turn around and take me home right now,” I told him, “I am going to throw myself out of this truck.”
Spooked either by my tone or my intensity, he turned around and he took me home. But that isn’t what I remember. What I remember is that after I got back and shared the story with family and friends – expecting a horrified “he did what?” – the response I got instead was, “Well, it was a little crazy, but he acts like that because he loves you. It’s kind of romantic, in a crazy way.”
And that is the myth I refuse to write: the myth that love inherently involves coercion and the slow erosion of resistance.