Readers discretion is advised. All the story and figures are fictional.
I read my boyfriend’s journal but wasn’t prepared for what it told me. Finding Eddie’s journal isn’t hard because he’s never made an effort to hide it. Until now, I’ve never given him a reason to do so.
He left for work only minutes ago, kissing the bridge of my nose before slinging a worn JanSport over his shoulder and reminding me that he’ll be home in six hours, if I want to stay until then. I’d pretended to be half-asleep and lazily nodded my head.
In reality, I’ve been plotting this for days. I realize I probably won’t find anything noteworthy, but I need the reassurance.
You have to understand that I wasn’t always like this. Before Eddie, I would’ve been horrified if you’d told me I was going to become that girlfriend, the crazy one who insists on checking her boyfriend’s texts before he can even open them. The one who calls his friends to crosscheck his alibis. Was Eddie at your house last night? Yeah, I’d never be that girl.
It doesn’t occur to me that maybe I shouldn’t be dating someone whose journal I feel inclined to read, someone who is so dishonest that I defend breaching his privacy as necessary.
Instead, I find the most recent entry and begin to (unsuccessfully) scan each page for other woman's name. Some entries are so mundane (Ate at nearest restaurant and watched some movies) that I start to think I must’ve been delusional to suspect Eddie might be capable of such an exciting deception.
The relief is instantaneous, and I chastise myself for doubting him. Once I’ve read all of the entries from the past two weeks, I decide I might as well continue. I want to know him, this version of his self he’s kept hidden from me.
An entry from March (it’s now June, if you were wondering) describes a dream, which strikes me as strange since Eddie keeps a separate notebook specifically for entries about dreams: I dreamed about Nicola again last night. We were making out in my bed, about to have sex, and then I woke up. I don’t know why I still think about her. I want to fuck her so badly. I think about it all the time, and I don’t think I’ll be able to stop until I actually sleep with her.
For a brief moment, I nearly convince myself that this must be a fictional piece, but denial can only last so long, who the hell is Nicola?
Though I can’t remember Eddie mentioning her, I notice that she frequently resurfaces in the surrounding pages, an object of his, often sexually explicit. Much more frequently than I do, at least. In fact, the entries in which I’m mentioned usually go something like this: “Saw Adeline again today. Don’t really know what we’re doing.”
I am Adeline, by the way.
The realization that our relationship hasn’t rearranged his life quite like it has mine violently assaults me. I’m ambushed by my own naivete.
And I can’t look at his ugly words anymore. Thoroughly confused, I lift my head. He’s pinned memories to this board, photographs, concert tickets, etc. He’s afraid of forgetting things, he’s told me, and he hopes these tokens might help him remember.
I focus on the photo placed at the center of the corkboard. It’s a candid portrait, taken five years earlier of Eddie and his high school winter formal date, whose name I suddenly remember: Nicola.
I know her. Or of her, at least. She goes to my college. Conventionally pretty, one year older, in a sorority. Eddie and I have seen her on campus before, when he’s visited me. He called her a bitch both times, but back then I hadn’t realized that men who call women bitches often just haven’t gotten over the sting of being rejected by those women.
The bitter disgust that’s been mounting inside me has morphed into an uncontrollable, seething rage. Who exactly have I been dating for the past two years? I want to scream, to hit him. I did once in a crowded parking lot, a hard slap across the chest after he criticized a pair of shoes I was wearing.
But to hit him now doesn’t seem like enough. I consider other ways of making a statement -– I could rip out the pages of this stupid little book and scatter their wilted shreds around his room. I could write in red lipstick (or maybe my own blood?) on his wall, “YOU ASSHOLE” or something more cutting that’ll make him feel both humiliation and regret.
Instead, I decide to call Amanda, my closest friend since fourth grade, who consistently provides the sanest advice of anyone else I know.
“I’ve done something very bad,” I confess as soon as she answers her phone.
“Did you cheat?” she asks.
“No,” I say slowly. “I read Eddie’s journal.”
She insists that I have to confront him, or else my newfound knowledge is going to slowly devour me.
And so I meet Eddie for lunch.
“You’ve done the one thing I asked you not to do,” he whispers. “I will never be able to trust you again.”
Because he seems so pathetic and I have no other words, I find myself apologizing. I tell him I’m ashamed of what I’ve done, that I’ll overlook his indiscretion as long as he doesn’t break up with me. Even as I’m begging for his forgiveness, I know that I’m prolonging a relationship that’s desperately unhealthy and not likely to survive another summer.
But I don’t want to leave without knowing he loves me most.
Eddie tells me he’ll try to get over Nicola. Closure has been difficult, he admits, because their short romance ended in an unresolved argument. If I just allow him to call her one last time, he’s sure that his feelings will dissipate. She’s a fantasy he’s kept alive because he no longer knows the reality of her, can’t I understand?
I guess I can.
We last another six months before I realize I’m still not the one Eddie thinks about while brushing his teeth or driving to work. I no longer have the energy to spend hours analyzing Nicola’s online profiles, wondering what exactly makes her more desirable to him than I am. I tell him I think we need to stop seeing each other. It’s a clean ending, and I mostly manage to erase him from my life.
Now years later, I sporadically wake up to missed calls and emails from him. He wants me to join him on LinkedIn, or on Google Plus. But not on Facebook, because I blocked him after he refused to stop sending me friend requests.
There are times when I consider the sad truth that I may be Eddie’s new Nicola.
“He’s obsessed with you now,” friends tell me.
It doesn’t feel like I’ve won much, aside from some lingering trust issues. I had to leave him to steal her imaginary throne, a throne I’d gladly relinquish. And I pity the girl who comes next.