Find my phone.
He did it without asking.
We were married at the time - it seemed like a nice thing for him to do.
“I’ve registered your new phone with a service that will locate it for you if it’s ever lost or stolen”, he announced one evening at dinner nonchalantly, tossing his blonde hair. He was so handsome when he was sober. I smiled and thanked him, grateful that he had been so thoughtful. There were plenty of occasions when he wasn’t - like the countless times he humiliated me in public, drunken and disorderly, disrespectful and contentious. “I can never be wrong.” He told me once, red-faced with eyes bulging during a heated discussion about his substance abuse. There are more stories than I can count that start with him and a drink in his hand and end with me in tears, but this is not a story about those days and nights. It is the story of a god-damned cellphone.
For the sake of conservative tradition and my Christian upbringing, I tried to stay with my man, I really did. Despite his drinking, despite his lack of employment, despite the fact that he played video games day-in and day-out while I went to work and returned home, despite the fact that he said “you’re welcome” after having sex with me, despite the fact that he had begun to phyisically threaten me - for years, ten to be exact, I stayed.
Then I couldn’t stay anymore. It was as simple as that, so I left.
I told him I no longer wanted to live with him, that I wanted a out, and even though I had been telling him for years that I was desperately unhappy, somehow only when I uttered the sentence “I’m moving out“ did he realize that I was serious.
I suppose it‘s the fault of American pop culture, that he believed he could slack in every single way as a husband, hell as an adult person, for ten years and then show a modicum of effort and suddenly be accepted back into my life with open arms. There were countless messages and calls begging me to return on that new cellphone of mine, but I stayed resolute. I was done. I tried to move on with my life. I lived with friends while still paying his rent in our old apartment, which was in my name - I needed to keep my credit intact, and I knew if I left things to him it wouldn’t be. I was trying to put my life back together piece by piece after a decade of being an unwilling mother to a fully-grown alcoholic, unemployed husband, but he refused to let me go.
I was out with a friend one night, when a message from my Ex flashed across the screen. I hadn’t blocked him, because I was trying to keep things civil for the divorce. “Where are you?” he asked. I didn’t answer - it was none of his business. Five minutes later an alert flashed on the screen of that expensive new phone. He was tracking me. Back when he announced that he had registered my phone, he failed to mention that it was attached to HIS email address. He prided himself on his hacker skills and often boasted of them at parties. My phone sent him my exact location. My friend suggested we leave to avoid a confrontation, so we did, but this only led to more tracking. Out of dumb stubbornness, I didn’t want to get rid of the phone. I had paid for it - it was expensive, and I didn’t want his obsessive behavior to force me to hide. I’m a writer and fairly allergic to technology, but I did everything I could to remove his ability to track my every move. I thought I had been successful because the alerts stopped. I went on with my life, progressing towards the divorce. Out of the blue, he told me that he was going on vacation and suggested that I come over to the apartment to get some of my things while he was gone. He specifically mentioned that I should get my files off of ’his‘ laptop, which had been ‘ours’ before I moved out. “It’s easy,” he said “you can just email yourself the files and then delete them.”
I hadn’t been in our apartment since the night I had told him, tears streaming down my face, that I could no longer live with him. I was apprehensive, but the season was changing and I needed warmer clothes. I was paying rent at my friend’s apartment as well as paying his rent in our old place and money was tight, so I welcomed the chance to retrieve my old clothes instead of having to buy new ones.
I will never forget walking into our old apartment.
It stank. Nothing had been cleaned or washed since I left all those months ago. Every trash can was full and there was not a single clean surface to be found, except for the coffee table in the living room. It was pristine. Only one item sat upon it in the midst of all the filth - the laptop. Taped to the top of the laptop was a pink note in his sloppy handwriting, “Don’t forget to get your files!”
It felt like a trap. It was.
I opened the laptop with trepidation - it seemed as if nothing had changed, but something inside of me told me to check the hidden files. This was an old trick of his that I knew from his propensity to hide porn on his compter in college. I unhid the files and was shocked to find a file called “Paige - tracking”. He actually called it that. I opened the file and found hundreds upon hundreds of screenshots of my location - at all bours of the day and night - EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. since I had left him up until the day he left on his vacation. I was stunned and resolved in that instant to get a new phone, damn the cost. I called a friend who understands technology far better than I do, and when I told her what I had found on his laptop, she yelled through the phone that I needed to immediately stop what I was doing. She gave me the name of a file extension and asked me to search the computer for it - I searched and found the program immediately. He had installed a key-stroke recording virus on the computer to record every move I made. If I had logged into my email as he had suggested, or logged into Facebook, or entered any other important passwords, he would have had them all via this program and I never would have known.
I looked further into the computer and found photos and videos of myself that I felt he no longer had the right to possess. I was not his property, and neither were my private images. I deleted the image and video files and, thanks to my friend’s advice, placed the files I needed to keep on a memory stick with the understanding that they might be infected with viruses as well and would need to be examined and potentially cleaned before I could access them. I was unsurprised to find new drug paraphernalia in the apartment, despite his claims that he had gotten clean. I gathered my things and, significantly shaken and upset, headed home. That day, I got a new phone and deactivated the old one, leaving it in a drawer, fearful of it as if it were a live thing that had betrayed me.
A few days later, he showed up at my doorstep.
“I see you found the files on my computer,” he said with a sneer of superiority. “Guess I won‘t be able to track you anymore. New phone, huh?”... I started to close the door, but he stopped it with his foot. “I ALSO saw” he said dramatically, pausing for effect, “that you tried to delete our videos and your pictures. That’s cute.” He flicked a small USB drive at me through the slit of the open door. “Here’s your copy.”
Obsession has many forms and is often portrayed as a romantic attribute, but obsession and possession are very closely related. My Ex was obsessed with me because he felt that he POSESSED me. I am not an object to be owned and tracked and retrieved. I am a human being, who has the right to remove herself from a situation in which she is not happy and does not feel safe. No person deserves to be treated in the way I was, but it happens every day, predominately to women of every age, race and religion. My Ex should have been trying to find his identity, his humanity, his sense of decency instead of my damn phone. Whoever needs to hear this: You Are Not Property! Marriage does not equal ownership. You are not a phone.
#Obsession #posession #findmyphone #stalking #technology #divorce
The Rag Doll
Before I was a doll, I was several dozen rags,
before I was the rags, I was made of hand-me-downs,
I was shirts that were too small, and skirts that had a stain,
pants that had a tear, overalls covered in paint.
Before I was these things, I was bought and sold in stores,
displayed in shiny packages and hung to be admired,
before this, I was fabric, pristine and pressed and new,
and before all this a bushy ball of cotton in a field,
a plant grown from the dirt that I now sit upon and rot,
as a rag doll with one eye, a crooked smile and dirty hair.
I was loved and I was useful in all of my forms but now,
all that I can do is hope I will return into the dust
that gave birth to me, so that I can begin my life anew.
Gone with a trace
There is a place inside my brain where I have kept her,
The person I was before all of this came to be,
the person I can never be again.
I dare not utter her name for fear that my new life,
and my new identity will dissolve like a Fata Morgana
in the blinding heat of truth.
She is there inside of me and yet not there,
An echo, a memory, a phantom limb