He fancied himself a “self-aware” socialist & feminist, and was ashamed of his namesake and roots to Slavic nobility. Therefore, I cannot think of a better suited nickname for him than The Czar.
(Content warnings going forward: varying degrees of detailed accounts of sexual abuse, abandonment, suicide attempts, gaslighting, financial devastation, and hospitalization. Proceed with your heart’s caution.)
This won’t be the first time I’ve written about him OR his emotional footprint upon me, as shown by Exhibits A, B, and C. But each one of those were written from a tender time in my recovery, with my instinct for survival muddied by a misguided hope for civility, with none of my words packing the punch that accurately told my story.
This the real story.
Before we go forward, it is important for you to understand 2 things:
1) He was generous. But he was never kind. He gave, bought, and traveled freely because he could, and because he knew it would curry favor, and because no financial burden was ever enacted to tell him he couldn’t.
2) Respectability, turning the other cheek, forgiveness, and rising “above” anger are not in it, and I am not here for them. If you are looking for a story where friendship and mutual respect conquer hate, this is not for you.
At the time I met The Czar, in September of 2013, I was already desperately searching for my other half. The problem with that, of course, is that I considered myself half a person. So when a snide exchange with a pretty young man on a polyamory forum blossomed into a friendly series of private messages, I had little interest in caution. That he was Seattle resident currently on business location in Florida was immediately congruent with my planned escape from an unhappy existence in the Sunshine State. If nothing else, he symbolized freedom.
Wanda from Bojack Horseman said it best: “You know, it’s funny; when you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.” There were immediate and numerous Red Flags surrounding The Czar. He would declare himself both a troll (delighting in teasing me based on things I painfully admitted were soft spot) and an ally (schooling me in the 101’s of Cultural Appropriation, Classism, and Reverse Discrimination Fallacies, as my feminism in those days was admittedly pretty white) in the same breath. He seemed vaguely aware of the rent hikes and increasing gentrification of Seattle, yet flagrantly and carelessly spent the copious money he earned under his rich Dad’s law firm on Ubers to places that easily could be walked or bussed or $1,000 suits he only planned to wear once. He would ask me personal questions like “do you like it rough” before we ever actually had our proper meet-cute, and yet never actually follow up on it, instead, sloppily rushing through intercourse like a teenager before leaving me cold while he spent the rest of the date having a nap. Any attempt to bring up his affection-inconsistencies would result in a petulant, “why do you have to be so serious?” and “You make it really hard to talk to you.”
Those were our first few long distance months together, with him coming to see me in Florida twice before I made a bold move and flew out to Seattle to see him for date 3. Because he largely ignored my presence in favor of working all night and sleeping all day, I quickly learned my own way around Seattle, and instantly fell in love. Here was a city where I could start over and be myself.
By the time I came home, I made Seattle a mission; a goal. But somewhere between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, I lost focus, and began to transfer that love from city to man. Even uneasy with his cool, detached tendencies, I let myself fall into the void as “I love you’s” were exchanged. Over a romantic getaway in New York City in January of 2014, in which he took me to the Metropolitan Opera but then snored through most of it, he convinced me to move in with him. Dazzled by the escape of Florida, and the boyish good lucks of A Nice Guy, I ignored my better judgment. I said yes. By March of 2014, I packed my entire life into 2 suitcases, signed over my car, and bought a one way plane ticket. I was free.
With me so quick to throw caution to the wind, it’s difficult to say at what point things began to degrade. He immediately encouraged me to forego getting a “muggle job,” and “not worry about money” so that I could Pursue The Arts™, but quickly became dependent my willingness to feed, launder, and clean up after him daily, citing, “without you I’d be wallowing in my own filth.” He, on the surface supported the growing of my beard & joining Wreckless Freeks, but slowly began to become less and less interested in seeing me as a sexual being unless the initiation be entirely his. He would cry in my lap about his anxiety and how women would call him “creepy,” but quickly scolded, ignored, or talked down to me when my own anxiety would flare.
On top of that, I began to discover he could only tolerate me when I was adorable. When he could laugh at me saying hello to the pigeons and crows on the street, or when we would watch football and I would express the wish that “both teams would win,” or when he could snicker in public as I tried to fumble, embarrassed, with chopsticks at restaurants. Before long, feeding him & making him laugh were the only times I didn’t make him angry. So I swallowed up portions of myself so that Cute Mama Bear became the only Bear I felt safe to show.
By latter half of 2015 the cracks were beginning to show. Whether swept away on trips to NYC or Tampa, or in our own oversized loft (a lofty tower that was separated by every sense of the word from the rest of the struggling city), we were always fighting. Fighting that he never came to my Freek or Burlesque shows because they “bored” him (and, re: Burlesque – “if I want to see tits, I’ll go watch porn”). Fighting that I wanted more to our relationship than eating takeout in front of a TV. Fighting that I wanted to be seen as an entire, sensual woman, and not just a cuddly bear cub. And while I entered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (which I am still in this day), he continually promised and failed to deliver on his promises to go into therapy himself. Instead, any pleas for mending were met with the trump card of, “You’re just like my mother.” He often stated that he hated his mother. What color were those flags, again?
By that time, a dangerous, ugly, dynamic reached a head: the more he ignored me, the more I ached for him, and the more it turned him off. And the more turned off he was, the more I ached. He knew this. He knew by then he nary had to ask for me because I would have stopped whatever I was doing for his touch, my body a starved shell of a being. So he stopped asking, and just took.
Now, on paper, withholding of sex seems like, if anything, the opposite of rape. But withholding, intentionally, because you have deemed your partner undeserving, only to allow them to become so frenzied with need that you can shove them face down whenever you please and fuck them without a word of permission, consent, or tenderness? That, my friends, is sexual abuse.
The Czar did this to me – sexually abused me – for at least the last six months of our relationship.
On January 7th, 2016 I accompanied him to Mens Wearhouse to purchase a suit for an impending business trip. An associate benignly asked, “big day?” I, now defeated and complacent in realizing I was with a man who would never marry me (he pretentiously sneered at marriage as “bourgeois”) began to unravel. We tried talking it out over dinner. I bit into a burrito and realized I had taken half a cockroach with it. It was both the least offensive thing to happen that night and was, what I should have recognized to be an omen. We continued to fight back in our Lofty Tower. I wanted a husband and a lover. He wanted, without saying it in so many words, a mother and a buddy. And then he pulled out rifle of a statement and shot me square in the chest: “You Turn Me Off.”
For a brief moment, I tried to show the man who taught ME so much about social justice and oppression, how misogynist and damaging it is to reduce a woman – THE woman you love – to a failure based on the very insecurities she trusted you with, but there was no love in his eyes. Only freedom. For all the suffering I would carry for the next year, the strange fact remains: I hammered the final nail and said, “then I guess that’s it.”
I was then gifted with more reality, as the rose tint faded from my glasses and The Revolutionary became, so transparently now, The Czar.
The man who fought against classism told me I had a month to find a place to live, broke or not.
The man who fought against inequity told me to just “couch surf for a while.”
The man who fought against casual misogyny told me I was no better or worse off than he, who was able to keep not just our home, but his financial security and the cat we bought together.
The man who fought against ableism walled himself in his office playing video games with friends as I scurried frightened, to create a GoFundMe and apply for food stamps.
Despite the tyrant that stood before me, unmoved by any of the changes, I still tried to remain friends, while I moved into a friend’s living room, crying myself to sleep at night on her floor. I tried to remain friends while I planned to down an entire bottle of his Vistaril and check myself in. I tried to remain friends while he glibly took advantage of my kindness, asking to house sit his – our – apartment and his – our – cat while he went on another vacation to NYC.
And finally, by February 6th, 2016, I had run out of kind. All that was left in me was sad.
I had a new mission: A Mission To Die.
The apartment was filled with ghosts of a love that was both no more and never was.
I put on my most revealing dress, my best cat-eyeliner, played the Final Lair scene of Phantom of the Opera, sat in what used to be my office, drank half a bottle of vermouth, duct taped a plastic bag to my head, and waited for the end of sadness; for freedom.
My body’s instinctual will to live fought against every fiber of emotional being ready to die, and ripped open the bag. The next day I tried the same, and the same happened moments before I could pass out.
The next day I told my therapist and found myself, understandably, strapped to a stretcher in an ambulance, being admitted. After overnight on said stretcher in a hallway, and the next day in an awful hold-over ward, I was transferred to the University of Washington’s Mental Health Ward, where I spent the next 10 days eating, crying, writing terrible poetry, and hugging trees whenever we were taken out for a walk. I must have thought myself pretty deep. In reality, I had lost my fucking mind.
The Czar came to visit on day 8, and I was prepared. The time away further melted the rose pigment from my vision and I began to become keenly aware of the disparity between He the Socialist and He The Socially Accepted. He was no Barricade Boy. He was Javert in disguise as one.
But the closest thing I had to dragging him into an alley way was bringing this to his attention; that love with the ability to let a partner – even a former partner – be reduced to poverty without concern was not love. He countered with telling me I was using social justice language to manipulate him into guilt. That he would require manipulation to feel an ounce of guilt says everything. I knew I’d lost the fight. There was no lover, no friend, no human left. Just power, safety, comfort and clout. And apathy.
After my release, I sought comfort where I could find it. I fucked a lot of people. I performed in Dallas Texas, Portland OR, and landed a burlesque AND acting gig in Los Angeles (working alongside Sir Patrick Stewart on Blunt Talk). I started smoking weed. I began packing on weight, eating everything in sight. I applied for day jobs. By my 33rd birthday on March 25th, I was so desperate for a numbness to replace the rawness of what felt like Emotional Chub Rub – the reality of What I Felt and What I Should Feel chafing together until red and sore. A few days later I was back on a ledge, this one literal. I wrote a Goodbye post, and made my way to the West Seattle Bridge. Enough people called to successfully talk me down but not before a phone call from the Czar, promising kindness, civility and friendship if I got down, with one hand, while he immediately after blocked me on every form of communication & media with the other.
The complete absence of him from my life at first felt like an actual hole in my being, and devastated me. But the absence also began to allow me to enter the first stages of healing. I moved out of my friend’s living room and into a house sitting gig in Lake City. I suddenly had a day job which allowed me to further bury my grief in food and weed. I passively day dreamed of more ways to kill myself, the thought of ending it easier than trying to move on. My friends at first loving and concerned now graduated to fearful, and in some cases just impatient and annoyed. I was diagnosed with PTSD, my brain registering what happened not as A Sad Thing, but an actual event of danger. I didn’t remember. I re-lived.
With a proper diagnosis, income, and a gradual move towards independence – from house sitting to subletting in Maple Leaf to finally renting my Own Apartment by August – I gained clarity. The glasses were clear. But with clarity came anger.
Anger that there was no justice for a mentally ill, cosmetically marginalized poor woman against a wealthy, able, stable, pretty white man-child.
Anger that what I thought was a year of bad sex was Legitimately Sexual Abuse.
Anger that while my devotion and love, while co-dependent, was pure and met largely with mocking and condescension.
Anger that my years of Emotional Labor was repaid by abandonment for being too emotional.
There would be no justice in the law. only in my words.
It’s been a year and a half since I fled The Czar, and almost a year since moving into the small pink apartment whose hue replaced the once rosy color of my denial.
I haven’t seen him since a few days before I tried to jump to my death, in March of 2016.
I don’t know where he is or who he’s fucking. I’ve heard stories him trying to continually creeping into the pants of other women through his clout as an “ally” to women. A lot of friends and acquaintances have admitted that he was mincing, cold, and condescending from the get-go, but stayed silent for my sake. He will never feel pain for what he did because he cannot feel. His privilege allows him that, locked away in his Lofty Tower.
Me? I’m still navigating my way through it all. My PTSD has left me with something of a tick, having to physically shudder myself out of the occasional disassociation. I’m still working on shedding my grief-weight. A little less trusting, a little less adorable these days. My glasses remain clear. My apartment remains rosy.
The embarrassment of being a “kept woman” in a tower was eventually eclipsed by annoyance with it, and is now, oddly, replaced with smug satisfaction. For all the abuse I suffered under him, and emotional labor I labored freely, money was the literal least he could have offered in return.
The Czar will never be sued, fined, tried or arrested for abuse to me, and due to his financial status and clout, outing him, for me, is dangerous. He will fool more women with revolutionary rhetoric slithering off of a tyrant’s tongue. He will continue a cycle of lesson-less luxury.
The only justice I will ever have are my words.
These words are my truth.
These words are THE truth.
These words are the story of a love, a tyranny and a tragedy.
These words are how I survived.
In 2016 I fled the Czar. I cannot believe I lived to tell the tale.
But I did.