One time, not recently but a few months ago, I watched my boyfriend close and lock the door to our apartment. After walking two and a half blocks away from our place, I felt the deep compulsion to go back and check that the door was locked. I fought the feeling for twenty minutes, but I couldn’t move past it and had to walk back and check for myself.
“Trust me,” he said.
My classic response: “I don’t even trust myself.”
It’s not even that I don’t trust myself; if I am being honest it’s more that I am afraid. I’m afraid of our apartment being broken into, either while I am inside it or while I am out in the world. It’s not that I own anything particularly valuable to anyone else; rather it’s just the idea that someone I don’t know and might never will can gain access to the only space over which I have complete control.
I am also afraid of driving and of accidental manslaughter, of eating PB&J’s around strangers with potential nut allergies, of getting on/off the wrong subway stop, of having a latent incurable disease that no one knows about, of causing pain when I didn’t intend to. I am afraid of not living up to my aspirations, of failure, of contracting paroniquia from constantly picking the skin around my fingers. This is a partial list.
To negate the fear of home invasion, the trick is this: lock the door from the inside and slam it shut while standing outside. Then, wiggle the doorknob to hear the internal clicking mechanism. You need to hear two clicks in both directions (four clicks in total) and then you can leave. On the inside of the apartment, you need to lock the bottom lock, then shove the door in place for the deadbolt to be able to click, then pull the chain over. This is the system that needs to be adhered to. There are no alternatives.
When I moved in with my boyfriend, he wouldn’t follow the system.
“Trust me,” he said.
But how could I? He’s not terrified about general life activities like I am. He’s one of those people who have a casual sense of bravery- a combination of assurance and confidence that equals a type of never ending practical faith in the universe. I’ve never seen him get up to make sure the stove is turned off. Loud unidentifiable noises from other apartment units don’t bother him, nor does he ever equate them with home invaders or potential gas leaks. He doesn’t lock his car because he trusts that nothing will happen to his CD collection and pink tree air freshener. So far, nothing has.
The more I fall in love with this man the more my fears and paranoia have begun to revolve around him. What if the train he is on crashes or falls off a bridge? What if he gets sick? What if he steps off the curb right before the light changes and a car hits him? What if he decides he doesn’t love me and leaves me with a bunch of houseplants that I consistently forget to water?
Logically, I know that none of these fears are reasonable. Furthermore, I know that if he does leave, I’ll eventually be fine. A large part of me, the protesting, armpit hair growing, screaming stereotypical card-carrying feminist part, can’t stand that I’m actually spending a solid portion of my day dedicating my limited resources towards increasing a man’s happiness.
I’ve learned enough from first hand experience that most men (and the culture of internalized misogyny that propels a specific type of acts of violence) aren’t good to trust or be around. I sit with my friends and we talk about walking home after the night shift and street harassment, problems at work, and how many times we have to say “no” for them to get that we mean it.
“Who the fuck cares about men anyway?” We say. Because not me, that’s for sure!
Except maybe I care about this one.
This core contradiction, the challenge between the part of me who knows that men are bad news and the gushy part that is madly in love, is now my biggest source of fear.
Which brings me back to the door-locking situation.
Every time he says, “trust me” after he locks the door his own way, all I can think of is how I promised myself years ago that I would never trust any man again. I know that sounds cliché, but these systems are in place for a reason. While I know there is so much out there that I can’t control, having these habits makes me feel better. I lock my door this way to ensure well being, I look both ways before crossing the street to keep myself alive, I put in all these safeguards to protect myself from as much harm as I possibly can.
Being in love disrupts all my rules and regulations. Almost every day since I started consciously recognizing that this person might be “my person,” I’ve had to question if it is worth the risk to compromise the daily systems and fail-safes I’ve implemented for what could only be the short-term happiness of being in love. I’m extremely wary of letting the narrative of mutual desire turn into one of single-sided dependence.
Despite my fear about changing my habits, after a very long time I am beginning to understand that having a partnership with this person where we trust and rely on one another isn’t anything to be afraid about. Instead, the more I begin to trust him, the less scared I am of everything else. It’s probably going to take a long time, and it’s probably going to be scary, but I think this man might be worth breaking a few (not all) of my systems for.
Yesterday, we left to go get some pizza. I let him lock the door.
This essay is nominated for The Flounce Non Fiction Writer’s Award 2015. Contest Rules.