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Because of this, I was drawn to people like my best friend, who was dynamic and bold.
I am a very laid-back man who is also an insatiable adrenaline junkie. work hard, play hard, and can then chill with the best of 'em.Before long, we had our own inside jokes, a shared eye-roll at yet another lover's quarrel in a small space. We talked about music, about high school, his experience then and mine now. You’d have to be crazy to hook up with an abuser, right?That’s what I thought, but after working on our relationship violence story for six months, I was shocked by how smart and cool the women who get fooled are.(I know how that sounds: I cringe now just typing it.) But at the time, to us, it wasn't weird or taboo as much as this epic, forbidden romance. Before long we were all hanging out together, driving around in his car: T and me in the front, my friend and her boyfriend in the back. What I do remember is sitting on a couch with T., him putting on a Elton John song and telling me, in words I can't recall specifically, that he wanted to be my boyfriend. I just recall being almost to my house, when I told T. I could see my house now, coming up ahead."We need to discuss this," he said. Like me and Sydney, she will most likely yearn for attention at one point or another. But how can I teach her that it is just as OK to need that scrutiny to stop? While they made out, we made conversation, thrown together in the awkwardness of nearby coupledom. I was the oracle, remembering each detail from my supporting role. I was causing trouble, making things difficult for everyone."What happened to you back there? Just like that, you lose your footing, and you're in over your head. He noticed my sudden distance and pouted, unsettling to see in an adult.There was safety in the shadows, but also a kind of darkness. " my friend whispered as we walked back to the car with the guys a few steps ahead. "Like we were supposed to be boyfriend and girlfriend, or something.""Well," she said slowly. I'd completely accepted her romance with an older guy as normal, even destined. When he wasn't upset, he was in kindness overdrive, buying me things: a gold necklace with a floating heart, stuffed animals.In tenth grade, we made friends with a group of older guys who hung out on the main street of town, which ran parallel to the local university — guys who'd once gone to our same high school and had never left the social scene. I remember how quiet it was, birds soaring overhead, no other sound. I grew to dread the moments we were alone, especially when I needed a ride home at the end of the night to make my curfew. In the initial years following, I never really talked about this with anyone other than my high school girlfriends and various therapists.When they weren't doing BMX and skateboard tricks in front of the post office, they were spending what money they had at the nearby arcade, or spinning on stools and shooting straw wrappers in their favorite burger joint, just across the street. We had gotten in the habit of him driving me home, and my suddenly wanting to make different arrangements seemed to inconvenience everyone. As I got older, however, the more I realized that my experience was not an uncommon one.