Chapter 2—Fire and Ice
JORDAN AND I met the second semester of our senior year of high school when his dad was transferred for his job. I can still recall every single detail about the day he walked into my senior English class. I can remember exactly what I was wearing, exactly what the teacher was saying when the door opened and he walked in the room and exactly the way my stomach flip-flopped when I looked up from the doodles in my notebook and watched him saunter in and take the seat right next to me.
I was only two weeks into my recovery that day. My boyfriend of two years, Collin McDaniels, broke up with me via a note delivered by his best friend and shattered my heart into pieces. Like a typical high school girl, I thought my world had ended and nothing would ever make me smile again. Then, Jordan Castillo sat down next to me, asked to borrow a pencil and my shredded heart was never to be thought of again.
We started dating three weeks later. We were voted Best Couple, Cutest Couple and Couple Most Likely to Get Married. After graduation, Jordan convinced me to hold off on my dream of art school and stay with him, close to home, so we wouldn’t have to be separated. Even though I lost some of my passion for art when my old boyfriend broke things off, I knew I had talent and I shouldn’t let it go to waste just because my first high school relationship didn’t work out. I promised myself that once we were making enough money to be comfortable, I’d take some time off and enroll in art school.
Jordan and I were polar opposites in every way, but there was something about us together that just worked. I was quiet, studious and not really big into partying. He was loud, outgoing and the life of every party. He was the bad boy of every parent’s nightmare and, in the beginning, I think that’s what attracted me to him. I wanted to be with someone who didn’t remind me of Collin. I wanted someone dark, edgy and exciting and that’s exactly what I found in Jordan. Looking back, maybe I should have seen the signs. Maybe I should have realized that someone’s core personality never really changes as they get older. We fought many times over the years because of his constant need to go out, his tendency to drink too heavily and come home too late and his refusal to grow up. I thought he would settle down after we got married. I thought he would be content in the life we built together and his need to hang out with people who weren’t the best influences would be pushed aside.
I thought I would be enough for him.
Looking back on our relationship, I know that my insecurities are what made me continue to stay with him even though he hurt me. When you’ve only had sex with one person, when you’ve only really loved one man your entire life, how can you even think about walking away? How can you even begin to move on when he’s all you’ve ever known? Every time I uncovered another lie and thought about leaving, this is what ran through my mind. We grew up together, we knew everything about each other… how could I ever have that with anyone else and why would I even want to? All that time, all that effort, all the memories and the life we built together… throwing it all away just seemed like the worst possible decision.
The first time I caught him in a lie was a few months after we were married. He was working the night shift at a local manufacturing plant. I knew he was miserable there. I knew this wasn’t his ideal job and I constantly felt guilty that he was forced to take it so we could make ends meet. For years, he talked about being a tattoo artist and, initially, I really thought he’d make it work. He was a talented artist and I knew if he settled down and focused, he could make it happen. I let a lot of things slide with his behavior during that time because I knew it was hard for him to go to a job day after day that he hated. He was even working overtime, which he definitely wasn’t happy about, but helped our financial situation. Time and a half should’ve meant that we were able to pay the bills with plenty of money left over. Yet every week, we were in the negative. He always had some sort of excuse as to why there was money missing from our account. He got a flat tire and had to pay for a new one, he donated money to a charity at work, his friend lost his job and he let him borrow some money. Week after week, the lies flew smoothly from his mouth and I accepted them without a second thought.
Why would he lie to me, after all? What reason would he have to make up things like this?
I quickly found out that reason when one of his friends sent me a text that was supposed to go to Jordan.
The first time I told him to leave was the day I found out that, while I was losing sleep, crying every night wondering how I was going to pay the electric bill and contemplating getting a second job, he was spending hundreds of dollars each week gambling.
The second time I told him to leave was after I found out he was addicted to prescription painkillers.
The third time it was alcohol.
The fourth time it was cocaine.
The fifth time it was everything all at once.
Each time I caught him in a lie, he promised he would never do it again. He promised he was done with the pills and the booze and the blow. He promised he would be honest with me and he promised he wouldn’t let me down again.
He broke every single one time and time again and I forgave him. Year after year, I felt myself growing weaker and weaker where he was concerned as he was fired from one tattoo apprenticeship after another. I saw his dream slip right through his fingers and overcompensated by being too sweet, too forgiving, too understanding when I knew, deep down, that he was screwing up these opportunities all on his own. He was going into the shops late or sometimes not at all, he showed up hung over half the time and full on drunk or stoned the other. He couldn’t handle the pressure and the realization that his dream might never come true and pretty soon, there wasn’t a tattoo shop within a hundred mile radius that would hire him.