The first time, he said to her, “It won’t happen again.” He promised, and she believed him, and he believed himself.
Because what reason did he have to lie? He loved her. He wanted her in his life. He respected her. He hadn’t done it on purpose. He hadn’t planned to do it, or set out to do it. It had just happened. They both moved past it and tried to forget.
The second time, he said to her, “It won’t happen again.” He promised, and he apologized, and she almost believed him. He believed himself.
Because he had made a mistake. He knew what he had done wasn’t right. After all, as he said, he hadn’t done it on purpose. How could he have? He never wanted to hurt her. When she felt pain, he felt pain. They had to trust each other, so that she could help him through this. They left it in the past, but they did not forget.
The third time, he said to her, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.” He didn’t make a promise this time, because he knew she wouldn’t believe him. He didn’t believe himself.
He explained, “It’s not something that I want to happen. When I’m here, with you, I don’t even think about it. It’s when I’m alone. It’s like someone comes up inside me, a person that’s not even me, and takes control. I don’t like that person. I don’t want to be that person. But he’s hiding, deep within, and I can’t control him. I hate him.”
She listened, because she loved him. In a way, she believed what he said; or maybe she didn’t, but she tried to understand it. She knew what it was to do something you regretted. So she tried to help him through it, as though it was a problem she could solve. As though it was something they could do together.
The fourth time, and the fifth time, and the sixth time, he didn’t tell her what he had done. That way, he thought, he could only hurt himself. That way he was the only one who had to bear the pain and guilt and shame of what that person inside him that wasn’t him had done. He hated that person. He wanted that person gone.
The eighth time, he said nothing, but she learned the truth regardless. He said, “I’m sorry. Please help me. I don’t know what I’m doing,” but she didn’t listen.
She said to him, “I loved you. I loved the you that I knew, the one that I spent my years with, who made me smile and laugh and brought me joy. But you know what? That person inside you, that you say is not you? That’s you, too. And I don’t love him.”
He watched her leave, and he didn’t try to stop her, because she was right. That “person inside him” was just… him. The parts of him he didn’t want, true. The parts of him he didn’t share with the world, true. Still him. He could change that person, maybe. Maybe not. But he was still responsible for that person’s actions.
So he gave in, gave up, and became that person. And maybe, maybe, he hoped… Maybe someday, he could fix him.
It would never fix what he had done to her.