I was sitting at my desk, working on a new project when I got the text. It was Beau, a coworker who’d begged my number from a mutual friend at work. He’d insisted he had “something important” to tell me and even though I was pretty sure his definition of “important” was “bedding every woman in a 5 mile radius” I let her give it to him. After a year-long relationship with a coworker who ended up being a total psychopath, I’d adopted a strict policy of not dipping my pen in company ink.
But there was something about his urgency that put me on edge.
“Sure, give him my number. But I better not end up having to change it again.”
I’d only had this number for a couple months—even though I’d broken my lease to get away from my Ex and had changed my routines, I’d been afraid to cut off that final link of communication. I was afraid of what he might resort to if he didn’t have the option of periodically reminding me what a worthless whore I was. It was only after The Other Woman let me know he’d cheated on me the entire time that anger outweighed fear just enough to let me change my number.
Two blissful months of silence followed and I dared to hope the worst was over. Behind closed doors I was still a wreck—I couldn’t sleep at night and when I did it was only so long before I’d wake in a panic, unable to breathe and bathed in sweat, convinced he’d finally come to collect on his promise; that he was there to kill me.
Still… it felt like an improvement.
Until Beau texted me.
“What’s so important?” I asked him.
He was reluctant to answer, and suddenly paranoid.
“I need you to trust me,” he said.
“Beau. Seriously. What’s so important?”
He kept me waiting half an hour before responding.
“Someone sent me a photo of you.”
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.
“What do you mean, a photo?”
“A photo. A bad one.”
In a last stab at optimism, I told him to prove it.
“Send it to me.”
Once again, he kept me waiting. I tried to focus on work and told myself this was a twisted joke and that my entire reputation and career weren’t about to be ruined.
Then my phone dinged.
I looked down at the photo. It was definitely me. And I was definitely not wearing an appropriate amount of clothing.
There was no question of where it had come from– my ex was the only person with such a photo. It sounds stupid now, but he wasn’t always cruel. He was charming in that Ted Bundy sort of way and no one had ever made me feel so desired. Even after the abuse began, I never worried about him doing anything with the photos because nothing made him angrier than another man giving me attention. If I wasn’t quick to redirect him, he could spend hours detailing violent fantasies in which he would torture and kill anyone who dared to look at me. According to him, I radiated slutty “fuck me” vibes, for which I needed to be punished. There were so many rules regarding how I was able to dress or act, or where I could go and with whom. One rule was that I had to strip as soon as I entered his house, even if it was the dead of winter, or I was sick, or only stopping by for a minute. It was subtle, but he worked hard to make it clear that the only value I had was in my sexuality and that this was something to feel guilty about.
As I looked at that photo, I could feel the weight of a thousand judgments, all asking the same question—“What were you thinking?” A show of faces played through my mind—older brothers, little nieces, best friends, and work colleagues: A long list of people who would respond with shame and disgust.
At least two photos had been sent so far, and to several other people we worked with. The number was unrecognizable but the sender was pretending to be me.
One was sent to a woman who was 8 ½ months pregnant and at home on bed rest: “I can steal your husband anytime I want—he’d rather have me.”
To the men, it was: “Hey, it’s Aussa! What do you think? ;)”
Beau knew me well enough to call bullshit on the sender, who eventually admitted to not being me but spun another award-winning piece of fiction:
“That whore stole my husband. She ruined my life. Do me a favor and forward this to everyone you know.”
I couldn’t believe this was happening. It had been six months since our breakup and I’d never so much as raised my voice or said a “fuck you” to him after everything he’d done to me.
Even after all the time that has passed, I couldn’t help feeling that I deserved this, and almost lost myself in that same old question–“Why was he doing this?” The answer was obvious: He wanted to ruin me, to remind me that I was nothing but a piece of ass, a possession to be used. His goal was to lay me so low that I was stripped to nothing but a long list of regrets.
But I’d had enough of regret. This time, it was going to be his turn.
Has an Ex ever gone to great lengths to get revenge against you? What would you have done in this situation? Have you ever sent a scandalous photo?
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