The four month mark was rapidly approaching, four months since my relationship with Elliott fell apart.

We first met at our new jobs in Chicago. We developed a friendship after learning we were both New York transplants. It was comfortable running into someone from home and we began having lunch together. It all seemed quite natural and we welcomed the company.

Our families were out of the picture; my parents were deceased and Elliott’s were estranged. He told me after his parent’s nasty divorce, all form of communication between the three of them deteriorated. Elliott and I were flying solo; in hindsight, our relationship was a safety net and in the back of my mind I think I always knew it wasn’t going to last.

After we broke up, Elliott took another job about 25 miles away. He gave me his new address and we talked on the phone a few times but after a couple of weeks I never saw or heard from him again. Once more I was totally alone. Truth is I was relieved. Every so often Elliott’s dark side came out; he was into drugs and I hated that ugly part of his life. I distanced myself from him and the relationship just disintegrated.

While I wanted someone in my life, I knew I wasn’t ready to throw myself into the dating scene. Clubbing and all its danger zones were not for me so, after some thought, I decided to try my luck at a dating app. While scoping out the various apps, I came across something else that piqued my interest – an online trivia group. I’d always been good at playing Trivial Pursuit and would shout out the answers while watching Jeopardy! on TV. I never lost at those games so joining a trivia team was a no-brainer. It could also prove to be a good way to meet someone new, someone who enjoyed the same things as me.

When signing up for the group, I learned everyone had to provide an email address. Scanning the list of addresses, I was shocked to see one I recognized – it belonged to my ex, Elliott! I had no idea he was into trivia and I certainly wasn’t expecting this little snag but I was determined to see it through. Maybe with any luck he’d end up on the opposing team.

The games were to be held via ZOOM two nights each week with the option to meet more often. Two teams of six were formed; as luck would have it, not only was Elliott on my team – he was named as team captain! This ticked me off a bit but I kept my feelings to myself; I had the smarts for the game and was secretly hoping I’d be the team captain. Well, we’d soon find out how much Elliott knew about trivia.

The games started up a week later and proved to be a lot of fun. They were fast paced and highly competitive but in a friendly way and I looked forward to our twice weekly meets. Elliott was, for lack of a better description, proving to be an asshole. It’s possible I picked up on his erratic behavior before anyone else because I knew him and what signs to look for. I decided to let it slide; let Elliott dig his own hole.

Besides acting like a jerk, Elliott was also playing stupid mind games with me. I’d catch him looking at me out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes he’d make lewd gestures or mouth something inappropriate – asinine stuff like that; if anyone else noticed, they didn’t let on and neither did I. “Just take the high road and let it go” I reminded myself.

Then I started getting calls from an unknown number. Coincidence? At first I’d answer but no one would reply. I blocked that number but prank calls started coming in from another anonymous number. I was sure it was Elliott using burner phones. What was his problem? I was enjoying the trivia group and I didn’t want his actions impacting my game so once again I turned a blind eye and ignored him.

Things took a strange turn when Elliott didn’t show up for a game one night. We carried on without him and he was there for the following game so no one questioned his whereabouts. Elliott was all over the place that night, giving wrong answers, shouting out non sequiturs and just being a total jerk. He signed off from the game as soon as it was over and the rest of us just laughed about his outlandish behavior afterwards.

The mind games escalated and Elliott started gaslighting me. I’d see him sitting in his car outside my apartment at night and other times I saw him standing across the street when I left work. He didn’t try to make contact or follow me but it was still freaky. I refused to let him get to me and I’m sure that pissed him off.

One day I got a delivery of a box of dried up flowers with a couple of pathetic dead birds tucked inside. Of course, it was absurd to think there’d be a card but I didn’t need one to know it was from Elliott. Another time I found a brown paper bag outside my front door. I tentatively kicked at it with the tip of my shoe and a dead rat tumbled out. I thought about reporting the incidents to the police but kept them to myself; after all, I didn’t have any solid proof. It wasn’t always easy but I was the epitome of restraint.

Elliott missed the next two trivia nights but by now we were used to his unexplained absences. We all joked about what a clown he was and decided to name a new captain and reached out to someone on the standby list to join the group. Elliott was officially MIA and nobody really cared. Good – out of sight, out of mind.

A few days later one of our teammates went digging around for information. He learned that someone with the same name as Elliott, same age, same neighborhood, got arrested for operating a crystal meth factory in his basement! Everyone thought it was the most bizarre thing they’d ever heard. As for me, I thought it was typical of Elliott and no big shock; it was bound to happen sooner or later. Elliott deserved everything he got – not just for the drugs but for all the sick things he did to me.

But the very best part was the fact that nobody ever knew it was me who called the cops on Elliott. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

So long, Elliott. I guess nobody told him not to mess with the smart girls.

NAR © 2023