TFBC: The Homewrecker

This is the story of *Ben.
For Valentine’s Day last year, we exchanged some super cute gifts.
I got extensive property damage and PTSD… he got a restraining order.
Oh babe, you shouldn’t have! Really.

It was the most Perth of Tinder matches – in the sense that we’d never met, but may as well have. Ben even lived with mates of mine. At so many points our worlds had overlapped, we’d just missed each other… until that moment. Our first date exceeded expectations; going past surface chat, we discussed our passions, our fears, our pasts. He shared his struggles with ADHD, I shared mine with depression. By the end of the night, we’d bought tickets to see Kaytranada together.

Ben was a straight-up Aziz Ansari doppelgänger, and always down to party. Plus I’m a sucker for a skateboarder – so for a while, we had a great time. But I soon realised that party times were all we had in common. He actually wasn’t interested in much intellectually. Sure I wanted fun, but I needed more than Ambar, stoner comedies and beach beers. Only about 2 months in, Ben had also started displaying a jealous streak. Not in a protective of sense – just in a passive aggressive, insecure one. Ultimately, I knew I wasn’t going to get more from him – so I called it off.

It should have ended there… but of course it didn’t. After the Greg debacle, I guess I was feeling bruised – so in January when Ben asked me out again I reluctantly agreed. And once again we had fun, so I was lulled into a false sense of compatibility. Then the rages started.  I knew Ben often sold his Adderall instead of taking it, but I never knew how much he needed it until our second run. Without it, Dr. Jekyll became Mr. Hyde.

Like the afternoon we went to Hillarys. In the Breakwater beer garden, I apparently laughed too loudly at something he’d said. Like a switch flicking, he got up and drove away – leaving me stranded. I silently cried on the long Uber home. He was right; I shouldn’t have drawn attention to myself. Or when we met up at Gilkinson’s for a gig. Spotting Ben across the bar, I texted him something silly. He responded by causing a scene. My jokes weren’t funny, I deserved it. Didn’t I understand that?

It came to a head the weekend before Valentine’s Day. On Saturday afternoon, I picked Ben up from a wine-tour – trying to be a good ‘girlfriend’ I guess. The kindness wasn’t reciprocated. Instead, as I drove he began ranting about all my other – non-existent – boyfriends. Once at his house, he refused to let me leave. He held my car door open, then began repeatedly slamming it. Terrified, I wrenched it closed and sped home.

It didn’t end there. Ben rode his motorbike to my place, calling and yelling until I let him in – ultimately to save neighborhood reputation. He grabbed my phone and went through my messages, spewing hate at me. Finding nothing, he threw it back at my face, hard. My cheek instantly bloomed and bruised. Much as I wanted him to leave, I didn’t want him to drink-drive again. I kept quiet and waited for him to pass out.

In the morning, Ben was hungover, sorry and desperate to make it up to me. I had planned to watch the AFLW in Fremantle, so he convinced me to make it into a date-day. It was all sunshine, Krafty Kuts and board-games at Little Creatures… until it wasn’t. After the game, a bunch of us headed to the Norfolk. I don’t know what, but something I did rubbed Ben up the wrong way. Cue the jealous abuse again.

By this point I was exhausted. I had no energy to engage or defend myself, I was defeated. I left Ben on Essex Street, ordering an Uber home. He had once again drunk too much to drive in any case – there was no way I was getting in his car. He continued to yell so ferociously that a random pedestrian had to step in and order him away. Once in the car I was finally safe. But I was an empty shell.

At home I thanked my driver, and apologised for being such an ugly crier.
I was crossing the road to my block of flats when I saw Ben’s car.
I froze.
There he was, standing between me and my front door.
He snatched my phone.
Threw it to the ground, then stomped on it.

“There, now you can’t contact anyone.”

I pushed past him, tears streaming.
Managed to get inside and shut the door against him.
Heard my neighbours calling out to see if I was ok.
Everything went still.
I was hyperventilating in my hallway when I heard Ben’s voice behind me.

“Hey Em, over here.”

I turned around, to see glass smash through sheer gauze curtains.
He’d thrown a brick through my living-room window.

Adrenaline coursed through me.
I had to get to my laptop.
I frantically video-called my friend James.
He came over instantly, and drove me to my sister’s.
I cried myself to sleep.

I’ll never forget going home and surveying the damage. Everything in the harsh light of Monday morning was devastating. The first wave was pure horror; it turned out Ben had actually punched through the plate-glass. A thick blood trail ran all the way to where his car had been parked. The second gut-punch was humiliation; I had just moved into my flat, now my neighbours would think I affiliated with low-lives. I couldn’t believe this had actually happened.

The post-script paperwork ruined me. In a dissociated state, I emailed work and my realtor. I bought a shitty burner phone. I contacted a glazier. Filed insurance claims. I called the police – but they said domestic violence had to be reported in person. We weren’t a couple, except in the eyes of the law. I drove to WA Police, scared and alone.

Before Ben, I’d never been to a police station. I didn’t think I could do it, but my friend Kitty urged me to make the report; to protect myself in the interim, and others in the future. They issued him with a Police Restraining Order on Valentine’s Day. It only lasted 24 hours, but it was worth it. Not only did I learn of his checkered criminal record, it has also served as a hard-copy reminder of my strength, and his insanity.

What kind of guy literally shatters your world, then Snapchats you from the emergency room? Ben did. He also showed up at my house again after only a fortnight. I slammed the door in his face, then curled up on my kitchen floor – rocking back and forth like a stereotypical strait-jacket case. I didn’t sleep for months. I spent my nights constantly checking locks, and making sure the blinds were down. Coffee at 2am became routine. I still struggle with letting anyone, even family, into my house.

I last saw Ben Pappas on a breezy Saturday morning. He threw up a peace sign at me as he entered a pub. He then tried to add me on social media. I screenshotted, scoffed… and then sobbed. The guy is deranged, I know. But it frustrates me that he’ll never understand the traumatic extent of his actions. I am very lucky to have an amazing group of friends and family that continue to support me through it.

This Chronicle isn’t funny, sorry.
But it is an important thread in my Fuckboy fabric. And it’s cathartic to unpick the stitch.
I know I’m no angel.  But Ben was truly the devil in disguise.
Literally criminal.

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