It was Jordan’s first day of her second semester at SUNY New Paltz when she first noticed Greg. She was in the dining hall waiting on the food line with her roommate when he caught her attention. He was standing by the dishwashing station adjacent to her on the other side of the room. Jordan couldn’t see his face. All she could see of him was the gray t-shirt he had tucked into a pair of low-cut jeans; his hair was neatly combed, and he was standing tall as he placed a dirty plate onto the dish rack. He dropped the utensils into the silver basin, turned and walked out of the room.
As Jordan watched Greg leave through the dining hall doors and disappear down a flight of stairs, she noticed howGreg made no eye contact with anyone at all. He looked focused. Like he had a goal– whatever it was, and he wasn’t going to let anyone get in the way of that. Jordan didn’t know a thing about him in that moment. She just knew, from seeing him that one time, he was going somewhere, and she wanted to be a part of that.
Jordan had never been a believer in love at first sight or things like fairy tale romances. Growing up in a home with parents who fought often, Jordan knew relationships could be messy. She and her sister Sammi were young children when their mother divorced their father. Their mother was an alcoholic, and as a result, Jordan and Sammi’s grandparents were their main caretakers. For years up until they left for college, Jordan and Sammi bounced between their mother’s house and their grandparents’ home, depending on their mother’s emotional state. They felt safe and cared for when living with their grandparents, who provided them with a consistent routine: bath time, play time, meal times, and times spent as a family bonding over card games, and pancake breakfasts.
But each time their mother came back to retrieve them, it felt as if their lives were being turned upside down. Jordan’s mother often sought help to overcome her struggle, and during those times she relied on the aid of her parents to care for her children, but her attempts to recover failed more than once. When in their mother’s care, Jordan and Sammi were regularly left home alone without a meal. Only sometimes, after rummaging through the cupboards, would they find stale cereal or canned soup to eat for dinner. Jordan was constantly cleaning out ashtrays and throwing away the empty bottles her mother would leave right out in the open on the kitchen counters for Jordan to clean up.
Jordan wanted to protect her sister from the fear and panic she felt, which was why she tried to carry out the same normalcy their grandparent’s guaranteed. After school and during the long hours awaiting their mother’s return, Jordan would help Sammi with her homework, play games with her and watch her favorite movies. But on the occasions their mother returned home with a strange man, all Jordan could think to do was lock the door to their bedroom behind them and hold Sammi in her arms until she felt safe enough to fall asleep.
Years later, when Sammi went off to college, Jordan could finally transfer out of community and leave home for good. Her unstable upbringing, the uncertainty of her next meal, the constant need to keep watch over her sister, was why – she was certain – she was drawn to Greg that day in the cafeteria.
The second day of Jordan’s sophomore year, fall semester, she showed up to art history class and was surprised to see Greg sitting in the second row. She noticed the seat beside him was empty and hesitated before entering the room, contemplating sitting next to him. Jordan had never been the “go getter” type. She had a responsibility to her sister and that had always been her priority. Wanting to remain unnoticed, she usually sat behind the tallest kid in the back row of the class. But her sister was starting a new life at school and creating new chances for herself. It was Jordan’s turn to do the same. And so, Jordan decided to place herself in the seat beside Greg.
Within the first week of class, Jordan learned that Greg was majoring in art with a focus on painting, sculpting, graphic design and everything else art-related. She noticed how bright he was. In class, he spoke up often, and his opinions about the artwork in question not only revealed his understanding of the subject, but also opened Jordan’s eyes to interpretations she wouldn’t have seen if not for him.
As the weeks went on, after class, while they both stood from their desks and walked towards the door, Jordan would try to start up a conversation with Greg. With every attempt, she’d say something small about the weather or make a joke about the professor. She wanted to come off as friendly and light-hearted; she wanted to be his friend. But all Greg ever did was nod politely as he sauntered through door and down the hall, leaving her behind.
Time came for their first art-history test and Jordan was unprepared. She found the class interesting – she completed her homework on time and maintained a C average, but she’d also been going to football games and partying too much, trying to enjoy her new-found freedom. In class that day, as the teacher told everyone to take out a piece of paper and clear their desk for the exam, Jordan began to fidget, tearing off little corners of the single sheet laying in front of her. She was certain she was going to fail. Maybe she’d even fail the entire class and then who knew where she’d end up? She certainly could never move back home with her mother. At the moment, she was desperate and felt she only had one option.
When the test began, and the professor sat at her own desk with her nose in a book, Jordan nonchalantly turned to Greg’s paper and tried to sneak a look at his answers to copy them down as her own. Greg noticed and abruptly placed his elbow in front of his exam to cover it up. Jordan had been caught trying to cheat and Greg was not going to help her. She was embarrassed and felt ashamed for trying. Later in the week, she learned she had failed the test, and had blown any chance of being friends with Greg. He barely looked at her anymore, and after class, he would rush out the door, not allowing Jordan to catch up.
Later that month, after time had passed and things cooled down, Jordan made one last attempt to talk to Greg. The moment the professor dismissed them, Greg dashed out the door and Jordan scurried out behind him. When Greg noticed her approaching, he stopped in place. He turned and looked her straight in the eyes. He told her that he didn’t date girls like her. He only went out with girls who maintained an A average, and girls who were involved in school clubs or extracurricular activities. Sorry, he said, shrugging then walking away.
Jordan didn’t want to be known as some slacker girl who tried cheating off Greg. She knew if she had applied herself more she could get better grades; she could live up to his expectations. Jordan went back to her room that day and sat at her desk with a pen and planner in hand, strategizing her next step. At last, Jordan knew what she had to do. Monday through Friday 9:00 – 5:00, she would go to class and then head over to the library to complete her homework and prep for quizzes and tests. She would treat her education like a fulltime job. School work came first, and only after she’d completed it was when she’d go out with friends and socialize.
Within weeks, Jordan’s grades went from D’s to A’s.
Jordan’s interests lay in communications, specifically public relations, marketing and news broadcasting. Greg had said he wanted his girlfriend to be a part of a community and to be goal-oriented. By the start of second semester her sophomore year, Jordan had landed a position as a director in her school’s TV station. The station aired programs such as student debates, news on school activities and sports, along with government and political issues around the world.
Coincidentally, Jordan and Greg wound up in another art class together spring semester their sophomore year. Jordan found a seat in the front row and pretended she barely noticed Greg. She continued to strive in her studies, and during class, she was engaged in the discussions and asked questions when not understanding a concept being taught. All the while, little did she know, she had become one of the class leaders who helped motivate other classmates in carrying the dialogue forward. Within the same semester, Jordan ran for office and landed a position on the TV station’s executive board. She had become vice president in programming and was the station’s head news anchor.
She had caught Greg’s attention. He had noticed her quick climb to success and began to express an interest in her. This time, Greg was the one who approached Jordan after class, curious to pick her brain about her thoughts on upcoming projects. They began meeting in the library at night to work on assignments. And when the warm weather came, they met in the courtyard for meals, went for walks around campus, listened to music and frequently went to the movies. They spent all their free time together, and very soon, their feelings for one another had developed into a committed relationship.
Greg and Jordan dated throughout their remaining years of college. It was within those first few years of dating that Jordan noticed her ideas and interests had begun to fade away. Greg had stopped asking about her day and stopped questioning her about her opinions on topics like he had previously done. There were times when Jordan would bring up a conflict or issue she was having, and Greg would change the subject, turning the focus to an issue of his own, as if trying to top her feelings, making them seem irrelevant in contrast to what he was going through. If Greg wanted to meet at his dorm instead of hers, that’s where they’d meet. If Greg wanted pizza for take-out instead of Chinese food, then pizza it was. If Greg wanted to go to the movies and had a particular film in mind, then that’s the film they’d see.
Senior year, Jordan had won an award as best director and producer for best college-produced TV show. She was presented the award at a special ceremony, and for once in her life, she felt a true sense of accomplishment. From there on, little by little, Jordan tried to stand up and voice her opinions to Greg, expressing concern about not having a say. But each time she did, Greg would snap and remind her that if it weren’t for him, she would have never amounted to anything. He was the reason behind Jordan’s success. Whenever Jordan tried to defend herself, Greg would shut her down and change the subject. He would bring up stories about his childhood, knowing Jordan would sympathize; he would tell her stories about how cruel his mother was, and how hard it had been on him to grow up without a father. Everything he had in life, he had worked for. He wasn’t going to let someone like her deprive him of what he deserved.
Jordan felt that Greg was right about her motivation to succeed stemming from him. Every act and goal of hers since meeting Greg was geared towards being the person she needed to be for him. She saw a guy with drive and passion, and knew if they wounded up together, he would take care of her. He was her ticket away from her past. He was the one who would take her away from New York and her mother. And because of that, she accepted her role in the relationship.
After graduating with their degrees, Jordan and Greg packed a U-Haul truck and drove south to Virginia where they both had jobs lined up. They felt free and on top of the world for all they were accomplishing together. And even though Jordan complied to Greg’s every wish and demand, she felt loved and taken care of. Greg had landed a job in graphic design and was making a good living with his starting salary. Jordan was working at a TV station with an aim to one day prosper and become a lead anchorwoman. But Greg was not a fan of her income, nor of the competition she would face down the line when competing for an anchor position. He had told her he’d always pictured his wife as a serious career woman who made a lot of money. He didn’t see her growing or making a decent living in her current chosen field. As a result, Jordan left the TV station and began a career as a job recruiter at a well-known establishment. A few years later, she began training for a recruitment manager position which granted her the responsibility for overseeing the company’s hiring. Jordan and Greg adopted their first dog and lived happily, going for hikes on their downtime and collecting trinkets they’d find at estate sales; they had worked hard and had saved enough money to buy a home together.
The first night they moved into their new home, Greg had asked Jordan to marry him. She was in the kitchen, imagining ways she would decorate, and when she turned around, he was on a knee, holding a box with a diamond out to her. They were both twenty-six-years-old and had been dating since they were nineteen. She was beyond thrilled to marry Greg. They had built a life together. Jordan was grateful that someone like him wanted to marry someone like her.
Greg and Jordan invited all their family and friends to join them in their wedding celebration at a botanical garden in Virginia. Even though Jordan felt like her dreams were coming true by marrying Greg, she always felt a twinge of shame for allowing him to have the final say in her life. She knew it wasn’t “normal” to give Greg all the control. Nevertheless, Greg was the man she chose to be with. They owned a house together and raised a puppy with plans to adopt another one. Jordan loved Greg; she wanted to be the right person for him, despite her feeling that he may not be the right person for her. And so Jordan married Greg, burying the shame she felt deep down into a compartment in her mind.
Jordan and Greg carried on and made a home for themselves in Virginia, the type of home Jordan always dreamed of. From furniture to glassware to the clothes in her closet, everything in that house belonged to her, belonged to them. Never mind that Greg collected her paycheck each week and placed it in an account under his name. They were married. What was hers was his and vice versa.
The time came when Greg was offered a promotion and was asked to run the software infrastructure division at the sister company in Santa Barbara, California. Greg said yes, and Jordan, having never been to California, welcomed the idea. She requested a job transfer within the same company she’d been working for and was granted the opportunity, which made for a smooth transition. They sold their home, packed their things, and moved with their two dogs across the country for a new adventure.
Jordan and Greg had rented an apartment in Santa Barbara for a month before settling down to buy a place. But within days, Jordan knew she wanted one of those white stucco, red-roof tiled, Grecian style homes. Sure enough, in time, Jordan and Greg moved downtown, two blocks from the beach with a view of the water from their living-room window. They rode their bikes, visited wineries, walked their dogs along the shoreline and picnicked on the beach. They found new friends with neighbors and spent their weekends hiking and partying at bonfires.
Everyone they met in California was friendly and laid back, and everyone was smoking pot. Every corner they turned, there it was in some form or another: hash, oil vapes, chocolate bars, gummies. Jordan even had a hand lotion that was made with cannabis. In Santa Barbara, smoking weed was as normal as waking up and having a cup of coffee. It was as regular as eating a meal. It was harmless. At least that’s what Jordan thought.
Jordan wasn’t quite sure when she noticed the switch in Greg’s nature. He had always been a little paranoid about who Jordan spoke to on the phone – whether she was talking with Sammi or a friend from college; he was never a fan of her being on the phone for too long. He feared Jordan would reveal too much about their relationship, knowing her friends and family disapproved of his control over their finances, and showed concern for the way he’d belittle Jordan’s opinions, making her feel as if she didn’t measure up. But since moving to California, and since Greg began smoking pot on a regular basis, his actions towards Jordan’s phone-use grew worse. He started putting restrictions on Jordan, allowing her only ten minutes per call and each call Jordan made had to be in front of Greg. He wanted to hear everything she was saying.
As time went on, it seemed the more Greg smoked, the more annoyed he became with Jordan, and the more they’d fight. Every time they were out with friends, if Jordan was talking and telling a story, Greg would snap and interrupt her mid-sentence. He’d tell her to hurry up and to get on with the story; he’d say stuff like no one cares and stuff like shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about. In witness to Greg’s ill-treatment towards Jordan, their friends would jump to her defense. But to no avail. Once they noticed Jordan made no effort to try and defend herself, they knew there was little they could do to help her. Group hangouts became awkward and were no longer so often because, little by little, their friends began to distance themselves from the hostility that had been brought on by the two of them.
Greg had managed to isolate them from their family and friends, and then before Jordan knew it, it was just the two of them and their dogs. She had always been ashamed with how Greg treated her, but she never did anything to try and change it. Greg took care of her in ways she needed, such as providing her with a home and the clothes she desired, and other materialistic things that were more important to her at the time than having a social life.
Jordan and Greg had been living in California for a little over a year when Greg approached Jordan with the idea of her going to the doctor and getting a prescription for medicinal marijuana. Jordan wasn’t particularly fond of this idea. She thought it was best for him to get his own medical card and leave her out of it. But Greg convinced her otherwise.
Rumor was, when getting a medicinal marijuana card, the government may or may not add your name to a list. Greg felt that because he was the breadwinner in the relationship, he couldn’t afford to have his name added onto a list that could prevent him from attaining future credentials and ultimately affect his career.
Jordan, against her best judgment, went ahead and got the prescription for the medical marijuana. The card gave them the ability to purchase 2 ounces of weed every two weeks. Jordan had the authority to purchase 4 ounces of weed once a month, which was meant to be rationed over two-week intervals. In total, she accumulated 112 grams of weed at $1,200 a month.
Greg, being the director of infrastructure for a well-known software company, worked mainly from home. Jordan would purchase 2 ounces of weed on Monday and was shocked to see it all gone by the following Sunday. Greg would smoke two ounces of pot in less than seven days, leaving him dry for a full week before Jordan could legally go back and claim more. But Greg couldn’t go a full week without smoking, and if so, he’d become more aggravated and temperamental, and would threaten to leave Jordan if she didn’t find a way to get him more. For whatever the reason, it had become Jordan’s responsibility to feed Greg’s habit.
Tired of Greg’s threats and unpredictable behavior, Jordan began to reach out to previous friends and, through them, found connections from dealers who she’d purchase more weed from. There were times, though, when the dealers did not have the quantity Jordan needed. When that was the case, the dealers would then have to set up an arrangement for Jordan to drive out of the state to meet with a stranger to retrieve the amount of weed Greg desired. On several occasions, Jordan crossed state lines with a pound of weed hidden in the seat covers of her white Audi Coup.
Jordan and Greg were spending nearly all of their money on weed. Greg would tell Jordan that smoking would mellow him out and help him become more creative with his work assignments. But the volume at which Greg was smoking was massive. Jordan always assumed weed was the one drug with no harmful side effects. But that didn’t seem like the case for Greg. They went from having a somewhat decent connection to, somehow, and what felt like happened overnight, Jordan had solely become his means of supply. Whenever she tried talking with him about it, he’d threatened to leave her. And if he did wind up leaving her, what would she do, and where would she go?
In no time, Greg’s job caught on to him slacking off with his projects and he was called to go back to work in the office. With Greg no longer allowed to work from home, each night when he came home from the office, he was irritated, stressed out and his actions became strange and a bit unhinged. Greg would strip down to his underwear, start a fire in the fireplace, and then throw his suit into the fire to burn. He was convinced that the suits he wore to work had been harboring a piece of hair that’d been squirming around, torturing and suffocating him all day long.
Each night after Greg would scorch his suit, he would then make Jordan search his naked body for “the hair” that had been tormenting him all day at work, to assure it was gone for good. Jordan would grab the magnifying glass off the mantel, search his body and pretend to find “the hair.” When she’d find it, she would then throw it into the fire to burn alongside his clothes.
Within months of the initial suit-burning, hair-searching shenanigans, Greg started to spend all his free time in the art studio making leather garments, such as belts, underwear, vests, suspenders and so on. The leather he made with his own hands was the only type of clothing he wore around the house and slept in.
Greg’s job had continued to notice a decline in his work performance and had presented him with two options. The first, if Greg were to move back to the Virginia office, he would be able to keep the same title and position he currently had. Or, he could stay in California, but he would be demoted with a pay cut. And although Greg’s work performance had been on a downhill spiral for a while now, he’d kept a blind eye to his shortcomings. He refused the demotion and chose to move back to Virginia. Jordan and Greg packed their things, and with their two dogs, left California – far from medicinal marijuana and the means to purchase large quantities of it.
Being back in Virginia, Greg was able to work from his home office again. He was no longer required to wear a suit, although “the hair” was still squirming all over his body, tormenting and suffocating him. Greg still only wore the leather garments he had made. He had shaved his head clean of hair, and continued smoking as much weed as Jordan could get her hands on.
Within two months of living back in Virginia, Greg’s thought process had become fuzzy, which interfered with his creativity. In fear of losing his job, Jordan had begun to write up his reports and reviews, and was responding to all his emails. Greg’s reality had become so distorted, he was barely able to form a full sentence.
Being back on the east side made it easier for Jordan’s sister to visit. Sammi showed up one weekend and within an hour of her arrival she took Jordan aside, expressing concern for her. She had never been a fan of Greg and the influence he had over her sister, but within the short hour of his visit, Sammi noticed Greg’s manner had been more strange than usual. She noted the bowl in Greg’s hand, how he constantly kept smoking out of it, right there in the kitchen. She noticed Greg’s shaved head and the bizarre leather clothing he was wearing. She also couldn’t help but notice Greg’s eyes looked darker than usual; Greg looked angry and irritated. Sammi saw how pale and thin her sister had gotten. She believed the environment was toxic for Jordan and asked her to pack a bag and leave with her immediately. Sammi thought if Jordan were to get away for a while, she may come to realize how bad her circumstances were and thought maybe she’d leave Greg for good. Sammi feared if she were to stay there with him, her health would continue to deteriorate, and Greg may do something to harm her.
Part of Jordan wanted to leave with her sister that day. She was fed up with Greg and tired of being his caretaker rather than a partner and wife. She knew something was seriously wrong with her husband. She knew she was becoming sick and malnourished. But anytime she mentioned to Greg that they needed help, that he needed to go to rehab or counseling, he would get angry and shut the idea down. Jordan had reached out to his family and asked them to help her help him, but no one stepped up or seemed to care. Greg wasn’t just the only person she had, Jordan was all he had too. How could she abandon him? She told Sammi that she wouldn’t leave Greg. Not unless he laid his hands on her. That was her line. Greg had to do something to physically hurt her; until then, she would stay with him. Sammi was not happy to hear that. She left right after.
The following Saturday, Jordan spent the morning grocery shopping. She would be leaving for a business trip to D.C. on Monday and wanted to make sure Greg had plenty to eat during her absence. She remained in the kitchen that afternoon and prepped and cooked Greg two lasagnas. She placed one casserole dish in the fridge and the other dish in the freezer for Greg to eat when he had finished the first one. She left for her trip on Monday and returned home late in the evening that following Friday. She went straight to bed.
There were times when Greg would get so angry, Jordan thought he may push her against a wall or shove her out of his way. But she never expected him to do what he did to her that morning after she returned home from my trip.
The week Jordan had been away, Greg had plenty of food to eat, but he had run out of weed and was left without any for a few days. Because Jordan had always been his means of supply, Greg had no idea how to go about getting more. Evidently, during those three dry days, Greg’s anger festered. He furiously awaited Jordan’s return. The morning after Jordan got back from her trip, while she was asleep in bed, Greg went into the kitchen and grabbed the frozen lasagna Jordan had left for him, walked into their bedroom, and threw the frozen-solid casserole dish against the bedpost beside Jordan’s head. The explosion of glass was loud and intense, and Jordan woke up immediately – some of the broken pieces had scratched up the side of her face.
Jordan never made a “safety plan.” She never bothered stashing a portion of her allowance away in a shoe box in her closet. She never fought to have her name added onto the bank accounts. She didn’t have a getaway bag packed and ready to go in case of an emergency. She never bothered calling Sammi, another family member or a friend to set herself up with a place to stay if she ever needed one.
All Jordan could think to do was to grab the phone off her night table, run into the bathroom, shut and lock the door behind her, dive into the small space below the sink, curl into a ball and call 911.
With Greg screaming and banging on the bathroom door, the police-operator instructed Jordan to stay on the phone until the officers arrived. Greg was irrational, yelling and threatening to kill her, and Jordan believed that if he got to her, he would indeed try to kill her. She kept quiet as Greg continued to scream and threaten her. She listened to the lady on the other line try to comfort her, telling her that the officers would be there shortly, and this would all be over soon. Silence took over and minutes later, Jordan realized Greg had stepped away to retrieve his tool box. He returned and began to unscrew the hinges from the door. Jordan watched Greg toss the door onto the bed and enter the bathroom. Right as Greg neared Jordan with his hands out to grab her, two cops stormed in, seizing and restraining Greg before he had a chance to hurt her again.
One cop took Greg to the station, while the other cop escorted Jordan to the hospital to examine her face. There were a few deep cuts, luckily, she didn’t need stiches. She left the hospital a few hours later, and from there went back to the house with the policeman, packed a bag, and took her dog – the other one had passed away – and drove north to Sammi.
She stayed with Sammi for two weeks. At the time, Jordan weighed nearly 80 pounds. She couldn’t eat or hold anything down. She just laid in a fetal curl and barely moved from Sammi’s couch. She had up and left her job without warning. Left her husband without a plan of action. She had no money and nowhere to turn. The idea of starting over left her in a state of panic.
After those two weeks of initially leaving her home in Virginia, her mother came to Sammi’s and together with a police escort, they drove back to VA and packed the rest of her belongings, then drove back to NY, where her mother and my step-father opened their home to her. Jordan’s mother had been in recovery for a long time and was in the right mindset to step up and help her.
Little by little, with the help of a therapist, Jordan found her next course of action.
Six months later, Jordan served Greg with divorce papers. Greg avoided the papers for almost a full year until he discovered that if he didn’t respond to the subpoena when summoned to court, a default judgement would occur, and the judge would award full favor of the divorce to Jordan.
In total, it took a year-and-a-half to finalize the divorce. The judge wound up being in support of Jordan anyway, due to the evidence of abuse and the verbal threats her lawyer was able to present during the trial. It was that day in court when Jordan learned Greg had not been paying off her student loan debt like he’d said he’d been doing. She found out that he’d taken out a second mortgage on their home and had blown everything they’d ever earned on drugs. Greg was ordered to go to rehab and the judge ordered him to pay Jordan alimony for five years.
During the time leading up to the court date to finalize Jordan and Greg’s divorce, Jordan spent a lot of time trying to understand what exactly happened to Greg. Why had he grown so dependent on weed? Why did he allow their relationship and career to dissipate? Why had his behavior become strange and unsettling? Jordan was in search for answers and began to research Greg’s family history. She learned a few things. A handful of Greg’s relatives had been institutionalized for having symptoms similar to schizophrenia – although no one in his family had actually been diagnosed with the disease.
Jordan will never know for sure if Greg has schizophrenia. During their marriage, she had always felt unworthy of Greg. She thought she was the one burdening their relationship with her issues and past. She thought she was the reason he was unhappy and smoked all of the time. And then when Greg started acting strange, she blamed herself, thinking that she drove him to that state, thinking she was “the hair” that had been choking him.
Now knowing a little about Greg’s family history, Jordan can rest assure a little, knowing she tried her best for him and their marriage. She may have given Greg all the control, but it was because she loved him so much. It was because she believed in him. Jordan looks at everything she has endured over the years, and still within those years of suffering beside Greg, there were small moments of achievement within herself and her professional career. And now, as she starts a new chapter of her life without Greg tearing down her self-esteem, she can only imagine what she can achieve.
Jordan is currently living and working in NY. Her years of experience in Human Resources have helped her land a stable position within the field. She has plans to continue her education and pursue her master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in management and HR. Jordan is enjoying her new life and freedom. She spends her time with her niece, her family and friends. She loves her independence and the newfound confidence and inner strength she has achieved.