Micah was unlike anybody I’d ever met before.
“I’m unique,” he announced often. “You’ll never find anyone like me.”
Saying that was an attempt to get me to stay with him. He played on my fear of being alone. Sometimes it worked, but other times I left anyway. Micah was a pathologic narcissist with untreated bipolar disorder. He found new ways to torture me every day until I scraped up what remained of my sanity and left him for good. I called him a monster, knowing it would hurt him the most. He cried but didn’t defend himself. Somewhere deep inside he knew it was true.
The first time I met him, Micah wore a concert T-shirt ripped at the sleeves, jeans with holes in them, and studded black boots. His hair was spiky blond, and his face held more makeup than I’d ever worn in my life. He was charming and said sweet things that were like a salve to my broken heart after a previous ugly divorce. He love-bombed me and made me feel like I was the only girl in the world.
Because he was so nice to me, it was easy to overlook his oddness. He played loud 80s hair metal and danced around like he was performing in a Ratt video. His heroes were the members of Motley Crue, especially Nikki Sixx. Micah loved Nikki’s badass attitude and his tendency towards the dark side.
“I worship Satan,” Micah would say when he was especially drunk. He’d check my eyes for a response, disgusted when I didn’t give him one. I didn’t buy for a second that Micah was a satanist. When he sobered up, he seemed embarrassed for having said it. As I got to know him better, I realized his rejection of God stemmed from something deeper.
When Christmas came around, Micah’s mood soured at the mention of the holiday. He told me he remembered sneaking downstairs as a little boy after his parents were asleep to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and the shows about Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman. His parents forbade him to watch them since they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. It made me sad to think of him sitting cross-legged on the carpet by himself with the only light coming from the TV and anxiety in the pit of his stomach over being caught.
I waited all year to watch those shows when I was little. I don’t think I ever missed them. They were as much a part of Christmas as the tree and presents. For Micah, the shows were just another thing he couldn’t have. He said when he got back to school after the holiday breaks, the other kids would bring in their new toys and brag about what they got from Santa. There was no Santa for Micah and no Christmas either. He didn’t have a toy to show or anything else to make him fit in for just a little while.
Of course, there were his friends at the Kingdom Hall every weekend. Micah’s parents formed a tight community with other Jehovah’s Witnesses who comprised the majority of Micah’s social life. They understood what it was like to get in trouble for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance at school. They understood birthdays without celebrations. None of that mattered as long as they had each other and didn’t concern themselves with “worldly” things.
When Micah was 16 years old, he got caught smoking pot with a friend behind the Kingdom Hall and was immediately disfellowshipped. None of his friends or family were allowed to interact with him. He still attended services, but he sat in silence as the others tried not to look at him. These were the people he grew up with, the only family he knew, and now they shunned him as if he had committed murder.
“I didn’t care,” Micah lied. “I was glad to be out of it.”
Micah spent the next several years getting in trouble. If everyone thought he was bad, he might as well be the worst. He drank heavily and shoplifted and once shook his own mother during an argument. His mother replied with a restraining order, and Micah moved out on his own into a rundown studio apartment. He struggled with money and the sense of entitlement he’d felt growing up in a rich family. He always acted as if the world owed him something better.
Deep down, Micah wished his parents were proud of him again. I think that’s the whole reason he started the band. He came from a musical family, and his father taught him how to play guitar when he was a kid. Micah gathered up a few friends to play in the band, and they practiced twice a week so they could book some shows. Micah was the frontman, guitarist, and lead singer.
When the band finally booked a show, Micah was determined to make it epic. He dressed in the appropriate rock star attire and danced around on stage the way he did in our living room. Like any decent rock star, he was dead drunk the entire time.
I took videos of his songs as a good girlfriend, and we posted them on YouTube. He also sent the video to his parents, imagining the praise he would get. He thought they would be so proud of him that maybe they would let him back in their lives.
“You’re an apostate,” his mother said in an email bashing him for the way he looked on stage and the “evil” music he played. She even said the lyrics he'd written were straight from hell.
“What’s an apostate?” I asked Micah after he read it.
“Somebody who rejects religion completely. It’s basically the worst thing you can call somebody as a Jehovah’s Witness,” Micah answered with tears in his eyes. “She thinks I’m too far gone to save.”
He looked like a little boy then, starved for his parents’ love even in his thirties. He vowed never to speak to them again, and his bad behavior escalated. He seemed determined to live up to his mother’s prediction of being a monster. He took out his anger on me, and when I stood up for myself, he accused me of wanting to abandon him, too. Sometimes he threatened to kill himself if I left him and never came back.
“Just say it!” he dared. “You don’t love me anymore.”
I couldn’t say it even though it was true. My love for Micah disappeared long ago when I realized our relationship was toxic. I still had a heart though, and I felt too afraid to deliver the final blow of rejecting him. Hadn’t he faced enough rejection in his life already? He didn’t have a single soul on his side, and I feared he wouldn’t make it left to his own devices. I kept going back until the last time when he pushed me to the floor, locked me in a bathroom, and screamed in my face. When he begged me to return, I pulled up every ounce of strength I had left and said no. As soon as I had enough money, I divorced him as fast as I could.
He returned to his parents down and out and vowing he would change. He promised to go to the Kingdom Hall with them every week and present himself as a clean-cut gentleman. He’d be the son they always wanted. It worked for a while until it didn’t. Micah was sneaking alcohol and hiding the bottles around their house. He blew up at his parents and disappeared for days on end. Finally, when he shook his mother hard by the shoulders one morning and threatened to choke her out, she got a restraining order and kicked him out on the street.
I was shocked to hear of Micah’s death in 2015. He’d either jumped or fell in front of a moving train while fooling around on the tracks. I like to think he fell by accident. The other possibility was too much to bear. His mother gave me the news one April morning, barely able to get the words out between her sobs. I felt numb as I realized that it was all over. He never stopped harassing me even after our divorce. I wished often he would go away permanently, especially as I was trying to put my life back together without him; however, I didn’t expect him to die in such a brutal manner.
Micah’s mother called me a few times after he died. Once was to tell me there were no substances found in Micah’s body. I guess she felt it was important to mention that. Another time she called because her family was having a memorial in Micah’s honor. She invited me to come. In death, Micah was her good boy again. It wasn’t as easy for me to forget.
I didn’t go to the memorial service. There was nothing I wanted to remember about Micah. He was cruel and mean and lost and lonely, and I’d taken the brunt of it too many times.
I didn’t understand a religion that made you shun your own children and deprive them of the little joys in life. Micah grew up believing that it wasn’t enough to simply exist for his parents to love him. He had to be a perfect boy who never made mistakes. He smashed every dream they had for him because they wouldn’t accept him as he was, a human being with flaws. He loved his parents dearly, but he grew up believing he’d never be good enough. It stunted his emotional growth into a man and carried over into every relationship he ever had.
I’ve made my peace with Micah. I just hope he’s at peace, too.