7.

My entire body used to ache for you, longing for respect and consideration, dreaming of becoming the woman you wanted me to become. I spent hours, thousands of them, agonizing over why I was never good enough for you.

Many worlds and many words ago, I believed you saved me. I believed I loved you, that my heart belonged to you, and that you were too blind to see me standing there, in front of you, reaching out and offering the broken pieces of myself in earnest hope. I believed you might blink some night, that it would clear your vision and open up our potential. I believed you hated me, and then I believed you didn’t want me, and then, finally, I believed that I, somehow, was not good enough. I entered a someone-like-him mentality, tying myself up in the restraints of an excruciatingly concrete self-doubt. How, I would ask myself, could I have ever lost the love of my life? And that was the thing that continued my ceaseless and painstaking internal debate – I thought that you, just a boy who manipulated my everything and anything, were the love of my life.

It’s funny how we solely rely on others to justify our own self-worth. We look at these people who destroy any semblance of self-essence, and we think that, maybe, just maybe, we might find refuge rather than pain. And as if we could’ve never seen it coming, we greet the pain with disdain and surprise. I didn’t see it coming, not the first or the second time, but I waited for you to hurt me because I was willing to give all of myself to you. I thought, honestly, that I needed your unnecessary and caustic behaviors in my life.

I don’t need you.

In the unescapable realm of loneliness and existentialism that most people fall into after losing an opportunity, I broke down. My friends were with me when you pushed me, gently enough to send my fragile psyche and heart barreling into the abyss that was my heartbreak. My friends watched as you poured out your heart, but not because you thought I deserved your genuine sentimentality, but because your eyes began searching elsewhere. My friends watched me, tumbling and twisting and creating a world of personal contortion they’d never experienced. I was done, done with trying to be good enough for you, done with changing who I was and wanted to be, done with playing a game you began so many years before.

I didn’t want to roll the dice anymore, not with you or with anyone, and not because I wanted to stop taking chances – I let you cheat me, round after round, sending me into the red and black spiral, a bloodlust of Russian roulette, a gun to the head and a gun to the heart. I was done being the game, done with you testing your luck, done with the whirling of your casino mind. Lights and coins, the sounds of disgrace and respect equally entangled with your successes in the conquest you perpetually pursued.

Falling in love is not a game of chance, and it took one paragraph, one text, for me to realize that you had finally run out of chances with me.

I make mistakes. I hesitate to say so, especially when it comes to boys like you; I believe in the idea of regret only existing within one’s mind if you truly, truly, wish you could take back what you so deeply regret. Mistakes of the boy variety were still pieces of my life, pieces I’ve wanted, pieces I won’t ever say I regret, but you’ve made the list. It’s a short list, one with only you and another soul marring the page, and the two of you are tied for most insufferable man. I regret wasting my beautiful time with you. If I could take back every class in high school, every text and phone call, everything after we graduated, each moment, I would. You taught me so much; you taught me to love cautiously; you taught me to love fiercely but also to take no shit. And isn’t that what love is? Loving someone does not mean unconditionally accepting the faults and flaws of your person – loving someone means seeing those faults and making it a conscious decision to improve, making it a conscious decision to call that person you love out and then reminding him that you will love him through the pain of bettering himself. Loving someone isn’t accepting the bullshit. And it isn’t about dishing out bullshit, either.

Loving someone is mutually respecting and considering his or her humanity, and you only considered me an object. I was time to kill, and you had no problem tearing me apart, gear by gear.

I put myself back together, and this time, I did it without wondering if I needed your help to do it.

6.

The boy I mentioned about four thousand words ago came back into my life, or maybe it was I who returned to his life. I made a mistake. I took his goofy, trustworthy nature as a sign, something that meant he wouldn’t hurt me all over again, and I’m not saying it is or ever was intentional, but he did it times two. He doesn’t see me the way I see him, and I’m not sure he ever will, despite his pretty words and ceaseless kindness.

It hurts knowing he’ll always only look at me as his train wreck friend, if he even sees me as that at all. We recently talked about the past, and when I say recently, it was before I let him do anything to me. He shared so many thoughts and sentiments he felt back then that made me wish I hadn’t been as shy or as embarrassed; the words he spoke impaled my mind with regret, an endless regret that made me wish I could have been as self-assured as I come across now (and, if we’re being honest, that’s a part of the façade to cover up what is almost always wrong with me). I wonder sometimes what would’ve happened if I would’ve taken the chance I always passed up because of my foolish, bashful, and youthful mind.

The fear that resided in my heart stopped me from taking those chances because I didn’t want to hurt more because of another person – I was already hurting enough, by my own mind, by my own hands. The fear that resided in my heart was, looking back, a piss poor defense mechanism I learned from my friends. The fear that resided in my heart was a part of the reason I missed out on a whole potential relationship. You can’t change the past, and while I want to exclaim “Why of course you can” at the top of my lungs, I know that you cannot repeat or change what is now left behind by time. You cannot gather the dust that is in the wind, and you cannot spend a lifetime hoping it will suddenly become possible. We can’t go back to change and begin what we never started, and I’m convinced he wouldn’t want such an endeavor if it were possible.

I’ve spent the past few months pining, reliving my junior year of high school, hoping that by some miracle he would notice me. And when I say I want him to notice me, I want it to be for some reason that isn’t our friendship. We’re friends, and I would argue he is, by all means, one of my best friends. He knows things no one else knows about me; he stays up to talk to me late at night; he used to be something more, yet now he’s nothing more than a common and casual friend. I haven’t quite figured out if it’s by my doing or by his, and I haven’t quite decided how to approach keeping him in my life. Evident as the sun rises, he feels less than what I feel for him, and although time has passed, it didn’t take me long to know that the feelings remained despite the glitter and mystique of past flings fading.

When a woman knows, she knows – there have been times when I thought I knew, and I realized and understood how wrong I was, but this time, as it was last time, is so exceedingly different than every other moment. When years can pass, and we can change, and life progresses, and some connection shows potential all over again, it cannot be another passing flame. Or can it? I struggle between wondering if I’ve fooled myself or if he has fooled me, and I struggle even more with the idea of wondering how he could fool me when he says quite the opposite.

Something happened between us, more than what had previously happened before. The first night, when I tore around the city with him and with two of my other friends, something happened between us. We spent hours wandering and hours talking and hours doing just about nothing with two other people that he and I have known for at least a decade. We sat and we shared and we laughed. Moments between us passed in silence, and he nor I felt the need to fill the silence with vacant discussion or empty laughter. It was comfortable, safe. That night, we left our mutual friends behind so that he could go back to his school and so that he could safely return me to my own school once we reached his car.

Miles barely fill the space between our colleges, and even less distance fills the space between us when we return to our childhood homes, and we were so close that night. He didn’t know what he wanted, and I was unsure, but we knew, with a depth of certainty, that we wanted each other.

His car sat in an empty lot, offering lust and cover by flickering streetlights. Three other cars sat in the lot, sparse and empty were those white lines, and his car teased us in its space, illustrating just how vacuous and unoccupied the lot truly was at that hour. My hands shook with anxiety and anticipation, and he surely guided me, keeping me close as we walked and his strides shortened to match mine. The sky was empty, cloudless and starless, masked by light pollution and city lives and an unfathomable, recondite abyss – the horizon juxtaposed the lot, filled with buildings and lights and blustering life. We were the skyline; we were alive.

Writing this allows me the luxury and the woe of feeling his lips on my neck, my chest, his hands on my body. I cannot speak for him. I can’t say whether he felt this cultivated ardor. I can’t say whether he felt the intensity of affection or the fury and zeal of desire. Reading his mind, if only, but I cannot read his mind, and all I’ve got left of this night is the body language I witnessed and the sense of touch I continuously rebuild when I think back on how I could’ve prolonged the mania of this moment. We were in the backseat of his car, a homage to high school and secret conversations and adolescent longing, and we were tangled. I hate that cliché about being one being, you know the one I’m thinking of, not knowing where one person ends and the other person begins.

It was not like that – we knew our boundaries, but we chose to ignore boundaries. We chose to pervade walls constructed, we chose to disclose deeper conundrums, and we chose to delve into an illustrious and enticing universe. We dissociated ourselves from those hidden moments of the past, never mind this hidden moment occurring in the middle of time and space. I can feel his breath on my ear, still, and I can see our clothing scattered about the back seat and the car, shoelaces unlaced and sweaters removed.

Just friends, we were just friends, and we were pressed against one another, struggling for breath and racing the clock and avoiding insightful thought. Just friends, we were just friends, and that was fine because I had been just friends with other men. We were doing what anyone with a certain amount of time between his and her friendship would do. We were abandoning caution while remaining cautious. We were… well, we were just friends, and he was on top of me, and I couldn’t remove my hands from his neck just as much as he couldn’t remove his lips from my skin. We were just friends, and we were grasping for threads of sanity and the torn cloth of what our friendship meant. We were just friends; we said it to one another before we strolled down darkened sidewalks together. We were just friends; we had plans of getting to know one another, because I was too fast for him and he wasn’t sure he knew me anymore. We were just friends. I had to learn to trust him again. We were just friends, but when I heard his voice in my ear that lone midnight, I thought of him in ways I’d never thought of my other friends.

His voice – burning that night into my memory, his voice as my hand slid down his chest, his voice as his hand slid to the small of my back, it was barely a whisper, low enough so that I might’ve missed it had I not been entirely tuned into him, but I heard it. I can’t recall the words on his voice, but I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the tone or the volume, the thunder that escaped his throat, a resonate, sharp murmur, a keen and provoking whimper.

He doubts me when I tell him so, and I’ve since stopped, but his voice is among his best qualities. It whispers histories and sensations that never existed into existence. It promises. It breaks promises. It is, honestly, just a voice, but it’s his voice. It’s his voice, and I’ve heard so many pretty and equally base words come off of it that I’ve been conditioned to miss it when it was never my voice to miss.

A week or two passed us by before I saw him again. I made plans with him to go home, passing up an opportunity to attend a dream, a concert, my favorite artist. We met late in the afternoon, the night before spent laboring over what to wear and how to smell and whether or not my eyeliner should be winged. I cared about how he saw me, even despite knowing it didn’t matter so much to him, so I took the prim and proper time and arranged missing something that meant the world to me. We met in the late afternoon, and I got lost, but he found me. With some direction and slight coaxing, we settled on a common location that my stubborn and anxious mind could properly find, and he found me, sitting there alone with my bag at my feet and my heart on my sleeve. The walk to his car was brief, and we made it; our journey to our mistake began in that moment.

When I write the word mistake, I don’t mean it so much as a mistake that I spent time with him or that I regret the night entirely, but it was a mistake. I would take back that night if I could, if only to preserve the friendship we were bringing back to life. In the time it took to return home, I conversed and he listened, and we argued as friends argue. Our dynamic is something between hatred and companionship, though I’ve never once hated him since I’ve known him. It was normal and fun and proper; we laughed. I was bashful, because only he has ever made me that way, and he was frustrated, but not to the point of avoiding laughter himself.

His bed gave us room, and we were alone this time, without city lights or the blackened sky looming over us. The next few hours passed in a whirlwind, a tornado that, I believe, wrecked what was becoming of our new dynamic. The storm shelter sat thousands of feet away from us, and he couldn’t reach the safety of it, and I couldn’t either, and so we were stuck in cataclysmic tempest. Visceral havoc ensued, pulling us from one another in a way I couldn’t control. Nothing has been the same. I would take it back, if only to preserve what he may have once felt for me. I would take it back, if only to protect his mind and his heart and, mostly, his ego. I would take that night back because it wasn’t worth destroying what I was trying to establish. This, I’ve noticed, has been a running theme in our interactions – I attempt to manufacture something that could never possibly be, and a gale assails all hope and growth, and it blows away with any and all confidence I may have had in a potential us.

I’m not sure I want him to read this now, if ever. I’m not sure my sky will ever recover from the overcast weather in my heart, at least not when it comes to thinking about the cyclone he always brings upon me. Sometimes heat produces lightning, but as of late, it’s been cold, and the thunder rumbles on, miles away.

5.

I want to talk about my little brother, since I’m talking about relationships and life changing experiences, after all. Five years younger, and sometimes five years wiser, Nick offers the most insightful and infuriating interactions I’ve ever experienced in my life. When I found out my parents were having a new baby, I can’t quite remember my exact reaction, but I do remember being so excited to meet my new little brother. I told my parents I wanted a sister at first, but growing up, I realized that would’ve been less than ideal.

I’ve seen siblings who barely get along, mostly my mother and her sisters, and I don’t understand it. I don’t think one has to always like his or her siblings, but there’s a difference between common quarrels and a real, honest dislike of a person. And I could never really, honestly dislike or hate my little brother in any way.

I’ve lost track of the amount of times he has picked me up from my own darkness. In high school, when I was struggling between waking up and forever falling into sleep, his young mind and insightful heart reached out in ways I could’ve never offered at his age. When I was fifteen, and entering into my sophomore year, which was likely one of the worst years, Nick was ten years old and always poked his head into my room with little annoyances and obnoxious loudness.

He bothered me so much, but in retrospect, he was bothering his way into my life in order to keep an eye on my wellbeing. Some years after those days, I learned that he would repeatedly report to my parents and ask if they knew how I was doing. He checked in on me to make sure that I wasn’t dying in ways that he couldn’t control.

Somehow, someway, Nick always finds a way to provide the wisdom I’m sorely lacking and the advice I always need. I went home a little while ago, specifically to see him because I needed some sort of informed and honest insight and judgment. I didn’t say it outright, didn’t tell him that I needed the help, but he seemed to know just by glancing at me.

We sat on the kitchen floor and talked for hours. Being that he’s fifteen, turning sixteen in a few months, I didn’t realize he has grown and is continuously growing into a person of his own; he has a life and friends and personal conflicts and transgressions; he has goals, and he makes mistakes. My younger brother is becoming a young man, and with that comes mistakes and misadventures, and we willingly discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly together.

We sat on the kitchen floor, and he told me about things I used to do in my free time, except this time he was the protagonist in the story, and he was the main character fleeing the trouble he was surely causing. It may sound wrong to you, but I’ve never been prouder of my baby brother because he is learning from his mistakes, and he is learning how to right wrongs and how to be his own best friend. He is learning that it’s okay to fail and that it’s okay to be alone, even if for a little while, and he is learning to trust himself, to not rely on those around him for everything and anything.

Sometimes I wonder if that was my problem, that maybe I was relying too much on other people to sustain who I was and who I would become. I’m proud of Nick.

We sat on the kitchen floor for hours, and during those hours, we expelled the negativity, and he let me talk and talk without judging me in the ways that someone I care about so much continued to judge me. He sat there, and he made me feel necessary, much unlike the aforementioned person – he made sure I knew I wasn’t bothering him, and for that, I owe him too much to say. My brother has, for the entire course of his young life, made sure that both within and without our family that I can always turn to him.

I thought I got over feeling badly about what I’ve done to him, but I won’t ever wake up and be completely over him. Nick found me when I attempted suicide. I was sixteen, he eleven, and he burst into my room and found me hanging in my closet. I remember the look on his face, and I remember my initial thought was that I had fucked up monumentally, because it hadn’t worked.

I felt empty, more than I ever had. I felt worse than I did on a daily basis, and every time after that moment when I woke, sore and confused, I thought about the look on my brother’s face after time had passed and potential death cleared the room. His words rushed out of his mouth faster than ever before, faster than any sarcastic joke or annoying comment, quicker than he could manage, stumbling and stuttering and struggling to grasp a reason. The weeks after that happened were hard on us both, more so on him, because he had to stare into my hopelessness without understanding why or how it happened.

He is the most resilient young person I know. It’s hard to be there for someone who so deeply wants to be gone forever, but as each year passes and despite the distance between us, my brother finds a new way to check in, a creative way to let me know he’s there, a sure-fire means of protecting me when I should be the one who protects him.

If you ever see this, I hope you know I’m sorry and that I love you more than you’ll ever know. Friends aside and arguments behind us, even with the ones to come in mind, you keep me going, and you keep me sane. These trying times will never leave my heart or my mind no matter my happiness or success, and I know that, but with my brother beside me, I’ve got someone to kick my ass as well as the asses of those who try to bring me down. Family makes life difficult, but family also takes the difficult and turns it to useless ash when you’ve forgotten how to start a fire.

4.

My life changed when I applied for a job entirely out of my comfort zone. Logan, still a part of my life when I applied, supported it at the time. He told me to follow my dreams and to take charge of my life; he told me that maybe this would be good for me, at least until he thought it wasn’t good for us anymore.Working double shifts and taking classes over the summer devoured my time, and while Logan and I were trying to make long distance work, it seemed the distance between us grew further every day. I would be on the unit, busy trying to learn the ins and outs of my new job, and he would be halfway across the state, sending threatening texts to my phone.

He blamed the job, along with all of my issues, on our downfall. Inaccurate as that was, and despite my defenses, I let it happen.

Most people possess the gumption to claim a new job has changed their lives, yet job did change my life.

I don’t have enough fingers to count off the number of amazing people I’ve met.

Ava didn’t like me at first, but I blame that on the girl who sat in front of me and dragged my socially anxious self into a friendship I hadn’t even really wanted. She, meaning Ava, started on the same floor as me, and by some chance, our friendship began and became the type of friendship you don’t know or understand how you lived without.

I have always, for the duration of my conscious and social life, felt out of place. I have always, since childhood, worried about never finding the person whose friendship would change my life. I watched my peers line up into cliques, groups, all surrounding me. I had those people, but then I still felt alone enough to the point of wanting to die.

I’m not going to lie and say I feel wonderful currently; as I sit here and write this, my stomach churns. As I sit here and write this, I think about why my past attempt didn’t work. As I sit here and write this, I wonder how easy it might be for the people to move on. For me, all of these feelings have never quite left me, but I manage. I have always managed, yet somehow, I’ve survived on managing without purpose for a long and frightening time.

I’m not going to say Ava gave me purpose when she let me into her life, but she didn’t leave me out. She accepts the weird. She accepts my apologetic nature and does what she can to help me realize I deserve more than I thought. And I feel like I don’t deserve her friendship still, because of who I am. I’ve never met someone who supports me in the way that she supports me, and sometimes I’m so afraid that I’ll lose her, too.

I’ve already lost mostly everyone else. There are people who care, but very few, and of those few, she is the most important.

I was sitting in this repugnant, ghastly classroom on the third floor of the hospital, some weeks into my orientation, still vying to fit in without appearing strapped for friendship or comfort. The dull walls told me even less than the dull presentations that were supposedly vital to our performance on these psychiatric units (later, I learned that nothing but working on the unit served as appropriate preparation). Those walls had seen hundreds, if not thousands, of those trite central orientation classes. Those walls locked us in and mocked us as we tolerated dreary voices unloading cumbersome information upon our minds. Do your therapeutic observations, provide trauma informed care, and do what you can to de-escalate – in all aspects, follow the least restrictive model.

It made sense to me. With my mother working in mental health for most of my life and an interest in what goes wrong and how we can help, I knew I wouldn’t be changing the world. Those yellow bricks of that hospital hold in sickness, not health. If I were to change anyone’s world in the most minor way, that would be enough for me.

When they put us in that hellishly boring room after weeks on end of sinking in those awful office chairs and then offered a teach on taking manual blood pressure, I genuinely thought about dipping out of that room. I’m not joking when I say I am underqualified to manually gauge blood pressure, and although the machines on the unit are appalling, I’m grateful for them.

But my lack of skill is beside the point – the day we broke out the stethoscopes and opened our ears to heartbeats was the day Ava became my friend.

That terrible room was full of orientees, each of us on different floors, each of us figuring out who was worth befriending and who was not. Up until this point, that shrill girl with her annoying friendship and always visible underwear had sucked me in. I was taking anything I could get because my anxiety didn’t, or couldn’t, handle being the outcast very well.

So, while everyone paired up, Ava and I were left behind – she in her corner and me two seats over in the back row. The beginning of that orientation hadn’t proved to be out of the ordinary, except for the fact that one of the best nurses on our floor was leading it. Maybe that should’ve told me something.

Anyway, I moved to sit beside her, and we made the weird small talk that one makes to avoid feeling socially anxious.

The moment when I couldn’t hear her heartbeat started it all, I believe. I joked that she must’ve been as dead inside as I was, and she laughed. It is in the company of the people who tolerate your morbid death jokes that you realize who your honest friends are.

When she reads this, I hope she understands how much I appreciate her and how I’m struggling to convey that sentiment without letting tears fall from the storm clouds my eyes have become. Empty weeks of work and stress pass us by, yet she and I are armed with the startling, outlandish, and audacious reality of what amicable friendship we’ve created – thank you, forever.

3.

Writing a novel opened my world to various avenues I hadn’t previously visualized; I realized that even in my darkest moments I could make my audience feel something. I could illustrate scenes of emotion, scenes of anguish and false hope, scenes of elated ecstasy, empathetic sentences to drive home the themes within my mind.  I wonder sometimes what it was that pushed me to finish that piece. Was it the attention I knew I’d receive or the passion behind my words? Was it those brown eyes I wished I hadn’t lost sight of or that I knew I had been dealt a hand lucky enough to have gazed in a similar direction? I finished the book around 3 AM on a Monday morning, music blasting into my ear and emotions spilling through my fingertips and onto my keyboard.  

I felt empty and whole simultaneously; it was over, and I had something to leave behind.  

It is wholly important, I believe, to note that throughout all of my despondency and pessimistic surrender, I did experience happiness in small and genuine bursts. Doing well in school, even during my constant subconscious insults, offered joy. Helping my friends, or helping people in general, gifted my soul the cheerful exhilaration I so sorely lacked. Speaking to my favorite teachers made me hopeful, even to the lowest extent. In my depressive hopelessness, it is essential to note that I felt those tiny moments of a begrudgingly agreeable euphoria. Please do not misconstrue this. My point is as simple as it is complicated – sadness, depression, these experiences that damn near drove me to suicide, were still present in all my triumphant moments. I can recognize this now, yet during those days I failed to see both sides of the ever-present emotional enigma.  

During those days of impressionable anxiety and stresses entirely different than the stresses I experience now, I never truly understood regret. Embarrassment dictated my loneliness and my life, and while I projected and presented my best fuck-you-attitude, I struggled with the anxiety of wondering what others thought, but I never regret being my lonesome self. I never regret being the weird kid. I never regret any part of myself during those days.  

The regret began when my charming, tumultuous affair with Logan began. If I could give myself advice, at least to the girl I was back then, I’d remind her to remember that one cannot discover personal value in another person, that searching for value in someone else is incredibly dangerous. It breeds an abusive environment. I’ve been told that regret is ridiculous, mainly because you should never regret something you once wanted so badly. That’s some sort of preposterous bullshit. You are, by all means, allowed to regret choices and people and thoughts – you’ve grown and changed as time passed, and those arduous and burdensome regrets signify that you have learned.  

I regret giving myself to Logan to the fullest extent. I regret looking into his eyes and telling him I loved him, because part of me never would and never could love him. Each interrogation into my daily life left me under the impression that he wanted a part in my life, not that his only desire was to control mine so that I could accommodate his life so fully. Lonely and broken as I was in high school, during those long days, I would have never allowed his words to bend and break my spine.  

He loved himself more than anyone else. The worst part about loving a person who consistently breaks your spirit to bolster his own is that you never really know if you want to get out until it’s almost too late.  

An unfortunate memory remains forever burned into the depths of my mind. We were nearing the end of us, both destroyed by the distance and demeaning banter, and he brought up the depression I never had total control over. He used it against me, said that maybe our relationship would be better if I would just “be happier.” He called me selfish. He called me dramatic and called the sadness I could never shake unfair. It was my depression that ruined us, and I should’ve had a better handle on it, he said. I should’ve tried harder, he exclaimed. I should not have been that way. In his world, backhands and shoves to the chilly dorm room floor cured that depression.  

Black eyes and bloody noses, bruises that meant I hadn’t learned my lesson, weekend trips became the longest nights of my life, and I would lie in bed, beside this person who broke my heart and my blood vessels, thinking about how lucky I was to have someone who loved me as much as he loved me. There were days when we would explore campus, he carefully and pathologically controlling my stride with his grip on my hand and my mind. There were days when he easily walked ahead of me while I limped behind him, keeping up with the supposed love of my life after the most vehement thrashing of my life. I spent those purple weekends reassuring myself that he would apologize and kiss me goodnight. 

The grass felt softer up there, or maybe it didn’t, and maybe I was seeking out a gentle touch. The stars were maybe brighter, shining down onto me as I waited for him, giving me hope that he would look into my eyes and see some sort of midnight beginning. I, during those days with him, forever wanted this gleaming hope to save us, and to save him, and I wanted to look at him and believe that he was closer to me than those stars. Our relationship left me alone in some kind of vacuous, vacant negative space. The gravity of love left my bones behind. Barren and devoid of myself, my wasteland heart stopped beating, and my numb fingers stopped writing.  

Suffice to say, I regret him, and even more, I regret disclosing so much of myself to an exhausted, vain heart.  

2.

As those days came to a close, in the end, I believe the words became my safe haven. Eager to disclose what was left of my worldly being to the paper, I rushed to produce a piece to leave behind. During those days, before and after I met a boy, I created a world that wouldn’t leave me. I wrote. I wrote about the pain, and I called it fiction, a story, and I wrote until it found a comfortable solution. I gave my fiction what I thought I could never give myself.  After those days, I continued questioning myself and the people around me. After those days, I stopped killing myself every night before bed – I told myself that if I were going to move forward, I had to leave the past behind. That progression not only meant that I had to leave behind those abysmal pieces of myself but also that I had to cut ties. So I did. The heat of the summer after our graduation blazed fiercely, and I held the lasting yet diminished ties of companionship and friendship to the fire. It was a summer spent incredibly alone, a summer spent working on building and breaking myself, a summer that led to an end of melancholy. 

After those days spent wondering if any of us would ever grow up, I felt myself changing and entering a metamorphosis of sorts. I met a friend, a girl I’d known during those days, Alex. She pulled me back in before I could get away once again. Looking back now, while I did find occasional strength alone, those forlorn and forsaken moments nearly brought the killing back. Alex forced me out of my sullen and despondent comfort zone, and she took my sorrowful demeanor and only allowed me small moments to fall apart. 

After those days, I was never sure that Alex and I would remain friends, yet we did; we created a new life complete with new friends and textbooks and adventures our parents would have hated.  

After those days, I opened myself up to people; after those days, I focused my mind on what could be rather than what would never be. After those days, I allowed myself to finally engage in this pursuit of happiness that my teenage angst constantly blocked me from seeing. That is not to say, though, after those days, that my incredible weaknesses didn’t still loom ominously over my head.  

What was once figurative suicide become literal suicidal ideation. But I was happy. I had friends, new ones, and a growing and changing life. But I was away from the cage of high school and conformity. But my life wasn’t so hard. But I was suddenly doing well and living a beautiful life. What they don’t tell you is that one moment you’ll be high on new experiences and the greater good you never thought you’d find and the next moment you’re struggling to find any sort of substantial light.  

The only difference between the during and the after about my mind was that I stopped imagining my death and started planning it; I, in that new and exciting time, felt an increasing need to off myself. I thought I had been growing, and then I thought I had been failing – a tale of two extremes always and forever.  

I met another boy. Logan drew me in like a riptide, which seems incredibly absurd when I thought of him now. A new friend connected me to this Logan, this new boy, and my enamored heart fell into his disingenuous hands all too easily. I was done trying to love myself. I simply wanted the reassurance of someone finally loving me. I spent hours of my time getting to know a person who never existed, and I let him capture my mind too quickly. It all happened so fast.  

Writing every detail and anecdote involving our relationship would result in a complicated series of chapters, each one revealing how much I didn’t deserve the love he feigned. What was worse wasn’t the false and treacherous territory we built affection on, but he segregated me from creating and maintaining other relationshuips far more than I alone had ever done to myself. It started with the few friends I managed to carry with me through those four years of disgruntled discontent. They met him, and they humored me because I was happy. In those moments, and during those days, I wish I could’ve realized and understood their friendship despite my faults. 

He tore those people away from me, and I let him do so, giving out false reasons and snarky explanations to all the people who wondered what in the world was happening to me. 

Natalie tried to save me once. Let me explain. 

I know a remarkable, inconceivably steadfast woman. She spent those long days in our personal hell with me, and even when the walls were closing in on us, we made it work. We loved the same music and shared an awful affinity for lipsticks and boys who liked to hurt us. She accepted me in leaps and bounds, and I her, and I’m not sure there are very many other human beings I will ever know and love in the way I know and love Natalie. She has left an indelible impression upon my lugubrious soul; I owe her my life because she is part of the reason I got it back.  

I almost lost her, and I almost lost myself. 

Natalie was the first person I shared a draft of my novel with. I decided to take on the project during those days; it started as a fun writing exercise during my freshman year of high school and blossomed into the graduation project I would present my junior year. It remained unfished until December of my senior year. 

When I presented the project to a panel of three teachers from our district, I thought of it as a failure. I anxiously printed out the barely finished manuscript, one for my presentation and one for myself, and I went into the computer lap with a nervous heart. Looking back to my unfinished work and poor developing demeanor, I realize that moment was not one of failure or lack of creation, it was one of incomplete depiction, a moment in the making. I was a moment in the making. I hadn’t finished the novel then, just as I hadn’t finished myself, and even now, I’m still in the making.  

1.

He killed me over and over. And when I would look at him, I never would’ve thought it would be him. Talking to him, that first night, without anything to lose, I thought I’d be safe. The distance made it easier to trust him in the way that I so entirely trusted him, and he spun pretty words that deeply contrasted my decidedly unpretty self-perception.

It was late in the summer, a time that felt so far from the entrapment of high school and so close to the liberation of college. Only a few short months before had I tossed my cap in the air and watched the previous four years of my life flash before my eyes. While we were in it, it felt like it might never end, and yet, we all walked off into the future without looking back.

My time spent within those four, incredibly close walls led me to believe in strengths I hadn’t even known existed. I learned to write, and I learned to pick myself up, and I learned that the people I cared about most would tear me apart. Every day in high school felt so similar, mundane and simply deadly boring. I was suicidal then.

During those days, I could’ve easily killed myself, long before he had the chance. Pouring over French and history, my busy mind protected myself from those idle hands. Words of authors and presidents past touched my soul and reminded me I couldn’t do much if I were in a grave. A very tangible consideration of this self-harm presented itself as my questionable brain chemistry conflicted with my cravings for validation and my formidable lone-wolf mentality. Each vital moment, left alone with my work and academic obligation, guarded my heart from the decision I could never seem to make.

During those days, before I found comfort in myself and my loneliness, before I understood how to rely on myself, I would write with fervor and desperation, aching to belong to someone’s world and craving to discover the something more to life everyone else seemed to already possess. Internal civil war destroyed my thought processes, so as I created hope through statements, my blood boiled and my nervous system attacked itself.

Each year passed with a new and omniscient dilemma, a problem I could see from above but one that I could never solve from below, thus tangling my sense of self in confusion and miscommunication.

He killed me over the span of one year and a half, yet during those days before him, I murdered myself once a day, every day, for four years. He killed me with his words and his soul crushing glares, yet I shot myself with fickle bullets and selfish self-deprecation. He killed me with distrust and disappointment; he killed me with a robust disbelief in who I could become; I killed myself with the worn rope of my own accomplishments every week, fifty-two weeks a year for four years, never better and never worse. He actively broke me down and beat the life out of me until my mind whimpered an died, but it was never worse than dying by my own intangible hand – there I stood, in those institutionalized halls, death by emotional stagnation. I felt every harsh blow he imposed upon my heart, and so it was never worse than losing my ability to feel by my own deconstruction.

During those days built upon morose preoccupations and preconceived notions, I danced along the line of growth alone, leaping two steps ahead of my peers but falling back four steps as I observed my own heart breaking with every lost connection and relationship. I forced myself into a grotto of precise isolation. Thinking back, during those days, I created conflict in places that should have remained, by all means, careful and compassionate. I was so lost, especially during those moments of concrete certainty. So many people, the people I hadn’t quite isolated myself from at that point, reached for my hand as I leaped from introspective desolation. I broke my stepping stones; I found myself drowning in the River Styx; I beat away solace and refuge to indulge in my own misery.

During those days, I met a boy. During those days, my solitude and slowly beating heart never allowed for true affection – I couldn’t have possibly understood protecting some other heart while I was fighting to preserve mine. I met a boy who had always been around. I met a boy who laughed at my angst during the day, hoping, I assume, to draw some sort of joy from the lacrymose blue of my eyes. I met a boy who spent his latest nights wallowing in my shallow graves with me and pulling the shovel from my weakened hands. During those days, we were so young. During those days, I would look at him, and he at me, and we reached an unspoken understanding of one another. I met a boy who knew the fraction of myself that I slaughtered, and with ease, he would bandage the wounds and remind me that I couldn’t execute the purest parts of my soul and being. I met a boy who looked past the teenage façade, although he himself fought his own battles, and pulled out the parts of me he thought were beautiful, parts and pieces I disregarded because my blue eyes couldn’t see what his brown eyes perceived. Some say that those types of eyes, the brown kind, are plain. They are plain. But in my deep descent into a contagion of calamity, those brown eyes saw something worthwhile.

I digress.

During those days, I met a boy with brown eyes; during those days, I met a boy at the wrong place and the wrong time.

We were defined by what we could not become. During those foolish periods of productivity and discretion, stolen glances across linoleum floors, shying away under fluorescent lights, we hid from our friends in plain sight, what we thought we could hide from ourselves. During those days, I found myself encapsulated not only in a contradictory state of disillusionment and inspiration but taken over by my own greenest light. Turning corners and not only seeing the shades of awe and envy but feeling the cool tones of what would never come to fruition broke the foundation I once believed I had begun to build.

During those days, when we were honest, I was jaded. When I met a boy, knew the boy, and finally understood I never had the boy, I focused on words.