I'm honestly a little hesitant to write this chapter. Abe was the first guy who loved me completely and unconditionally. It's hard to find humor in this relationship because I still feel as if I did a horrible thing by breaking his heart. I'll just have to walk that fine line and do my best to convey the right details to you all.
The summer after my sophomore year in college, Hannah and I decided that we were going back to camp. You know, the camp where I had my first kiss? We would be staff now, in charge of campers and all that. Our friend Ali, who had worked there the year before, promised us that we would have a great time and there would be plenty of guys for us to hook up with. See where our priorities were?
We spent one week training, getting to know the rest of the staff, and searching for prospective boyfriends. I didn't necessarily like my options, but it was camp and I knew that I had to lower my standards for the summer. Soon it was my birthday and I turned 20 years old. Everybody drove down to the beach, we had the older guys get us jugs of wine, and we built a bonfire. I was halfway through my jug of Carlo Rossi, because cooking wine is as good as the real stuff if you're just trying to get drunk, when I caught Ali staring at me.
"Can I help you?" I love Ali to death. She's one of my best friends and knows my sense of humor.
"I'm going to hook you up with Abe," she announced.
"Why?" I knew who he was and had heard stories. He was older, I think 23 at the time, and had hooked up with a 17 year old last summer. Not like a one night stand, like actually dated her. It seemed a little odd but that didn't really matter because camp was a different world and we all did things we normally wouldn't. Plus, Abe had a huge nose. I'm talking Adrien Brody size. It was glorious.
"Because I think you two would be great together." And with that she stood up and wondered down the beach to find him.
A few minutes later and Abe was by my side, helping me polish of my gallon of Chablis. I wish I could remember more of that evening, but I don't. I know we did kiss but nothing more and I remember being impressed by how good of a kisser he was.
The next week was when the first round of campers showed up. I was assigned to the second grader's cabin and had 14 eight year old girls running around completely out of control. Seriously, working with children is the best birth control ever. But, and I promise to continue with my story after I say this, if you ever have kids and make the decision to put them on some type of ADD medication and then send them to camp, please, PLEASE leave them on their medication. Don't give them some prescription holiday. It's really not cool, believe me.
Anyway, that first week I believe I lost almost 7 pounds because during meal times I was either running after children or hiding in my cabin. Luckily we had our one and only field trip for that session and we took the kids to the Tillamook Cheese factory, perhaps my favorite processing plant in the entire world. They have this really disgusting treat called squeaky cheese. It's the curds that are scraped from the sides of the vat after the cheese has been processed. It's delicious and squeaks when you chew it. So I'm sitting at my table with a dozen screaming kids around me, eating my squeaky cheese in peace, when Abe comes up and sits down next to me.
"How's it going?"
"Fine," I blushed. We hadn't kissed since my birthday but I desperately wanted to again.
"Your girls are adorable."
"Aren't they?" Try living with them for a night.
"So, what are you doing for the session break?" He was referring to the three days we would have off before the next round of campers arrived.
"I don't know. I guess going back to Portland. Ali is having a party so I'll be going to that."
"Of course," I smiled at him and he smiled back.
"I guess I'll see you there," he said, standing up and winking at me. I smiled back and watched him walk away.
"He likes you," Tori said, a cute little blonde girl who was the only kid in the entire cabin who would listen to me.
"Yeah?" I asked. "How can you tell?" I couldn't believe I was having this conversation with an eight year old.
But Tori sighed and climbed up on my lap. "Lydia, sometimes a girl just knows these things."
I laughed. "I guess. Is it obvious that I like him back?"
Well, that was great.
A few days later and all of the staff was at Ali's house, drinking and having a good time. As if we didn't see enough of each other at camp, we still felt the need to spend every second together on our days off. We were a close knit group and I loved it. Abe approached me sometime during the evening, one thing led to another and I woke up the next day in bed with him. It was slightly shocking, my behavior that is, because I had promised myself I wasn’t going to sleep with a guy until I had known him and dated him for a while. But this was camp and one week camp time was like three months normal time. Well, that's how we all justified our promiscuous behavior anyway.
Thing progressed quickly from there. We spent every day together and would sneak off at night to some secluded spot on the beach, make out and then sneak back into camp. It was always a challenge to find a hidden spot that wasn't already occupied by some other couple. Abe was endless fun that summer. He was goofy yet so comfortable with himself. He cared so much for me and everyone could see our affection no matter how much we tried to hide it from the campers. He was one of those people who was always upbeat, always nice to everyone, a genuinely good guy.
By the end of the summer, I knew it was going to be incredibly difficult to leave him when school started again. I was so completely in love with this guy and he felt the exact same way about me. Abe was different from the other guys I had dated. He was older, more mature, and probably thinking about his future, thus more committed to making our relationship work. He was always making me laugh, always complimenting me, and always finding ways to completely sweep me off my feet. I was unbelievably happy.
School started and I went back to Santa Clara. The distance was difficult because we had essentially lived together over the summer. I was used to seeing him 24 hours a day, not speaking to him on the phone at random intervals between classes. We tried to make the best of it and got along pretty well until tragedy struck. Craig, Abe's best friend died suddenly from a rare strand meningitis. He was only 21 years old. Abe called me in the middle of the night and told me what had happened. I was in shock, complete shock. No one close to me had ever died before and the fact that I was so far away only made things worse.
I flew home that weekend and didn't quite know what to expect. Everyone from camp was there, but it wasn't like the summer. We were all somber and completely depressed. It was heartbreaking to see Craig's girlfriend. Abe was nearly inconsolable and I had no way of comforting him and felt desperate in my attempts. You see, Abe had incredibly bad luck. It seemed to follow him everywhere. During camp, he gave himself a concussion while dodging a wad of toilet paper that was being thrown at him by one of his campers. He hit his head on the wall so hard he bled. He had broken his nose at least three times (which probably accounted for its size and shape) and had fractured more bones than I could even count. Growing up in the Midwest, one of his best friends had been in a terrible car accident and was killed. So at this point, Abe was pretty much convinced that disaster followed him wherever he went. He tried to break up with me, saying that he just knew something bad would come along - something bad always happened to the people he loved most - but I wouldn't let him. He wasn't thinking straight and quite obviously needed a constant variable in his life. Why shouldn't that be his girlfriend?
But I had to go back to school and Abe wouldn't go with me. We talked about moving in together down in California but he wanted to stay in Portland where his friends were. That made sense, but I quickly found out that his friends weren't giving him the help he needed. He moved into an apartment with a guy, Frank, who didn't have a job or any sort of income from what we could tell. Frank would smoke in the apartment, leave dishes everywhere and always reeked of weed. Abe was quick to jump on that bandwagon and by the time I came home for winter break, was smoking half a pack a day and spending almost $50 a week on pot. That's only what he told me about. He also had this dog that he had brought home from the pound and who reminded me of my second grade campers. The dog wouldn't obey for anything and was constantly peeing and shitting in the house. Abe could rarely be bothered to clean it up and it didn't seem to bother Frank in the least. Their apartment was foul and I couldn't spend any time there.
New Year's came around and Ali was throwing another party. I was so disgusted by Abe and his new lifestyle at this point that I almost didn't want to go. But I still felt that he needed me. I still felt that I could make a difference. He was trying to quit smoking and I had helped him clean his apartment. The dog had a new kennel. But he was reluctant to do all these things. He was reluctant to do anything but have sex with me and smoke weed.
We were standing on the back porch, Abe was smoking a cigarette (the one he promised he would be his last), and I was talking to some friends. From out of nowhere, a snow ball came whizzing by my head, missing me by mere inches.
"What the hell?" I looked around for the culprit and my eyes landed on a very guilty looking kid I recognized from high school.
Let the games begin.
Now, I'm not the type of person to retaliate with an obvious attack. Throwing a snowball in Grant's direction would have been the most logical thing to do but that wasn't my strategy. Pretending to be morally offended and hurt by his blatant disregard for my wellbeing was a much better approach. I watched as Grant went inside, all the while telling Abe that I didn't care about the snowball, just let it go. Pretty soon I, along with my friend Elise, had cornered Grant and was giving him a piece of my mind.
"I know you threw that snowball, Grant," I taunted him. He blushed.
"Why would you do that?" Elise asked, looking as angry as she could.
"I don't know," he said, looking very apologetic.
"But you threw it at my face," I said, waving my hands in front of and around my head. "My face."
"I'm sorry?" He was clearly confused and my plan was working.
"It's my face," I said again. "I'm pretty. Why would you do that to my face?"
Elise cracked a smile at this point and we all started laughing. Only Abe didn't think it was so funny. He grabbed my hand after Grant and I had laughed it out and dragged me downstairs.
"Why would you do that?" He asked.
"Do you know how stupid you just made me look?"
"Abe, what are you talking about?" I was so confused.
"You should have let me defend you."
"Defend me? Against what? Grant? Believe me, I don't need defending against him. We were just having a little fun."
"Still," he pressed. "It made me look pathetic."
I sighed. "No, it didn't. No one cares."
"Whatever." He lit another cigarette.
That night I refused to sleep over. We fought about his smoking. We fought about his dog. We fought about his roommate. We fought about almost everything. I practically ran out of his apartment, slipping down the stairs in the snow and spraining my ankle. What a way to spend the rest of winter break.
I returned to California a few days later. Abe and I had talked things through but I won’t lie, I was excited for the time away from him. I knew things weren't working out but I refused to accept it. Abe needed me. He was so lost. But I no longer felt like he wanted my help. I tried to break up with him a few weeks into the quarter. He cried and cried and I nearly lost it. Two days later and I had called to say I was sorry and I took him back.
Things didn't get any better. They only got worse. I flew to Seattle for a weekend and asked Abe if he would make the short drive up to see me. He said he couldn't. He had no one to look after his dog. Yet he would call me at all hours of the day and night just to talk. He was such a mess and there was nothing I could do. He would pretend to be fine but I knew different.
By the time Valentine's day rolled around, I knew something had to give. I flew home to spend the weekend with him and to see my girlfriends. I wanted to talk things through with Abe, give him some choices and maybe open his eyes a little bit. But once I got home, he bailed on me, saying that his friends were in town and he wanted to see them. Hi. I was in town. He should want to see me. So I did what any girl would do. I gathered my three best friends, made tank tops which read "Drunk and Single, Valentines Day, 2004" and we went out dancing. At 10:00 that evening I received a phone call from my boyfriend desperately wanting to see me, apologizing all over the place, crying for the mistake he made. But it was too late. I told him I would see him the next day and left it at that.
The next day was horrible. It took me over three hours to break up with him. Abe had so many questions and didn't understand my reasoning. I explained everything to the best of my ability but there are only so many ways you can say it. He didn't have his life together and I wasn't capable of helping him anymore. By that afternoon, I was driving him home and we were both crying. We sat in his car for almost 30 minutes just holding each other because we both knew it was going to be so hard to let the other go. He asked if he could kiss me one last time and I let him, knowing it would make driving away just that much worse but no longer caring about how much pain I was causing both of us.
Abe and I would call each other randomly throughout the years just to catch up. He eventually figured out his life and is now working with children full time. We no longer talk, but I hear through mutual friends that he is doing well. It's hard giving up on someone who you are supposed to love. But what are you supposed to do when they have given up on themselves? Maybe I wasn't strong enough to take care of him. Maybe I was just selfish. I'd like to think that the end of our relationship was a wakeup call for him but I'm probably wrong. I really do wish the best for Abe. He was a great boyfriend and an amazing person.