It all started at church when she was 12 and he was 15. Lots of families joined together to caravan to Sequoia for camping. She just felt electrified whenever he was around, she couldn’t stop staring at him. She wanted him to notice her. Now, a boy at 15 isn’t going to notice a girl at 12, which she now knows is a very good thing, but at the time she couldn’t understand. What she knew about him wasn’t much, he was athletic, seemed kind, had this long, ratty, sexy blond hair… very mysterious guy. He didn’t seem like the typical Christian dork and she didn’t like Christian dorks anyway. She didn’t feel all that Christian herself.
Well after that trip, she couldn’t remember seeing that much of him. It was years later, when she was 16 and he was 18 or 19. He showed up back at church… wow! She still felt electrified, but in a different way now. Now, she wanted to fuck him. Yeah, not your typical Christian girl… well, maybe she was, who knows? Somehow she got him to ask her out. She remembered their first date being at the movies. He picked her up in his big truck, so cool, and now she doesn’t even remember what movie they saw. She does remember that he got up during the flick and was gone quite a while. By this time, being a ripe old age of 16, she had gone through a rough patch of drug use. Started with alcohol, went to weed, then she spent awhile with her friend speed. By this time though, she was pretty sure she was done with it. And, she knew by now that he liked and potentially had a problem with his friend heroin. She had some experience being around people that liked heroin, and by the time he came back, she was already quite suspicious. She asked him if he went to get high, to which he replied “do you know how long it takes to use that stuff?” That didn’t answer her question at all, but it satisfied her enough because she dropped it.
After what seemed like an eternity sitting next to him, her getting hotter by the second, they walked back to the truck and sat together on the tail gate under the stars. After these two teenagers stared at each other for a bit, she said “so are you going to kiss me or what?” Holy shit… it was happening and it was great. They moved inside the truck, you know, to be more comfortable while making out. It was wonderful. Not long after that, but probably a few weeks or months they lost touch again. She remembers hearing that he went to rehab or something.
So, she lived her life. She went back to high school as a Senior. Oh, forgot to mention that she spent her Sophomore and Junior years of high school in an Independent Studies program because she hated school so much. After the heavy drug use and spending time with much older people because of it, high school seemed really ridiculous. She had a pretty uneventful senior year, made new friends, went to prom, got a job, had a boyfriend. She even started taking classes at City College to help her figure out what she was passionate about. She was really taking care of herself.
She must have been around 19 when he came back to church again, and they immediately got back together. At that time she was involved with the youth group of the church, organizing activities, spending time with the kids, kids being people that weren’t much younger than she was. He started participating in some of those activities like hiking, sports and movie nights. She liked having him around, but she knew that mysterious part of him made it easy for her to overlook his lies and deceit. She’s not sure for how long he was actually still using, or for how long he was around this time, but it got to the point of her being angry most of the time they were together. She would see him nodding off when they were together, promising to show up, then not, begging for forgiveness with some half-baked lie… which usually worked on her eventually. She wanted to believe him, but didn’t. Any trust she thought she had with him continued to deteriorate. He knew she wasn’t an idiot, that she knew exactly what was going on, but the lies seemed to work and sustain them. She’ll never know what would’ve happened if he had told her the truth. Maybe she would have been supportive, or maybe she would’ve judged him and run away sooner.
Her grandparents raised her until she was about 8. Then, after much of her begging they let her live with her mom. She lived with her and enjoyed it until she was 12 and her mom was pregnant with her brother. Who knows whose hormones were stronger at that point, her raging adolescent or her mother’s pregnancy ones. She decided that it was best to move back with the grandparents at that point. Only, when she got there, it wasn’t long before her grandma had to tell her that her grandpa had moved out, left her grandma for another woman. Fuck, she thought… they’ve been together around 30 years by now. How could this be happening? That was not an easy transition going from an unstable, pregnant mother to an unstable broken hearted grandma while she was having her own internal struggles of being a pre-teen. She didn’t really know how to feel during those years. In her family, when something painful occurred, the response was always to ignore it, let time pass and move on. No one knew how to talk about uncomfortable things, much less allow emotions to help them resolve the pain. Her grandpa would come back to town occasionally; pretending like everything was ok and trying to get her to meet his new lady. He tried his best, she knew, but she was definitely very confused… about everything.
After her brother was born, her mom moved in to her grandma’s house. She left after two years and her grandpa eventually moved back as well. These were the 4 years of her life that she hated her family, when the partying and drugs started. No one was available to talk to her, they were all wrapped up in their own shit. So, she found a new family with her best friend and Dad. What she would have given to have a Dad like him.
Back to the love affair… now she’s about 21. Guess who’s back in town, but not without some crazy news? After spending a few years on an island, he comes to town so sick from using so much heroin, he commits a felony and gets arrested. What does she do? No surprise, she gets together with him again. What do you expect from a girl who’s in love beyond reason? She can honestly now say that no matter what he does, she will always love him. She really doesn’t know how not to. So, they spend the next several months going through similar shit they always do. Have a lot of fun, he disappears for a while, shows up with some great lies about why he’s been gone, they have great sex… and she loves all of it! He even spent time with her grandpa and brother going to a baseball game. Her grandpa certainly loved him too. He testified for him in court. Not to try to convince the court to drop the charges and help him avoid consequences, but to show him that people will still love you even when you fuck up.
The court sentenced him to 14 years in prison. No one was physically hurt during this event, but because of the circumstances, they threw the book at him. She understood that he deserved some punishment, but at the time, she couldn’t fathom how long that actually was. She was determined to stay with him, through everything, the whole time he was locked up. She visited at least 3 of the prisons he was in. They moved him around a lot. She even moved in to a studio his parents have at their house so she could be closer to the phone calls, and him, by proxy of his mom and dad. The last prison visit she made was by herself and she went unannounced. She usually traveled with his parents to see him. Now, she couldn’t tell you how long she waited for him up until now but she really can’t remember how long it lasted. There were so many letters and cards and promises.
What she saw when he walked into the visiting room was the “sick” version of him. She knew immediately that he was using heroin. She was devastated, disgusted, sad and frightened. At the time, she was so naïve to what his life might actually be like in there. He never talked about that life or how lonely it must have been. So consumed by her feelings and self-preservation, she cut the visit short. Because you know she asked him if he was using, and what his answer was. At this point, it no longer seemed to be about the drug use, it was the pain from the lies.
Now, you could look at this part of the story in several perspectives. But let’s look at it from his. He’s young, non-violent, a first offender in a max security prison, scared shitless with no protection and trying not to show it. If you like heroin and had the chance to cope with this situation that way, wouldn’t you do it? Many years later she can objectively see how that was an option and why he would choose it. But then, she couldn’t see it this way and her choices were to break his heart, shut off hers, and try to live life convinced everything was ok. Up until this point in her life, avoidance and abandonment was the only way she knew how to cope.
They would go a few years without contact, then she’d get a letter and suffer through the words of affection, and eventually read with indifference. Her responses became fewer and fewer and at some point heard that he was having a relationship with someone else that was pretty serious. There was a period of time during these years where she thought she’d gotten over him, moved on from the silly “crush” they shared. But, now she thinks that she just did a great job of building a brick wall between them and pretending like she’d never see him again. He served almost 13 years.
He got out of prison a few months ago and she even knew the exact date he was coming home. Her best friend asked her how she felt about him being released. Honestly, she hadn’t even given it any thought in a very long time, maybe because she didn’t want to or because she couldn’t. But the moment her friend said the words, she began to cry, became speechless for a moment and said “I don’t know”. And that’s when she knew she was in trouble. That day came and went, she would ask her girlfriend how he was doing occasionally and genuinely enjoyed hearing about him. She was now in a relationship with a good man, and he knew that she was happy enough. She had written him not long before he was released to tell him to stay away, and maybe they could be friends someday.
A few months later she hears from him. She was shocked, almost paralyzed when she saw this very casual text from him. She panicked, her body shaking, her mind racing. She put down the phone and tried to relax… she’d deal with it later. After some pushing and familiar manipulation from his end, she agreed to meet with him. She knew his game, and he knew hers. Now she needed to figure out how to be cool about this for her own sake and her boyfriend’s, who she wasn’t going to lie to… because she wasn’t cool with it, even though she thought she could handle it. She was terrified and she wanted to see him.
The inevitable happened. She broke up with the man that treated her better than any other and would’ve continued to. But she wasn’t in love with that man. She was in love with him… the man she hadn’t seen in about 12 years. What she still doesn’t know is if the love she has for him will ever be enough or if she’ll ever receive it, fully in return. So far, their relationship has been fiery, cold, frustrating, delicate and they rarely see each other… just like always.
When her grandpa died, she was 22. He is the only one close to her that has died. That pain was a close first to the hardest pain, but since he’s dead, she has learned how to compartmentalize it. The feelings come, she is able to embrace them, then move through them. She knows there’s no hope of being with her grandpa again. She feels now that when there’s a desire to be with someone you love that’s still alive, and things still keep you apart, it’s the most painful thing she knows. The feeling of abandonment or of not being loved by the person you love most… dealing with this requires acceptance of what is and she is learning this ability very slowly.
She used to think that he behaved the way he did because of the drugs, but now she thinks it’s just who he is. And no one that loves anyone gets to live pain free. One of the best lessons she is learning if life is that people choose to behave the way they want to, and when you can truly accept them the way they are, you’ll know who you want in your life and who you don’t. Some relationships with people are easier than others. Loving this man has been the most difficult, continuing experience. She’s not sure what, if anything happens next with them, but whatever it is, there will be triumph or tragedy.
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