I know that you know most of what I am about to tell you. I simply need to tell you my story so you can see, from my perspective, the role you played in the production of my life. We had limited interactions over the span of 7 months. The day we met, February 18, 2009, was part of the beginning of a most profound year.
I was 17 years old when we met; you had just turned 21. A week earlier, I had been dumped by my good friend and neighbor, Nick. We dated for about a week. It was really stupid and silly and it hurt my feelings. He had come to my house one afternoon to tell me how he thought he liked me but… well, he guessed he was wrong. I was so shocked that he had the audacity to come into my home for the sole reason of dropping a bomb like that.
I had been completely against the idea of having a boyfriend since my ex had made me the piñata at my own birthday party last year. I guess, to be fair, I had a bit of a thing with an old friend from camp during the fall and winter. We weren’t dating, but after losing a close friend, we could relate to one another in a way others couldn’t. We took comfort in the presence of the other, but never exactly connected on our own. Things fizzled out between us and we eventually moved on.
I met Nick in December of 2008. He was cute and dorky but totally off limits. My friend, Molly, had a crush on him and I would never steal him or try, anyway. A few months had passed and Molly and Nick just didn’t work. Molly found a new boyfriend and, apparently, Nick had asked Molly’s permission to pursue me before making any moves. How very polite of such a dapper young gentleman as himself.
January 28, 2009: Nick came to my house during a blizzard to watch cartoons. We both had snow days from school and, since he lived around the corner from me, he could walk on over to hang out. We watched SpongeBob from my bed, not unlike every weekend prior. The only difference was that, this time, none of our other friends could make it. We were finally alone and Nick was secretly plotting the perfect moment to attack. He kissed me at a totally random moment and in somewhat of a panicked jerk of his right arm around my left shoulder. Suddenly, he was laying on top of me. I decided to go with it.
A few days later, Nick would ask me to be his girlfriend and I would accept, but right now, everything seemed like a fairy tale. We bundled ourselves up to brace the storm and trekked over to Nick’s house to walk his dog. We took his Yellow Lab outside to make some yellow snow. I went inside to use the bathroom before she was done doing the same outside. While indoors, Nick’s mom stopped me in the kitchen to warn me that if her son was not good to me, to let her know.
Something told me she knew better than I did, exactly what Nick’s feelings were for me. Later that evening, Nick walked me home through the blizzard and for a few awkward moments, he held my hand. It was cute and uncomfortable. The foundation for our tragically failed relationship, the likes of which would be kept secret from any member of my family.
Days passed and our quasi-relationship took form. We texted each other and held hands while watching movies. It was very juvenile and innocent. Eventually it got boring, I guess, after only a few days the spark had fizzled. I wasn’t the only one who felt it, but I was the only one who wanted to tip toe around it. Nick was very upfront about the fact that this was not what he had in mind. I guess it wasn’t what I had in mind either, but it was a good thing, I thought.
Either way, Nick dumped me and I was sad. Some friends of mine took me out for ice cream, one even bought me a balloon. These are things that make little kids feel better when they get a boo-boo. I was 17 years old and I had been through far worse than this. I was totally fine, just a little disappointed. This was the first time I was willing to make myself vulnerable again after being completely discouraged from doing so.
Nick knocked me back down after helping me up from my set back. He never meant to hurt me, though. He never really meant to date me, either. I think that Nick was confused, as I was, by the comfort we found with each other. There was never a need to impress the other, and all feelings were understood. This was something many guys found unnerving about being with me. I made them feel too comfortable; so comfortable, in fact, that they might let their defenses down.
Nick was not about to be caught with his defenses down. I let him run away without chasing after him. He spent the next few weeks in Eastern Europe on a study tour. I knew we weren’t really right for each other, I guess. We were always meant to be friends; maybe even more than that, just not right now. We were still kids and I was getting ready to go away to college. Instead of dwelling on Nick or Brian, I decided to hastily move on.
A few days later, a friend was having a birthday party. She was inviting various people, most of whom she hardly knew. I was lucky enough to be extended an invite to the shin-dig of the century. It was quite lame, to be perfectly honest. I never drank, so I was completely sober. I liked going to parties regardless of my inability to partake in the festivities most were there to enjoy. I would dance and chat with my intoxicated friends. This night, however, it was just me. I was a random stranger in a sea of drunken young adults. None of my usual friends had made it, I was tempted to call it a night shortly after arriving.
You were the only person over 21 at the time, a favorite contender for most important attendee at the party. When the party began to run dry, you were designated to refill the coolers. Coincidentally, thanks to my coherent state, I was the designated driver to your designated buyer.
We first met as you faithfully handed me the keys to your black Chevy Cavalier. I got into the driver’s seat, turned the keys to hear the roaring of the engine, and began adjusting my seat. You had been sitting with the seat nearly as far back as it could possibly go. You found it hilarious how much of an adjustment I had to make just to see over the steering wheel.
I was mostly unimpressed by your attempts at humor (at my expense…) so I turned on the radio and tried to keep conversation to a minimum. You clumsily mentioned your ex-girlfriend; I starkly implied that at least she’s not a lesbian, referring back to a situation that was going on between a friend and her (now gay) ex-boyfriend. A story that you hadn’t known, until asking for the back-story behind my remark. I told you the story with bare bones, concocting a laugh from the deepest part of your vocal chords.
You sloppily reached across the center consul to turn up the radio when you heard a familiar song. “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys began playing and I shot a look at you with a judging eye. I was sizing you up; this behavior seemed slightly uncharacteristic of the person I had, so far, constructed in my mind. You sang along haphazardly; I couldn’t help but laugh. You instantly became self conscious, unsure if I thought it was funny or dorky. I assure you it was both.
We drove around town; it was about 10:30pm. We finally found an open liquor store. You ran inside, purchased two 30 racks of Bud Light. Returning to the car in a hurry, you informed me that you really had to pee. I asked if you could go in the liquor store and you told me it was, essentially, too late.
I began driving back towards the party, but the urgency turned into emergency only a few blocks down the road. You insisted that I pull over and let you pee on the side of the road. I complied with your irritating demands and pulled to the side of the West Roxbury Parkway. You exited the passenger seat of your own car and proceeded to urinate upon a tree just to the rear of the driver side door. This was certainly not the most romantic 20 minutes of my life, but I guess we had, at the very least, become well acquainted.
Eventually, we returned to the party, beer in tote. Our return was rejoiced by the drunkards who were, unknowingly, celebrating the birth of one of the worst friends I have ever had the displeasure of knowing in my short life. You took your rightful place as reigning champion of the ruit table. I relocated to the kitchen, downstairs. It had been a long evening and the beer cans were piling up. I decided to lend an anonymous helping hand and started dumping the remnants of backwash and beer from the empty-ish cans and disposing of them in a large plastic bag.
You, apparently, had too much to drink, so you stumbled downstairs to have some privacy in the bathroom. I ignored the sounds of your gagging being drowned out by someone in the bedroom moaning; or should I say screaming?
After a while, you emerged from the bathroom: revived. I watched you make your way to the couch as if no one had been in the room at all. I was waiting for a friend of mine to arrive at the party, either to join in the festivities or take me home: whichever he saw fit. Upon his arrival, the party took an upward swing. A second wind swept through the place like a flash flood. It came and it went within less than an hour, and now everyone was crashing. My friend, Matt, decided to go, but I felt obliged to stay as planned to help my other friend make it home in the morning. He told me to suit myself and I listened as the car backed out of the drive way. I was leaning over you on the couch, peering out the window as my friend raced into the sunrise. I was thinking about how I wished I had gone home, since everyone here was asleep.
Just then, you reached out an arm, half asleep, as if you had expected my presence. I jerked back, bringing you to a rise. You sat up, sleepy eyed and asked me what I was doing.
“Looking out the window, sorry, I thought you had passed out.” I told you.
“Oh, it’s you, DD,” You professed with a certainty I didn’t expect.
“Yeah,” I laughed at the nickname, “Its me, Debbie Downer.” I joked, knowing what you had meant.
“No, not Debbie,” you frowned, genuinely disappointed.
“I know, I know,” I said, reassuring you that I had not forgotten the nickname you had given me only hours prior. I was the designated driver, ‘DD.’
Your frowning face began to pail and I reached for a garbage can to prop beneath your head. You got sick a couple more times before the sun came up. I helped you up so you could clean out your mouth and when you returned to the couch, to my surprise, you kissed me.
It was unexpected but somehow not unwelcome. I kissed back and, after a few minutes, you led me up stairs. We spent the morning on a mattress on the floor under the ruit table. In the morning, I was sure I’d never hear from you again.
I got up and found my friends in the next room. We laughed about stories we were sharing from the night before. When you wandered in, not long after, you and I got to chatting for the first time since we had met. We discovered overlapping tastes in music, contrary to my previous assumptions based on your rendition of the Backstreet Boys the night before. I was almost intrigued enough to want to see you again, but remembered how badly I wanted not to get pulled into another potentially abusive relationship.
You were cute, alright, I admit that I thought so. We had fun bumping uglies as complete strangers. I thought it would be best to leave it at that. We both had other things going on.
You obtained my phone number through a friend of a friend. You contacted me and invited me to hang out again. I was a little turned off by your enthusiasm, you came on a little strong. Still, I wanted to see you again; so, I did.
We hung out a few times, playing up our inside jokes to avoid any awkwardness. Things were easy and light between us. We would sit in your car for hours, just talking. We got caught up in deeply winding and ramifying conversations that led us down some of the darkest, scariest corridors of the wild jungles of our minds.
I told you all about my past; the many people who had proclaimed their undying love for me, only to perform actions that contradicted their statements entirely. I confessed to wanting to die, I tried to smile to convince you that I was beyond those feelings of self-hatred and hopelessness. I wanted you to see me as I wanted to be, not as I was (broken).
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in the early stages of what would grow to be my family’s greatest battle. My sister was dabbling with drugs, getting closer and closer to the point of no return. I had my back turned towards my family; any struggle that emerged was likely none of my concern. One sister was getting married, one was living with her boyfriend, the third was busy with the beginnings of adulthood. I felt, beyond the shadow of a doubt, like I was the biggest failure my family had faced thus far.
They didn’t know it at the time, but I was ready to say my final farewells. My plan to end my life was put on hold prior to the passing of a dear friend, but was back on track due to a change of heart. However, since meeting you, I had a very different outlook on the future. I didn’t see the world the exact same way I had before meeting you. I thought, perhaps, that was why I met you. I didn’t see it as you being my savior, so much as being a sign that my future held more than a mere tragic death.
I was hopeful that we would develop an actual relationship. It seemed, so far, that we were just fooling around. We went out on “dates,” but more often than not, we found ourselves disheveled in the front seat of the car with various articles of clothing hanging off our bodies. I knew this wasn’t your only motivation for hanging out with me, but I couldn’t help but feel confused about said motives. I really didn’t think it was possible for anyone to be interested in anything more than the physical aspect of the relationship.
One weekend, you went to New York City with your buddies or something. I was minimally kept in the loop, which was more than I expected. At a certain point, you stopped responding to me. Your attitude had shifted and, suddenly, you weren’t the same. Your enthusiasm had drained, you weren’t so sure about us anymore. You slowly drifted off into the distance until you would no longer respond to my text messages. The old you never came back from New York.
I felt so rejected and silly for ever thinking I was ready to start something new with someone I knew so little about. You made excuses about not being ready. You claimed to not be over an ex who had broken your heart. You did a good job of rationalizing your actions to yourself; however, I was less convinced.
Two weeks later, my 18th birthday hovered in the near future. Mutual friends of ours made plans that included both of us. I would see you for the first time since you ended our would-be relationship and I was mostly furious that you had been invited in the first place.
When you showed up and acted like nothing had happened, I was enraged. Our plans got screwed up and, for whatever reason, you were one of the few who decided to stick around for the make-up plans. We saw a movie, I think, then got something to eat. I was irritated that we decided to go through with this elongated version of what I wanted to do (go home).
When the night was over, I complained to my friends that you had shown up weeks after essentially ending things. They admitted to inviting you, not knowing the deal between us. I forgave their insolence upon recognizing the err of their ways. I guess I was grateful that you came, even though we hadn’t been speaking.
Over the next two months we would see each other on the down low. You would often meet me outside of my house or pick me up to drive somewhere quiet and talk. We talked about a lot of things, but one thing I couldn’t bring myself to discuss with you at length was my sister’s growing drug addiction.
Regardless of how irrelevant it was to our relationship, the issue of my sister’s addiction was a growing problem for me. With the passing of time, I gained responsibilities. It started with letting our boss know my sister would be late, then it was letting her know she wouldn’t be able to make it. Soon, my boss expected me to know where she was all the time. I couldn’t handle the expectations others were holding for me. I couldn’t handle keeping tabs on my older sister. She was deliberately lying to me about her whereabouts so no one would know the truth. It was taking a toll on my mental health.
You noticed that I was receding into the perils of depression; a battle I was all too familiar with. You made attempts at reaching out to me, but I dodged your reach. I was able to mask my pending self-destruction long enough to avert attention from myself. I allowed things to remain neutral between us. I wouldn’t make you feel guilty about how much you had hurt me before. We could stay friends, but you couldn’t count on me the same way you used to. That was a level of trust I reserved for people who remained pure in my eyes. You were now tainted by betrayal and abandonment; my two greatest foes.
Months would pass by and we would hardly speak. By the end of July, I would muster up enough teenage angst and courage to swallow my pride and end my life. I would not succeed.
Now, I don’t know what you know about this time in my life, but it was shortly after this horrific event that we met the next time.
That next time would take place at Canobie Lake Park. You were there with your new girlfriend and some of our old mutual friends. I had vacated the realm of communication and slowly, but surely, lost touch with most of my old friends.
You didn’t say hi, you didn’t introduce the new girl. You somewhat acknowledged my presence and we both went on with our lives. Weeks later, I met a new boy who would become my new boyfriend. I would let him take me away to a whole new world full of weed and beer.
You see, you weren’t there that day in July. You were busy with your new life, while I was busy trying to end mine. I was resentful that you could neglect me in my true time of need. I was hardly concerned with anything outside of myself. The pain I was feeling was too strong to allow me to step outside of myself.
My new life swept me away so fast, I didn’t want to look back, afraid I might end up back there just as quick. I was engrossed in my new role as girlfriend. I would make myself look nice to go watch his football games. We would go to parties, I met all kinds of new people. I started college and everything was new and exciting.
While I was away at school, I would hear from you intermittently. You always expressed your regret at letting me go. Something told me these phone calls were conveniently timed with the demise of various relationships you dabbled with. I always felt bad, which was strange considering who broke who’s heart, here.
I had to tell you that I had moved on. It hurt me to say it, at first, but became somewhat routine.
I was with Danny for about 3 years. You called me numerous times during that relationship, asking me how I could forget what I felt before. I told you over and over again that I forgot the same way you did, but I guess that’s not true. It was hard for me to stop thinking about you and push forward with life in the beginning. I wanted to cling to that feeling I had the first few weeks we hung out, but the feeling was fleeting.
I guess, the feeling hadn’t gone away until I realized that you wanted to be with me for your own reasons. You wanted to feel the way I made you feel. You wanted to have what you remembered being so great. Unfortunately, I am not the same person I was when we met. I was like a fresh wound when you found me; tender and susceptible to infection. By now, I had grown a hardened exterior. I was strong and tough. I was never going to be hurt by another person ever again, or so I thought.
Danny hurt me, too. Not physically, no, he hurt my heart in a way I didn’t know possible. He hurt me like every girl has been hurt before. He liked someone else more than me. He wanted to be with other people. There was an ex-girlfriend who was a persisting problem. These were things you liked to imagine would never be a problem for us.
The nice thing about us never having been together, at least not legitimately, is that we get to remember each other exactly as we felt about one another. We didn’t have our mental images of each other completely destroyed by infidelity or secrets being revealed. We were allowed to preserve the perfect version of the other that we always have at the beginning of a relationship. You never saw my darkness in full swing.
Danny didn’t work, and neither did the boy after him. I have exhausted my options thus far and yet, here you are again, without fail, blowing up my phone. You are the only one who never forgot about me, never let me turn into a faint memory. You have maintained communication throughout the years and I truly appreciate that about you.
No one has been so consistent, however, no one has been so annoying, either. Don’t get me wrong, its the good kind of annoying. The kind where you realize there is someone out there who actually cares about you, for whatever reason.
My only concern is that your reasons for loving me are flawed, or that they are not based on me or who I am as a person, but rather on who you think I am or who you want me to be. I feel like you are motivated by what I can offer you much more than what you can offer me.
I don’t expect anything from you, but I do focus more on the contributions I can make to a relationship than the benefits I will receive. I hope this doesn’t feel accusatory, I just hope to shed light on how things feel from my perspective.
I’m sorry I can’t love you right now. I need to hold out for someone who really understands the way I feel and function in the world. I am an emotionally charged person who struggles with an abundance of mental illness. Simultaneously, I hope to work in the field dedicated to treating mental illness.
I have my work cut out for me. I have to love myself before I can ever love you the way you want me to. I would love to keep you as a part of my life, but your expectations for me are towering in comparison to my capabilities. I hope you can understand.
I do love you, just, not the way you want me to.