It was yesterday eleven years ago I first almost died. And that was just the start. What was is it, seventeen days later? Yes, because it marked our one month anniversary as a couple. Instead of spending it together he spent it getting his wrists sewn shut and I spent it with my mother, who sat with me in the car and told me she wished he had succeeded at taking his own life, before going inside with me to meet the social worker assigned to our family by Child Protection Services.
But let’s back up. I liked him the first time I saw him. I couldn’t tell you why. He wasn’t particularly handsome, in fact he was rather goofy and twice the size of the rest of our freshman peers. We were fourteen when we met and he had this electric charisma. I wanted him to think I was the most amazing person in the universe. And he did. We began to exchange emails and write notes during school (I miss writing notes). My parents can be loosely described as cultists and I was kept on a very tight leash. I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys on the phone, much less have a boyfriend, so we rocked out the little Romeo and Juliette bullshit.
And then he got put into foster care, October tenth. We still emailed, and he would use his foster sister to get me on the phone when we could manage. It was torture, but in those early days we formed a profound connection – orphans of indifference, children desperate to feel loved and understood, yet constantly getting crushed under the heels of those expected to care for us. We validated one another, gave each other hope and a reason to live, through a time in life that’s hard enough even with the proper support. I was his Pumpkin. He was my Sunshine.
He was supposed to come home on Valentine’s Day. I brought a bag of candy hearts to school. We had joked about his affinity for awful candy and how he thought it would be great to be showered in candy hearts as he walked into the room. I planned to facilitate that dream. I was giddy when I arrived at school, refusing to share my candy with my friends, eyes glued to the doors. I jumped every time they opened. But he was never the one who strolled into my waiting place. The first bell rang. Our group began to dissipate. My best friend stayed with me until the late bell rang. I dragged myself to class, crushed. I gave the candy hearts away.
The next month seemed to take forever, his case getting pushed, then rescheduled at the last minute, his mother needed to sign this paper or attend that class. She divorced his stepfather and they let my golden love come home.
It was one of those electric grey days, where the clouds hang heavy and everything seems extra green in the odd light. I walked out of school with my eyes on the ground, feeling hollow and hopeless. I nearly tripped over a bike tossed on the sidewalk and looked up in irritation to see who had left it there. And there he was, smiling at me softly though I could see the torrent of joy pushing at his lips and sunburst eyes. I flew to him and he wrapped me up in an eternal embrace. No words were great enough for the feeling of our hopes actualizing.
He asked me to be his girlfriend “for real,” a couple days later and I gladly accepted. We stole every moment we could find, writing long notes and emails when we were apart. Nothing made us happy but one another. We started listening to each other’s favorite bands, finding deeper meaning in every lyric, quoting them and writing them on one another’s arms. We shared books and poems and a thousand little inside jokes. He was all I cared about.
What I couldn’t understand at the time was that he didn’t care about me. He cared about the validation I offered him, sure, but more than anything he cared about his drugs, a passion he shared wuth me. I had turned fifteen that winter, while waiting for him to come home. He barely made it to fifteen.
April tenth, two thousand six, he said he wanted to get high with me. He talked about getting high all the time, how great it felt, how it was his only true release, how it made all the daily bullshit irrelevant and made life worth living. I wanted to be a part of that more than anything. Kids, there’s a lesson to take away from all this- when your drug addled teenage boyfriend is determing proper dosages of his mom’s high potentcy anti psychotics for ninety pound girls, based off how many he likes to take, don’t trust the math. Also, when you don’t feel anything thirty minutes after the first pill, don’t finish off the handful.
Those lessons left the school with me in an ambulance that day and sank in over the next week as I sat in the adolescent psychiatric unit of a nearby hospital. This was also how my parents found out I had a boyfriend.
While this wasn’t the end of me, it also was not the end of many things that should have died that day. And it was just the beginning of my pill addiction and my family’s relationship with child protective services. Only twice have I seen my father come unglued outside the safety of his house. The first time was in that hospital, during our family meeting with a psychiatrist in front of whom my father accused me of trying to end his marriage with this “little fake suicide routine.” I was back in his house three days later, under tighter lock and key than ever, not even allowed to close my door when I undressed. My friends felt bad for me and kept me medicated, especially after April twenty seventh.
My boyfriend didn’t show up to school again. I asked around. No one could tell me where he was. Until I asked the boy who had been closest to him since they were ten years old. The boy who, in an interesting twist of fate, would marry me eight years later. My now husband told teenage me that my teenage boyfriend had tried to kill himself the night before with a bottle of prescription pills and a steak knife. He locked himself in his room and mixed his blood with shaving cream, then wrote his lamentations with it on the walls. He ended up getting tased for his trouble. Five days later he turned fifteen.
We continued our fiasco as he moved twice, both of us running into child protection and police issues, running away together, on and off drugs, in and out of trouble, into a new school district when my parents tried to get me away from him, ironically at the same time his mother moved them to the next town, after my summer in military school, into our junior year of high school when I found out once and for all, none of it had meant to him what it meant to me. I found out at dinner with my friends before the homecoming dance, my reluctant virgin status had him taking advantage of my parents’ policy of locking me away every night. How would I ever find out? But I did and I had never been more shattered. All the time, energy and tumult we invested in our teenage saga and he was plowing sluts after I went to bed in my parents’ house, waiting to see him again tomorrow.
Like everyone who lived past their teenage years, in time I learned, everyone is an idiot in high school and nothing you do then is as important as your child brain imagines. I went to college a year early and managed to wreck my life just fine without help from my first love or his drugs. I think he just got out of prison recently. He always wanted to join Kurt Cobain in the 27 Club. That’s three hundred eighty six days away for him. I wonder if he’ll succeed?
Spring makes the animals go wild. And life goes on, children. Hold on tight and try not to make too many permanent decisions.