I was seventeen.
I had been through the biggest break up of my life. I was in love with her, but she couldn’t be with me. I slipped word to her through a friend that I would wait for her at the end of a gravel road, on top of the deserted hill in her hometown.
It was “Raegan”. I mentioned her in Water Runs Blue.
J drove me. We sat quietly in his little green beretta as he wound down the road to my fate. He knew that she and I had a falling out, but not about what. I think he suspected at that point that we had been together. Especially considering I requested a handle of “Zombie” (a blue alcohol mix that nothing short of transforms you into the living dead.) We parked at the top of the hill and J rolled down the windows. The sun was setting, and the stars began peeking out in the distance.
Lifehouse had become our band of choice that summer, and You and Me was playing louder than it should have been for an incognito encounter.
I turned up the bottle using both hands. It was nearly half gone, and I was already drunk. It trickled off my chin and onto my shirt. I was a mess.
I could see two stars floating up the hill. They got bigger as they got closer. I realized they were headlights. My heart began pounding. What if it was the cops? What if they knew we were trespassing? What if they found out I was drinking? What if my parents found out? What if it was Raegan’s dad? Even worse… What if it was Raegan? Could I really stand to face her? To hear what she had to say? It had been a month since we had spoken.
A million things ran through my mind at that moment. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I was hyperventilating. I was terrified.
Raegan stepped out of the car. I climbed out of the Beretta. Leaving the tell-tale bottle behind me.
“You wanted to see me?” was the only thing she said.
“You didn’t?” I slurred.
I took a step toward her. She took a step back, glancing at J.
“This is how you’re going to act?” I knew it was. She had always been paranoid. No one could know. No one could find out. Even the people who knew weren’t allowed to discuss it.
“You’re drunk.” She replied. It wasn’t hard to tell.
“And you’re an asshole.” I was angry. She hadn’t called. Hadn’t made contact of any kind. I knew that her dad was making it nearly impossible, but I loved her. I was ready to pack up my things and run away together. Instead, she just walked away from me… My heart was being ripped out of my chest with every second that ticked by.
“I’m an asshole?” She was hurt. In her mind she was doing everything she possibly could to stay alive. To this day, I still don’t know the things she suffered within the four walls of her own home, but at the time I was selfish. I was a child.
I spun on my heels and stumbled back to J’s car. He was propped up on the drivers side.
“Hand me the bottle.” I demanded.
“You’ve had enough.” Raegan said following me.
“Why don’t you listen to her?” He offered.
“Why don’t you stay out of it?” I jeered. I quickly rounded the side of the car and reached through the passenger side window. I grabbed the bottle of Zombie and lifted it out. Heavier than I expected, it slipped, crashing down on the car door. The window never rolled down completely, so an inch or so of the glass was raised above the edge. When the bottle met the glass it shattered. For a moment I thought it was my heart.
J grabbed his face with his hands and just squatted down to the ground. I knew I had fucked up, but damn it if I cared at that point. Every emotion that I had held inside until then came pouring out, as if it had been contained by the glass all along.
I was seventeen. I was in love for the first time. I was falling apart for the first time. I knew that I was dying, and I prayed for the end. When it didn’t come, I sunk to the ground. On my knees, I watched her walk back to her car. My voice caught in my throat, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. All I could do was sob. All I could do was bathe in the pain. I watched her tail lights fade in the distance, and what seemed like years later J lifted me off the ground. He walked me, steadying each step, back to the car. Most of the glass had fallen into the door, but the few pieces that made it out glittered across the ground under the bright, big moon.
I remember wondering if I swallowed it all, if I might shine again. I knew that I wouldn’t. I knew that it was crazy, and I wasn’t about to eat glass, but nothing made sense in that moment. I didn’t understand what I had done so horribly wrong to feel the pain that I felt.
Why was it so easy for her to walk away? Why was it so hard for me to stand? How did I feel this way about her? About a woman? Why couldn’t I be “normal?” Why couldn’t I love J instead? It was no secret that he was in love with me. He took me to his Junior prom the year before.
As we drove home, the wind blew through the empty hole where the window had been. I stared up into the sky, the breeze taking my breath away, and cried. When every tear had dried and I couldn’t shed another, I took a deep breath. We pulled into my yard, and I stepped out of the car. I held a piece of glass in my hand. J who was living with us at the time walked in front of me and opened the door. He walked me to my room. My mom called out from the bedroom.
“Tenn? Is that you?”
“Yes mom.” I slurred out. Still drunk.
I crawled into bed.
“Can you take out the trash?”
J looked at me knowingly and turned to retrieve the garbage.
“I’m going to sleep. I don’t feel well. J’s got it.”
“Alright. Good night baby.”
Not another tear fell. The next morning is when I began writing. I woke up, and stepped over J who was asleep on the floor. It was an interesting friendship we had, but it was what we both needed at the time. He needed a place to sleep, and I needed a guy to “protect me”. People weren’t so tough with him around.
“What’re you doing?” he asked.
“I’m going to tell her I love her.”
“I thought you tried that already?”
“I’m trying again.”
The words fell down like paint on a canvas. The story came to life before my eyes.
She never read it. She still hasn’t read it. I put it aside when my heart began to heal. I look back now and it’s hard to remember what we ever had in common. I see her and struggle to place who she is. I haven’t felt love for her in years… but I remember the story. I remember the difficult path that we took. I marvel at what that has made me today.
Tonight, as I wrap up this post, I plan to pull it out again. I’m going to finish this story. Not for her, but for me. I’m writing it all down. I’m baring my soul for everyone who feels like they can’t go on. For everyone in pain.