The smell of youth hung in the air like bad cologne.
We were old enough to know better, but still to young to care, and there I lay still in bed, my fingers wrapped around a bottle of something I wasn’t old enough to buy.
Dawn was fast approaching, and the three of us had only just laid down.
My girlfriend draped across her like an evening scarf, one she could take off and return if it didn’t fit.
I wanted to get up and leave. To walk out. But to leave them alone felt like an open invitation.
After all, we had been through this once years before.
I knew the way they felt. They both knew that I did.
I was jealous of her.
Her long hair always rested perfectly on her toned shoulders, and her light blue eyes captivated.
Women and men alike flocked to her, and I thought that if only I could be her… have that life… I might find happiness.
Those piercing blue eyes had just closed when the vibrating hum began.
Louder and louder it grew, screaming for me to answer. I picked it up, only to sit in silence.
“Is she with you?”
“Bring her home.”
I could tell by the tone of her father’s voice that there was something wrong.
The next few moments to follow would prove my instincts correct.
When you’re eighteen, you don’t always understand the right and wrong way to do things, and I’m not sure if it was the shock on my face or if she overheard his elusive instructions, but she demanded to know what the matter was.
How do you tell your child that you’ve just watched her mother turn a barrel on the womb that carried her, leaving a hole the size of the elephant now stomping through the room.
She pulled the trigger.
All at once I watched my best friend crumble into my arms.
I can’t imagine what she must have felt at that moment.
My own heartbeat slowed to a beat that was unrecognizable.
From a steady bass, to a sporadic thump, it fluttered.
My knees grew weak. I didn’t understand.
How had the woman I’d seen just the day before, who served me dinner in her warmly lit kitchen, who kissed my forehead like I was one of her own, tried to kill herself…
I had never known anyone to attempt suicide.
There was a guy in a grade above me who had, but often in small towns you find that everything is hear-say.
He left for months, and when he returned it was never spoken of again.
I wanted to talk about it.
I wanted to know how someone could hurt so badly that they felt like their only option left was to end everything they’d ever known.
Could it really be that bad?
How could a mother of two decide that giving up was better than staying strong?
How could she care so little for the two beautiful young women that she had brought into this world??
How could she risk never being at each graduation, prom, wedding, or birth?
At eighteen, still a child, I put my best friend into the front seat of my car and I drove her the seven or so miles down a dusty back road to the little trailer right off of Highway 69.
As we pulled into the drive, I couldn’t help but notice the change in the atmosphere.
Desperation hung on the walls like old photographs, leaving only the imprint in the dust of where love was once displayed.
I could see depression lingering more clearly than I ever had, but it had been there all along.
There were holes in the wall, and shards of glass lay like glitter in the early mornings light.
Every step I took was forced.
I’m not sure what part of my body was carrying me, whether it was faith or adrenaline, but my legs surely would have buckled without something else to stand on.
I opened the door for her like I had many times before, but this time she didn’t move.
She sat still as stone, hoping that time would freeze around her and that nothing would change.
She felt it too. The change. We both knew that nothing would ever be the same again.
Afraid of what else I might find, that it might stick to me like bacteria, infection spreading through my veins, I left her there.
I got back in my car, and drove off, a day normal like any other.
I regret that now more than anything.
I should have stayed with her. I should have held her hand, and her heart.
I should have loved her so hard that she would forget that her mother made this grave mistake.
Instead, I drove the 7 miles back home, found my mothers broad shoulders, and clung to them like a child thankful for this life of mine.
Thankful for my stupid choppy hair, and my boring brown eyes.
Thankful for the family photos collecting dust on the walls.
I wrapped myself so deeply in her embrace I felt as if I was being born again.
Her mother survived.
She would go on to make many more mistakes, and disappoint that blue eyed girl another couple hundred times.
After scrubbing away all the darkness and filth, we would both place band-aids on top of these childhood wounds.
Peeling them off after every let down, just to re-adhere them when something else came along that might threaten the sterile demeanor we had clung to.
That was the day that her blue eyes lost their shine.
The day that she would always try to forget, the one that I would always remember.
Over the next few years we would grow apart.
Whether it was due to the secret that I held inside, the one we shared that damp, foggy morning, I’ll never know.
What I do know is that for the first time in my life I would realize that nothing is forever.
Nothing is ever permanent, and no one is ever safe.
There will always be a broken picture frame jutting from someone’s soul, a memory of what was before. What will not be again.
Most of life will be spent picking up the pieces, and you will never be able to put it all back together.
But that’s what makes it beautiful.
Each shard tells a different story, and each word emitted from her mouth will reflect not the tale of a scared little girl trapped in an early morning nightmare 6 July’s ago.
A story where she is the victim, but it will tell instead of the brave survivor she became, despite her mothers lack of good judgement.
These pieces will tell of the one who learned to fend for herself, because holes in the stomach might heal, but the ones in the heart last forever.
And as for me, I’ll wake up six years later, realizing how far I’ve come from that girl I used to be. The one who hid during the darkest hours of daylight.
I’ll go on to apologize, but she will never know what for. I won’t tell her.
We will instead take it all for face value and exist the best way we know how, mending our broken pieces one by one.