When we met at fifteen it seemed as if we'd been friends from lifetimes before.
We fell in love one night, crawling combat-style through a mine. I wore ripped jeans, but had done my hair like a prom queen 'cause I wanted to impress you--the cutest boy in school. Of course you wore designer clothes and a sporty shirt that made your muscles bulge. We didn't look the part but were both willing to get down and dirty.
I remember looking back through that mine, shining a flashlight in your direction. You chuckled, admitting you never pegged me for the adventurous type either. The whole experience was unreal AND I couldn't believe you'd given the school nerd a chance.
We made it through those close mine-spaces, each reveling in the other's humor and ability to navigate through anything--I thought you'd be like that through life too . . . I hoped.
That night I'd worn a gorgeous ring on my wedding finger--from another guy--but as I drove home from the mine, I threw the ring out my car window and it disappeared in the snow edging Parley's Canyon.
Our relationship continued from there, and I swear all the other girls were jealous. Why HAD you given me a chance when you could have anyone?
Time passed. I learned about your home life and how you needed someone adventurous and fun like me, just to get your mind off things. The shit you lived through appalled me. I couldn't imagine a step-family like that. I couldn't imagine a huge, muscular person being verbally abused . . . or physically hurt.
We would dance back then, without any music. Once we sneaked away from a school prom. I wore an evening gown, then climbed a cold statue. You talked up to me, like I was your damn Juliet, telling me I'd caught the stars in my glowing eyes. I jumped down and you spun me. We sat back-to-back on a cement wall afterward, then hugged for hours, me trying to take away every bit of pain you'd ever felt at home and school when you were severely bullied in younger years.
You brought flowers to me during class when we were Juniors; even though you should have been in class too. I heard rumors later that you'd sneaked out and your teacher didn't even know you were gone. You filled my locker with gifts. Always did the right thing. Always said the right things. My friends agreed that "we" were the couple everyone idolized. And no one knew all the shit both of us hid inside.
When we broke up, I thought it would kill me . . . and maybe you too. We held hands in front of your dad's house: You begging me to stop listening to my family when they said I needed to date a boy from church. Me asking if you'd really done drugs.
"We'll run away," we both cried. "Pack up the stupid car and forget religion, judgment, and addiction. Forget popularity. Forget everyone's opinions."
BUT . . . I knew you were on drugs despite how strong and healthy you looked. You even admitted it once, saying the drugs made you a tail-chaser . . . it wasn't your fault.
And I stayed . . .
for a while.
You came to visit me where I waitressed. I saw you with a million different girls. They were gorgeous and perfectly dressed while my hair was in a tight bun, and a dirty work apron hugged my waist. I always smiled and wished you the best. And after time, our romance completely died within me like winter finally came into my young life. And at the beginning of our Senior year that previous love blossomed into an unconditional friendship, the likes of which I'd never seen.
Each of us got married, wished the other the best. After that I thought I wouldn't see you anymore. I moved up North. Surprisingly, so did you.
Somehow, we always found each other. Chancing upon each other at a gas station. A grocery store. A bowling alley. Even on the street. And we'd catch up. You looking skinnier and skinnier. Me wrinkling with age.
Although things weren't perfect for either of us, people saw our outter appearances and didn't even comprehend what we'd gone through. The only ones who really got it . . . were us. And every time I ran into you, I wondered if I could have made a difference in your life if we hadn't broken up forever ago. And you said, you wished we'd never given up. Little did I know, what a difference we'd still make in each other's lives. . . .
Years after you'd sobered up, things exploded in my life. You found me at the women's shelter, told me everything would be okay. I heard about your divorce, and then the tragic things that followed. How you'd become homeless, barely surviving. You were in a stand-off where you were almost shot.
I told you how my marriage ended too--that I'd also been homeless. How I'd made poor choice after poor choice and lost relationships I could never get back.
We sat back-to-back on a different cement wall from our youth. You hugged me for hours, in those strong arms I never truly forgot.
After that I started getting my life back together. We hiked and went caving, so reminiscent of a mine in my most cherished memories.
Then as we sat eating dinner one night with my four kids, you said you'd always love us as family. And I knew exactly what you meant because the feeling was mutual.
We said we'd always be honest. ALWAYS stay friends. Always have each other's backs. But then our friendship changed. . . .
I threw another ring out my van window. There were new flowers waiting for me, not in a high school class, this time they were arranged on my kitchen table with a beautiful card.
And memories came back, with more impact than I'd banked on.
But although we're adults now, we're still the same core people. No matter how much each of us pushed and tried, things didn't feel right between us, and so I cried because we both knew it would never work. We were destined to only be friends.
Then you started losing weight. You started chasing tail like crazy. I turned into a serious nag. And our friendship almost died.
So we sat down at last, made good on our promise and told each other the truth. We were sobbing on my front porch, both husks of what once was: you skinny and sad, me tired and weak. And as the neighbors walked past, asking if we were okay, I knew, people no longer envied us like they had in high school.
Why does life cycle like this? Why couldn't my friendship have been more to help you? Why couldn't yours have saved me? And why can't it ever be enough?
I'm losing my mind as it is . . . and now I'm losing you too.
I've had dreams that you died from an overdose. And there was a hole in my life--the kind you can't imagine. I go to gas stations, bowling alleys, groceries stores, even the damn women's shelter--just hoping to catch a glimpse of your ghost. But you aren't there--you're never there.
And no matter how many rings I throw out car windows . . . Or how many times I'm smelling the musty dried flowers you gave me years ago, I won't get my friend back. I lost you because I wasn't stronger than the damn cravings. And you lost me because I'd been looking for a hero instead of finding the strength inside myself.
And so in my dream you're gone. And in real life, you aren't here either.
And, my life will never be the same.
Dedicated to those who might be losing their battle to drugs.
Please stop and think about what you're doing to your life and the lives of those you love.
This is my stand against drugs and the hardships that often lead people to drug abuse.