My 18th birthday fell on a Wednesday. I had been packing my things for years — selling some, donating others, boxing the rest. I’d have to move out on a weekend and it seemed just a little too discourteous to move out three days after I turned 18–so I waited 10.
My best friend and I set up twin beds on opposite sides of the main room of her parents’ finished basement. After years of waiting, the final season of Inuyasha had just come out. Every week we would make Ramen and watch it there together. We had this little wheeled platform that we’d put chips on so we could wheel it back and forth to each other instead of, you know, getting up and handing each other the bag. We each worked, I went to school, and life was OK.
It wasn’t the first time I’d tried to move in to their house; they were my second, better family. Around junior year I’d sometimes spend four nights in a row at her place.
One of those nights, we were both depressed and decided to go on a drive to clear our heads. We got twenty minutes in before she drove my car into the back of someone else’s. Everyone was fine… except the car.
I stayed at their house that night, then headed home the next day. By this point, I had told my father that I no longer considered him family, as he considered the bottle more familial than his daughters. And so I told them that night that they didn’t want me there and I didn’t want to be there, and I intended to move out, to live with my second family.
Of course they said no, and that if I even tried it, they would charge the other family with kidnapping. Then they barred me from speaking to my best friend–my support system and one of the only people in my life I could talk to. I was grounded, and they drew up a behavioral contract which I was forced to sign. They framed it and put it on the wall. The one detail I remember clearly: “You will talk to your father every day about nice things, like the weather.” Nice things, instead of his alcohol abuse and that one time he hit me.
They never forgave her parents for not calling the night of the accident. No love lost.
But when I moved in at eighteen, life was, in fact, OK… for a while. Our mental health was getting worse, and it blew up in a fight where she punched the wall and told me that she would stay living in the basement, and I was to move upstairs. I had to move all of my things past my second family who had no idea what was going on.
We didn’t speak for three weeks, until I asked her to meet me at a 24 hour diner late one night to talk. I had notes. I had apologies ready. I knew where I went wrong, and where she did. I told her I wasn’t going to let our friendship go.
I don’t remember her exact words, but they amounted to, “I am not interested.” This was November 2009–ten years ago.
I drove into the lit parking lot of a 24 hour gas station, listened to Forget and Not Slow Down, and cried until 2 am.
She told me I could still live in her parents’ house, and she really believed that. But of course I couldn’t live in that house with those memories, with what was once a second family, now strangers. Nor could I move back home to the abuse and the contracts and the told-you-sos. Grandparents weren’t an option, either… they spent ten hours out of each day fighting, and it made me want to pull my hair out, or theirs.
I couldn’t quite afford my own place, and with a super-Christian family, I couldn’t ask my then-boyfriend to move in with me and help with rent…
Or at least, not without a ring.
We were too young, and both of us knew that. But we had been together for two and a half years. We knew we wanted to spend our lives together; we were just pushing the date up a bit. We also knew that we loved each other and that whatever problems came up later, we could work out in therapy–because communication was our strength, and it was the most important foundation we could have.
(Of course, we vastly overestimated our ability to afford therapy.)
He proposed to me on December 17, 2009, during the Christmas light show at the zoo. I mostly knew it was coming, especially because he was so nervous that he kept clicking the ring box in his pocket. It started snowing soon after. We got hot chocolates and were nervous, but it was a beautiful ring and we were happy.
Six months later, on June 12, 2010, we got married. He had just turned 20. I was just shy of 19.
My best friend and I made up a few years later, and then broke up again. Then we made up again a few years later, and it was the best it had ever been, and it lasted another six years, until this past July.
I lost two more friends this month… one a man that I erroneously thought I could trust, and another in the fallout of me calling that man out.
Sometimes depression doesn’t have an external cause. We wake up feeling hopeless and exhausted for seemingly no reason.
Today, it has a cause. These recent losses didn’t just open the wound of me losing my best friend four months ago, but wounds from ten years ago, and even longer.
They are all connected. She vastly changed the trajectory of my life, for better or worse.
In a few weeks, I will have to drive back home to Ohio, to the house that still has that framed contract tucked away somewhere. Her house is on the route to get from my parents’ house to that of my in-laws. I will have to distract myself somehow so that when we get to that intersection, I don’t tell him to turn left, just for old times sake. Our cars could even pass each other’s–but even if we see each other, it won’t matter. We are, again and forever, strangers.
I’d rather forget and not slow down…