I saw it on Facebook. A mutual friend from high school posted it, and I followed the links, and there it was. Pictures that rattled me and a story that I didn't know, about this adult with a full-on (hipster? Duck Dynasty?) beard who was a widely liked, and even well-loved person. According to all of the comments on various sites: warm, caring, gentle, kind, innovative, funny.
I am reading these things, and I don't know what I feel. I can't find a word that is right.
Warm. Funny. Caring. Kind. Gentle.
I haven't spoken to him since the night I very dramatically broke up with him (how else can you when you are almost 19?), and only saw him briefly from a distance twice since then. I didn't know him after that. From time to time, I hoped he was miserable and alone. I hoped that he had learned to deal with his depression and anxiety, and was happier. I was sure that he lied to himself about the reasons we broke up. I wondered if he got really, really fat and still lived with his parents. I wondered if he was dead. I wondered if I would ever find out any of these things.
I joined the marching band color guard when I was a senior in high school. He joined as an "equipment manager" so he could come with me on band trips and to shows and whatnot. It took up a lot of our time in football season. It became a problem in our relationship. This one time, he held me down and suffocated me with his hands till I passed out, and made us late for the bus going to a band competition. He didn't want to go. He wanted to spend more time together, just us. This is a small sample of his solutions to the problems in our relationship. I also was on the hockey team, and we were in the Drama Club together, and choir. Those things took up time and diverted my attention from him, too. Occasionally, I would go without a bra and once in a while, I would wear shorts, obviously trying to get someone else's attention. Problems with similar solutions.
(It's true: awkward, geeky kids who are not even that good looking have these kind of problems, too.)
Why even comment? It's not my story, now.
Except that I am confused. And full of rage. And I have a voice now for the things that I could not find a way to talk about then...sort of. I don't want to talk about it.
I expected that I might always feel a bit pissed that I never got to really tell him off, with the benefit of adult perspective and all the glory of my success in life. And I am pissed, now that I am sure it will never, ever happen. Doesn't everyone want that chance? Petty.
My 19 year-old self is RAGING that he just walked away from all of the damage he did in my life...and had a nice life, where he helped people and built things with people and people liked him. I didn't want to know all of that. It took a lot of years to school myself to only feel pity and mild disgust when I thought about us. To stop feeling rage and shame and mortification and self-loathing. I'm not 19 any more, and so many things have happened since then that matter so much more. A long time ago, I learned to feel nothing about years 16, 17, and 18.
I was at peace with the fact that sometimes, there is no accountability for people who are wrong.
But I am caught off-guard. Blind-sided, in fact, with a steaming sack of NOT NOTHING.
I did not expect to be so sad. Have regret. Feel Rage.
Do people change? Does it matter?
Here's the thing: I believe all of that stuff they are saying about him. I knew that side, too.
This one time, he carried a kitten in his inside denim-jacket pocket to keep it warm, all the way from his neighborhood where he found him, to my apartment. We found the kitten a good home. And I believe that people are not just one thing, forever and ever. I find, in the sack, alongside the Rage, a disturbing, traitorous grief for the person with a kitten in his pocket, who held my hand at my Grandma's funeral and worried about his mom and gave me his favorite Flyers t shirt to sleep in.
He died, apparently, from complications of a heart condition that he has had since birth. A comment on a memorial page says, "so ironic that it was his heart, because he had the biggest heart of anyone I know." Died of a heart condition that I didn't believe he had, because I finally realized that I couldn't tell when he was telling me lies.
I guess that one was true. And he was very funny. Plus the kitten thing.
Its been 14 years since I saw him. My life has made me different from the person I was at 19; I suppose his could have too.
This one time, this really damaged, paranoid, self-involved, awkward teenager really hurt someone who loved him, over and over, until she was damaged, too. Then he grew up and led a decent life and made good friends and was a productive, interesting, and worthwhile person. The second part doesn't make up for the first part, for her. Maybe it did for him, but it doesn't matter, because he died young anyway.
Its not a good story. Its not a story at all. We make things into stories so they make sense.
I can't put a word to how I feel. I don't want to even the score on the reckoning of his life. Or maybe I do-but it doesn't matter, because it's done. There is no reckoning. I fixed that damage myself, and will keep on fixing it. I am not just one thing either.
I don't want to talk about it. There is no one to talk to.
This, right here, is the best I can do to put it outside of myself and try to let it go.