I stand in front of your grave, I’m the only one who comes to see you aren’t I? I’m the only one who recognizes your lasting impact. Your tombstone has aged quite a bit. It’s begun to crack.
The tones and atmosphere of this place are dull, reminiscent of death. Perhaps it is because of the winter sky, or maybe it is because you were never fond of bright colors. Even though it is a contradiction, I place yellow roses on your grave.
I caress your name that’s been etched into the surface of the granite. Memories begin to flood into my mind, and I become lost in the past.
Why did I always seem to find myself in that position? Curled up like a hiding child with you crouched over like a protective shield. I was kneeling, facing the wall, you were behind me with arms outstretched on either side. Your palms were pressed so hard against the wall they had turned white. Relentless shouting came from behind us, I didn’t dare turn toward the source. I rested my forehead against the wall, covered my ears, and closed my eyes tightly. I foolishly believed that if I tried hard enough, I would become invisible.
A bottle suddenly hit the wall and shattered above us. It covered our heads in broken glass. You let out a frightened yelp. The clatter broke my concentration, and my body tightened in fear.
“Jake please, just stop!” You pleaded.
Deep down I wanted to tear that man apart but I was just a scrawny twelve-year-old girl, he’d snap me in half if I tried.
“The next time you touch my stuff I’ll break your pretty little neck, you hear?”
“I won’t, I promise.” You said. He shoved a chair out of his way. You jumped as he walked into his room and slammed the door shut. You let out a sigh of relief, took my hands from my ears, and turned me toward you.
Your face looked haggard, and your hair was a mess of brown girls. All of these features I had learned to love and hate because they were yours.
“Are you okay?” You asked and looked me over as you brushed the glass out of my blond hair.
“I’m fine, are you?” I asked.
You nodded as tears fell down your cheeks.
“Please, we need to get out of here, he gets worse every day. I don’t understand why we have to live with this stranger?” I said and wiped away your tears.
“Yes, I know. As soon as I get a job we can leave.” You managed a smile to hide your fear. You wanted to seem brave for me, but your eyes betrayed you.
I put my hands on your shoulders. “No, we need to leave now. We’ve been on the streets before we can do it again!” I begged in vain.
“Please, just be patient. I’ll get a job soon, and things will get better, okay?”
“You always say that. You and I both know that no one’s going to hire you until you stop and clean yourself up!”
You paused for a moment and stared at me blankly. I knew it was impossible to reach you. I had already lost you long before they returned you to the earth.
“I will, I’m already working on it.” Those words were empty. They were unintentional lies. I held back my tears, turned away, stood, and ran out of the house. I slammed the door closed behind me and slipped down to my knees. We were similar that way, you hid behind a smile. I hid wherever I could run. Neither one of us wanted to burden the other with pain.
That was the way our lives had always been, wasn’t it? Living with strangers in what "decent society" calls the “Slums” or “ghetto” part of the city. Sometimes we even lived on the streets. I had learned to steal, lie, and hide. I was naive to any other way of life. I didn’t know any different and I didn’t expect any different.
You were a drug addict, addicted to heroin. You used it to deal with your problems and the stress of living the kind of life we had. You would do anything to get your hands on it.
Sometimes I wondered if I was part of your problem if dealing with me was the reason why you felt you needed to numb the pain.
I don’t really have many memories of you before you became an addict.
When we were homeless, before your mind was completely lost to heroin, you would try to make my life seem like it wasn’t so bad. You’d take me for walks in the park and show me the beautiful flowers. We’d go to the store. You and I would make several trips around the store and eat the samples till we felt like we had an entire meal.
When we lived on the streets, we would sit on the park slide and look at the stars together.
You used to name constellations and point them out to me. Up until this year, I had thought they were real. I guess to us they were but, that was before the world shut out all glimpses of light.
You lost your waitress job. You used what money we had left to feed me and then you used it to feed your new addiction. Something had changed. Eventually, life got the better of you, and you just couldn’t keep pretending anymore. You started to up the dose of heroin. We began living with strangers who you paid behind closed doors. I had mixed feelings about you then. I hated you, I loved you, I blamed you, I blamed myself.
You were fire and I was ice both of us capable of destroying the other if we chose. We began to argue and clash but arguing turned to me pleading. I begged you to change, but that meant to heal. To heal you need someone to help but how could I save you when l was falling apart as well?
Back then it was as if we were locked together by chains that dragged us down deep into the ocean. We were watching each other struggle for air. We were helpless to save ourselves let alone each other.
An inescapable fate is a path that is impossible to avoid, a situation that is inevitable. My entire life had been an endless round of inescapable fate, and so was yours. We were trapped in the same life. We both searched for ways to escape, and in the end, your escape was your undoing. It took you from me, maybe that is what you wanted. Perhaps, you wanted to leave me.
I wanted to escape but I was bound to you, there was no running from it. Every emotion I had tied me to your fate. I wanted to mend our relationship, but every time I tried to get close, it was as if I was being pricked with the thorns of a rose bush. You put up barriers between us. You were afraid, so you kept me at arm's length. I thought it was my fault that it was something I had done but in reality, it wasn't. You didn't want me to watch you destroy yourself, but in pushing me away, you were destroying me.
When I could no longer stand to be near you, I would climb a tree and look around myself. I cursed my life.
For me, life was like being a bird with a wounded wing, how you long to soar away but you are grounded. You wish to leave the nest but fear what would become of that bird who in spite of its brokenness has strived to care for you. All you have ever known has been this nest, you know nothing of the world beyond.
I do not pretend to understand what you felt or thought during your last days. But I do know this, you were human. You felt the coldness of the snow, you felt the wetness of the rain. You bled when you were cut, you laughed when it was funny, you shattered when pushed past your breaking point. And you were, you were pushed too far.
You escaped your fate the only way you knew how. You severed the bonds that held us together. You left the nest and me behind, something I was too afraid to do to you.
After you were gone, I felt like I was standing at a two-way crossroad. No matter what I chose, It would always be the wrong direction. Wherever I ended up, I would never belong.
I wonder if you felt the same. Every day you were faced with choices, and none of them seemed right, but you still had to decide what you were going to do next. You not only had to choose for yourself but for me as well. I was your burden, and you were my prison. We could not escape each other.
When I was ten you told me something, I wasn’t able to understand at the time. You knelt down in front of me, put my hair behind my ear, and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not and never will be anything more.” I stared into your eyes and tried to read them but I couldn’t. The only thing I understood was your broken smile.
I remember we were staying with another stranger. Did you know what he had been doing? I wanted you to protect me, but you did nothing. One night you and I were in the dirty old basement during a raging storm. You were shooting up while I sat across from you on the floor. Tears rolled down my cheeks. “I really hate you.” My throat was tight as I uttered those words. You looked up into my eyes and whispered. “I know.”
We were both like shattered mirrors reflecting each other’s suffering souls. Yours was dark and enveloped with thorns, slowly bleeding out good intentions. Mine was a twisted lacerated child, voiceless, calling for help.
I have no pictures of you. We only had one, it was a picture of both of us. It's buried with you now. Your face gets hazier every day we are apart. Given more time perhaps these memories will fade altogether. There would be no one left to remember or visit you. That’s the catch though, isn’t it? I will never be able to forget you. These memories are the only thing left that ties me to you. It’s cruel and painful, but It’s a scar I’m willing to keep. You are a scar I’m willing to keep. You, the one I can’t forget. The one who hurt me. The one who tried to protect me. The one who inevitably abandoned me.
It’s hard to understand what I feel for you now that you have been gone for so long. The emotions are swirling within me like a storm. Anger, pain, hate, and love. I wonder if I will find myself numb given more time. Did you despise me before? Were your emotions as confusing as mine?
The past returns often, it seems to take on its own life and attempts to drown me.
All I can do now is keep breathing and try to keep my head above water. Each day is painful and sometimes it’s difficult to breathe. Sometimes I can’t sleep because my dreams turn into dark memories. But I’ve learned to survive, I won’t become like you nor will I fall apart.
I tried for years to sever you from me but I know now that's impossible, all I can do is learn to live with what happened. You will always be a part of me.
Our past is one that will haunt me for the rest of my life; it almost destroyed me but has now shaped me into what I am now. This isn't easy to say but I’ve finally gained enough strength and I want you to know.
“I forgive you.”