My high school boyfriend died September 3rd. We started dating when I was 16 I think...and dated off and on until I was almost 19. Our relationship was full of drama and heartbreak. I never really dated anyone from high school, Mark was already graduated and working when we met, so a lot of our relationship centered around going to fancy dinners and spending the weekends together at his place or camping. Once for his birthday I got us a cabin at a lake but I was too young to secure the reservation, so I had my mom call to finish it. At the time, I felt so much older. Looking back, I was so naive about how young I really was. I never felt young when I was with him.
We were together for so long, and it was so long ago that I have a hard time remembering all the details, but I do remember this:
Mark loved playing guitar...I remember his bony fingers picking up and down the strings of his guitar, attempting some Queensryche song or mimicking his Joe Satriani or Stevie Ray Vaughn. He would play for hours, so focused.
Mark loved cooking. He was a line cook and always got off work reeking of onions and mexican food. He taught me how to chop..."just chop like you've already cut off your fingers" he said when I said I was scared of cutting myself. I still remember him whenever I chop carrots.
Mark showered with his 2 ferrets. They would scratch the hell out of him, but he did it all the same. They would steal his socks and hide them down in the basement.
Mark and I had such a dysfunctional relationship. He was egotistical, jealous, insecure, but at the same time, so comforting, adoring, loving and giving. I was immature, flighty, greedy, and though I wasn't in love with him throughout our entire relationship, I always loved him. In many ways, he took care of me and we gave each other something that we both needed at the time. We broke up and got back together so many times...I remember once coming back from California for the summer, depressed and lonely. I called him, and the moment we saw each other, we sank into each other like an old pair of comfy jeans. The relationship, was great when it was stable. Other times...
I wanted to break free of him so many times. I had outgrown our relationship and wanted to be a normal teenager, see other people, explore the world myself, etc. When I was 17 I broke up with him (one of the many times!) and after arriving home late from partying, dizzy from having been drinking and exhausted from staying out so late, my mom was waiting for me, telling me that Mark had called. He had just taken a handful of pills. She had no idea where he was, so I ran out of the house and sped through red lights in the middle of the night across town to his house, to his sisters house, to his friends house (before cell phones and Facebook when you had to actually GO SEE PEOPLE if they didn't answer the phone). He wasn't there. I called my mom from a pay phone. He was there. When I pulled up at my house, there were emergency vehicles lining the street. An EMT tried to stop me as I came running to the house, but I broke through and found him in sitting at my dining room table, slumped over as the EMT did vitals and prepped him for transport to the hospital. "Why did you do this??" I remember asking. "I don't want to live without you!" he said...
In the hospital, I remember having the very clear feeling that if I didn't go back with him, he wouldn't be so careful next time, and that scared the shit out of me. I got back together with him right then and there...black chalk on his face and stomach freshly pumped. I remember thinking that once he was okay, I would break up with him...I didn't want to be with him, but there is a strange attraction to someone so desperate for you that they would kill themselves without you. It was so confusing and sad.
I stayed with him for a while after that. He moved to Kansas for a summer to work, and we sent letters and called and missed each other horribly. When he came back, a person he worked with said I had cheated on him at a party we were both at. Actually, I was in a closed bedroom with a mutual friend whom yes, I had a total crush on, but instead of doing anything sexual, I sat watching him do lines of coke, cringing the whole time. Nothing happened. But he wouldn't believe me. So I drove to Mark's work, a Mexican restaurant, stormed passed the hostess, servers, and into the kitchen where I found my target, a 6'4" 300 pound black man who (line cook), called him out to the parking lot and screamed at him for a length of time before he decided I was nothing more than a fly buzzing around him, and went back inside to work. He finally believed me. Either that or thought I was the craziest bitch he'd ever met. Hard to say...
When we met, he was 18 or 19...I don't remember. He was already a recovered alcoholic, but he loved the taste of alcohol, so he'd drink O'Douls frequently. When he turned 21, he decided he could handle it, so he picked up a four pack of beer and that was it...he started drinking again. From then on, our relationship went from bad to worse, he got angry and callous, he told me secrets I wish I didn't know, and just changed into a different person. This was right about the time I met Chip, so I was ready to let it go, I was done.
So Chip and I got married, and I heard from Mark less and less as he went off his own way, partying hard last I heard.
A couple years later, I was working at an employment agency and came across his brother and asked how Mark was doing. Ends up he was in tragic accident shortly after we broke up in which he became paralyzed from the neck down. He was a quadriplegic. I went to visit him, and he looked like he'd lost 30 pounds off his already skinny frame. He was pale and sick looking. I was stunned, but I needed to connect with him, to show him I still cared and to be a friend. Life has a way of getting away from us, and we lost touch, but always managed to find each other online throughout the years. I'm so grateful for Facebook to be able to reconnect there. His death is a complete shock, and one I'm still coming to grips with.
Our past seems like a distant dream. Now, with no evidence of our history, our shared time together is left to me to remember. His was such a dramatic albeit important relationship in my life. I'm struggling with letting go of the guilt I feel, as if there was something I could have done to prevent him from drinking again...from going on an out of town liquor store run...from letting his drunk friend drive (or just from driving at all since they were both drunk) and crashing, from ending up face down in a ditch so near death, only to wake up with a profoundly different life, from a life he wanted cut short, from so much suffering and regret. I don't blame myself, as I believe everyone makes their choices, but the truth is I was there and I had a huge impact on his life at the time. I hate knowing that.
I am grateful to have known him. I'm grateful for the crazy memories, though I wish his memories included the full use of his body, running, playing, jumping, loving, dancing, playing guitar, playing with his son (he did father a son during one of our break ups), getting married, driving, etc. I know he did the absolute best with the life he had, but my heart still breaks mostly from guilt. His son is now 18 and looks so much like the Mark I knew...the Mark I loved and lost for so much of my teen years. It's a weird circle of life...
I hope Mark is in a better place. I don't know what I think about heaven or hell and angels and devils and God...but I do have a strong sense of Mark as being eternally present in the world, larger than life, not gone but only transitioned to a different state...much like I feel about my grandma, who passed in 2002. Wherever he is, I hope he feels peace and absolute freedom. I hope he doesn't regret his time with me. I hope he forgives me.