I’ve loved you since I was 17. You were my first true love and the first one I gave myself to. We had planned to grow old and gray together, but God had another plan for me. In all the years we were apart, I never stopped thinking about you, dreaming about you, wondering about you; wondering if you were happy, if you were married, and whether or not you had children. I thought we really had something.

In retrospect, all I see now is pain. We were sweethearts during my senior year. You broke into a local bar with a friend and got probation for that right before the school year started. Then, I came out of class one day, and a friend told me you had been arrested for stealing a classmate’s motorcycle. To this day, we never talked about why you did that.

Because you were already on probation, you got sentenced to a juvenile detention center. Being away from you was pure hell, but you only got time added onto what you had already been sentenced to when you decided you would run away. More pain for me.

My first hospitalization stemmed from that incident. I wanted to die so the pain would stop. I’ve already written about what transpired to cause me to end up in the ER at Baptist Hospital in Montgomery after I skipped school to try and see you, so I will skip that part for now. I felt like if I could just talk to you, I could get you to straighten up so we could be together again. How naive of me. Of course, they wouldn’t let me see you because I wasn’t family, and it wasn’t visiting hours. It sent me way off the deep end. It was to be the first time in my life that mental illness would rear its ugly head.

Then, there were the letters you would write to me. They always upset me so bad, my Mom started hiding them from me. I came across them one day stuck inside a book on the bookshelves in our den while I was dusting, and confronted her asking her why she would do such a thing. She said it was because your letters always upset me so much. In one of them, you told me you had punched a hole in the wall. My Mom said she called the detention center and talked to your counselor. He told her you did no such thing. Why did you tell me that?

After you were released, you were put back on probation and not supposed to leave the state, but your family and you left almost immediately for Virginia. I was devastated, so more pain to endure for me. I followed you there. Your aunt and uncle took me since they were headed that way anyway. I was 18. There wasn’t really anything my parents could do to stop me, and I was hellbent on going. I was there for two weeks. It was the first time in my life I hadn’t spent Christmas with my family.

In the evenings, you would leave me and be gone for hours to your Dad’s who lived nearby. One of your four sisters still lived with him. We were staying with your brother and sister-in-law. She told me that you were going to see your sister’s friends at your Dads and you were cheating on me with them. I believed her, and left the next morning headed back to Alabama.

You didn’t try to stop me. I’d call you from Alabama because I missed you so much. My heart felt like it was breaking. The last phone call didn’t go so well. I told you I thought we needed to break up. You said, “Fine then!” and slammed the phone down. I was devastated yet again. It took me a long, long time to get my life back together, but it was actually that very same month I met the man I would end up marrying. You and I wouldn’t speak again for thirty-five years.

© 2017 SJ Mullins