"So...I mean, what do we do from here?" Adam asked, a little aggravated about the fact that I was here asking him for help, but had basically cut off half of the tools he had to work with in order to do so. I mean, I really DID want help! I just...I can't do certain things. And I can't tell him certain things. And I can't...ugh! I don't know what I want, or how to go about it. I'm, just sort of sinking in emotional quicksand right now, and even though he's trying to help me climb out of it by offering me a rope or a tree branch...I can't help but to be super picky about what I'm willing to let him use to save me.
I'm trying though. I'm sure that I'm being silly about a lot of this stuff, but...if I thought, for one moment, that I'd be strong enough to do this on my own, then I would have done it by now. I've been training myself to survive for so long that it's hard to believe that I could expect anybody else to save me at this point. I don't have the luxury of putting that level of faith in somebody else.
What if I end up becoming dependent on somebody and they decide to let me fall? What if they're not there for me when I need them most? I can't let that happen. I just...I can't, ok? I have to maintain some level of control over my situation at all times. I have to depend on myself, and ONLY on myself. Getting help is an awesome bonus, and I appreciate it...but this isn't their 'problem'. It's MY problem. They can back away from it all. They can get tired and stop caring for a day or two. They can make a mistake and not have to suffer through the severity of the consequences that are sure to follow. For them, it's a matter of charity. For me? It's a life or death struggle, where one slip up means the end of everything. Like...literally...everything.
"You're a really good friend, Adam. I mean that." I said.
"I don't want to hear that shit." He said. "What are we going to do with this? How do we fix it? I'm not just going to send you back home and wait for you to get hurt again. So what's our Plan B?"
Shaking a bit, I sat down on his bed and I said, "I don't know yet. I had to sneak out of the house to come over here. I don't even know if I can go back home right now." I sulked a bit, looking down at the floor. "It was a mistake, just running out the way I did. I'm probably going to be in more trouble than ever for not letting him know that I was going out. No matter what I do, I always end up making things worse."
"You see? You're doing it again! STOP with that bullshit, Zack! Who thinks like that?"
"Well, knock it the fuck off! This is sick!" He demanded.
I felt myself tearing up again. "I'm sorry..."
"There's nothing for you to be sorry about. Just stop it. Ok?"
"It's not like I didn't know that there would be a punishment waiting for me when I got back. That's why he hurts me. I should have just stayed in my room and done my homework. And now he's got to hit me to make me behave. I knew what the consequences were going to be, but I panicked. Now look at what I've done. I just made things more difficult by being stupid."
Adam seemed so confused. So helpless. It was clear that he had no way to even respond to what I was telling him. Years of friendship...and I'm probably ruining it by being so weak and lame about all this.
"Zack...dude..." He sighed. "...Please let me know what to say right now. Because I just, I don't understand any of this at all."
"I know." I said. "Sometimes, I don't think I understand it either."
"You always seemed like such an everyday kid before. I mean...was all of that just a lie?"
Feeling ashamed for my deception, I felt more tears run out of my eyes, and I said, "Some of it. Yeah. I guess. I don't know." I'm doing it again. I'm pushing the people I love most away from me. DO SOMETHING, Zack!!! Don't lose Adam too! "It wasn't meant to be a bunch of lies, ok? You really are my best friend. I could never fake that!"
"I don't think it's 'fake', dude, I just...I can't understand how you could allow yourself to get to be...like this, you know? I mean...what the hell happened?"
To be honest, it was difficult for me to remember when it started, or how it escalated. I had a few hazy memories of my father actually 'liking' me for a brief period growing up. I remembered him taking me bowling, or getting me to ride a roller coaster for the first time at a theme park...even though I was terrified of doing so. I remember watching TV in the dark with him...old slasher flicks and action movies. I even remember him trying to get me to watch sports with him on occasion, which I wasn't really into...but being able to cuddle up next to my Dad and just have him want to spend time with me was a blessing. It seems like ancient history now...but there was a time when I found just as much love and comfort in my father's arms as I did in my mom's.
And then...something changed.
I'm not exactly sure where I screwed up...what I did or what I said...but the way he looked at me changed after a while. The way he treated me changed after a while. I began to notice a certain level of anger in his heart whenever he was around me. He started to avoid me. Started to talk down to me. And, as time went on...I remember getting compliments from my mom's co-workers and friends during one of her company baseball games. My dad was there, and he had recently lost his job. But that never mattered to me. He was my dad, you know? I loved him. Loving him was so simple. So effortless. I mean, what more could I possibly want from him than to have him be my dad, right?
But my mom's friends kept giving me hugs, and buying me hot dogs and cotton candy and stuff. They kept saying how cute I was, and well mannered, and they smothered me with hugs and kisses every chance they got. I think I was maybe six or seven years old at the time. I have to be honest and say that I really loved the extra attention. It wasn't often that I had adults falling all over themselves to snuggle with me and lift me in the air and give me praise the way they did. Hehehe, a couple of times, my mom had to actually tell them to leave me alone. But I didn't want them to. I thought it was fun.
But my father didn't like that at all. Drinking beer and sort of being distant from the rest of us, I remember that being the first time he every pushed me away and called me a 'pretty boy'. I wasn't really sure what he meant by that at the time, but he just seemed like he didn't want to be around me anymore after he said that. And....that hurt. It just...it hurt, you know?"
What did I do?
People kept giving me hugs, some of the ladies kept kissing my cheeks, some of the guys kept wanting to show me how to throw a baseball or would pick me up to hug me close. 'Omigod, he's so adorable!' and 'Say that again! You guys, come here and listen to what he said!' and 'Look at his eyes! Awww, he's a little heartbreaker, this one!' And it felt really cool at first, but now...everything had changed. They'd give me a compliment, and I'd see my dad sitting at the top of the bleachers, drinking beer all by himself...and I felt ashamed. Super humiliated.
I don't think I'll ever forget that feeling. I made him hate me. I disgusted him by soaking up the kind of praise and worship that I, obviously, didn't and never would deserve. Maybe I was being a brat. Maybe my ego was taking over, and I was making a complete fool out of myself in front of all of my mom's friends and co-workers. I should have backed away from them. I should have known my place and just been a kid, having fun, and not soaking up compliments like some kind of horrible narcissist. I don't know...if I was my dad...
...I guess I probably would have hated me too.
"Zack?" Adam said, waiting for me to come back down to Earth after staring off into space over the memory.
"I don't know, ok?" I relied. "One day, he just decided that he didn't like me anymore. There's really nothing all that complex about it. It happens. Everybody is like that."
"What? NOBODY is like that. What are you talking about?"
"It's true. Don't you think I worry about it? Like...all the time?"
"Worry about what?"
"Worry that...the people I love, the people I care about...even my best friends...they're just going to get bored with me someday." I said. "They're gonna get bored, or they're gonna get mad at me, or they're just going to find somebody better than me...and that'll be it. They'll move on. They'll abandon me, never talk to me again, and they won't look back. Why would they? If they don't care, then they just don't care. Who am I to demand to be a priority in their lives when they've got other things to worry about? That wouldn't be fair to them at all. So...I let them go. I don't want to be a pest or bother them or make them feel guilty about leaving me behind. I barely gave them a reason to stick around for as long as they did. And I'm cool with that." I told him. "I enjoy the time I got to spend with some really cool people...and once they get tired of me, or too busy to care anymore...then I back off and let them live their lives the way they always wanted to. What else am I gonna do? Hold them back? Make them end up hating me for trying to force them to be close to me? I don't want that. That's selfish. And I don't want to be selfish."
Shaking his head, Adam looked at me with a bewildered expression that I had never seen before. "Everything that you just said to me is absolutely senseless, dude."
"It makes perfect sense to me."
"Then your idea of 'perfect sense' is about as fucked up as it possibly could be without you actually being committed to an asylum somewhere with little paper cups full of heavy medication."
"Fine. I'm crazy then. I don't care." I said, feeling the shame of my faulty perspective seeping in through the cracks again.
"Did you ever feel that way about ME?" He asked. "About Sam? Or Brody?"
I hesitated. The pause lasted until the silence was almost deafening. And I looked down at my feet again, mumbling, "It's not because of you. Ok?"
"Answer the question." He insisted. When I peeked up, Adam was looking directly into my eyes...waiting for me to say something. "Did you think that I was just going to get bored and stop talking to you one day? Did you really think that any of us would stop caring about you?"
Struggling for a reply that wouldn't sound insulting, I said, "Everybody has their own lives to lead. It's cool. It doesn't bother me." Adam looked really hurt by that answer. "Sometimes...we get caught up in other things. That's all. Who's to say that you won't get yourself a girlfriend, or get overwhelmed with homework, or maybe you get an after school job or try out for the school's baseball team or something? You don't have to come talk to me every day. Or even every week. Or every month. I'd understand. It doesn't mean we're not friends anymore. It just means...you've got better stuff to do with your time. That's all. And I get it. Hell, maybe I have better stuff to do with my time too, you know? So, it's only fair that I just...leave you alone."
Trembling slightly, Adam whispered to himself, "Leave me alone..." Then he came to sit next to me, putting his arm around my shoulder. "Let me tell you something, right now, ok?" He said. "Whether I'm busy or not, whether I'm caught up in other things or not, whether I'm working 150 hours a week or banging the hottest girl in school on a daily basis...if I EVER catch you 'leaving me the fuck alone' I'm going to find you, no matter WHERE you hide...and I'm gonna pound my fists on your door, day and night, until you pay me some goddamn attention! You hear me?"
"Adam...I didn't mean to..."
"No! Whatever you were about to say, FUCK that!" He said, turning my head to look at him. "We don't leave each other alone. Because that's not what friends do. And you don't ever have to worry about me getting 'bored' with you one day and leaving my best friend all alone in this world to fend for himself. I would NEVER do that to you! Ok?"
"I'm sorry." I sniffled. "I always make everything sound worse than it really is."
Adam gave me a stern look, and after a brief pause, he stood up and he said, "I need to go get a soda or something out of the fridge. Do you want anything?"
I wiped my eyes, and said, "No thank you. You can go on ahead."
But he asked again, "Zack...seriously...do you want something to drink?"
It should have been an easy question to answer for most people, but things are different when you already feel like a total burden to everyone you come into contact with. "Ummm...yeah. I guess. Just some water would be fine." I said.
"Soda, it is!" He smirked, and he walked out of the room to leave me with my thoughts for a short while. I don't think that he was trying to put any kind of serious pressure on me or anything, but I could feel my emotions putting pressure on me anyway, whether his questioning had inspired it or not. I just...I felt like I was screwing this up somehow. I didn't even have a reason as to WHY I felt that way...but it was there, like stomping my foot down on a nail and having it stab me to the point of getting stuck in the soft flesh underneath.
It really wasn't all that different from how I usually feel about myself, or my life in general...but...it almost felt like I was beginning to wake up out of my trance. It felt like...I was evolving beyond the misery and daily torment of a life that I didn't understand, but had submitted to for the sake of being comfortable. It was a scary idea to me...trying to prepare myself for a life without that...hair trigger bundle of chaotic wiggles in the pit of my stomach. That angry voice in my head...possibly vanishing, and leaving me without a guide as to how to govern myself or moderate my emotions. How am I going to know who I am or how to be around other people without that voice to tell me what I'm doing wrong?
All I knew was that I didn't want to hurt anymore. I didn't want to worry about being abandoned by the people I cared about the most in this life. I don't want to have to worry about my mom, or my friends, or...or my 'boyfriend', Brody.
My EX-boyfriend, Brody.
I should get used to saying that. Or...or maybe not even that much. He was just like all the others. Beautiful, and funny, and amazing in more ways than I could ever hope to count...but he got bored. They always get bored. And once that happens...they find something else more important to do with their day. They forget all about me, and they just...vanish into thin air. I always think that I'm going to be prepared for their sudden departure from my life...but I never am. I'm always left with tears in my eyes, and a giant hole in my heart where their love and joy used to dwell.
But I guess it's all for the best, you know? I doubt that I would know what to do with true love if I had it in the palm of my hand. Like...what would it look like, me being swept up in some big romance with the cutest boy on the planet...getting together to kiss and cuddle and make love whenever we found the opportunity to be alone. How ridiculous is that? I mean, it's just plain SILLY, right?
Psh! Wishing for Brody's love on lightning bolts in the middle of a rain storm. Stupid. I should be soooo embarrassed.
And what's taking Adam so long to come back with those sodas? It's too quiet in his room without him standing here talking to me. I can't stand it. I need some background noise or something. I don't want to think too much. It's driving me crazy, right now.
A minute or two later, I could hear Adam's footsteps coming back up the stairs to his bedroom, and he actually did bring me a glass of water with some ice in it, but he put it on his desk out of my reach, and handed me a cold Sprite instead. I welcomed the carbonated gift with a smile, as it was what I really wanted, but I would have just taken the water if that was all he came back with. I guess Adam knows me better than I thought.
He did seem to just settle in and turn on his video game system, handing me a controller to play along with him for a while. I thought it was weird, because I was half expecting to exhaust myself trying to get him to possibly ease off of the idea of me going back home again tonight, especially since I knew my father was probably going to be furious with me for creeping out on him in the first place. But, instead, Adam seemed to instantly go back to what would seem like a 'normal' interaction between us. And while that would normally be a comforting change of events for me...I couldn't help but to be suspicious about his sudden change in attitude. Maybe I know Adam better than he thought I did as well.
Was this a distraction? What was he doing?
"Adam...?" I asked, pausing the game.
"What is it? What's up?"
"Are we just...I mean, are we playing games here? Or...what is going on here?"
"Nothing." He said abruptly. "Just chill for a while. We can hang out for a little bit, right?"
Ok...not THAT was weird. That's not Adam's usual approach to, well...anything.
"Adam? Dude, what did you do?" I asked.
Suddenly, I heard the doorbell ring from downstairs. Adam hopped up to a standing position, and hollered down to his mom, "I GOT IT!!!" And he hurried out of the room before I could question him on what the fuck he was up to!
Please tell me that he didn't do what I think he did!
My breath got short, and a turbulent series of tremors began to vibrate wildly in my gut. It might have only be a total of ninety seconds that Adam was gone, but I experienced every last one of those seconds as though it was an eternity in itself. And I got even more frightened as I heard two sets of footsteps traveling up to the top of the stairs. But Adam was the only one to appear in the doorway first.
I felt like I wanted to CRY...but I held it in. Please, Adam...not him. Not now.
"Come on! Dude..." Adam whispered aggressively to the other 'person' just outside of the door. There was a hesitant banter between the two of them, and then, just as I feared...Brody slowly walked into my view. And despite my bravest attempts to hold it together, tears began to run out of my eyes as if I had suddenly broken the handle on a sink faucet.
Oh God....WHY??? I'm so fucking...ASHAMED of myself...