Part V

The Party & The After Party

Listen, I was a mess when she left for Texas, and the subsequent breakup. But the worst of it was only to come. Right after May 22nd — the day Trey and I went to jail, the day I got dumped — there was a brief window where being alive was tolerable.

My now ex-girlfriend was getting settled with her mom in Texas, but we kept in semi-regular contact. We still texted, and spoke on the phone some nights. We talked about what went right and wrong, and that, who knows, maybe one day she would invite me to her wedding. She still saw an opportunity for friendship, and when I broached the idea of us getting back together someday, she said “I can’t predict the future.”

In the meantime, Trey and I were regularly hanging out again — something we didn’t do as much when we each had girlfriends. We did random shit. We’d go bowling, painting, play tennis, and we even started going to parties. Trey is straight edge, so he isn’t into drinking or smoking or any of that other noise. We were just doing whatever there was to do.

That was my consolation prize for getting broken up with: I had my best friend as a distraction.

At the beginning of June, not three weeks removed from going to jail, Trey and I went bowling one night. There wasn’t anything special about it, except this time his on-again-off-again ex-girlfriend showed up when it was just supposed to be us two. She didn’t like me. After months of Trey telling me it was over between them, he spent the night at the bowling alley showing off for her, creating huge delays for me and my precious bowling time. It could have been any other girl and I wouldn’t have cared. But it was her. Inside I was livid.

When we got out to the parking lot to leave, Trey confronted me to ask what my deal was, and I flipped my shit, told him everything I just wrote. I was excessively unhappy; there’s no other reason I would have treated my best friend that way.

So we argued, yelled at one another beneath the tall lights, and I got in my black Ford Ranger to leave. That was the last I saw of Trey until November the following year.

* * * * *

In July, my ex-girlfriend came home. Her mom still had items to move, and there were certain legalities in need of handling between her mom and dad. Her first day back I took her to IHOP and we sat next to each other at a booth while we ate pancakes. After, we went to the mall and got some See’s Candy.

Rather than take her out to go thrift store shopping after, which was our original plan, the two of us ended up in her room at her mom’s old house. We thought we had enough time to sneak one in. When we heard the front door open, we panicked and got dressed. It was her mom. My ex told me I should leave, so I did.

I didn’t hear from her the rest of the day, or day after, which I thought was strange. Here we had someone I had been with the last year, who even after she broke up with me was still in touch, so much so that I was the first person she wanted to see when she got back to California.

And now, this.

It wasn’t adding up in my head, so anxiously I waited around my parent’s house next to my phone, agonizing, thinking I was only moments away from a text or call. It never came.

Knowing she was leaving the next day, the following afternoon I texted her a couple times… before calling. Multiple times. I went mad trying to understand what was going on. When she didn’t answer I drove out to her mom’s house, where I assumed she was.

Outside it was overcast and occasionally it sprinkled. The grey skies set the mood for an appropriately sad afternoon. I made my way to the front door and rang the bell, then rang it again. I could hear rumbling inside in what sounded like the kitchen area, making my situation even more uncomfortable. There was only one person who lived there who wouldn’t answer the door for me, though I wasn’t totally sure why.

I went back to my truck and got out a composition notebook and pen, and started writing a letter on the bed (which I pulled down to sit on). This would be the only way to get my last word in. I pressed pen to paper like a maniac, wrote my page-long piece in what felt like 10 minutes. It probably was 10 minutes. When I finished, I proceeded back up the driveway and to the front door, rang the doorbell a couple times, knocked, called her, texted her. I was going to pieces out there. I also remember not caring if anyone on the street saw me, which was out of character. In that moment I had no shame.

Then her mom pulled up, came to join me at the front door. She was obviously tipped off to come deal with the inconvenience. Somebody had to. She leaned over and sat with me on the cold ground while she said what was really going on, which gave me at least a breadcrumb of peace. She was upset that her daughter and I were supposed to go thrift store shopping and we ended up sleeping together. That isn’t what friends do, she explained. Like a parent to a child.

When I drove back home that day, I finally understood the magnitude of how much I had fucked my life up. Less than a year earlier I was flying out to Virginia Tech; I had a girl I was madly in love with and a best friend who would do anything for me. I had the best life.

Now I had nothing. I dropped out of my awesome-sounding college. I was dumped by my hot girlfriend. I wasn’t talking to my awesome best friend. All of the things that made me cool, and made me feel cool, were gone. As one of my old friends told me, “All your hard work and you ended up back at home with the rest of us.”

I was a long way from using such statements as fuel to improve myself. This wave of turmoil was only getting started: The exposition was a true love story, but the climax wasn’t until the two people I loved most were finally gone.

I was about to enter the falling action — which in this case was more inaction — and how, after the most pain-free upbringing, I struggled with the worst pains, all at once.

* * * * *

I badly needed an outlet.

My wisdom teeth were removed at the end of July, 2009. I was given a Valium before the operation, and prescribed a bottle of Vicodin after. I didn’t take any right away. The night my teeth were taken out I went to play basketball at Ben’s house — my friend from high school who was in the hardcore band — and the pain wasn’t unbearable.

In fact, the next day I started working part-time at the auto auction company my mom and older brother were at. Even though reality seemed like a total loss, work was the best distraction. I was filled to the brim with sorrow from the breakup and losing my best friend, and I still had a hard time eating and sleeping. But at least a few days a week I could focus my mind on something else. I was lucky to get a job so quickly.

Eventually, weeks after my wisdom teeth were pulled, I finally opened the bottle of Vicodin to see what they were all about. (Hint: they were amazing.) In high school, and for the duration of my now-dead relationship, I talked down about drugs, as well as the people who used them. I said those people were weak, dumb, lost. Whatever. It wasn’t until I experimented myself that I understood all the fuss.

For stretches of the next two years, pain-killer medication was my weapon of choice. Between weed and pills, I estimate roughly a quarter of my income was committed to getting high. Because opioids are tolerance-based, at the beginning I would only need one to get through half the day, which was all I needed. By the end of a cycle, I’d take two in the morning, two at work after lunch, and two more once I got home.

One night, hopped up on Norco’s, I had a panic attack in my parent’s living room. Aside other panic episodes I’ve had over the last half-decade, it was the only time I remember thinking I was actually going to die. To help calm down I went in my mom’s room and laid down next to her. I thought I would rather die than tell her that drugs were the cause.

I was always ready and willing to escape.

* * * * *

In October I flew back to Virginia to visit my friends from school. Virginia Tech had a Thursday Night Football game against North Carolina on ESPN (that they lost), but at least I was there to see it. Even though it seemed like a totally different world by then, it had only been five months since I saw everybody.

That was the final bow on all my Virginia friendships. That was my closure. I haven’t returned since.

Three weeks later, Brad, Ben, Isaiah and I had plane tickets bound for New York. It was a half-hearted vacation attempt; we had no real plans of what to do once we got there, and we were to stay in hostiles. That was all I knew.

So I wasn’t totally disappointed the night we made it to the airport in Long Beach, and got a call saying our flight had been canceled. Not delayed, or postponed. The lady at the front desk offered to compensate us with a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, instead, but our group wasn’t unanimous so we stayed put. We stood around like a bunch of knobs trying to figure out what to do.

Because our friend, Kyle, was going to school in Sacramento, we decided on driving up to surprise him. We left around midnight from our homes in San Bernardino, took Brad’s big ass white truck up north. With little traffic it only took us like six hours, which was nice.

We spent a couple days in Sacramento, drove out to San Francisco and saw the Golden Gate bridge. I was just a whore to go on as many vacations as possible, since I still couldn’t shake the heart-break from the summer. The morning we left to head home, we saw on one of the social medias that a kid we went to high school with, also named Eric, died in a car accident on his way home from college. He was on Thanksgiving break. He and I had the same first name, same birthday, and were born only hours apart at the same hospital. We went to preschool together.

He was a better person than I was.

After the trip up north, but not because of it, Ben, Kyle and Isaiah fell out of touch with me. I didn’t really put up a fight over it. One week we were friends, drinking beer in my parent’s backyard. The next week we weren’t. Neither side, not them and not I, cared enough to have a conversation as to why.

Now, sure, they and I never shared the same interests. Not even when we were in high school. They were into music in a way that 90% of their conversations revolved around the hardcore genre. In high school it didn’t bother me very much, because they were only my secondary friends, the people I hung out with when I wasn’t doing something with Trey.

Once Trey was out of my life — and at this point it had been about 5 months — their importance increased. And it was because I spent so much time with them that I learned how much Trey meant to me. I was still only 19 at the time, so what happened in my life still felt like the most important thing in the universe, but it was easy to tell that the three of them weren’t in the mood to talk about real life issues. They didn’t have the answers I needed.

That is, of course, to say I had any fucking clue what answers I needed. My uncle once told me that the problem with gaining life experience is, unfortunately, you get it right after the time when you need it. The year of 2009 took a dump all over me. But without it, it would have been impossible to grow up.

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