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My Life: a Mess
“Did you see how hammered Kat was last weekend?”
“I wasn’t there, but I heard there’s a video on youtube of her trying o fight off a cop.”
“That might be a little hard if you’ve already sucked down six beers and was high as a kite.”
“Wow, how pathetic is that?”
“I know, right?”
These are the conversations I’ve grown to cherish over the past year and a half. Maybe that was what happened last weekend. How should I know? I had already downed a bottle of chardonnay before I even got to that party, so excuse me for my fuzzy memory. That would explain the grapefruit sized purple, but yellowing, circle on my arm though. I think I caught it on the door knob when I was being escorted out of the house. This definitely isn’t my first run in with the cops though. Not even close. I like to party, what is so wrong about that? Plenty of kids my age go to parties.
I wasn’t always like this though. I mean, I used to have a conscience, and morals, and self respect. Hell! I used to have more than that! I had the perfect life. A nice house, designer clothes, a reliable car, loving parents, and best of all, the best brother a girl could ask for. Jake was my twin brother, and my best friend. We were inseparable. We were so close; we could finish each other’s sentences. Jake used to give the best advice, too. Most brothers would shy away from a chance at deep conversation and bonding, but Jake would always jump at the chance to talk to me. He used to sit with me for hours helping me decide what I should wear for dates, and give me points to bring up in conversations; he was always so genuine and thoughtful. Just an overall happy guy.
And Jake was popular. Something I never totally succeed in. Sure, he could get me into his lunch table, and he would always try to include me in the conversations, but his friends didn’t like me for my personality. They liked me because I was Jake Rowan’s twin sister. But I never minded. I used to love just sitting there, admiring the way he could have the whole room in stitches in a matter minutes. You could swear his smile was made up off 100 watt light bulbs. And especially, how no amount of bad news could ever bring him down. This last quality was the defining factor of our summer before junior year.
Three months before we turned 17, Jake was diagnosed with leukemia. Of course, we didn’t know it was cancer at first. It started out as what seemed like the flu. He had a fever, was fatigued, and nauseous, and was prescribed the normal antibiotics for this illness, but as cancer does, it got worse. Jake loved soccer. He and his team even won the championships his sophomore year, and traveled across the country to play in nationals. But after soccer practice, he used to sit in his room massaging his legs and feet and arms, claiming that he had gotten hit by a stray ball, or accidentally kicked by a team mate, but I knew better. He then started developing small lumps in his neck and on his stomach, and the slightest nudge could give him the nastiest bruise you’ve ever seen. He would lay in bed for days at a time, white as a ghost while I fed him soup and tried not to focus on the red spots invading his cheekbones. We would later find that they were called “petechiae.”
Eventually, we returned to the doctor claiming the same symptoms, he was tested extensively, and was diagnosed. That ay haunts me every night of my life, right before I close my eyes. We were all sitting in the waiting room of the Johnstown Hospital Cancer Wing. We being my mom, dad, and I, waiting to hear the latest statistics of his case. Let me inform you that the Rowan family is not religious. Was not, is not, and probably never will be. Church was just never discussed in our house. As long as we had each other, everything was okay. But anyway, while sitting in that cold, lifeless waiting room, all three of us were praying to God that the news would be good. That the doctor would come out and say, “Mr. and Mrs. Rowan! Kat! You’re son and brother is going to be fine! He is cured! God has sent down an angel who has breathed life into him, and he will be well until his dying day!” But of course, that is a load of horseshit, and what the doctor said pushed me further from God than I ever had been, and I would never look back.
As you know, the doctor told us Jake had leukemia. My mother collapsed, and my father was there, cradling her in his arms as she wailed and sobbed. I had suspected that cancer was the reason. Actually, Jake and I both suspected. For weeks, we had been cooped up in our childhood tree house, researching things on my laptop. And eventually, we found leukemia. It was simple really. “Google” really is the best search engine ever invented. It popped up right away. We were so sure, and we were so scared. We held each other for hours and cried until we had no tears left. I told Jake that I would never leave him, and that everything would be alright. Through his tears he would whisper that he loved me and that he would be live; that no matter what he would survive.
For months I sat at the foot of his hospital bed telling him what his friends were up to, who was dating whom, the perks about missing so much school, and everyday he told me that he was feeling better, and that everything was going to be alright. I watched him lose 40 pounds, wasting away to nothing. I held clumps of his hair in my hands that I picked up while hugging him. This bald vegetable was not my brother. This was not Jake. During the last few months, I discovered alcohol, and drugs. I started out by realizing that a half a glass of my mom’s best port wine could give me a nice buzz and relieve me of my horrible reality. Then a couple weeks, and a couple parties later, I was completely gone. I couldn’t go a day without being high, or drunk, or sometimes both. Feeling nothing was certainly better than dealing with this gut wrenching hole that was being ripped through my stomach by this cancer, this disease, which I would never be able to stop.
I wasn’t there when Jake passed. It was a Friday, around 2:30 in the morning. I guess that actually makes it Saturday, technically. Where would I have been other than at a party, of course. My parents were home, assuming that I was just a few steps down the hall sound asleep. Understandably, they were livid when they found out that I wasn’t home, and that I hadn’t been for the last four months. But that’s not what upset me the most about that night. After my parents had grumpily driven across town to Steve Fredrick’s apartment, dragged me to the car, and fed me bread to try and sober me up, we went to the hospital. I stood there half in a daze as the nurse explained that Jake had gone easily, with little or no pain, and I wanted to shake her by the head and ask her how could he have had no pain? He died all alone, in a hard, generic hospital bed, with nothing to keep him company but the beeping of his own heart machine slowly decreasing by the minute. How could that have been peaceful?
After that night, or morning you could say, I basically dropped off the face of the Earth. I didn’t even care to attend his funeral. While the priest was drowning on and on about how good of a person Jake was, and about how much he was loved by all, I was at home, neatly arranging my drugs of choice into perfect rows so I could suck them up and spend the rest of my life hovering just a few feet above the rest of the world in a cloud of oblivion. I’m the girl who forgets to shower, who fails out of Home Ec, who talks back to her teachers, if she chooses to talk at all, and most importantly: I’m the girl you see passed out on the couch of every party, every Friday night, with a half a cup of beer in her grimy, grungy had, dreaming of her brother, Jake. When I was 17 and ¾ years old, my brother died. What kind of person am I supposed to be? Someone, please tell me. Because this is how my life will always be if you don’t.