Our Little Tragedies

April 8, 2012
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When I tell people I am an orphan, they usually assume I am a tragedy. Which I am, I suppose, in that I spent my teenage years being bounced from foster home to foster home and was left generally friendless. But I am not like you. You are the real tragedy. And I know that because you told me so when I first arrived here, two years ago.

"I've been here for ten years," you said. "My parents got shot, so I was sent across the country to live here and it sucks. Tragic, huh?" I didn't how to respond, so I nodded timidly. Your lips curved upwards at my intimidation. To this day, I don't know if you found me amusing or if you found my fear amusing. The idea that you could enjoy people's pain scares me.

Here is Savannah, Georgia, in the last foster home that would take me. It's run by a lady named Christa and is overrun with children of all ages. You're fond of comparing it to Miss Hannigan's orphanage in Little Orphan Annie, and I laugh along with you when you say things like that, but secretly, I like it here. I like the way the entire city seems frozen in time. I like the way there's no way to eat an ice cream cone without it melting in the hot, southern sun. I like that Christa promised she wouldn't make me leave. I like you.

You like me, too, or you did, in the beginning. Now I can tell you're reconsidering. Your eighteenth birthday has long passed, and after ten years of being stuck in the same old city with the same old people, you are free from everything except me. Christa keeps hinting that you should move out, but I made you promise not to, back when we were still sixteen and it wasn't just me who was in love. Everyday I wait for you to go back on your word, even though I know you would never hurt me like that. You're too moral, and it frustrates me, because if you could just admit that what we had is over, we both might have a fair chance at happiness.

Now it's my eighteenth birthday and I too am free. If things were like they used to be, today would be the day we'd pack our things and ride off into the sunset, heading where ever the Greyhound bus takes us. Part of me knows that you would still do it with me if I asked you to, but I made a conscious choice to leave on my own terms before things got messy. This is the way we both like it - non-confrontational, simple, quiet. I imagine you waking up, asking Christa where I went. You'll probably think I went on a run, as I do every morning, but then Christa's brow will furrow sympathetically and she'll cluck her tongue and say, "Oh dear - didn't she tell you?" By then, I think you'll understand. You're smart enough for that. And I hope you won't be bitter about it, and will take this as what it's meant to be: your gateway out of here.

That's what I am telling myself as I sit stupidly at the kitchen table. The digital clock reads 1:37 AM, far too early for anyone to be up. If I'm going to leave, this is the time. In fact, I don't know quite what I'm waiting for. Maybe part of me really just wants you to come downstairs for a midnight snack and see me sitting here, bags packed. For you to tell me you still love me, things have just been hard lately. Even if it's just to say goodbye, I ache to hear your voice. After my parents died, I was sent to a therapist who told me I needed 'closure.' The idea didn't make much sense to me; my parents were dead and gone so there was no use in wishing we could have said goodbye, but now I think I understand. More than anything, I want to know that what we had meant something in the grand scheme of things. I'm clinging on to the hope that ours was one of those epic romances and we'll meet again ten years later and both admit that we never forgot each other. So it's a stupid dream. Wasn't that what the past two years have been? They were a- a, youthful dalliance. Nothing more, nothing less.

I guess I should go now. I checked the bus schedule, and if I want to make the first one of the day, I'm really pushing it. It's just that this all seems rather dramatic now that I'm thinking about it and maybe leaving without a trace isn't as clean-cut as it seems. Maybe I'm not as clean-cut as I seem. I don't know which one troubles me more. My brilliant plan or my entire identity - which means the most to me? I'm rambling now, I know, but you're not going to read this anyhow so I can't really bring myself to care.

I'm just at the door now and my bag is heavier than it was when I came, laden with presents you gave me and trinkets I bought on my own. I keep them only for sentimental value, I suppose. I have no true use for a snow globe of Stonewall Jackson standing tall on his horse. It takes one step to cross the threshold of Christa's house and then I'm gone. It's so anticlimactic it hurts. I wanted it to thunder, I wanted church bells to chime, I wanted you to gallop down the stairs at the sound of the door opening and burst into tears. You won't, though. So I must leave.

But, you know, I really do want this to work out sometime, somewhere. Maybe we'll run across each other in New York, or California, or maybe even here in Georgia, and you'll look at me and say, "I've been here for twenty years. My parents got shot and my girlfriend left me and it sucks. Tragic, huh?" And maybe by then I'll be brave enough to tell you that my life has been tragic too. And maybe by then you'll be smart enough to know that I don't mean my parents dying. Maybe you'll know that when I say there was a tragedy in my life, what I really mean is there was you.

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