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There was always something strange about her. And it wasn’t her fault.

I knew that the night I met her. I saw her sitting all alone, at a table outside of a cafe, even though it was snowing. Her pale fingers shook around her cigarette. I sat down and introduced myself. She didn’t acknowledge my presence, because that was her way of acknowledging people.

She was complicated. I discovered that quickly. She said she was a vegetarian, but she’d eat meat anyway. She loved the beach, but hated the feeling of sand. She wanted a family because she was always coming up with names for her children, but she couldn’t even think about childbirth without throwing up. She came from a fairly wealthy family, she was gorgeous, smart, and talented. But her parents used to treat her like a prize to be won. Her dad was a terrible man. And she never believed anyone when they told her how pretty, smart, or talented she was.

I blame her parents for never taking her seriously. For telling her she was overreacting when she asked them if she could see a therapist. For yelling at her that time she rode her bike too far down the street, and scolding her for wanting to explore.

I blame her past. I blame the handful of boys she invited in and had to watch walk right out the door. I blame them for not answering her worried texts and calls when they would go out at night and leave her home, panicking. I blame them for making her feel worthless.

I’m not entirely innocent here, either. I blame myself. I blame myself for telling her she should get help. For yelling at her when I came home and saw that she had broken all the dishes in the house. I blame myself for making her drink green tea instead of those exotic, fruity flavors she preferred. For going to work instead of staying home to take care of her on the days she was sick. I blame myself for staying out too late. For not answering her texts or calls. For obliging to her spontaneous want and making her worry for the next month. For not having the money to take her out to dinner when she got into that fancy art school. For forgetting her ever-changing favorite color. For never taking her to the beach, even though I always saw those watercolors she did of sunsets and exotic beaches.

You can tell me that I can’t blame myself for these things. That I did the best I could. How could you have known?

But I did know. I knew that there was something beneath those glassy eyes. I knew that with each exhale of her cigarette, she was trying to get it all out. She was trying to save herself, and maybe that’s why I didn’t think I had to.

I blame myself for telling her to get out. I blame myself for not taking her back with open arms, like everyone else before me. I knew how she operated. She’d push you away. She’d act, well, crazy. But then she’d come back. She’d expect to see you waiting with open arms and a glass of wine. And I usually waited. But not then.

I mean, what else did I expect? I did know. I didn’t do the best that I could. I wasn’t waiting. I think that’s why she jumped. Because the ocean was the only person that welcomed her with open arms.



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