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beautiful disaster: part 2 (after graduation)
5 years ago I had just graduated. 5 years ago I was happy. 5 years ago I was in love. 4 years ago that all changed.
You may remember me as the girl who was friends with the odd but captivating Emma Summers. Or the girl who almost strangled the odd but captivating Emma Summers. Or maybe the girl who stole Clarence from the odd but captivating Emma Summers. Either way, then I was happy. Well except for the rage bit. But that was an isolated incident. Really, it was.
5 years ago, to the day, I remember stepping up on that platform to receive my diploma. There was a very palpable tension between me and Clarence. Ever since the Incident--which is what we refer to it as, always--we’ve been a little on edge. Don’t get me wrong; our love is still strong. I meant what I said about our love never ending. But my outburst and Emma’s disappearance--she ran for paradise and hasn’t been back since--is causing a little rift in an otherwise picture perfect love story.
5 years ago I remember thinking: what’s gonna happen after this? Where do we go from here? I remember noticing the smell of roses growing stronger. I remember the collective gasp as a figure emerged from the crowd and made it’s way down to the platform. She was a vision in white. It was like this was her wedding day. She’d always had a flare for the dramatic. This was a girl I hadn’t seen since Clarence had pulled me off her. It was Emma. She was back. You know the saying the b**** is back? It was something like that. The collective gasp turned into a collective silence. Nobody moved. Nobody. Even the breeze and birds and trees knew to stand still. It was quite surreal.
5 years ago, to the day, (was the day) I realized I hated Emma Summers.
Finally someone coughed. Someone else said bless you under their breath. Emma turned and glared. The same girl everyone cried for when they found out Clarence had cheated on her, the girl who always wore a sad frown, had the ugliest look on her face. They weren’t crying for her now. But I guess she wasn’t really the same girl, was she.
That was only the beginning. I don’t want to tell you that the return of Emma Summers was the beginning of the end of me and Clarence. I don’t want to tell you that because it feels so simple; so cliche. And it’s not completely true. It wasn’t just that. But it didn’t help things.
Clarence and I had one of those relationships that just made sense. Where I was cautious, he was daring; where I was quiet, he was… not; when I was scared he was brave. We clicked. We were two puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly. But puzzle pieces get worn over time and slowly fit less and less perfectly. Especially when a puzzle piece from the past comes and tries to fit back into the old puzzle.
Emma was that puzzle piece. Other than her change in clothing choices, she hadn’t changed much. Instead of the black attire, she donned flowy, light colored articles of clothing. As if that somehow washed away the fact that she wasn’t as virtuous as the colors she wore. She still casually slutted around, leaving many hearts bleeding in the streets. She didn’t much care for commitment, or love, or anything meaningful apparently. The one thing she did care for was Clarence. More accurately: getting Clarence away from me. Or getting me away from him. Either way, she was a real b****. We somehow hung on despite her endless taunts--the taunted had become the taunter--sabotages; general b****iness.
The months after graduation we got closer. We spent little time apart. In short, we were that repulsively touchy couple obsessed with PDA, who weren’t apart for a second to prove to the world that we weren’t breaking. I got a job at a coffee shop for the cuteness of it; Clarence got an internship somewhere fancy; it was perfect. He’d come to the coffee shop at lunch to stare into my eyes. We were sickly sweet. It was wonderful. But sometime between summer and winter--so fall, I guess--we started on a downward spiral.
The first thing I noticed was that Clarence seemed more tired. Granted he did have a grueling internship, but it was more than that. He would forget coffee dates, conversations, morning routines. The next thing was that he was weaker. And as someone who was immensely popular in high school because he was on the football team and did all the sports, he was proud of his physical strength. But that fall his muscles just weren’t working right.
The other odd thing was that he would make excuses. He’d say he dropped his phone because, I’m a clumsy fool and you know this, and then he would laugh his beautiful echo-y laugh. Which he would end with a cough and a little shudder. Like he got a chill. But he played all of it off so well, I didn’t think about it. In retrospect, I was an idiot.
Meanwhile, Emma Summers was desperately trying to get under my skin. She would start rumors about Clarence cheating on me like he’d done to her years ago. She’d start rumors that I was pregnant. Or cheating on him. Or dying. Little did she know how close to the mark she was with that one. More or less.
Fall turned to winter turned to spring. Clarence and I were finding cracks here and there that we attempted to fix up by loving each other intensely, but it wasn’t holding. Spring was a rough season.
Emma disappeared again. I hoped this time for good. I prayed, even. It didn’t matter that she was gone. It didn’t fix anything.
One especially cold and cruel spring day, I surprised Clarence at his house because it had been a day or two since I’d seen him. As soon as I knocked on the door, I remembered the last time he’d been surprised: he’d been found wrapped around someone he wasn’t in a relationship with. I don’t know why I thought about that, but I laughed. Wouldn’t it be funny, well not funny haha but funny weird if that happened again? As I laughed the little kernel of worry away, the door opened. But it wasn’t Clarence. And it was another woman.
But it was his sister. I could tell she’d been crying, because her mascara was just a little raccoon-ish. That scared me. She let me in and led me to Clarence. He was just in the dining room, sitting in his chair, reading through what I assumed was an email on his phone. Nothing unusual about that. I walked over to him softly, and crouched behind him. Boo. He literally jumped. That wasn’t right. He must have been playing with me.
The moment before he turned his head to look at me I sensed it. I sensed that something was wrong. Very wrong.
Who are you.
I muffled a sob. In songs they always talk about those three words. You know the three I’m talking about. But right then, in that moment, the only three words that echoed through my head were who are you. I couldn’t process it.
3 months later Clarence was dead. He died on our graduation anniversary. A little over a year after our love had begun.
It was a brain tumor. It grew too rapidly and by the time it was discovered, it was too late. His last words to me were who are you. Because I ran out of that house; out of his life. I ran and I ran until I couldn’t run anymore. I ran until I fell to the ground and just sobbed. It was the second time in my life I saw purple. But the one person I wanted to strangle was already dying. And that’s exactly why I wanted to strangle him. It was a vicious, vicious cycle.
I didn’t even go to his funeral.
I held my own funeral for our love. I visited his headstone once. Barely.
I moved on; tried to. I moved to New York City because that’s where everyone goes to escape their past. I found a low level job at some law firm. Busy work, but that’s what I needed to keep my mind off everything. All of it. I heard Emma was at his funeral. I couldn’t even be mad at her.
It’s been 4 years since that awful day. I still love him. I told you: our love will never end. It was just his life that ended early. Honestly, my life ended that day too. I’m more of an empty shell of a human. But I’m trying. I’m trying to be okay. And I think I could be. Eventually. But it’s gonna take some time.