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Author's note: For Laura. And Amy. And Staci. And Lacee.
My name is Thom Stevens. I myself am not akin to be telling this story. You should be asking the woman who I had dated for over ten years. This short love story is called Heartbreaker. No, it is nothing to do with the album by the great country rocker Ryan Adams, so there is no reason to be getting lawsuits and trying to handle this legally. Anyways, it all started in the fall of two thousand and five. I had just graduated from Champlin Park High School. I had gotten a 3.3 GPA, with my best class being English, a whole ninety nine percent. I was part of the school choir, and I was somewhat of a loaner. I had been diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, or what the conservative political idiots called Manic Depressive Disorder. Yeah, I never quite understood why I got diagnosed with it and kind of goes over my head when I want to try and figure it out. I swear a lot, but I'll try not to include any of that within this story, because I bet some evangelical whack job will try and get me in trouble with some conservative or liberal politician or whatever you think makes sense to say. So yeah, I graduated within the Honor Roll. I didn't get to say any speech, that was left to Ben Williams or some guy I have no idea exists and is probably going to go off to some rich college like Harvard and become a surgeon. Yeah, I hate his guts. He tried to take my ex-girlfriend away from me ten years ago when we were still dating. Yeah, I guess that's the whole point of this story. Anyways, I decided I would start my college career at North Hennepin and get those stupid generals out of the way. I'm one of those students who decided not to do many generals. I didn't ever do math, so that was a good idea I guess. I did one semester of Pre-Calculus and I got a D plus in it. Not my greatest work, but I guess it works out fine enough for me. I had a goal I wanted to achieve in life, being a psychologist. Before getting to that dream, I had wanted to do something involving English. Maybe work at the border patrol and help some Mexicans with their English, or work for some film critic as his bus boy, or whatever happens to me. It's strange you know, after high school, the rest of your life just seems to happen. And you can't stop life, it just keeps showing up whenever the worst possible situations. And sometimes I just hate myself so much I wish sometimes I would die. Maybe I do not understand myself clearly and yet another symptom of Bi-Polar disorder. I met Madeline when I was six years old. We went to the same church, and at that point I really enjoyed going to my church. I loved Jesus and the Bible and everything else so much. Now I think it’s just a place where people who are like minded go. I stopped believing in the whole religion of Christianity when I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder. People said I had to choose to be depressed or not, those f*ers never asked for how I felt, or what I was wanting. They just told me to shut up and be an evangelical republican Christian. S*** faces. Anyways, yeah so we were friends for about nine years. We were best friends and very happy with each other. When we turned fifteen, I decided to ask her out. I went up to her on the morning of April twenty fourth, two thousand and two and asked her out. It was a Sunday at church. It was also her birthday. I’m sure she was a bit hesitant at first, and trust me; I had instant messaged by best friend Erik all night to get the guts to ask her out. Yeah, in eighth grade I liked a girl name Amy Master, the biggest mistake of my life, man she was terrible. I should have never ever, ever liked her. Now I’m starting to talk quite juvenile, which could or could not be another symptom of my problem. Anyways, so I asked her out, and she said yes. I saw a ray of sun come through the window, and my heart was pounding very loud and I could hear birds and crickets singing out their song. I had finally gotten my first girlfriend. I, being fifteen, was so excited, and to be honest, I had no idea what it felt like before this time. The first year, I didn’t have a permit, so I couldn’t drive over to her house to pick her up and hang out. The second year, I didn’t have a license or the money to get a car, but she did. So it was kind of strange, me going to Perkins, or McDonalds, or Wendy’s or a park and having her drive. When I was seventeen, I took the class and got a leaners permit. A few times, I would illegally drive, with her in the passenger seat, but then we stopped it after we saw some kid get pulled over and his girlfriend crying, and they looked younger than us. On my eighteenth birthday, in May of two thousand and five, I woke up and saw Madeline sitting on a chair holding a book. She handed it to me and told me she spent all night making a scrapbook of me and her. I thanked her passionately, and we were about to hit second base, and I realized it should wait, and I leaned off her. She then understood that I wanted it to be true and right. I then drove to the DMV with my mother and I took the driving test and nearly failed. I got an eighty four when the minimum was eighty three. I was extremely terrible at parallel parking. To celebrate, I for the first time in our three year relationship drove her and myself to Panera in Maple Grove. I got a BLT Panini with a bowl of chicken soup and a cookie and Madeline got a bowl of soup, a salad, and a baguette roll. Throughout the meal, I saw so many people, and I came to the realization that these are now my fellow students, and I was entering the real world. Madeline was born in April, on the twenty fifth of nineteen eighty seven. She did look beautiful. Her eyes were a beautiful brown shade, and her eyebrows were near perfect, and she had a beautiful nose, and red lips, and she had the perfect figure, and I always felt excited whenever I looked at her. She finished eating her meal about ten minutes after mine. After that, she drove me to a park somewhere in Plymouth, and we sat down at a picnic table, and she had gone to Cub Foods and bought me a small cake. On the cake it read,” To the one I love”. I remember reading that and getting a warm feeling in my heart. We ate the cake, a delicious marble one, with vanilla frosting and fluffy texture. We then decided to go on a little walk. It was a beautiful night. The stars were shining as bright as their little brother; the woods looked beautiful, with fallen trees and fallen dreams. The trail wasn’t even, so sometimes Madeline or I would stumble, and we would catch each other with a strong grip. It’s such a strange feeling, being caught in the arms of the one you love. The trail was a mile and a half long circle, and we ended up getting to the parking lot. I wish something would have gone wrong that day, but nothing did. That’s pretty surprising I guess, given the nature of how everything else went in my life. So we both decided to do our first two years of college at North Hennepin Community College. The teachers were quite terrible, and the whole atmosphere was pretty negative. Though I am a sworn atheist, I like many, but not a lot of, of the morals of the Christian Church, so I stayed away from parties and drinking and tobacco, and marijuana and crack and whatever other drugs there were. I got a pretty good GPA there as well. I was doing a lot of psychology classes, while Madeline was doing more liberal arts bullshit or whatever she had wanted to do. I saw a girl I knew back in the eighth grade named Amanda. She liked me the first year of college, but I wanted to stay true to Madeline. I guess it came with good karma. The next year, we both did pretty well in our classes. I got really depressed at the end of the second semester and nearly dropped out, but thanks to Madeleine and my psychologist, I was able to overcome most of the s*** that was tearing me down. I decided that I would finish my college career at the University of Minnesota, while Madeline decided to finish it at Bethel University. At this point it was June, two thousand and seven. I decided I would go to the apple store and buy an iPhone. I got there and they told me they were all sold out. I decided to go to Best Buy, and I bought a sixteen gigabyte one. I then decided I would buy one for Madeline. When I got to her apartment that afternoon, I gave it to her she was so excited. I wanted to be happy for her, but as usual I could only dwell on the negative. About six months later I was typing a paper for my History of Psychology class and was listening to my iPod Touch and texting a couple of peers and then I decided to get a sandwich to eat. When I came back outside, it was drenching in rain, and my sixteen hundred dollar laptop, my three hundred dollar iPhone, and my three hundred dollar iPod Touch were outside. Something came over me and I got very upset. Luckily, they all still worked, so I was able to use them again.
At the end of my second year in college, a couple of my friends and I decided to go to and see the film Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End. It was a pretty terrible film. It had really bad acting and it was so long I almost fell asleep. We started watching it at nine, and it ran long after midnight, and some people behind us were making out during the film which we did not find appropriate considering this was an action-adventure film that was entirely based around pirates. Yes, people all over try and find time to be very sexual, which is fine with me, but not with my girlfriend or most of the other people I know. So the third year of college went by swiftly, and I was going to the U of M School of Mentality, and was getting A’s and B’s on all of my papers and homework. My relationship with Madeline was also starting to mature. We were seeing each other so much, and every time we saw one another, we would usually just be silent, and instead think in our minds of our love and that this was a partnership and I was sure that this would work out. Our dates usually consisted of going to parks or museums or going to one of our apartments and making a meal together. We would only go to films once in a great while, though loved them, the only films Madeline was interested in were these “chick flicks” that had a similar theme of love that was either something to with romance or comedy, never quite understood them.
My fourth year of college was a whole three years ago. I took a couple of really tough psychology classes, and in one of the classes I had to work with a boy named Shawn. He was fifteen when I first saw him. He was a very good singer, a good English student, and got pretty average grades. He was known as a very depressed kid, and then he started to ignore his teachers, and started to claim to see things and people that didn’t exist. It was my job to try and diagnose him. I decided to diagnose him with schizophrenia, based off of his emotions of being quite stoic and hallucinating and delusions of life itself. I decided one day I would study him very keenly by inviting him to my apartment. He had already been on pills for a couple of months, so his hallucinations were very much down, and he claimed to sparsely hear anything, and I noticed that his biggest delusion; that everyone hated his guts and wanted him dead, had diminished. That day he was very quiet and didn’t want to talk to me very much. He would if I kind of forced him into the situation, but otherwise he was quiet. One time that day he was looking on my wall and saw a picture I had drawn of Madeline, a simple pencil sketch.
“Who is that a picture of?” Shawn asked.
I was a bit embarrassed to answer to him.
“Well, that’s a picture of my girlfriend, Madeline,” I answered.
“Well, she sure is beautiful. How’d you meet her?” Shawn asked with some interest.
“I’ve known her since I was a little kid, I knew her from church.”
“That’s sweet. Yeah, I like this girl named Laura. She, she kind of understands me. We rarely talk about having a relationship, I really want to have one, but I want to honor her choices. So I don’t push it.”
I was taken aback by this. Most teenage boys I had dealt with for other projects talked of how they constantly want a girl, and did anything to get one. He was a lot different.
“So,” I said,” do you like any movies?”
“I like that movie ‘A Serious Man’, by the Coen Brothers. I like how they study the issue of pain and suffering and work it into a great film, a wonderful dark comedy.”
This kid was a genius. This is our third session and he’s talking like he’s from a think tank at Harvard College, and he also reminded me in a lot of ways Madeline.
“Yeah,” I answered, “that is a really good film I heard. I bet it’s going to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, what do you think?”
“Well, I personally believe the whack jobs at the Film Academy could care less for this film. It’s everything that the Academy is against. Independent, no known actors, small budget, they could really care less about the art and amazing qualities of the film.”
“I understand what you mean. That is such a shame those people can’t come to understand the richness of independent film.”
“Yep, that is right.”
I remember looking down at my watch and being a little scared because we had gone overtime by a couple of minutes.
“Okay yeah Shawn, were out of time right now. But I can’t wait to see you again,” I said as I extended out my hand. He stood up from the chair and went over and shook my hand.
“Yeah, you’re a pretty interesting guy Mr. Stevens. I like you a lot. I hope that these sessions can go on for a long time.”
I looked at the floor and then looked back at him in the face.
“Yeah, well, I’m sure we will for a few more times. I’m getting close to completing my project. It’s a half a year thing and we’ve seen each other three times. I believe we’ll see each other three times in the next three months.”
He walked out of the doorway. He then waived. I remember watching him walk into his father’s car, the same way I walked into my own father’s car after singing somewhere.
The next day, I got a phone call in three in the afternoon that Shawn has stolen a gun from his neighbor’s lockbox and aimed the gun into the roof of his mouth and fired twice before slumping over and having an instant death. To this day, I am still in shock how this could have happened. If a God gave a f***, he wouldn’t have let this young man die. This kid, never went to college, never had sex, never experimented, and never got a chance to make a mark in the world. I remember, sitting in my apartment, and getting the Star Tribune and reading his obituary, and me just crying in tears. To this day, I still believe that it was my fault, and with Bi-Polar condition and all, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I sat in the back of the church crying my head off, and the times I wasn’t I was feeling like a pile of dog s***, I was just so angry with myself. Madeline and I would talk about it, and I was so scared I would cry sometimes I would cancel our date’s last minute just so she wouldn’t have to see me crying in tears.
Besides that fact, I did indeed graduate from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors in English. To celebrate, Madeline and I drove all the way to Taylors Falls with our close friends who specialized in rock climbing and for the whole day we rock climbed. Madeline was quite scared a lot of the time, and I helped her get over her fear by yelling constructive things at her. After that, we drove up to Stillwater and we went to a smoothie shop in that town before we went swimming in a lake that was about ten minutes outside of town. We got back to my apartment at about ten thirty that night, and I decided to let Madeline sleep over. We were to stay pure until marriage, so I wasn’t going to break it. In twenty ten, our dating became much more serious. That would be a milder way to put it. Instead of going mini golfing, or eating at Wendy’s, we would go on long walks by the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis before watching a play at the Guthrie Theatre or we would wait in line to go to Tuscany’s and have a fifty dollar meal between the two of this. In the fall of twenty ten, I decided I would do some work to get a master’s in psychology. Madeline really respected my choices, and I respected her choices. She got a Bachelor’s in Music, specializing in Choir Music and got a job at a private Christian School in Maple Grove called Heritage Christian Academy. During the fall of that year, I decided to look for a new church, with Madeline pressuring me, so I asked a couple of friends and they recommended me to go to Brooklyn Park Evangelical Free Church. I remember that my late client, Shawn, went to that church when he was still living. Madeline and I went there and I could see that she enjoyed it, but I myself didn’t. The theology of the pastor was quite strange, and was far too fundamental for my taste. I didn’t want to continue to go to the church, but Madeline did, so I decided to respect her wishes. I was twenty three and not having much fun or having any emotional or memorable times. Over the next few months, I was becoming more and more depressed. At some point in December, I went into my own medical cabinet and took out four full bottles of Advil and Tylenol and spent the next hour swallowing over one hundred and fifty capsules. By the grace of God, Madeline knocked on my door and opened it with the hidden key and saw me sitting on my couch knocked out with a pool of liquid and parts of pills on the floor below me and me slowly dying. I didn’t want to commit suicide, but there was no f*ing way of getting out of this life except doing that. At that point, she told me that she drove me to North Memorial Emergency Room and they quickly pumped all the Tylenol and Advil out of my system. I remember waking up and watching as Madeline was rubbing my head. And she stayed there throughout the night and the next day doing so. I was restrained and couldn’t move. And I was feeling so sickly, and I wanted to scream out of my lungs every profanity there was in the book, I was so angry and upset that I didn’t die. After another day at the hospital, Madeline drove me home and she then said she was going to stay with me for a period of time. That period lasted from December to early January. Luckily, Heritage had the whole month of December off, so she could stay with me. After that though, things started to change.
Madeline was more of a rarity after that time, and I got very confused. As usual, I always thought the worse and I made up the fact that she was secretly cheating on me. Then after a certain day, she left her cellphone at my place and I decided to “snoop” around on it. She had been getting a large amount of texts from a guy named Jared. I looked back at the older texts and they were pretty calm, and the later text started to get more heated. The next day, at our date, I decided to confront her about it.
We were sitting in Perkins waiting for our order.
“So Madeline just wanted to say you look extra hot tonight.”
Madeline looked up from a desert menu.
“Thanks,” she said with a bit of embarrassment considering a family of four was sitting to the side of us, “you’re looking pretty good yourself.”
She was still “sad” about the time a month and a half ago I tried to kill myself.
“I’m that Reuben your ordered is going to taste great.”
“You got yourself a pretty good meal too. I just love eating at this restaurant.”
I scratched my eyes a little bit in order to see a bit more clearly.
“So, I was talking to Tommy earlier, and he told me his girlfriend was cheating on him with a pastor’s son. You ever hear about that?”
Madeline looked a bit confused at me.
“Um no, I’m just a bit confused at how that relates to us.”
“It doesn’t, I was just trying to spark a conversation.”
“I see. Yeah, it’s not that important to me I guess.”
“I guess so,” I answered smiling.
“So I was singing to my students in class today, and one of my student’s cellphone went off and it was playing a song by Kanye West called ‘Gold Digger’. It was such a pain to see one of my students listening to such terrible music. I know you like it,” she said while looking at me in the eye with a passionate stare,” but I don’t understand why these kids listening to it.”
“How old are these kids?”
“There Senior High kids, but I don’t know, maybe I’m babying them too much, but I just don’t think that in a private Christian school, kids should be listening to that type of nonsense. What do you think?” she asked.
I was a bit confused on how to answer. I wanted the answer to be truthful and all, but I also wanted it to be one that she would appreciate.
“I agree with you, that they shouldn’t be having their cell phones on in the middle of class, but I also think you should have the right to listen to your own genre of music and no one should dictate if you should listen to it or not.”
I could tell that Madeline disagreed with me, but she kept that to herself, but I could see it in her eyes.
“So yeah, I was at my job,” one the reader does not know of yet, I am in fact a psychologist assistant working at the U of M Fairview Clinic. I had been on paid leave and went back to work a couple of days before,” and there was this crazy client my boss was working with, and he started to scream out some strange words. You would’ve laughed your head off,” I said with a slight laugh in my voice. Madeline didn’t seem amused.
“Interesting, have you talked to Kim lately?”
Kim was my cousin’s husband. We were at some point to have a discussion of literature over coffee.
“Yeah,” I lied,” uh, we’re going to Norma Rosa’s in Robbinsdale in a couple of days.”
“That’s a good place; I ate there with Hannah about a month ago, it was quite expensive, but the food was very, very good.”
“Yep, that’s why we are going to eat there.”
At that moment the waitress came and put down the food on our table. We ate our meal in about twenty minutes. I asked Madeline if she wanted a slice of pie and she agreed and she ordered a slice of Peanut Butter Silk for the both of us. We ate it. It was quite delicious. For some reason, I have a slight fetish when I see Madeline eat food. It looks so god damn sexy. Maybe it’s because we’ve been going out for nine years or maybe because the pie was my favorite and she loved to eat it. In the end, I couldn’t stop loving her. The next year went by quickly. We got more and more serious in our dating, and were seeing each other quite often. One day I went to the school she taught at and she asked me to sing a song for the class. I sang the song Holocene from the artist Bon Iver with a karaoke we found on the internet, and at the end of the day the class exploded in applause. I was quite in shock that they did that, because my singing isn’t pop music or hip hop and rhythm and blues. The media is so strange today, and is starting to take control of music. At this point, we are getting close to the end of this little love story. After many, many years I decided based off of the advice of Madeline’s best friend and a couple of my friends, I decided I was going to propose to Madeline. I saved up about a month worth of pay and went to Jared’s in Maple Grove. I bought a fifteen hundred dollar diamond ring with sapphires in the middle. It was such a beautiful design. So I decided to take her to the Stone Arch Bridge at three o clock in the morning with my friend Stephen hiding in order to take pictures of her face when she saw the ring and myself kneeling.
I woke Madeline up in the middle of the night by throwing stones at her apartment window. She got up and came downstairs and briefly yelling at me and asking why I was waking her up this early in the morning. After a while of me driving all the way to the bridge, we got there. I paid the machine and realized I didn’t have to. That was quite humorous. We walked to the bridge, and I texted Stephen to hide in a tarp at the end of a bridge with one of his long zoom, anti dark lenses in his camera. We walked to the middle of the bridge. Madeline mentioned a cargo boat that was floating on the Mississippi below us. I smiled. At that moment I knelt to my knees and she looked somewhat shocked. I said the words, “You are the most beautiful and wonderful person I have ever met. I love you so much. I could spend my whole life trying to create the perfect woman and she wouldn’t come close to you. I love you, I surely do. Will you marry me?” She then put on her typical curled smile and knelt down to me. Out of the lips came the word “yes”. After nine and a half years, I just got engaged to the woman of my dreams.
In May of twenty twelve, about three months ago, Madeline was driving her sedan in a busy street in Maple Grove, Minnesota when a drunk driver struck her head on and ended up killing her in the process almost instantly. You know, love is such a strong connection. And it makes me understand why so many of the religious people talk about it so much. Love is the difference between life and death. The only way someone can defeat love is by, you guessed it death. Yeah, so I went to her funeral, and I was supposed to give a speech of some sort. I spent two nights in a row writing the speech, and the whole time I was crying my head off. The worse thing in the world that could happen to me happened. On the day of the funeral, I went to the microphone and in tears I did my whole entire speech. Yeah, this was pretty recent. And I’ll never ever feel better, and I hate everything and I for sure hate God. Thank you for reading this love story.