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Ten O'Clock, Texting, and Tears
He texts me at 10:10. The message is simple: Sorry—can’t call—tomorrow?
My response at 10:11 is simple, too: Sure. No problem. Can you text?
There is no answer, and by 10:21, I’m in tears.
It’s funny how I always end up crying. I never expect to, but the minute I feel an ounce of heart-wrenching, gut-stabbing pain, it’s like I automatically search for a release. After a few moments of no response, and the firm establishment in my mind that there will be no other response tonight, I’m on the Internet, music playing in the background.
From my computer’s small speakers come the haunting lyrics of a Susan Enan song, “Bring on the wonder, bring on this song, I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long…” It’s the only song I can sing nowadays while sounding half decent, since I dropped the voice lessons and all.
I suppose that was a result of my sadness, as well. When I realized he didn’t love me, I didn’t want to sing. Who am I kidding—I didn’t want to move, to breathe, to do anything. I sat in my room with the shades drawn, and watched as the fuzzy light of 4:30 AM languidly shone into my room through the cracks in the shades. I prayed, shaking as I saw heaven, and it felt good, even when I lay back on my pillows and felt like my ribs were going to collapse. It was a good pain, like the pain after exercising.
The bad pain was the hopeless nights of wondering where he was, and how he was doing. The nights when we weren’t friends. The nights when we were, and I was the only one privy to the more intimate details of his relationship. The bad pain was the self-doubt, the self-pity, and the self-loathing. The bad pain was the confusion.
It’s the bad pain that makes me cry. The good pain is more of a reward, like God is telling me he’s there, and letting me feel his love for me expand beneath my ribs and through my tear-wracked body. The bad pain is the pain that puts me in tears at 10:21, only stopping when I turn on the fan and let the dry air sap the moisture from my eyes.
The music in the background continues, and in my Internet search, I’ve found a Facebook Group dedicated to the memory of Elliot Smith, musician. I click on one of his videos, muting iTunes.
His song begins, slow, sweet, sad, and the video, I realize, is a memorial to him. There’s this board, a black and white and red board with beautiful, modern designs, and written all over it are messages from fans, supporters, those whose lives this artist has affected.
When my eye is caught by the chunky, all capital message in black sharpie, the tears start again. It reads, “WE ALL WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD,” and a few seconds later, “WE WON’T BACK DOWN.” Another message says, “You’ve created more beauty than anyone else had or will.”
There are more, all with the same general theme: We will miss you. You’ve done great things, and we will miss you dearly.
I bitterly wonder, tears forming clumps at the edges of my eyes and constellations down my cheeks, if I would be missed. If I’ve done anything worth being missed for.
I feel myself sinking into self-pity, and I pull back for a moment, caught in a torturous state of trying to be strong. What is strength, anyway? Is smothering my emotions, refusing to acknowledge my feelings, and plowing on ahead, regardless of all else, strength? Or is strength acknowledging these things, and having the bravery and strength to face them, to feel them, to revel in them? Do I deny the emotions, ignore the emotions, shut myself off from the emotions, or feel the emotions? Each option feels just as wrong and weak, so I take a recess from that court, knowing the jury has yet to return with the verdict. I allow myself a moment, and feel my head sinking into the tar pit that is self-pity. I switch the music again.
Have I done anything worth being missed for? Made anyone’s life beautiful, done anything great? I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s my place to say, but even if I thought it was, I still wouldn’t know.
I can’t help but think of him again, and of all the little things I’ve done for him. All the times I was there when no one else was, all the things I gave up for him. Personal moments, personal time, sanity, and the slot of ‘first love’…so many nights, so many days, so many ups and downs, and I was there. Whether I was in fashion or out of it, I was there, watching when it wasn’t my place to help, and even then, stepping over lines when I deemed it necessary. I was there. I was always there.
And as the music in the background switches once more, I am painfully struck with how obviously selfish my thoughts are. How ridiculous, and egotistical, and self-centered. I don’t hate, loathe, despise, or dislike myself—I’m not even upset with myself—but it still hurts to feel my flaws constricting my chest like ropes.
Is it so selfish, though, to wish for a bit more? To be so grateful to be his friend, one of his best friends, but to still wish for more after almost a year of suffering? Is that selfish, or just stupid? I’m struck again by how confused I really am, as it dawns on me that maybe I do want more, but not now. Not until it can mean something.
Yet every time I see him, I crave to touch him, to reach out to him and just put my palm against his face or my head against his chest, to just listen to his heart beating.
Am I selfish, stupid, or strong? A fool in love, a brave iron maiden, or just another ridiculously-full-of-herself teenager? I think of what I want to be, in contrast to what I am, or, rather, in contrast to what I might be. The women I admire in literature are strong, brave, emotionless ice-queens. Women who have undergone blow after blow, dealt with horror after horror, yet do not cry, do not back down, yet simply stand up straighter and push their forces onward. They do not cry, like I do. They work harder because of their pain, and push the negative or painful emotions aside.
The women I admire in real life, however, can be both. I admire some of my friends, who have faced awful things, yet allow it to motivate them to get straight A’s and 10.8’s. I admire some of my other friends, who open their hearts and arms and let things happen. They don’t resist love, or flings, or silly crushes or kisses; instead, they open their arms to the world and let it beat them black and blue, trusting that one of these days they’ll get what they deserve.
I, of course, am neither of these extremes. Pain does not motivate me as a general rule. While on rare occasions, or when in great enough pain, it has, generally my motivation comes from a need to prove myself to the world and from an inner drive. Pain, on the other hand, usually makes me want to curl up in a ball, cry, and eat ice cream while watching a sad movie. But I do not open my arms to the world, either. I fight teenage crushes; refuse to have a first kiss, cling to my prudish-ness and virginity. I spend more time with God than people, which I’m okay with, happy about, even, but which I can also acknowledge as not quite average.
My thoughts are interrupted as, at 10:57, I receive two messages.
He says he’s decided he feels lonely.
I reply immediately, with a simple: Well, I’m here. What’s up?
This will certify that the above work is completely original. Samantha Pellegrino.