Yesterday I made a cup of coffee in my single-cup drip. It was difficult to swallow yesterday. The whole day was indigestible, so the coffee remained sitting at the machine. Power button on. So, as I write this, I am drinking yesterday’s coffee and trying to digest the rest of the day’s events.
Where do I start? Let me start at the beginning. In Kindergarten we started with “A…”
“A: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;
B: Believe in the Lord your God and you shall be saved…”
I went to the Christian school. A was not for apple. A was for “all have sinned.”
This story starts at the Christian school, but a little before all had sinned. I met Tianna in preK. We were 4 and we were just friends and classmates. Then, in first grade I switched to public school and I didn’t see Tianna for a few years.
When I met back up with Tianna, her mom was dating, and then, marrying my cousin Steve. (Steve is 12 years older than us, which scandalized my mother who considered Lesa a cougar before cougars were cool. Just a funny side note which amuses me to look back on, as my current step-father is only 5 years my senior. This has nothing to do with my story at present, however.)
Tianna and I were so excited to be cousins!!
By the time we went to HS together, we would introduce each other to our separate circles of friends as “first my friend, then my cousin.” It’s a distinction we considered important. Not many cousins could appreciate their relationship as thoroughly as we could.
High School was a very troubling time. The older I get, the more I see that it’s not a cakewalk for anyone, but as you live through those excruciating years, everyone thinks they are the only miserable ones.
I knew I wasn’t. I had Tianna.
We did, however, run in separate circles. (Looking back I think I just ran in circles. Not with anyone, but more like a headless chicken halfway through the slaughter. A sight I may have been too young to witness when I was 3, but one which has given me perspective ever since.)
As many of my friends and readers know, I lost my father when I was 15. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years. My dad was Steve’s uncle, whom he had spent years working under at the same roofing companies. Steve even lived with us for the years when Tianna was just my friend. I think Dad’s death hit Steve almost as hard as it hit me and my siblings. He started having my sisters and I over more often. (My mother’s animosity toward cougars having kept the families somewhat distant before. I guess it was a relevant anecdote, afterall.)
My memories of life after Dad’s death get cluttered, blurry and dizzy from all of the pain they are wrapped in. Swirls of working too many hours, cleaning gutters, battling plumbing problems too big for most men of the house, let alone a teenage girl…it’s a very dark blur. Focusing in on Tianna I see moments of heart-to-hearts in her bedroom. She’s sitting on the floor or bed with me, both of us cross-legged, oily faced and spilling our guts about the deep dark pain behind our bright young smiles.
We had Biology class together, too. I remember the smiles were real when we talked about how cute our teacher, Mr. Alderman, was. Otherwise, if we were alone together, we were probably crying. Or complaining about our pale complexions or shades of red hair. Hers was curly & auburn and I would have traded in a heartbeat.
Tianna was bipolar. (So are many members of my family, so this is a condition I am well versed in the nuances of.) She would swing between very happy and very sad. I loved this about her since I was trying to find reasons to be happy, but I was mostly very broken. She could cheer me up and then she could cry with me. I understood her because she understood me. We were Yin and Yang. In cartoon form, which we loved to picture ourselves in (as opposed to real life,) I was Jessica Rabbit and she was Betty Boop. If you know the characters at all and you knew us, you would know these were fairly accurate depictions. In fact, she is why I have decorated my car in Betty Boop. She has always been Betty Boop to me.
After HS, we went down our even more separate, circular paths. I married a man who didn’t love me and she went through some of those, too. I faced suicidal thoughts and I did not reach out to anyone who might help me. I am not a damsel in distress, I am a fighter and a survivor. For a while, though, I stopped fighting and I almost didn’t survive.
I got pregnant with Andy and I started fighting again. I had a reason to. I built a life my kids and I could be happy in. It took years. I fought alone. Like most depressed people, I didn’t ask for help often.
By the time I was floating along in untroubled waters and no longer drowning, when the storms were clearing up and I was looking around for other survivors, I visited KC for the second time since my move to TN. I met up with Tianna at a bar in my hometown. We were surrounded by noise and other people, so we couldn’t catch all the way back up to our Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit on the bedroom floor days.
Facebook went a long way toward keeping us active in each other’s lives. Or at least it let us feel that way. She was still struggling with her depressive swings. Life, love, just breathing can be hard for us all sometimes. It’s amazing how far the joy of a new hairdo or tattoo can go toward making the daily struggles worthwhile.
I didn’t know she was tired of life. I didn’t expect yesterday.
The suicide awareness symbol has recently become a semicolon. A semicolon is used in a sentence to separate the first half of the story from the last. I love the semicolon. Andy was mine. My sentence changed for the better. My story isn’t over.
Yesterday hit me like a train. Like the one she waited in front of. She took the story into her own hands and ended it before we were ready.
Tianna punctuated hers with an exclamation point!