The simple way to explain our history is to say that Tom and I started dating when we were fifteen. The full story is a lot more complicated.

Tom asked me to be his girlfriend on his fifteenth birthday. It was the very beginning of our freshman year. We had no idea what path we had just started down. The next two and a half years were full of constant whiplash from blissful infatuation to utter dysfunction. The highs were magical and the lows were devastating. We’d started dating so young, our whole lives were wrapped up in one another. Ending things seemed impossible, so we just kept going.

I honestly can’t even remember what finally ended things. I know it was mutual. We both reached the point where we needed it to be over more than we were afraid to find out what waited on the other side of this relationship that had defined so much our teenage years. One night we sat on the over-sized corduroy chair in my bedroom that just a few months before we’d spent a weekend painting the most perfect shade of eggplant. Every inch of that room had his stamp on it. The Breakfast Club poster on the wall, the tiny gray and white kitten nuzzled on the bed, the dresses hanging in the closet from three years of school dances, everywhere I looked I saw him. The problem was that when I actually looked at him, I didn’t see the boy I’d fallen in love with. I saw all the pain we’d caused each other, all the ways our words and actions had damaged the other.

The words we said that night have long since faded from my memory, but the hollow feeling that swallowed me when I woke up the next morning is something I’ll never forget. I didn’t have a single memory from high school that didn’t involve him, a single friend that I didn’t share with him. I couldn’t see where to even begin disentangling our lives. Ultimately I decided that was impossible.

Over the next six months I slowly shed almost all vestiges of the life we’d built together. I quit the golf team, because he’d taught me how to play. I stopped hanging out with most of the friends who had been fixtures in our shared existence. I found a church that wasn’t full of people who’d watched us grow up together. The further I got from that world, the one we’d built together, the less I could make sense of myself. I’d seen myself through one lens for so long, but now it was shattered and everything around me was filtered through those jagged shards of glass.

The year that followed was painful. I slowly chipped away at everything I’d thought to true about myself until I truly was as empty as I’d felt on that very first morning. I chipped and chipped until that January morning when my dad saw just how empty I was written in bloody scars all over my arms.


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