This man was my high school sweetheart. He is a good person in every sense of the word, a person I have always truly admired. I probably have record of when it was that he contacted me around June or July of 2013. I wrote it down in my journal. I still have the emails he sent. It had been like 40 years. I was in a starved state and very lonely. I told myself, “This is amazing. Why is he being so nice? I don’t deserve this. And why now?” I also felt deeply sad. And thirdly, I was afraid I’d let on how little I was eating. And how difficult it was getting to think straight. I was fairly sure I was losing my cognition due to starvation. I didn’t realize it would repair. (It does. All you have to do is eat.) I had no clue what to say except, “The timing couldn’t be worse.” Okay, so he was contacting me NOW? And there I was, slipping away, completely unable to tell anyone.
I couldn’t believe he was so apologetic. I kept saying to myself, “Of all people. Why is he apologizing when he is least to blame? But isn’t that typical! The ones who did no wrong feel responsible for not having prevented ill fortune.”
We were children some 40 years ago. The adults turned a blind eye or were themselves made into pawns. Children had no rights, no legal rights nor did they have any say in anything anyway. They did’t make the rules nor enforce them. We were small and scared. This is still true of children today.
Some adults around us were so clueless, so tuned out of what made us tick and really should have listened better to what was really happening with us. When it came to our teachers, there was no excuse. Why some of those teachers turned their backs when certain issues were staring them in the face is beyond me. I can name certain of my teachers who saw right in front of them what was happening to me, and did NOTHING to stop it. I believe they could have even put words to it and yet did not approach the school administration nor my parents nor my friend’s parents (I should say, “friend”) not anyone who had the power to do anything. Children such as my high school boyfriend or any of my high school friends didn’t have power. Adults did. As I explain in my book. That’s why I never for an instant blamed the children involved.
He was also apologizing, I suppose, simply because his life turned out better than mine did. Well? No big deal on that one. No reason to apologize. I felt happy for him, figuring he ran into good fortune and I didn’t. What do we do with that? Catch up? Now?
No, I’m on my way down the drain. Not that I wanted to make him sad. So I said nothing. It was like I had terminal cancer and didn’t want to tell him but it wasn’t terminal cancer at all, as you all know.
I wondered if I was going to end up breaking his heart totally. Or, rather, again.
As they were wheeling me down my own hallway and all I could think was, “Oh my god, I’m so scared they will abuse me again,” and, “What’s going to happen to Puzzle?” Those TWO THOUGHTS were running through my head, screaming at me, both at once, simultaneous firings like cannons booming, and none other,
OR, were they wheeling me UP my own hallway?
Either way, I was being wheeled. And all that roaring.
I guess I contacted a few people once I got there. That, too, broke my heart. I felt like I was disappointing people. For what? For submitting myself to this abuse? Or for having starved? To some, I didn’t want to admit how bad it was in Mount Auburn since the sitters were sitting right there, “doing their job.” That was the object. Keep the girl quiet. I didn’t admit to some folks I talked to that there were sitters sitting there at all, simply because if I said, “They accuse me of being suicidal but I am not,” Who will the person believe? Clearly, they will think to themselves, “The doctor must be right. My own best friend must be lying to me.” Most don’t even consider that the doctor might be wrong.
It doesn’t even cross people’s minds that the doctor knew all along I wasn’t. This was all done for an entirely different reason.
Hint; Wanna know what delineates a friend from a nonfriend? I’ll tell you. Your friends will believe you as the most credible source of information on your own experience. Your nonfriends find your doctor the more credible source of information on YOU than you are. So, your nonfriends see you as a category or disease. Your friends see you as you. They talk directly to you.
Therefore, when you get sick, or in an accident, your friends go running straight to you. Go see who is talking to the doctor, negotiating and planning behind your back. I don’t give a shit who it is. That’s your nonfriend, because your friend will include you in on the conversation. Your nonfriends call the cops on you or send you to therapy. Your friends go to you and ask, and spend time with you.
My high school sweetheart was my only visitor. My minister came later but that felt like tokenism so I wished he hadn’t bothered, actually. I was starting to want all that to be over, but didn’t really want to say much. But my high school friend, that was another story. I had been in that place a week and hadn’t dared shower. I had to fight for my right to a shower without those sitters eyeballing me. Massachusetts state law allows for shower privacy and this isn’t true of all states. Some states do not have such laws and patients can be stared down via clear shower curtains or personnel inside the shower with the patient. It saddens me that in Massachusetts most hospitals count on patients not being aware of these privacy laws so they regularly don’t honor these laws. I was aware, however, and asserted my right.
Yes, they grumbled over it. Gave me a hard time. Told me that my demand was “unreasonable.” Told me that not wanting someone to stare me down while I showered was “paranoid.” Told me that I was “oversensitive.” Told me that by all means complaining about human rights was a reflection of “suicidality” and “irritability” and “anger issues” and “agitation.”
“Wait. I haven’t seen this man for 40 years. I want to take a shower by myself. I don’t want some stranger staring at me from three feet away. Is that too much to ask?”
Never mind that, when you are wicked thin, they REALLY stare. And comment rudely. You can hear them breathing, coughing, clearing their throats. You want to say, “Get away from me, you leach.” It took hours to convince them, in fact, I started the night before, but I finally got my shower.
When my high school sweetheart arrived, he didn’t look any different than he ever looked. Just as tall, which, I’d say, always overwhelmed me, since I am short and have to look straight up at people. I begged him to take me out of there and he refused. Gave me a million reason why he didn’t want to and couldn’t. And left. Apologized, too. Wouldn’t budge. He said he hadn’t seen the sitters do anything bad. But I said, “They don’t do bad stuff in front of visitors.”
I got out of the hospital. Cried and cried and cried and cried and cried. And my high school sweetheart never ever forgave me for filing a claim against Mount Auburn. Guess where that claim went? Nowhere.
We met in Starbucks. About once a month. I have it on my calendar still. I was so touched that he met with me, since I had no other social contacts. No one spoke to me nor ever was willing to get together with me. The dates were as follows. October 2, 2013, October 30, November 16, when I went with him and his wife to a concert, then the 12th of December, January 11th of the next year, when we went to another concert and I was trying very hard to hold it together following the police visit the day before, and then, our final meeting at Starbucks when I wrote right on my calendar, “bad fight.” I sent him one more email after that, but as expected, did not hear back, and that was the end of it. I didn’t happen to see him on Facebook anymore. I realized after a while that he had rigged it so that I wouldn’t appear on his page nor would I appear on his.
I doubt my friend is proud of what happened that last night. I recall the conversation. I had been talking to a friend of mine who had been at a residential program for eating disorders. She told me the place was quite restrictive. She had told me that patients weren’t allowed to go outdoors except for brief, supervised smoke breaks.
So I was sitting in Starbucks with my high school sweetheart and telling him what I’d heard about this residential place. I said, “This was residential, not inpatient. Sounds like prison, not a place to get well.”
He said, “But what if they are suicidal?” Note: he brought up this topic, not me. Note: he said, “they.” Like, “other.” Lepers. Certainly not him.
I tried to say, “If a patient is known to be actively suicidal they won’t even be accepted into residential.” But my friend cut me off before I had a chance to say that, and started blaming me and claiming Mount Auburn didn’t abuse. He cut me down, over and over, right there in Starbucks.
Now, so much time has passed. That was March 2013 and now it’s June 2015. I never heard from him again and I’m sure my beloved high school sweetheart thinks I’m a total misguided asshole. However, I finally figured it all out. After two years.
He was projecting. He was so fixated on his own private unexpressed suicidal urges and complete rage, that he refuses to admit. Instead, he claimed I myself was suicidal. And he blamed me and flamed me repeatedly while we sat there in Starbucks absolutely floored. Because we were sitting there in that public place, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t fight back. I couldn’t argue. I just had to sit there and take it until he decided he’d needled me enough.
Take this! Take this! Take this!
Two years later, yeah, I have it figured out. I’m okay with it. Sad, but okay.
* * *
I’m sitting here with my hands open. Seasons pass. You know, I usually take people back if they ask nicely enough. I am asking the ole Planet Earth to strip your ex-whatevers of labels, just please, take the labels off, open your hands, and take back anyone who shit on you last year. If they ask nicely.