“Give me one reason!”  She stared at me, defiant, nostrils flaring.  She was already three steps down the spiral stone staircase that led to the park below… to the remnant of woods beyond.  To the place beyond my reach, where she would meet her fate.  Pimped out by her boyfriend of the time.  Addicted to heroin and cocaine.  Prostituting herself for her habit.  Infected with HIV.  Dead.

It would take all of three years’ time.

But then, at that moment, she was still nineteen – as was I – and there was still a chance.  She’d dabbled in drugs but wasn’t hooked yet.  She used the company of men in their late twenties and early thirties but was still held the reigns and pretended they were real relationships.  She was street-tough.  But I’d seen her other side.  Briefly.  Long enough to know it was underneath.  Hiding, crying, in a closet somewhere while her bulletproof persona drove them both straight for the cliffs ahead.

We met when I was fifteen.  God, did we know each other for that long?  I hadn’t considered it until now.  Regardless, we moved in the same circles, already fledgling ferals, connecting within the same pack.  We never dated.  We never even “dated”.  But there was something there.  Something that made her twenty-four-year-old “boyfriend” jealous.  Something that her friends teased her about to the point where she, in typical teen fashion, went out of her way to be dismissive of me in public.  Yet we always hung with the same crew and would orbit each other like moons of the same planet.

My parents went to Ireland for two weeks when I was sixteen, leaving me alone in the apartment.  Of course, drunken teenaged revelry ensued.  Most of the crew – including her, with her girlfriend, “M”.  She’d since had a breakup-worthy fight with her latest boyfriend.  We drank and partied throughout the night, then passed out pretty much wherever we fell.  I ended up in my own bedroom, Lord of the Manor that I was, with M, two other guys… and her.  She passed out in my bed.  On my pillow.

M decided it would be the height of cruel hilarity to tell her in the morning that she’d stripped for us and we’d had our way with her.  This is what passed for humor in our world.  I was still half-drunk/half-hung over by the time she awoke to this news so I certainly came across suitably subdued and contrite.  She threatened everyone in the room… except me.  M for letting it happen.  The other two boys for doing it.  But not me.  One guy noticed and made a sullen comment about it but nothing was ever said directly.  We came clean and she seemed to see the humor in it.  She never looked me in the eye the rest of that morning after she found out we hadn’t slept together.  I don’t know if she ever knew we had spooned all night, fully clothed, arms entwined.

As a side note, a death threat for such an offense was not to be taken lightly.  Her father – drunken, meth-lean, coke-head that he was – was the closest thing to a made hitter in our neighborhood.  I was one of the few kids to meet him in their apartment.  He was so wired he was giving off sparks.  He had a Heckler & Koch MP5 submachinegun – cutting-edge technology back then – in pieces on his bedspread and a 1911 .45ACP tucked into the back of his pants.  In case you were wondering, nothing about that scene was remotely legal.  He liked me and got pretty exuberant when I was introduced by name, though I didn’t know why he’d even heard of me.  Guess that was another clue.

I played hero for another girl then actually began to date her seriously.  She lived in an even shittier neighborhood but had an innocence about her.  She did the tough-girl thing, too, but you could tell there was a limit.  Her soul hadn’t been touched.  The wall went up in time.  She would make it out on her own, she just needed some cover, while she built up enough escape velocity.

But Jill – her name was Jill, so fucking write it, Andrew – grew very distant and aloof when it was obvious that I was serious about this girl.  Eventually, in another drunken bacchanalia, Jill accosted her – completely apropos of nothing – to slur that nothing had “ever, ever, ever, ever happened” between us.  My girlfriend though that was funny.  I thought I was dying inside.

By the time I was eighteen, I was in bona fide love and wanted to make a better life for us, to get off the path I was on before it was no longer an option.  I became more “mainstream”.  I went to a trade school.  I cut ties with the crew.  Jill became more involved in the drug scene and her older boyfriends became a lot more controlling.  We wouldn’t see her for months at a time and, when she surfaced, she always looked more haggard and strung out.  We wouldn’t say much to each other at those times.  Sometimes, she wouldn’t even get out of her guy’s car.

I began my life as a corporate drone, commuting into the city and making good money.  I had made it clear that I was out and not to be bothered with the local scene anymore.  But someone told me that Jill was moving in with her latest guy, sharing an apartment in an area that I knew to be… unsavory.  I suspected what it meant.  I sent word that I wanted to talk to her.

And she came.  We met at that public park.  On those stone stairs.  I told her I was thinking about moving, too.  To another state.  Halfway across the country.  Away from all this crap.  Clean break, start over.  I let the unspoken hang there.

“Why are you telling me this?”  She spit it.  I mean it.  Like venom.

“Because…”  I was speechless.  That was rarely a problem I had to face – I always had something to say, even if it was an order to give.  “Just – “

“Why?” She interrupted, demanded.

“This isn’t good for you.  You know what the fuck is going to happen if you keep doing this shit.  You’re gonna end up fucking dead.  You don’t deserve this.”

She scoffed, “Deserve?  What the fuck do you know about what I deserve?”

“You don’t.  You are beautiful.  You are smart.  You are a good person.  And you fucking deserve to be treated like it for a change.”  She wouldn’t look me in the eye.  She chain-smoked what seemed like half a pack of Marlboros.

And then I saw the tears.  Leaking out like rain down a window pane, divorced from any expression on her face.

“What about – ?” she asked, naming my girlfriend.

And I was speechless again.  My girlfriend needed security, love and nurturing.  Jill needed someone to save her life.  But I loved them both and… I was fucking nineteen.  I didn’t know how to handle emotions like this.  And I paused.  For longer than I should have.

“Yeah. That’s what I thought.”  And she turned and walked down the steps.

“WAIT!!” I shouted.

“Give me one reason!” That’s what she shouted back. That’s what still echoes in my head, two decades later, because I also heard the words that never left her head.  Tell me you love me.  Tell me you’ll take me.  Tell me you won’t ever leave me and I’ll never share you because what you just said wasn’t just words.  Tell me you love me and I’ll never have to look back or come back or remember anything I ever did here.

And I didn’t.  I paused again.  This time, I didn’t shout anymore because I couldn’t.  No, that’s a lie.  I could have.  But I knew there was only room for one passenger in the lifeboat I was rowing and I did not have the heart to throw my girlfriend into the water just to pull Jill in.  Even though I could see she was about to slip under.

“Yeah.  That’s what I thought.  Go move.  Go get married.  Have kids.”  She wasn’t shouting anymore.  She wasn’t bitter.  She’d seen the ending of this movie before she’d even bought the ticket and she was simply resigned to her fate.  And mine.

Not once, not for one single moment, did she look back at me when she descended those stairs.  Symbolic.  Into the underworld.

Soon after, I invited my girlfriend to move with me.  Not long after that, I’d heard the first rumors of Jill’s life.  I proposed when I was twenty-one.  Some time between then and getting married the following year, I’d heard about Jill’s HIV status.  Before my new bride and I pulled up stakes and left for good, I’d heard – though never substantiated – that Jill had been found dead.  Unknown if it was the disease or an overdose.  Or suicide.

So… I am married.  I have moved.  I have children.  I have a wonderful life.  And some small part of me will never forgive me for it all.  And I will always see her, mascara drying in streaks, unheeded, on her taut cheeks.  Waiting to see if the words she craved but never expected would come after all, one last – last – opportunity for salvation just a small sentence away.

We all go to Hell in our own way and time.  We cannot be responsible for the choices of others.  But I don’t believe I will ever forgive myself, regardless, and I hope her death brought her more peace than it ever will me.

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ANDREW NONADETTI is a writer of fiction and, until recently, a deceptively charming but manipulative and abusive sonofabitch. To his surprise, though, there seems to be a genuinely good man hiding in there as well. And he's a quick study.... Feel free to email him at [email protected] to discuss his novel, life in general, terminal ballistics.... Pretty much anything, really. He's kind of gregarious and a big geek about a range of topics.

62 responses to “You Never Forget Your First (Even When You Want To)”

  1. Erika Rae says:

    Intense. This couldn’t have been easy to write about, and yet you did it with amazing grace and timing.

    As for what happened, you already know the right answer. Just ears and a virtual hug on this end.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Jesus, woman, your hands are like ice! But the hug is appreciated nonetheless. It was decades ago and my rational brain knows that this was far from “my fault”. But…. There’s always that “but”, isn’t there?

      We make our choices and live with them, each one having its own blend of good and bad. Although this one left a mark. I have since chosen to regret the things I have done and said than the things I have failed to.

  2. Uche Ogbuji says:

    That was a gripping read. And it brings up one of the oldest moral questions of life. I think your refusal to forgive yourself is in itself a sort of grace. It’s the utter, confusing mess of humanity in all its shit-stained glory. Your new friends, however, can be selfish, and grateful that you have worked your way towards the sunnier side of fortune. I wish you peace.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, friend. And I consider a certain degree of selfishness to be a virtue so I am among fine company indeed.

  3. Jessica Blau says:

    Yes, I agree with Erica: Intense. I want to hear more about this–more on this time in your life. It seems like there are entire lifetimes within each pocket of your life. And there so, so, so many pockets.

  4. Well, you know, you couldn’t have saved her for real, right?

    This is a stunningly beautiful piece, with a very true emotional core. I relate to survival guilt a lot, actually. You and I grew up kind of similarly, and when you see what happens to the people you knew when you were young, and look at your own life, it can induce a wide array of emotions from pride to devastation/shame. There were people I tried to “save” and there were people I gave up on and walked away from. And then there’s the assigning of one’s own importance–in absentia–from the lives of those we left on the way . . .

    In Jill’s case, though, Anon . . . I mean, yeah, you could have changed small events to some extent via the butterfly effect. One change enacts the next and so forth. But your piece–and your memory even amid the guilt–makes it clear that she was already on a path of self-destruction even in the active stage of your closeness. That she used herself–her own fate–as a weapon of sorts even in that final conversation with you, if that makes sense. Her tears show that she “heard” you about what she was doing to herself, but she was more than game to do it anyway if you wouldn’t give her what she wanted. How long–even if you had left your girlfriend for her and run away with her–until you would have failed to give her what she wanted in some small way (because nobody can fill those kinds of needs, that need for self-annihilation and those damages: nobody can fix another person that way, as you show you already know) and she would have used herself again as the weapon with which she struck out? Gone back to what she knew, the way people in pain so often do. Another guy, another few months, another few years, who knows? If addiction and prostitution for her were things she couldn’t be convinced and coerced out of before she even fully began them, then . . . well, you know the “then.” You know nobody was ever going to derail that train for long. Leaving the old neighborhood isn’t a magic potion. The “old neighborhood” exists everywhere if it’s the only thing you think you deserve and if you’re determined to find it.

    And you were nineteen. You were your own hero, and got yourself out. Your other girlfriend aside, that’s more than good enough for a teenage kid.

    The real “if only” with Jill would be more “if only” someone could have gotten her some serious therapy. But we both know that option wasn’t even an option for young people at that time, from that background. Therapy was something exotic and hilarious from a Woody Allen flick, if you’d ever even seen Allen. If only a romantic relationship COULD save people in this way . . . but, well, we women have been telling ourselves that story for a long, long time and you can see how well it usually works for us.

    Please don’t read this as cynicism for your emotions. It’s just that I can relate to them all too well, and have struggled too much with them myself. Maybe I am trying to forgive us both.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Ah, you! When I see something from you, it’s like being an expat and running into a fellow countryman. You have written a half-ton of truth above but you already know the limited effect reasoning has on entrenched and misplaced guilt (which isn’t to say I disagree or don’t appreciate reading it all). It’s funny, though – I’ve done some pretty horrible stuff that hasn’t cost me a minute of lost sleep (and, in fact, some of it still makes me chuckle inappropriately) yet I reserve this small torture room of self-flagellation for things that were entirely out of my control and never my responsibility. Go figure.

      You hit the nail on the head re: temporary derailing. Just a few years ago, the “M” from this story managed to track me down on-line and reached out to me (part of why this memory resurfaced to haunt me). She’d been clean and moving to Cali when I broke with the old crew in the early 90s. Since then, she sought out her road to hell all over again. She’s now in Section 8 housing, kids from different dads, in and out of rehab, record for assault, been battered herself…. Living up to the promise of our roots. I offered no details of my own life but simply told her that making any further attempt to contact me would result in a very brief and unpleasant encounter and to pass that on to any others of the old crew that might be feeling nostalgic. Haven’t heard a peep further, which is good.

      I’m too tired to be more creative so I’ll just end with “I like you, Gina”. 🙂

      • Erika Rae says:

        Gina – I love that he can put the line “any further attempt to contact me would result in a very brief and unpleasant encounter and to pass that on to any others of the old crew that might be feeling nostalgic” less than an inch away from a smiley emoticon.

        You’re complicated, Anon.

  5. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    I’ve done things myself that gnaw at me as unforgivable, and though they might have been at lesser stakes, the guilt and the what-iffing is still just as persistent. So this piece rings true for even a boring person like me. Especially liked the internal voice that you let out in bursts like “that was her name, so fucking write it, Andrew”. I hear from that same guy all the time. Maybe one way to silence the voice is to keep writing its thoughts down, and reading it from others.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      I’ll confess that this entire thing was written mostly as one of those bursts, just a torrent of words. It was during the effort of cleanup that I noticed I hadn’t ever written her name and it just…. Well, it’s early and I’m tired so I’ll bluntly say I pissed myself off with that little avoidance.

      As Uche so wonderfully put it, this is humanity. We’re all wired for this nonsense, most of us fall into it at some point or another. As with everything, though, it’s how we deal with the aftermath that shapes who we are.

      I hope my little purges buy you a little silence.

  6. Irene Zion says:

    Anon,

    Your writing is impeccable here.
    It felt like fiction, and I wish it had been.

    I echo Gina to ask: You DO know that you couldn’t have saved her, right?
    She would have just dragged you into her world that was already spiraling quickly downwards.
    You did all that could have been done.
    Stop beating yourself up.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      I do know it now but knowing and feeling are vastly different, especially when that feeling was cemented at such an early age. You know that.

      I’ll tell you something, though – writing about it has helped. Correction – putting it out there for others to see has helped. Exorcising the demon, so to speak. And especially Gina’s reply, confirming my suspicions that this didn’t have as much to do with me as I had taken on. Funny, that – in an absence of clear evidence, I’m inclined to accept blame rather than innocence. Gotta keep working on that.

  7. Irene Zion says:

    It’s encoded in your genes.
    Work all you want on it.
    It’s all but hopeless.
    (My, I’m not in a good mood, am I?)

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      That makes it rather amusing, doesn’t it? Refusing to give up on fixing my inability to give up fixing things that can’t be fixed.

      Now… why so glum, chum?

      • Irene Zion says:

        Well, Anon,

        At least you know you’re in good company.
        A good number of us have the same affliction.

        All in good time.

  8. Don Mitchell says:

    It’s a very compelling piece to be reading on a rainy Sunday morning, A Non (observe how differently you’re addressed in comments).

    It’s a feeling that I also know — the “did not save, maybe could have, not enough room on the boat” — intrusive thought that hangs on even for years. I’ll add my voice to the chorus even though it’s clear you understand you could not have saved her, and perhaps more importantly, that you realized that even the cost of trying would be terrible.

    I was reading your piece and thinking about the dangers — drugs, violence, HIV — and realizing that although these are attention-grabbers (and I don’t mean to suggest that you used them as such), because they are dangers we’re all heard of, and probably know something about, from a distance at least, your piece was really about making that who-to-save decision.

    I realize that when I comment, I usually cast about for something I know, or have experienced, and then compare a posting to that. I’m not different this morning. For a few minutes I was tracking back into my life, and coming up empty. I never had the chance to even think about saving somebody descending into the kind of hell you describe.

    Then I realized that the circumstances of my second marriage, the one described in my Baby Clothes, Ulua Poles posting, were structurally similar. My second wife was a childhood sexual abuse victim, and much of what went on in that marriage revolved around her quests for healing, which always failed because, I think, she needed everyone else to devote themselves entirely to her needs. Eventually, it just wound down, and what I described in my posting was simply the last straw. I have sometimes feared that I didn’t do enough, that I gave up on the process too soon (although it was several years). For a long time my answer was “I might have.” Eventually I realized the answer was that no one could have done enough, and that, as in your case, I had a duty to myself and my son. Your lifeboat analogy is apt.

    That’s the thing about people like Jill, as you know. They consume you.

    And finally, this is all what I love best about TNB. The comments are about content, not “writing.” That’s what that Almond guy completely missed.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Amen, brother. It’s that whole “history doesn’t repeat but rhymes” thing. Our (collectively, not just yours and mine) stories may vary in scale and scope but they, as you said, boil down to the same things, the same choices. Would-coulda-shoulda syndrome.

      And now, the choice I make is to brew some coffee and make a decent omelette for me and the kiddos. 🙂

  9. Tom Hansen says:

    Nice work. I’m tortured a bit about the past as well, and while I know that I can effect the world and people around me to some degree, generally I’ve found that people have to make the decision to go another direction and commit to it on their own. The thing that breaks my heart is that often it seems to be the softest, the most innocent, the ones that don’t know how to ‘put up a wall’ as you said, that don’t make it. That pisses me off. Why can’t it be the fuckheads?

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      That’s like asking why it’s always the land mammals that drown, why can’t it be the fucking sharks? Because it’s their element.

      Funny, when Zara and Simon were here, I mentioned an end-all idea for a post: I’d just make a list of all the crappy things that have happened to me and all the crappy things I’ve done to others, then end it with “So what? Shit happens. Get over it.” But then I’d have nothing to do with my time so I’ll just stretch it out posting-by-agonizing-posting….

  10. Slade Ham says:

    There’s always a bit of mixed emotion over things like this. The liberating breath of air that comes from escaping yourself, and that horrid guilt that hangs forever after. To not feel guilty though… that would be tragic. I hope I’m never that emotionless.

    I’m sure it’s already been mentioned, but the odds were stacked against you had you chosen to pull her into that boat. Some people will intentionally try to flip it, and when they can’t they start poking holes in the bottom. All they know how to do is be in the water, and eventually you end up in there with them.

    This hit a nerve with me. Hopefully I’ll never have to write the story though…

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Sorry, man. Didn’t mean to dredge things up for you.

      I’m definitely a responsibility addict which is why I try to take on as little as possible these days. Myself, my kids, to a lesser extent (because she is a competent, good person) my wife… that’s about it. The rest of the world will need to fend for itself, though I’m happy to lend a no-strings-attached-or-attachable hand here and there. Otherwise… I end up writing about what I took to be a failing, decades later. At the very least.

      Here’s to staying dry, my friend.

  11. dwoz says:

    The most interesting aspect of this piece to me, is the thinly-veiled ‘beatification’ of Jill. An angel caught in a maelstrom.

    It pushes aside the thought that SHE was the maelstrom. That in fact, there was a malevolence in her core that acted to put her own agenda above anyone else’s.

    I have encountered women like that. Women that needed saving. But that is just the siren sitting on the jagged rocks, with that plaintive song. Their core motivation is not pure and innocent. Whether that’s just where they ended up, damaged, or that’s where they started, their core being, is no longer relevant…

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Hm. I hadn’t considered that I was beatifying her. As is usually the case, we filter things through our own experiences and, knowing that I was who I was back then solely as a survival mechanism, I always assumed that was the case with all the creatures inhabiting my world. I mean, as I said, we choose our own paths, our responses, so I never thought of her entirely as a victim but…. You raise a good point.

  12. It’s very interesting, suddenly being in this basically non-fic, personal essay world that I previously have spent little time in. The universality of the fucked-up childhood may well be the unifying topic. Of course, you could place the various circumstances on a scale, from mild confusion to utterly brutal and harrowing, but there’s something about that year nineteen, you know? And it may have been a toss-off, but that notion of “just fucking write it, Andrew” seems like the most important thing to me, the most vital component. Where the compulsion to bare these experiences faces off with the need to make them either sound worse than they really were or more palatable, less or more guilty, less or more culpable, less or more selfish. Selfishness as survival. Then opening yourself up and really digging in. I like it and relate to it.

    Is all memoir basically just un-ornamented fiction? Does it even matter? There’s what you write, and what you tell people afterward. Or maybe just what you tell yourself afterward.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      All memory is deception. I’ve said that often. My little “just write it” hissy fit was actually an effort to make it less clinical, to admit that this isn’t fiction or a hypothetical. That not only was it about a real person, it also was about me. I tend to hide from my experiences that way – objectify, fictionalize, convert to ASCII. Not this time, boyo.

    • dwoz says:

      Memoir, to me, is almost like an attempt, or chance, to control the dialog. To take command of the context of the past event.

      placing your own markers on the public record, would be a way to look at it perhaps. A pre-rebuttal. (“prebuttal?”)

      Even if the writing is just a personal catharsis, not intended for anon consumption, it serves to demand the context, or perhaps more like it pushes ‘undesirable’ contexts out of scope.

      then again, maybe that’s just overthinking it.

  13. Jude says:

    What a powerful story – and in particular that first paragraph. Pulled me in – hook, line and sinker. I felt like I was reading the beginning of a novel…

    What a fascinating and complicated early life you seemed to have had. I’d say there’s a few more stories to come yet. And I look forward to every one of them.

    That Gina – she’s a smart cookie. I think she deserves the TNB title of “Wise Woman Who Speaks Truth”. Sometimes, as you said earlier, shit happens, and there ain’t much you can do to change it. Jill had her path to tread and you had yours…

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, Jude. I will completely second the title assignment for Gina but… I don’t know how many more “back then” stories I’m up for. There’s a reason our eyes point forward and not back. I mean, besides depth perception and binocular vision.

  14. Lorna says:

    “But I knew there was only room for one passenger in the lifeboat I was rowing and I did not have the heart to throw my girlfriend into the water just to pull Jill in. Even though I could see she was about to slip under.”

    I know the feeling of leaving someone behind in order to get out and get on with your life. God, I can count on two hands the number of friends I’ve lost to that lifestyle but the most painful loss will always be that of my childhood best friend. I will always wonder if I could have done something different, something more to help her.

    So I understand the question, but have no answer to offer. A virtual hug will have to suffice.

    • Lorna says:

      I now need to seek out a nice light hearted funny story to read. It’s all about balance. Suggestions welcome.

      • Andrew Nonadetti says:

        The three favorite quotes from my daughter to date:

        “Daddy hunts deer and cantaloupe.”

        “We’re collecting pennies to help build a school in Alpacastan….”

        “Mommy needs crotches to walk now.” (after my wife broke her foot last Thanksgiving)

        Help at all?

        • Lorna says:

          Hahaha, yes, it absolutely does.

        • Erika Rae says:

          HA – those are priceless. My all time fav daughter quote:

          Upon walking in on her parents watching Eon Flux, “Mommy, is she a badlass?”

        • Judy Prince says:

          Anon and Erika, you’re already giving us a glimpse of the Second TNB Generation with your daughters’ hooty bon mots: ““We’re collecting pennies to help build a school in Alpacastan….” and “. . . is she a badlass”, and Dominick Olear’s wondering about choosing a wife “or a clam shell”!!!!

          I’m riff-giggling on the word “Alpacastan”! heeeeeeehaaaaaa!

          Let me catch my breath.

          Judy, dear Rodent’s clam shell

  15. Judy Prince says:

    Both you and Jill were unable to feel that you deserved anything particularly good or any love. There’re millions of millenia of such examples of humans born to lives ransacked with cruelty, confusion and chaos.

    It comes as no surprise to any of us here at TNB that you were the man Jill fell in love with, and that she knew you felt the same for her. Both you and Jill also knew that her “saving” depended upon *her* choices, her insistent self-loathing choices—-not upon your giving up your life’s love and your own life choices.

    You, in that time and place and circumstance, with Jill, shifted the cruel millenia into a spotlight of love. You gave her what she had never been given, what she had, most especially, not been able to give herself. You exorcised many of her demons, yet it was simply not enough to vanquish them all.

    You showed and continue to show honesty and deep appreciation of others; i.e., you example love. It’s you. And you continue to be the honest, deeply appreciative man who brings love to your generation and your children’s.

    I’d have to say thank you, Anon. Thank you.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, Judy, although I find the timing of your beautiful words bitterly ironic (long and unimportant story). Suffice it to say, I am feeling far from exhibiting “honesty and deep appreciation of others” in my non-virtual world. But I’m working on it. I am a fool but not a hopeless one (though perhaps it could be argued that my hope is an illustration of my foolishness – only time will tell).

      Demons are funny little bastards, aren’t they?

      • Judy Prince says:

        Indeed, Anon, a hopeful fool’s way better than a hopeless brainiac.

        I won’t embarrass you by describing your brilliance.

        Despite “enlightened” folk and groups (many of them, unfortunately, “religious” ones) insisting that humans are demon-dirt, lotsa people realise demons are our creations—-and can therefore be erased like chalk marks on a blackboard.

        Judy who laffs at demons and loves angels…….and long and unimportant stories

  16. Richard Cox says:

    Dude, you are a phenomenal writer. I love how you use cadence and rhythm to establish mood, how the piece ebbs and flows with emotion as you alternately feed us details and reflect upon them.

    Regarding Jill, other commenters have already pointed out how hopeless it would have been to try to save her, and how you did well just to separate yourself from that world. I’ll just add that the undercurrent of unrequited love, or the possibility of what could have been, drove this piece for me. We all meet people with whom for whatever reason we share a covalent bond, and it’s always interesting to imagine, in another life, what could have been.

    Kudos to you for cutting those ties cleanly and not allowing doubt to alter the course of your life.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Heh. Doubt has shaped the course of my life, to my chagrin. But I’m working on it.

      Thanks, Rich, for the compliments. High praise coming from you.

  17. That was a fascinating story, and extremely well told.

    Vivid.

    I especially liked this line: “fledgling ferals, connecting within the same pack.” It brings back a lot of memories. Some old, some more recent.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      David, while we certainly wouldn’t agree on everything, I suspect that we would definitely have many things in common.

  18. Simone says:

    Anon, this is a great piece. I agree with previous commentors that this must’ve been hard to write.

    It was Voltaire who said “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.”

    Personally I think that there’s only so much you can do. You’re not a superhero so you can’t save everyone. Jill could’ve taken your talk to heart and maybe put what you said into perspective; and subsequently saved her own life. But she didn’t, thereby making herself a victim of her circumstances instead of rising above them.

    You are not responsible for the choices people make in their own lives.

    “Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.
    — Gloria Naylor

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, Simone. I don’t recall that Voltaire quote but it is now the status message of my IM client.

  19. Joe Daly says:

    In a weird way, I feel like the triumph of this piece is the hopelessness that you convey. Nothing is comfortable about this read. The style is gripping, the mood dense, and of course, you exude sincerity and deep feeling in the way you tell the story.

    I’ll avoid pithy axioms about how it wasn’t your fault, you couldn’t have saved her, people are responsible for their own choices, etc. Somehow by the words you chose, I think you already know all this. Sounds like through this exercise, you might finally be giving yourself permission to actually believe it.

    Well done, brother.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, Joe. It’s funny you mention permission. From the time I posted it and all through reading the comments, I felt a… shift. You may be right. Cheapest therapy since my Costco stopped selling liquor ;).

  20. Matt says:

    You can reach out your hand to a drowning person, but you can’t make them take it. Especially when they’re still clinging on to the cinderblock weighing them down in the first place.

    Of course, to know this and to feel this are completely seperate things. And often directly in conflict.

    Well done, sir.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thanks, Matt. And, as I just replied to Joe, I’m getting the feeling – literally – that this particular conflict may be reaching a negotiated settlement.

  21. jmblaine says:

    Ah geez this was tough
    over the morning Rice Chex.
    You’re a brave man, braver than I.
    I can’t find a way to write
    this courageous.

    Plus, especially
    brave with the new picture
    reveal at the end of the post.
    I always figured a music figure
    would successfully fake
    their demise and go on to deeper
    ventures under a nom
    de plume. I just
    never would have guessed it
    would
    be you
    Freddie Mercury.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      HAHAHAHAHA!!! Friend, that is the best laugh I’ve had in some time. Come to think of it, I was a poor boy from a poor family…. But bravery is often nothing more than cowardice without patience.

  22. angela says:

    A. Non. i just got that! sheesh.

    this made me cry:

    Tell me you love me. Tell me you’ll take me. Tell me you won’t ever leave me and I’ll never share you because what you just said wasn’t just words. Tell me you love me and I’ll never have to look back or come back or remember anything I ever did here.

    but i also cried during the season finale of Glee. 😉

    no, but seriously, a beautiful and moving piece.

  23. Zara Potts says:

    Beautiful and haunting piece.
    What a lovely writer you are, Anon.
    And yes. Give yourself some peace. You deserve it.
    x

  24. Jordan Ancel says:

    I will not purport to personally know anything about the type of life you had growing up, but I do know what is like to leave people behind in pursuit of a “better” one, and how heart wrenching a decision it can be to leave.

    Your circumstances, and especially Jill’s, were much more dire, so I can understand the huge amount of guilt that still haunts you, and even understand why you would carry it for so long. I think it’s the kind of guilt that one would carry for a lifetime.

    But I agree with Gina, that you couldn’t have saved her for real. I think there are people we wish we could take with us on our journey, people who “deserve” something better, and we’d save everyone of them if we could. But there’s only so much we can do. One can really only save themselves. Sure, we can help, maybe inspire or move someone to help themselves, but it must really begin with a personal desire, no, need such as the one that was so strong in you to get out.

    Maybe, if we’re lucky we can take someone with us, as you did. I liken it to the safety instructions on an airplane— when the masks come down, put yours on first before helping someone else.

    Gotta save yourself first.

    Very riveting piece, Anon. Good to see you again.

  25. sheree says:

    Excellent read. Brilliant writing. Thanks.
    I tried to save someone once. They hung up the phone and blew their head off anyway. Nothing I said mattered to them. My friends death bothered me for a long time. I finally made peace with myself a few years ago. I hope you find peace too.

  26. Tammi says:

    What a beautiful piece, you honor your love for Jill and her memory well. Forgive yourself because there are some people who could never be saved.

    You chose the one you knew in your heart you could save “My girlfriend needed security, love and nurturing”.

    It was the correct choice as you said yourself “I am married. I have moved. I have children. I have a wonderful life.”

    Your wife and children are lucky to have you.

  27. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Again, catching up as much as I can in limited time. @Jordan: Thank you. In (damnable) hindsight, I suspect I carried a lot of guilt about a lot of things but this memory was the easiest to attach it all to, allowing me to feel heroic rather than foolish and wasteful. Frankly, continuing your analogy, I was agonizing over the order in which to put on masks when I should’ve been looking for ‘chutes, if not seizing the cockpit. But that is the past and can’t be changed. I believe, though, that I can finally walk away from the wreckage.

    @Sheree: I am so, so sorry but I am glad you found peace. That’s the ultimate tribute we can pay to those that don’t, isn’t it? To learn from them and not waste what we have. @Tammi: Thank you as well. You can only save the willing and that is often a matter of timing. Since posting this piece, I’ve learned something astounding and humbling: I never saved anyone and, in “choosing”, I picked the woman who would save me. And continues to, despite all odds and cost to herself. I’m the lucky one and am finally ready to let go and earn it.

  28. Simon Smithson says:

    “Tell me you love me. Tell me you’ll take me. Tell me you won’t ever leave me and I’ll never share you because what you just said wasn’t just words. Tell me you love me and I’ll never have to look back or come back or remember anything I ever did here.”

    There’s so much sad truth here.

    Again, I’m coming in late. But I wanted you to know I read this, and it made me sad, even as I recognised the concrete-coloured truth of the choices that had to be made.

    Goddamn it.

    Why can’t we all have happy endings?

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