By any other name…

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, it was always the people on the fringe that interested me most. That was often the “bad” fringe–they were more exciting and often seemed to have a bit more depth than the preppy, cookie-cutter, bright clothes and scrunchies/penny loafers set. This, of course, meant that a good many of my crushes were on those troubled souls and my ever-present savior/martyr complex brought me fantasies of whisking them away and saving them.

Rosie was one of those girls that had more than a reputation–her entire family had a reputation. Going back at least a generation. You really couldn’t get more “wrong side of the tracks.” I was, of course, smitten. And, really, she wasn’t all that bad of a bad girl. I knew many people with much less of a reputation who did much worse things than she did. She was a good person, but not many people ever took the time to see that.

I never got to hang out with her much–what passed for my social circle back then wasn’t all that large and, therefore, didn’t overlap with many others–but I did get to talk to her a little at a sweet 16 party for a mutual friend. It was a very fun evening and, I believe, the last time during high school we were in the same place together for more than five minutes.

She graduated the year before I did. Every now and then, I’d run into her around town. I Went off to college and, again, would run into a little around town–at the local bar, or out shopping–when I came down to visit over the five years I was mostly away.

At one point she was working at the local bagel shop, so my father saw her and passed greetings back and forth on a semi-regular basis. It wasn’t any deep contact, but it was nice to know she was still around and still doing OK. I know at some point she went through a very rough spot with addiction and an abusive relationship. She had a kid, but had lost custody at some point. Working to get that back seemed to be one of the driving forces for her.

When I moved back to my small town after college, I discovered she was no longer working at the bagel place. She had moved down the street a bit and was now working at an ice cream place that happened to be owned by another friend of mine’s family.

Because of that, I didn’t feel bad at all about dropping by and hanging out.

There were some… complications… to reconnecting with her. But they involved nothing on either her part or my own; just an overly eager interloper that we had both been trying to dodge since high school. That led to some funny stories, but none that are pertinent here and now.

The one moment that is important–and still exists as one of the best moments of my life so far–was when she introduced me to a friend of hers. She introduced me as one of her best friends from high school.

It was at once wonderful and terrible. I had barely spent any time with her back then… and if I were one of her best friends…

We ran into each other a few more times in those early years I was back in town, but, before long, my job took over more and more of my time and drew me out to the other corners of the county. When the ice cream shop closed, I lost track of her.

The last I heard anything definite was a few years ago (not too long before I left the area) through a semi-mutual friend. Rosie had fallen back on hard times. She’d lost the good job she had wrangled herself, she was using god-knows-what again, and had, again, lost custody of her (now two) kids.

I almost ran out one night to see if I could catch her at the run-down hotel she was living at week-to-week. But I didn’t know what I would say. I didn’t know what I could say or do. Maybe, I thought, if I could have just been there more during the previous years… been there for her… been a better friend…

I didn’t go that night. I couldn’t go other times. Other responsibilities reared their ugly heads. I moved out of the area and don’t go back much at all these days.

Where is she now? I don’t know. No one I talk to ever mentions her. Sometimes, even though I’ve gotten most of my personal complexes under control, I still think I could have saved her. But then I wonder what the cost of that would have been. And then I wonder if I would have cared what the cost was.

I made a choice and I live with it. Just like hundreds of other choices I’ve made. When there is no clear path, we all do the best we can.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is rarely a clear path.

(As originally told to a friend of mine about three weeks ago. I should probably edit it more…)

  • fiferjanis

    There are cases where one has to make the decision to help one’s self. I’ve learned the hard way through bashing my head against people’s walls with good intentions that you largely get a martyr complex and a headache… and tend to get used more than a little.

    I used to try to save people. Then I met someone who was just so… damaged… it was tragic. He was a sweet and wonderful guy, but he was just so broken, there was no fixing him. I think that was the toughest thing to accept. Sometimes broken is just broken. And most-times these things are out of our hands, even if we want to help.

    Most times I chalk up my college flame to having broken my heart and not being able to love again fully after that, but it’s not true. I did have a 9-month relationship with this other individual and even lived with him for most of that time. We got along fine, but the gut was telling me it wasn’t going anywhere. That one never really “ended” – he just kinda “went away” when he moved to England to pursue a PhD.

    However, I wonder if the problem isn’t that I can’t love after having had my heart broken… but my heart is just exhausted after this other individual… because that’s really the beginning of where I’ve felt… dead. Maybe it was the final nail in the coffin of my idealism. I suppose romanticism is built on idealism. I wish I could be idealistic, romantic, fantastic, but I have difficulties getting past reality now.

    I don’t look at “broken” guys anymore and think, “I can fix him!” I don’t idealize people anymore and think about what might be. I take people’s realities, flaws and all, in the harsh light of day, and long for the softened glowing moonlight of yesteryear where I could pretend flaws didn’t exist.

    On the one hand, going in with my eyes open has contributed to longer-lasting and more stable relationships. But on the other, it feels like there’s a certain “magic” missing with that lack of naiive fantasy of what could-be.

  • fiferjanis

    There are cases where one has to make the decision to help one’s self. I’ve learned the hard way through bashing my head against people’s walls with good intentions that you largely get a martyr complex and a headache… and tend to get used more than a little.

    I used to try to save people. Then I met someone who was just so… damaged… it was tragic. He was a sweet and wonderful guy, but he was just so broken, there was no fixing him. I think that was the toughest thing to accept. Sometimes broken is just broken. And most-times these things are out of our hands, even if we want to help.

    Most times I chalk up my college flame to having broken my heart and not being able to love again fully after that, but it’s not true. I did have a 9-month relationship with this other individual and even lived with him for most of that time. We got along fine, but the gut was telling me it wasn’t going anywhere. That one never really “ended” – he just kinda “went away” when he moved to England to pursue a PhD.

    However, I wonder if the problem isn’t that I can’t love after having had my heart broken… but my heart is just exhausted after this other individual… because that’s really the beginning of where I’ve felt… dead. Maybe it was the final nail in the coffin of my idealism. I suppose romanticism is built on idealism. I wish I could be idealistic, romantic, fantastic, but I have difficulties getting past reality now.

    I don’t look at “broken” guys anymore and think, “I can fix him!” I don’t idealize people anymore and think about what might be. I take people’s realities, flaws and all, in the harsh light of day, and long for the softened glowing moonlight of yesteryear where I could pretend flaws didn’t exist.

    On the one hand, going in with my eyes open has contributed to longer-lasting and more stable relationships. But on the other, it feels like there’s a certain “magic” missing with that lack of naiive fantasy of what could-be.

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