Mistakes happen (Dylan)

Just Remember to Breathe

Mistakes happen (Dylan)

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I was sitting in my room, writing, when the knock on the door came. I was in limbo: going to trial for aggravated assault in a few weeks, unsure where my future was going, rejected by Alex. For hours, I’d been sitting here in the dark, listening to quiet music, occasionally writing thoughts in a new journal.

I was trying to make sense of my life. Trying to make sense of what had happened with Alex. Trying to make sense of us. 

The only conclusion I could come to was this: Alex was absolutely right. I’d spent three years avoiding telling her how I really felt. I’d spent three years not opening up, not telling her I loved her, not telling her that I wanted to spend my life with her.

No wonder she wasn’t willing to take me back.

I was so deep in thinking that at first I didn’t hear the knocking. I had a pen in the corner of my mouth, chewing on it, a habit I’d tried to break for years, but still came back during times of tension.

The knock came again, and I looked up, focusing outside myself for the first time in hours.

I stood up, shouted, “Coming!” and padded across the carpet in my bare feet.

When I opened the front door, I sighed in frustration.

It was two police officers, the same two officers who had arrested me.

“Can we come in?” Alvarez said. It’s funny… looking at her now, I realized she was kind of pretty, even in the severe uniform.

“Of course,” I said. As if I could stop them.

I led them into the living room, and said, “What can I do for you? Am I being arrested again? Do I need to call my lawyer?”

Both of them shook their heads, and Alvarez looked a little sheepish. She got to the point pretty quickly.

“Last night Randy Brewer followed a girl home from the 1050. A neighborhood girl, not a student. He broke into her apartment and raped her. Her roommate—a cop—walked in on the scene.”

I closed my eyes, and muttered, “Jesus Christ. Is she okay?”

“No one is okay after a sexual assault,” Alvarez replied. “How is your girlfriend?”

“We broke up. But I’m giving her hand to hand combat lessons.”

Alvarez grinned. “I’m sorry to hear you broke up, but good for her.”

I nodded.

“Look,” Alvarez said. “For what it’s worth, we just wanted to say … we’re sorry. The DA’s dropping all charges against you, in light of what happened. I imagine your lawyer will be in touch, they’ll have to have a hearing, and you should be clear.”

I nodded. “Thank you,” I said.

“We were just doing our job,” said the other cop. The one who had harangued me about rich kids the night of my arrest.

“I get it. I was a soldier. Mistakes happen.”

They stood up, and awkwardly, I shook their hands, and they walked out of my life, hopefully forever. Wow. For the first time in years, I found myself wanting a drink, badly.

Screw that. Instead, I changed into sweats, and walked out into the early evening to go for a run.

I took the same route Alex and I always took. But I had to admit, it lost it’s charm without her. Before I reached the end of Central Park, I cut west across West 72nd to Riverside Drive, then started coming back up the Hudson River Greenway. Something about the crowded evergreens, even in the icy cold night, was calming.

I was a soldier. Mistakes happen.

It was interesting how easy it was to forgive the cops for arresting me instead of Randy, but I couldn’t forgive myself. How many times had I blamed myself for Roberts’ death? How many times had I blamed myself for all of the blood and pain and shit that came down on my life after the day I lost my temper and shot up my laptop?

God, was I that fucking neurotic? It wasn’t even just that? I’d blamed myself for a lot more. After all, I was the kid who blamed himself for dropping the brownie mix that resulted in his mother getting a beating.

But see, that wasn’t my fault. It was his. I didn’t hit her. My son of a bitch fucking father did that, over and over again, and in the end it didn’t really matter what I did or didn’t do. All I did was my best to protect myself. To protect myself from the hurt. To protect myself from parents who were at best unreliable. And let’s face it… the fact that my mother finally kicked him out, joined AA and cleaned up her life during my freshman year in high school? It meant a lot. But it didn’t change what had happened to me. It didn’t change the defenses I’d set up for myself.

In the end, it was Alex who suffered because of that.

Our last night in Israel, she’d pushed me to tell her what I wanted. Were we going to commit? Were we going to stay with each other, despite the distance, despite the pain of separation? Or would we go home, go back to dating other people, slowly forget each other, slowly forget our first loves, and then that would be the end. Maybe think of each other every few years, or run into each other somewhere ten years later and reminisce for a few minutes?

What she needed from me three years ago was a clear declaration of what I felt. And I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted her. Nothing else. But to say that? That would make me vulnerable, in a way I’d long since learned wasn’t safe. The one thing I wasn’t about to do was risk losing myself in another person.

And that’s the reason I lost her. Simple as that. We let it drag on, not one thing and not the other.

Why can’t you tell me how you feel? she’d cried out.

Because you might hurt me, was the only answer.

It was time to jettison that fear. I might not be the perfect guy for her. I was a little crazy, I was a disabled vet with some serious mental problems, a little brain damage and plenty of other issues. But I also loved her. And even if it killed me, even if she shot me down so hard I never approached another human being again in my life, I was going to do whatever it took to let her know exactly how I felt.

This is first draft material from a new story I’m working on. You can find the  beginning and contents of the story, here. I love feedback, and would appreciate hearing any thoughts about the story. You can also check it out on Goodreads or Wattpad.

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