By: Chase Mrakovich
During my Junior year of high school I started to socialize a little more than I was used to, mostly because my friends at the time were so active and talked to a lot of people, especially girls. I suppose I thought of myself as lesser then, I don’t know. I was insecure. My focus up to that point had been sports and my grades and drawing in my free time, usually in the Summer. After I’d gotten my (second) car (after the accident) and started to grow into my body – redesigning my look and all – dating started to sound appealing.
At the end of every day in the second semester, one of my favorite teachers taught a Creative Writing class, and that’s when I started piecing together what I wanted for myself in the daily journal we were assigned. I’d found whom I thought was my soulmate at the time, I had been making money from my part time job in utilities, I genuinely enjoyed writing and I had a little bit of independence for once. Although my grades were consistently above average, halfway into the last semester I would skip school often to smoke weed or get food and kick back at home before my mother got home. I would forge notes and write her autograph at the bottom of a scrap of paper. They’d always take it at the reception desk in the school office, no questions asked. The creative writing teacher probably wondered where I disappeared to, but she never asked either. When I reflect on that year, I can say that despite how busy I was and how lazy I seemed, all of my relationships were strong.
Nobody tells you that eventually people chip away like paint in real life. They slip right through your fingers, the ones that aren’t big enough. Aren’t important enough. Some odd thing changes either for everyone else or for you and the world seems to shrink entirely, to turn upside down and revolve differently until it seems like you just don’t exist the way you did before. Where that exact point was located on my timeline, I can’t say accurately; only that it was after Junior year, and that it was progressive.
I promise to tell you about where I am now, but you’re going to need a little more context first, otherwise you won’t understand what I’m trying to say.
I suppose I should start with the first real self aware thought I had in sixth grade on the bus. The route was unchanging, the times of each stop predictable, as were the faces of every student that walked between the seats, turning abruptly to drop into a random spot and lose themselves into the privacy of the windows. My view was the parking lot of the elementary school nextdoor, sweeping past the window frame, occasionally a dreary looking kid would slug to the front of the building. I don’t know what brought on the thought, perhaps it was that kid or the mood of every other passenger, but I wondered what people would do if I died. If something were to happen, who would show up to the funeral? Who would be devastated? Then I considered the rest of the world, how it would keep turning. Classes would continue to be held, I would never meet my girlfriend, or my second car, things I didn’t know about yet might not happen and you know what? Everyone would be okay with that. Even my family, though they’d grieve, would have to move on at some point. The whole existential attack. It was a lot at 7:30 in the morning, especially for a twelve year old.
A long hiss came from the bus, and our bodies moving with the momentum of the breaks signaled our arrival. For the rest of the day I did a pretty good job of avoiding the topic.
It’s worth mentioning, before we go any deeper into my history, that I was never suicidal. My father made it very clear that if one was to kill himself, they would be sentenced to Hell for eternity, but that wasn’t the only reason. I truly was never low enough to think that ending it was the right decision. Maybe I should also mention that throughout all of this, I’ve maintained my faith. Prayed to God, sometimes more often than others, but I always believed. My father deserves credit for that. If ever there was someone I felt I could turn to, it was God.
But I don’t want to make this about religion, because that’s not why I’m sharing this.
Just two years prior, my father had followed through with his second divorce, and we had moved from his friend’s spare bedroom into a house of his own in the middle of the suburbs. The place was old, the stairs creaked and the radiators kept our towels warm during my showers. We had made a habit of going to church on Sundays again. It became a bonding activity between my brother, my father and I. We would spend the rest of the day watching football, eating queso dip and playing video games. He had become our best friend, in a way, and we loved it.
About six months into that, my dad started dating again. He would bring a different girl around every few weeks, most of them were pretty and likable; some of them I never even saw. He had told us after the divorce that my brother and I were his priority, and that he would never put anybody before us. I could feel him start to slip away. Our nights no longer consisted of comic book movies and Star Wars. Instead it was cheesy reality television, upon the request of whichever woman tugged at his strings.
Then one day, when I’d met my dad at the hill next to the baseball field where he’d wait to pick me up after work, he unlocked his phone and showed me a photo of a cake. I didn’t know what I was looking at initially until I saw the writing in icing. He and his most recent girlfriend had returned from a trip to the Finger Lakes, where they’d spent an entire weekend “wine tasting”. The photo was taken during this trip, and the icing read “Will you marry me?” on it. I almost laughed. Whatever conversation we had afterwards was fake on my part. Me pretending to be happy for him, while inside I was furious.
In the years following, my brother and I had established our own pact while step brothers and sisters invaded our rooms. It literally felt like two different tribes were habitating the same, rickety old cave. Within two years, he had moved back into our mom’s condo, and I followed a year later. My father had another child with his third wife, and I stuck around for the beginning of her childhood, but I lasted as long as I could. That’s what I tell myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my father as well as my half sister, but I could never honestly say that about the others. The invaders.
There are major chapters in everyone’s life where the courses of their future are changed. Turning points, if you will. When I moved out of my father’s house, that was a pretty big transitional chapter, I guess. I moved out after my Junior year, in the Summer.
It started back then. My brewing anger. But it all came out when my dad found my marijuana stash in my backpack. He was pissed, deservedly, but he overreacted and so did I. He tried to ground me for the Summer. One of my last at home before I went off to college. We both said some things we wish we hadn’t, but after that I was gone. I drove to my mom’s, and came back in a month to collect the stuff I wanted most from my old room.
During the scorching days of July and August, I worked outside at the theme park near us, saving up for food and gas and dates with my girlfriend. Then I moved to the city, and discovered friends that were immediately closer than those from my hometown. We did everything together. Our newfound friend group got me through the tension caused by my girlfriend, still at home. They’d make me laugh and offer me something to smoke after upsetting Facetime calls in the stairwell of the dorms. I’d spend an hour or so listening to her problems, which were becoming more and more benign, then sit in silence for a few minutes before changing back into my usual, personable self. The one that made friends. In the daytime, I’d go to class and spend countless hours in the studios making work.
At the end of my first year at college, I came home in May to see my brother graduate. He was four years older, and commuted to a university and had just completed all the necessary credits for a sociology degree. The day seemed like a conclusion for a lot of things. That’s why I decided to break up with my girlfriend, while I was in town. It was also mother’s day, and the day of her last dance recital. In hindsight, I was a dick for choosing that day to end things, but to be fair, I had spent the previous days trying to get her to come over, since I hadn’t seen her in months, but she was always too busy. Plus, I was never allowed at her place because her father had no idea we were together.
Regardless, that was another milestone that altered my attitude drastically. Once I was single again, and this time unemployed, I spent the days wandering around my mother’s basement, keeping movies playing on Netflix while I kept my drinking and smoking discrete. Although my mother had a much more laissez faire outlook on marijuana, she didn’t like me smoking in the house, and she certainly would not have loved that I drank as much as I did. My brother had his graduation party, and most of my family came (except for my dad and his family, obviously) and I got piss drunk and played Jenga with my grandma. All the while, none of them knew I was hurting inside. I kept a pretty good poker face. Once I was back down in the basement, though, when everyone was asleep and I was alone again, I cried. Then wake up the next day and repeat. Over and over, that Summer was full of heartache and longing and ignorance and depression. I don’t know if I can say that was a turning point, necessarily, but it was undoubtedly my lowest point thus far.
To be continued…