Crazy Looks Like Me, Crazy Looks Like You

It’s raining sheets, like unfolded plastic wrap falling from the sky. The clouds overhead are not dismally gray or black, nor are they white and cheerful, they are just the background for the rain, a neutral color of uncertainty.
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My younger sister, Shelly, sat at the kitchen table in the dining room, alone, her head down, her eyes unfocused. She had a tiny silver spoon in her hand and she was stirring her coffee, over and over again. I don’t think she even realized she was still doing it. I said “Good Morning” to her but she never answered.” She wouldn’t speak to any of us.

 

Shelly was wearing her same  blue striped pajama bottoms, the dingy white tee-shirt and a pair of thick, pink socks. She hadn’t brushed her hair, it seemed, for weeks. She wanted to just stay in bed and be alone, the only thing she would say was “I’m not crazy, do you think I’m crazy, because I’m not.” I bit my lip.

I wasn’t trying to be mean, honestly, but I had begged her to see a therapist and our parents forced to talk to someone and she went with them once, kicking and screaming the entire time. She never even went inside.

 

 

I didn’t know what to do, but I did know that this was not helping her. Staying in bed all day, getting up only for coffee or her one meal, a bologna and cheese sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise  that our mom would leave her in the fridge. Shelly told all of us “it was none of our business” but of course it was our business, we loved her and hated seeing her fall apart, a little more each day.

I didn’t know how long I could take looking at the shell that was my little sister, curled up in bed with the light off and no life coming from that room. She slept all the time. Once, I started playing music in my room, music I loved and thought she loved too. I thought she might enjoy it but she screamed and moaned for me to turn it off in such a violent, out of control way, that my parents immediately came and scolded me, they turned my music off. It was upsetting Shelly.

She needed help, she desperately needed help, she was getting worse and my parents and I couldn’t handle her anymore. Now, she was not sleeping at all and roaming our apartment at all hours demanding attention. I had a full-time job as a Customer Service Representative and I was already in trouble for missing too many “sick” days. Our parents were older and not in good physical shape and our little brother, Josh, was just eight, a mere baby himself and, of course, troubled and confused.

For a week we whispered among ourselves to arrange for an intervention, we knew something had to be done.  Time moved quickly, it was 4 pm on Tuesday and the day had come. I sat in the corner, biting my nails. I wanted my sister to get better but I did not want to be part of the intervention. My parents made me so II also felt like an accomplice and hated that feeling. I hated being in the middle of everyone.

We were all assembled in the living room, Shelly was in her room, sleeping. The people from Edgehill Hospital were waiting right out side the door. They decided that our dad should approach Shelly gently by first calling her name and asking her to come out of her room. She refused.”I’m tired” she murmured.”Maybe later.” After several more attempts and being exasperated, our dad asked her to come out again but I could hear the strain in his voice… Finally, in a fit of rage, he broke the door down, and started yelling at her. He screamed for a couple of minutes, his patience worn and suddenly stopped to find Shelly on the bed, still, not breathing, and cold. He called 911 immediately but we knew she was gone.

She died from an overdose of pills that she had accumulated for many years. We found two empty bottles of alcohol on the floor next to her bed. The note that she scribbled with a purple pen said this: ” I hate my life, it’s all black an” that was the end. She couldn’t even finish the sentence about her young life.

No one could speak after the initial gasp of horror, we each sat in our own corner, after the ambulance came and pronounced her dead. No one  spoke to each another, harboring our own guilt, our own excuse, our own irresponsible part we had in Shelly’s life.

All of us thought we killed her. I know I did, for sure.

 

 

 

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A Perfect Fit (By MSC)

hold my hand

hold my hand (Photo credit: Adam Foster | Codefor)

1)

Had there ever been a time when there was so much debris and clutter you couldn’t face it anymore? He swept it away violently from the table and left nothing, just some fractured blue glass, a bottle of ketchup and some wooden napkin holders. He insisted he was not a violent man.

“Clearing the chambers of my mind,” he called it.

He looked over his right shoulder and saw madness eclipsed in a minute: a bright plastic orange bowl holding half-eaten yellow sucking candy, an empty bottle of diet Snapple tea lying on its side, their garish red toothpaste stuck in their cracked sink, without its cap, like cement.

Books in uneven stacks that she had no interest in reading.

She refused to look at them, refused to try to see if she liked them, he bought each one of them for her, knowing she used to love to read.

Before.

It was maddening.

Her fear grew, you could smell it, raunchy, like a nasty bacterial bug spreading to all four corners of the room.

I watched her from the bed and saw her stomach clenched with tension, twinges of limbs of trees gnawing as if they grew inside her and were struggling to get out.

“Yes,” I said, to her two best friends, “” I am the infamous Jeffrey”.

 

“Do you think she settle down on her own or will she need the help of those pills?” the one with the blonde hair, Katie, asked?

One, of the hundreds and hundreds of pills, she keeps in the fake wooden drawers.

I knew better not to answer. I just shrugged my shoulders.

 

This was her life now with Jeffrey.

It had been this way now for three years.

Waiting, with him, at home, with no structure, wanting change, fearing it.

She was terrified with no reason because of no reason.

She loved him, she hated him just as much.

A double life sword. Get it?

 

It used to be very different. I used to be very different, she would say in her mind.

I was braver but also weaker, yin and yang.

But our hands still fit, perfectly, she thought. That’s gotta mean something…

The psychiatrist nods her mop of red hair knowingly but she doesn’t look convinced.

I don’t have happy memories anymore or bad ones she said. I don’t play that game anymore.

It is becoming increasingly painful.

Do I need out or in?

I’ve been in so long that it’s like being at home.

I know that when I go out, I can see the speckled orange and red leaves in the waving branches beckoning me closer.

Still, I hesitate.

Why? Physically,  emotionally? Both?

It’s hard sometimes to separate.

……….

 

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FWF Kellie Elmore

“We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.” — Louise Erdrich, TracksPain Teens (album)

I was weary, weak beyond anyone’s mind could see. It wasn’t just my physical pain that had failed me, I was used to pain. It stayed with me like a shadow every day and night of my life. This was different, this was emotional, mind pain that wrapped itself around my neck and pulled tight. I knew I could breathe but I felt like I couldn’t, like some evil demon was choking me, I could practically see inside myself, red, raw lines around my throat from the choke marks. This would be my undoing. I hoped it was.

I knew I couldn’t fight and the hysteria that I felt came bubbling up like a spring on a hot, dry day. I was out of control, lots of pills, lots of pills. Weed too. I could see the water but I couldn’t taste it or feel it. As much as I knew that logically, it didn’t prevent me from continually trying, again, the pain getting deeper, the vice holding my throat deepening every second. I was only thirteen but I had lived a thousand years already, I wanted to die, I was not scared of death. That was not a fear I had.

I knew what I was up against, I already had been living on the streets my whole life. It didn’t matter. No pills I bought from the street, that I dry swallowed, could lessen that inside feeling of feeling out of control. It was a horrible feeling, so I tried more pills, pink, blue, white, lots of colors. Like in a magazine, little pretty children wandering alone, not being able to find their mother in the middle of a busy city, constantly calling out, yet nobody would answer them. They were lost but not found. It did not have a happy ending. All these children could do was cry and be afraid and the story would finish just the way it started. I knew better than that. I kept popping more pills, nothing was happening to me. Yet.

Sometimes that’s the way the world works. Not everything gets tied up perfectly with a pink, lace ribbon, curled on the ends. Not everyone is a tiny ballerina on stage, showered with perfect red roses after a performance on their pointed pink ballet shoes. No, that was for dreamers and I was no dreamer. That was for people, the very tiny amount of people that lived in the rich life I never came in contact with but I heard about or read about it. My mother was a junkie, she lived on the streets, sometimes but not with me, no. I saw my mom who I called “Destiny” shooting up heroin in a corner, on a street. We didn’t say hello to each other. Usually she was so out of it she wouldn’t know me. When I recognized her, I pretended I didn’t. Me, popping pills, her doing heroin.

I was a street child, a crazy one at that. I lived here and there, whatever place I decided was mine for the night. The only name my mother ever called me was “gutter-child.” That’s the only name I knew.

FWF Kellie Elmore: B Is For Bum

English: Three drug addicts seen smoking a hug...

English: Three drug addicts seen smoking a huge amount of crack cocaine, in a downtown eastside alley, in Vancouver BC Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“When you get into a tight place you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Bitches,” Anna growled underneath her breath, what the fuck do they know? These stupid clichéd words were written on a huge, dumb banner in bright red, thick letters right when you walked into the room. A bare room with folding chairs, a typical support group, she was there for what they called “Substance Abuse.” Yeah, you know, weed, coke, meth, snow, uppers and downers and whatever shit she could find to snort up her nose or inject into her spidery veins.

She had gone to court appointed meetings from jail, not like she had a choice, she had gotten busted, “possession of illegal drugs.” Big deal. She only had two more “meetings” to go to get her out of prison and then she would be free. These fools knew nothing. They didn’t even know that right here in the audience she was high.  Hopefully, if she was careful, she could score coke after the meeting but that was tricky.

What did these rich, entitled “group leaders” know about suffering and pain? They stood up there beaming, wearing their matching navy skirts and blazers and talking to us like we were a lower species. Oh sure, they said they had gone through the program too. Really? Maybe they used coke twice or three times at a party  and got busted or hooked and their CFO husbands had found out so they went to some private, fancy, swimming pool facility in a secluded area in the Berkshires or San Diego where it is warm.

They were probably in for  two weeks, paid the fine and out. Simple, easy, if you have money and a really good lawyer. That stupid banner was not for people like me, it was for people like them. Didn’t they get it? The world is divided into those who have and those who have not. My wicked step-mother is one of those kind of people, she lives in the land of entitlement, in a suburb in a big mansion, except there’s no room for her stepdaughter, you know, me the drug addict.

She and my daddy can have five martinis plus and smoke cigarettes but I’m not allowed to sleepover, damn hypocrites with their “own” children now. You know what? You don’t always learn when you are “in a tight place.” Got that? It’s not FOR everyone.  Me? I’ve been pushed into a lot of tight places in my life, gray, dusty, tiny, urine smelling corners and what did I learn? I learned to get out of that space and find another. That’s it. Some people like tiny spaces, especially those whose daddy don’t love them any more.

There you have it twinkle-toes. “Tides don’t always turn” and maybe I don’t want  this tide to turn. Face it, my daddy and I used to be so close, and now he doesn’t even talk to me. She made him like that, I know it. He doesn’t want anything to do with me now, the wicked witch of the north changed him and now I’m trash. So, you see that corner I’m in? Once I get out, I’m hitching a ride to NYC, to live in the streets with my fellow bums, to get drunk every single day with beer and cheap box wine and at night score drugs until I’m dead and gone. You think I want to be alive? Hell no.

When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/harrietbee126390.html#CjQDWIeOXQhWKejR.99

When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/harrietbee126390.html#CjQDWIeOXQhWKejR.99

UPDATE: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Fibromyalgia, 2011

Various pills

Image via Wikipedia

I look back at the wistful essays I wrote in the past about this disease combination that I have. What strikes me now is the hope and innocence that I had back then. I thought if I could be on just the RIGHT medication, my life would go back to “normal.” I know now that normal is just a word and a dream. I’ve had these illnesses  for over four years, with three different doctors and probably over 15 drugs in some combination or other.

I don’t know when I finally accepted emotionally that none of these drugs would make me feel so much better but it wasn’t that long ago. I’ve accepted that I have the limitations that I do: the muscle aches and pains, joint pain, constant leg pain (I don’t know WHAT that is from), the occasional bout with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the fatigue, forgetfulness, weird sleep patterns and just about every other symptom that I could have at any given time. I’ve come to a point where even if I am not sure it is Fibro-related, I just assume it is.

Sometimes I need to clutch the banister going up and down the stairs, sometimes I don’t. There is NO pattern; it depends on the day, the hour, sometimes mere minutes. How can we be expected to remember all these changes that happen at any given time? I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night. I go into a room to find something and forget what I am looking for.

Somewhere along the line, I gave up and gave in to this mystery disease. There were times when I even questioned if I had the disease, although I know I do now. The stiffness in my back, and in my shoulders should have convinced me but I used to blame the  brown overstuffed pillow.  The feeling of helplessness is legendary yet the one good feeling is the support from other Fibromyalgia sufferers.

I am now on Savella, Plaquannel, and Tramadol but I am sure that it will change soon. Am I better than before? It’s hard to judge since this illness is so inconsistent. From one Rheumatologist appointment to the next things may feel different but on the pain scale, that I am beginning to despise, there’s never a lower number.  I don’t want the “big guns” of medication again, I have been there, done that, and landed in the hospital overnight. With permanent Fibro-Fog I can’t remember how I felt eight weeks ago; it all gets jumbled up in my mind.. Better? No. Worse? Not really. Pain? Absolutely. Stamina? None. Forgetfulness? Always. Our short-term memory has been stolen from us.

It’s not that I have given up (maybe it is) but I’ve accepted that this illness is not going anywhere anytime soon and most probably there will never be a cure. The feminist in me thinks that if this was happening predominantly to men, there would be more research, more sympathy and certainly, more recognition and credibility.

I go on college tours with my daughter and son and I sit through the information sessions but when they go on the tour, I find a chair and sit alone for ninety minutes. I could barely get to the information session because we had to walk five blocks but going on the tour is absolutely impossible. Only people with Fibromyalgia  know how this feels. Any other physical handicap gives you sympathy and an unspoken pass but this chronic disease is invisible. I feel bad, guilty,  and think I am a disappointment to my children and my husband. This is real life and as much as I know I can’t help it, there is still part of me that is crying inside, alone.

We Didn’t Ask For This (FIBROMYALGIA)

27/365: fractured reality/grace under pain

As a Fibromyalgia patient I need to explain a few things that the general public doesn’t understand. Actually, there are things that WE don’t understand but we are clear on one thing. This is NOT in our heads. Whatever crack pot thought that one up was clearly not a pain sufferer. We didn’t ask for this disease that makes us  live in a state of chronic pain.  Believe me, no person would want this every single day of their lives, no person would choose this.  We live our lives on the edge of our seats for two reasons: 1) because sitting one place for more than three minutes will hurt and 2) we can’t make plans ahead of time because we don’t know how we will feel on any given day.  People ask me to do things and I always use the same line: “Let me see how I feel.” Of course I have said it over and over again but people who are not patients tend to forget.

Which reminds me: forgetting things, we start to speak and stop, we go upstairs to get something and then not remember what we are looking for.  No, we are not feeble-minded, nor are we crazy, old, senile or menopausal. (Ok, we could be a mixture of things) There is something called FIBRO FOG which makes us forget, makes us as cloudy as fog rolling in to San Francisco. It is not our fault. Do you think I like looking like an absolute fool? Don’t you think it stings when my children say “I just told you that”or “Mom, I’ve told you that story 100 times.” I’m sure you did but “Fibro-Haze” got to me once again. I honestly don’t remember the last time I had a totally lucid conversation. I seem to drift half-way through. My husband recommended that I take stimulants, the pills given to people with ADHD. Thanks, but I’m on a lot of medications (that don’t help) as it is. Please don’t play doctor, you can’t imagine how many people do that to us. We know you mean well, it just doesn’t help.

If patients, had wanted this stubborn illness our homes would be filled with Fibro-Friendly items. We would all have an in-house masseuse. The refrigerator would be filled with our favorite soft foods,  soup, pasta, cheesecake with an apricot glaze, soft and chewy brownies that won’t activate our TMJ. We would all have extra-king size beds so we don’t have to bump into our partners in the middle of the night. Hair stylists would fluff out our thinning hair to make us feel better about ourselves. Our bedrooms would be equipped with huge 3D, High Definition television sets, the exact height that is comfortable for us so we don’t strain our already tense and knotted necks and shoulders. All houses would come with nurses and aides, to drive us, do the laundry, cook dinner and attend to our every need.  Our medicine cabinets would be filled with newly invented “Miracle-Meds”, an innovative medication that actually helps and relieves all of the pain. Not cocktails of useless pills that don’t do anything except make our stomachs, and IBS,  feel all sorts of crazy weird.

Chronic pain, with no relief is horrible. Please don’t talk to us like we are  psychologically challenged. There is nothing wrong with us except that we hurt. We hurt constantly with no relief. We have pain that is relentless, pain that is constant, pain that we have no choice but to accept it in our daily lives. We also don’t want your sympathy, but we would love your understanding.

The Lost Souls

I can’t stand the pain anymore;  I just can’t take it another second. I am having a hard time accepting that this is my life. I am not coping well today; I am not coping at all. Another day of stomach pain and too much sleep, no energy and endless trips to the bathroom, not leaving my home. Is it my long-lost enemy IBS revisiting me? Is it the side effect of the Cellcept that I am taking for my auto-immune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? I don’t know, I really don’t know. I could easily start crying now, I just don’t know if I could stop.

I don’t know what to do and I hate that feeling, I feel powerless. I have no energy to fight or to make any medical decisions, minute or radical. I don’t have the strength or state of mind to start going to doctors anymore, again. What if I do nothing? Stop the medications and live like that? I’m scared. The medicine is supposed to be making me feel better and in some ways it does, except for the horrible side effects. Unless it’s a virus….See? There’s no way of knowing and I feel helpless, truly helpless.

People try to be nice, “Hang in there!!!” they write or say with heartfelt warmth. No. I can’t. I just can’t do it anymore. I’ve been pushed beyond my limit and I don’t know if there is a way to pull me back on board without me kicking my legs, punching fists in the air. I refrain myself from starting to scream obscenities like an absolute crazy person. I take an orange pill for anxiety, I drink a cup of ginger tea from a yellow ceramic mug. I droop.

It is clear I can’t continue to live my life this way. I’ve seen more doctors than I would like to see in a lifetime. Friends and relatives  yell out well-meaning ideas: homeopathy, acupuncture, massage?  There’s a doctor in Massachusetts, in Israel, two towns away? Try gluten-free, try vitamins, go to Dr. Weill, to this woman we’ve heard about in Brazil, how about the Mayo clinic for a minimum of $50,000 dollars and no guarantee?

I don’t want to talk about this, I don’t even want to write about it anymore except for the other “friends” who have painful and annoying chronic illnesses like me. They understand, they are the only ones who understand what it is like to live hour by hour. It’s not life-threatening, true, so we don’t get much sympathy but we have no lives to speak of.  What about us? The lost souls that linger in our beds, hoping for a surge of energy, a sign of life?  We are not part of the statistics because really, who knows about us? Who cares?   We are not in hospitals or reporting ourselves to the CDC.  We are not checking in to one specialty hospital because they don’t exist. We have symptoms all over the map, we are not just one disease. There are many, many of us who are unhappy, who are fighting each and every day ; we feel sorry for each other, because only we can understand the struggle, the fight, the emotional and physical pain that live with us just about every, single day.

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The Door Between Madness And Sun (Fiction)

No matter what people tell you, once you have the label you’re stuck with it. You can’t ever lose it. I see it on my parents’ wrinkled faces and a few of my old friends from grade school.  It’s attached to you like one of those mechanic bracelets or anklets they use for drug and alcohol addiction, except it’s invisible. You’ll always be the family with the daughter who committed suicide, or the brother whose sister died when she was five or the husband whose wife had a stroke at 35. It’s a well-known fact although people say it in supposedly hushed voices. There’s nothing hushed about it, whether they speak it or shout it or think it. That’s forever and for that I am sorry. Really.

My name is Lindsay and I’m 18 years old. I had been best friends with Kaitlyn for many years when we were younger, we grew up together you could say.  Things changed a lot when we both started high school and we just grew apart. I guess if I am honest I grew apart from her.  Kaitlyn didn’t know what to do, she used to kind of hang around me but we had nothing to say to each other anymore. I felt bad about it but mostly I just wanted to forget the past and move on to the future. If she couldn’t handle it, it really wasn’t my fault. She couldn’t figure out that I had grown up and changed and I didn’t want to explain it to her, that seemed so lame.  I started liking cooler kids that were different, but she just didn’t get it and wouldn’t leave me alone.  I heard her tell people I was weird.  I heard her tell everyone I was a freak; not a really nice thing to say about an old friend.

Kaitlyn knew I had tried drugs and alcohol a few times but I never went into details with her, it was none of her business. I was a senior now and wanted to feel free and grown-up; I deserved it. I started to steal things and someone would ask about all these new items, I lied and told people they were presents. Well, in a way they were, they were presents from me to me. I couldn’t deal with all the questions and my old friends couldn’t handle it. I had moved on but they hadn’t and that was fine with me.

After awhile people looked the other way when I was around and I was glad.  Once at a school talent show I threw my pack of cigarettes across the room just for attention; people literally freaked out. So I flirted with guys and played around; big deal. All my old friends were just so immature. People talked about my drug use; I admit I used cocaine, pot, pills and yeah, I tried acid but only once.  If I hadn’t gotten so wrecked that one time and had to call one of my old friends to pick me up at a party one night because I couldn’t find my car, no one would never have known. But, of course the little snitch that picked me up told that story to anyone and everyone she knew.  Bitch.

I know my  parents were worried but really, I was fine. They even called the police on me, imagine calling the police on your own daughter.  I told them that I was just a normal teenager doing teenage things but they would cry and scream and yell at me all the time. It got so bad that I learned how to tune them out and when they yelled I couldn’t even hear them anymore; I became numb. Numb felt good because it didn’t feel like anything.

The night I did it, I watched Kaitlyn go to sleep in the big queen bed we used to share on sleepovers. She lay in her room with while outside the snow and sleet pounded to the ground. She had curled up in her bed, I remember she used to be scared of storms and wind.  She still slept in her old room that she never bothered to update with posters or good make-up;  she liked things just the way they were. It was like we were still seven years old, her pink room filled with old stuffed animals and those fuzzy pink heart pillows; she could never throw anything away.

I saw my dad calling Kaitlyn’s mom, her mom picked up the phone and started to cry. I never thought that would happen. That morning at 6am I saw Katie’s mom walk quietly to Katie’s room, it was like looking at her walk in slow motion. She tiptoed into Katie’s room and sit on her bed for a long time.  I saw the shadow of her mother peering from the dark room before Kaitlyn even sat up. Her mom’s body was outlined against the blazing orange hall light as if she had been outlined in a crime scene. Katie started to stir and was surprised when her mother was sitting next to her, she was confused. “Katie, honey,” her mother said ” I have really bad news” and I saw Kaitlyn’s whole body freeze with fear. I knew she was thinking about her father, her brother in college, her grandmother and grandfather. She didn’t even think about me for one second. So when her mom said ” it’s about Lindsay” she had no idea what was going on. Katie’s mom continued” ” I just got a call from Lindsay’s dad and Lindsay……..Lindsay is dead, honey. She committed suicide, I am so sorry.”

Kaitlyn was absolutely still for a few minutes, she didn’t move and then she started shrieking and screaming “No, No, No” over and over again. My dad’s terse message didn’t help you know, he could have been gentler.  How was Katie supposed to react? He just said that he had seen me take some drugs that I was nervous and mad and I had been crying.  He thought I was asleep but I wasn’t, it was time, long overdue and I had to get out. I had been in so much pain that I had to go, had to get rid of all those bad feelings that would never leave me alone, so I did it.

All Kaitlyn had to do is ask the question in her eyes, because she could not find the words, and her mother answered slowly “she hung herself.”

I watched Kaitlyn, crying,  laying on her bed.  I didn’t think she would care that much; we hadn’t been friends in years. I saw her stare at the ceiling and she rocked herself back and forth like she would do, when she was little and when she was really scared. I saw the morning light, the early sun, creep into her room and stop on her face; she was very, very pale. She had put on the friendship bracelet which we made for each other years ago. I’m sorry,  I didn’t know what to do, honest, it felt like the best way out. For me. I had to go. I really did love you, I just hated myself.

I slipped out of her room and disappeared into the night air. It was snowing and was very cold, but I felt nothing and that was good.