I was talking to someone the other night, who brought up the kind of stories and such I write about. How the stories I write are upbeat, and end on a positive note.
It made me laugh a little, and then it made me think.
Sometimes there are things that are less than wonderful that I want to talk about, but those things are hard coming. It's not exactly finding how I want to begin, but more the fact that those stories aren't always centered around me, and there are nuances that I want to explain, people that I can't write about, because sometimes words can't explain what a huge difference they've made in my life.
Sometimes the story goes untold for lack of an understanding ear. The most important things are the hardest to write. Not because the story is hard, but giving that person the beauty and truth that they possess is difficult to capture. Anything less would be shitting on their memory.
One of the things that comes to me most on days like today, when it's raining, when old memories creep in, no matter how many times you banish them, is remembering Levine. The car accident. The one incident that was probably the best, and one of the worst things in my memory. In my life.
Levine and I just sort of happened. If you put him in a lineup with a dozen other men wearing khaki's and polo shirts, I could probably pick him out. Probably.
He wasn't horrible, and he wasn't great. He was available, and I was lonely. He was a habit that was hard to break, and I wasn't feeling particularly strong.
The result of that relationship, and the things that followed were caused by my actions. The things that followed were caused by my decisions. I want to stress that. The ultimate outcome of all that was my decision to just say 'fuck it'. Just one bad decision following another. Like dominoes falling, a chain of events that spiralled into a car crash.
That part of it is something that doesn't leave my memory much. I remember the road in front of us, it was night time, and the road was one solid sheet of blacktop. Occasionally, the headlights of another car would meet us, but mostly we were alone on that stretch of blacktop.
The most horrible part of it was watching that blacktop fade into grass, grass fading into fence, and realizing that the truck was no longer a machine that would eat distance on the way to a location, defeating the miles on a map. It became a jury, deciding the fate of those inside.
I don't remember the actual crash itself. Mercifully, that is wiped from my memory. It's just blackness.
The next thing I do remember is Levine shouting at me, then pulling me out of the remains of the truck.
Glass everywhere, but we were both alive.
It was the middle of nowhere, I was taken taken to ICU, he was treated and released. I floated somewhere between the blackness behind my eyelids, and the overhead lights of my room.
He chose this time to leave me at the hospital, and not look back.
It hurts to write that, more than I thought it would. Not losing him, but being left.
I remember how it seemed that not even a minute passed. Memory stacked up on top of memory until I wanted to escape my own mind. I wanted to scream, to rage, to escape. Anything but thinking.
Instead, I met Brandon.
I remember the first thing I noticed was his eyes. Soft, brown, shy. Like him. When his eyes met mine, his shy smile made me answer with a smile of my own.
He brushed the hair out of his face, and sat down next to me. We didn't say much, exchanged a few pleasantries, then I went back to my room.
Later that day, we ended up talking. He told me about his girlfriend, the love of his life. I remember seeing his face light up at the mention of her name, how he made it something beautiful, the way he savored it. It made me wonder how that felt on the inside, to love someone so much you could make their name beautiful, simply by saying it out loud.
Over the next day or so, we came to know each other very well. He told me about Beth, I told him about Levine.
By this time, I hardly noticed the stitches on his wrist, which at first looked accusing, and tore at my heart in a way that made me want to hug his fragile self to me, to take away every hurt, every unkind word, every bad memory.
On this particular day, I told him about something that I had found in my room earlier. Something small, but a beginning.
I had found a ladybug. Doesn't sound like much, does it?
Well, it was winter. And in a hospital, on the 8th floor. So, finding a ladybug seemed like a very big deal to me.
When I told him, his eyes lit up. He immediately understood what that meant to me. Hope.
I told him how I imagined that one small ladybug finding its way along corridors, maybe the cuffs of someone's pants, wandering down the hall, until it found me sitting and staring out a window with nothing in my hands, and a hole in my heart.
And it just sort of wandered into that empty place, and gave hope a place to grow.
I told him all this, and looked at him with tears in my eyes. I wasn't ashamed of them, because when I looked at him, he had tears of his own.
The very next day was my birthday. My brother was coming to pick me up. As I sat beside my window, I remembered my mom telling me how when I was born, and she first held me in her arms, that the moment was so beautiful, so perfect, and how she wished for it to snow. And it did. As she held me in her arms for the very first time, thick perfect flakes of snow fell outside the window.
I've had a lot of birthdays since, and hadn't remembered it snowing on my day. As I sat in front of that window, I prayed for a second chance.
I prayed that this time I would get it right, that I could make things right with myself. With my family. With my life.
As I opened my eyes, and looked outside, I saw thick, perfect flakes of snow slowly falling past my window.
I felt tears falling out of my eyes, even as I grinned. I sat there a moment longer, until one of the nurses told me my brother was there to pick me up.
As I walked down the hall, I stopped to say goodbye to Brandon. He stopped me, gave me a picture he'd drawn of me. I was amazed. Somehow, the pencil lines he'd created made me beautiful. I hugged him to me, hard. I whispered to him not to give up. To hope. To dream.
With tears in his eyes, he handed me something else. It was wrapped in a napkin, and he told me to open it when I was downstairs.
As soon as I'd picked up the money I'd had on me, and a few other things, it was time to leave. I followed my brother to his car. As we loaded up my things, I looked into the napkin. Inside, was the ladybug. I will always believe that it was the same ladybug I found that first time.
That was one of the few times my heart has almost broken from happiness. That was all it took, that gesture from Brandon, to make me believe in the goodness that is in all of us.
He wasn't afraid to reach out to me. What he did, what he had the courage to do, forever changed my perception of what is possible, if only you have the courage to hold out your hand to someone else.
It may not seem like much, but when you offer someone hope, you offer them the chance at a new beginning, whether you realize it or not.
Brandon, where ever you are, I hope all your dreams come true. You were the person who gave me hope, when I had none. You reached out for my hand, and touched my heart. I still think about you everytime I see a ladybug. And I still hope.
(When I checked that same napkin later, the ladybug was gone. Her work was done with me. I bet she found someone else to bring happiness to.)