Coming Up Close and A Sort of Homecoming

 

The last three weeks have been a bit rough with my mother. Not only did she tell me I was dead to her, she has sent two unpleasant letters, a nasty email, threatened to throw away some items from my dad’s side of the family, and told my sisters about my radiation. Needless to say, I didn’t wish her a happy mother’s day.

These songs remind me of a friend I made my junior year of high school, Lisa. She moved to my hometown at the start of our junior year. We had English class together. We didn’t become friends until halfway through the school year when somehow we started talking about things. We started hanging out on weekends. I will never forget hanging out at my house, drinking, and listening to music. We realized that Coming up Close was our favorite song on the album, Voices Carry, by Til’ Tuesday. It was not as popular as the title track so that made Lisa seem extra cool. It was that evening that I also shared with someone how I felt about my mother. I had told other friends but they had solid relationships with their mothers. Lisa was like me. She also had a difficult mother. We used to joke that our mothers were separated at birth. Lisa and I also shared a history of major depression. We quickly became best friends.

The remainder of my junior year was difficult. I drank almost everyday before school, sometimes during school, and usually in the evenings. At one point, I was caught by my parents because a friend’s parent called my parents to tell them of my drinking. After I left for school the next day, they searched my room and found a lot of booze. I was hauled off to a therapist the next day. Lisa and I developed a close relationship with our English teacher, Linda. Actually, I developed the close relationship with Linda but Lisa helped facilitate the closeness. She went to Linda because she was concerned about me. Linda reached out to me so I started hanging out in her classroom during her free hour that coincided with my study hall hour. I am not exaggerating when I say that Linda was the first person to save my life. She was the first adult to show an interest in me. She was a mother figure to me. I wanted someone like her to be my mother. She gave advice. She offered distractions by allowing me a place to come hide for an hour each day. What she didn’t realize was that Lisa and I were in a horrible place. For the first time, I found a friend who didn’t judge me for my suicidal thoughts. Both of us had a very dark sense of humor that led to me driving recklessly because what did it really matter if we crashed and died. We were sixteen and thought we would never live to the age of eighteen.

At some point, we decided to kill ourselves through a suicidal pact. We made plans. I remember sitting in study hall with Lisa as we wrote notes to different people. But I made the mistake (?) of telling Linda about our plans. Obviously, she freaked out. After school that day, I had to see my therapist who was thirty miles away. I told him what was happening. I told him why I wanted to do it because there was an upcoming event that led to my thoughts. I told him that Linda knew. He told me that he would call my parents and allow me to back out of the event. By the time I returned home, he talked to my parents. They had also received a call from the school guidance counselor who heard from Linda about our plans. My mom verbally attacked me. The therapist verbally attacked me on the phone. It was one of the worst moments of my life. I talked to Lisa that night on the phone and told her what was going on. While I was talking to her, she was attempting an overdose. I didn’t know it.

The next day she didn’t show up at school. Linda and I were both concerned when English class started and she wasn’t there. Linda sent me down to the guidance counselor to find out what was going on. I called Lisa and her dad told me she was in the hospital. It wasn’t our plan. We were going the carbon monoxide route. I didn’t follow through with an attempt because I had everyone watching me.

Everything changed after that day. Lisa and I remained friends but we were never as close. My parents didn’t approve of her so it was always hard to get time with her. She started a job, met a guy, and got pregnant at the very end of our senior year of high school. I had started to back away at the beginning of our senior year because I knew I couldn’t continue drinking before school. The year after high school I went to the community college while she worked and raised her baby with a husband. We hung out every now and then. She visited me when I went to the University of Kansas. We kept in touch off and on over the years. She is now happily married to someone else with some great kids.

The situation with Linda ended horribly. My parents asked her to stop talking to me. She was probably relieved because she was a recently divorced single mom who was trying to get back on her feet. She had two students try and die on her. I can honestly say her withdrawal fucked me up for years. It devastated me. She was the first adult I had trusted and she just walked away. It wasn’t until a year later that I suspected my parent’s involvement based on something she said. I used to search through all of their belongings trying to find some sort of evidence that they had contacted her. Five years after this happened, I even searched my dad’s office for any scrap of paper. Two years after this happened, I went back to the therapist just to find out the truth. He told me the teacher was in over her head. I am sure it is true, especially since I now have the perspective of time. But, she did save my life. I know that if I hadn’t trusted her, I never would have told her of our plans. I know we would have succeeded with the carbon monoxide plan.

In 1997 I came out to my mom. My dad had already passed away. She was normal about the whole thing. She didn’t ask a lot of questions until a few months after I told her. We were in Florida at a nice restaurant. She started asking me questions about coming out. She said that along with my dad they had always suspected I was a lesbian. I said that would have been nice to know since I hadn’t figured it out until much later. She said they suspected when I became too attached to Linda. It was when I knew for sure they had told her to stop talking to me. Sure there might have been a part of them that was worried about a teacher’s involvement as someone not professionally trained to deal with two suicidal girls but I knew at that moment that for my mom it was because of jealousy. I had an attachment on someone who wasn’t her. She turned it into something sexual because she didn’t want to admit I trusted someone more than her. Honestly, I never forgave my parents for what they did. It took me too many years to trust people after that junior year with Linda.

Even after all of this time, I think of that time with some nostalgia. Lisa and I used to drive around blaring “A Sort of Homecoming” (one of my top ten favorite songs) and singing at the top of our lungs. It was a cathartic song for us because I think we could scream along. The beauty of the whole thing is I gained a friend who was the first person to understand my dark side without any judgment. I still think about Linda. She is still teaching. I know I would do anything for her just based on that one year of my life.

Lisa and I still remember April 22 as the day when things changed. It is an anniversary I celebrate. What I celebrate I am not sure. I think about a day when I could have died. A day when I first experienced a major loss (Linda). A day when I hardened a little as a person.

 

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