Some of my most vivid memories from my childhood include my cousin Belle. Every time her family would come down and we would meet up at my grandparent's house, you couldn't separate us. At one point or another she and I would always escape and run upstairs into the room that was partially our playroom, partially my grandma's workroom. Back then it seemed like there was so much for us to do back there. Looking back on it now there really wasn't. We just found many different ways to entertain ourselves with what we did have. We could spend hours lost up there between the TV, padded mats, and shelves lined with coloring supplies and board games that I had never even heard of at my age. Lucky for me, Belle was four years older but about 10 years more mature in the mind. Back before I could read well enough to read the instructions, she would help me come up with different ways to play with all the game pieces in a way that we could both comprehend. There was something so special to the little me about the way we played. We could always do the exact same thing, yet it never felt the same. And we never got bored. I can't recall a time when I ever cheated on any of our games, even after I was old enough to play them the correct ways. Though being the quick-witted child that I was, I wouldn't doubt it. For a long time, nobody bothered to tell me Belle was sick. It wasn't until her eyesight started to fade away that I was told about her cancer. It seemed to me like she went completely blind faster than what could really be possible. But thanks to my grandparents smart thinking, we were still able to play one game we both liked with ease. They had glued little pieces of rough fabric to the backsides of the red Connect Four pieces so she could feel the difference that she couldn't see. Even after her eyesight had gone completely we could still go up in that room and share our special bond without making things too difficult for her. But her misfortune did lead to a new ritual. Every time I would announce that one of us had gotten 4 in a row, she would very carefully run her fingers over all the holes and feel for proof. As a kid it always upset me that she never trusted me enough to believe that I wasn't taking advantage of her inability to see. I would watch her fingers move along, her face as still as stone and I would secretly grow pissed off every time up until she would get her proof that I wasn't lying and we could begin a new game. I could never understand why she didn't trust me over something as stupid as a board game, especially since I had never pulled one over on her before she went blind. Over the years I never stopped running into that room every time I visit my grandparents and emptying out the old Connect Four box just to feel the now worn-out fabric covered pieces. The few times that I could convince my sister or cousins to play with me, I would always use Belle's pieces. And when one of us would come to a victory, I would always be reminded of how she never failed to check that there was truly a match... Except for the last time we played. I was 8 and she was about 12 or 13. By that time, she was not only blind but practically deaf too. I can't remember how I got her up into that room or got her to play. But I do remember telling her that whoever had won...and getting no response. She couldn't see me. She couldn't hear me no matter how loud I screamed. I eventually gave up and just sat there in the silence. That one time, she didn't check to make sure I wasn't cheating.

Obviously her post-game tactic made quite an impression on me. I can still remember just about every detail even 10 years after she passed away. And I feel almost stupid that I've let it go this long without stopping to think and come to the realization that Belle had the right idea about trust all along. Mentally, I packed my bags long ago and set out to find what I need from my life. Physically, I'm still living in a downright abusive home. Still wasting my time crying over the countless friends and women who have screwed me over. Falling asleep every night cuddling a tear stained pillow because I can't seem to get that much from the girl I love. Ask anyone and they tell you you gotta trust the people in your life...your parents, your family, your friends. So you build this trust and sometimes if it's strong enough it can withstand a decent amount of crap. But for me, well, I obviously haven't been that lucky lately. It seems like at the hardest part of my life everyone's managed to do nothing but fuck me over in one way or another. And now I realize just what I've been doing wrong. When it comes to the people in my life, I've been in just about the same predicament as Belle was, figuratively of course. I've been unable to see or to hear all the bull shit people have strung through my head. But unlike her, I gave in to these obstacles. I just kept trusting everyone that they would take care of me and always do the right thing. Just like you're always taught to do. But really, Belle had the right idea. She always tested me, even though she probably knew she could trust me. She never took the chance for anything otherwise up until she physically couldn't anymore. She refused to be defeated by anyone. Unlike me, a worn out wreck buried under the stress of all the lies and misconceptions that have been piled on me and finally broke...she was always there waiting and ready to be sure that nobody took advantage of her during her worst times. Just in case.