The first time I saw him I was barely out of my toddler years. I was in the park and sitting quietly on the bench waiting for the swings to be free when a boy who seemed about my age came and sat down next to me. He seemed sullen and annoyed under the sun's merciless heat.
I was young and naïve and stupidly intent on making friends than."Who are you?" I had asked.
"Jesse," he answered simply. He was still facing the playground and did not seem like in a mood to hold a conversation.
"Why do you have such weird clothes?" I persisted. he was wearing some sort of white pajamas that looked like something you would go to sleep in. It only accented his pale skin and light eyes making him seem like a spirit. A faded photograph, or a bed sheet tumbled one too many times in the washing machine so all color was faded and just a ghost of it remained.
This time he turned around to face me. "Because those people made me."
I started to ask him who 'those people' were but something about those the blank, impassive look he wore and the vengeful way he spat out those words stopped me. Instead, I invited him to play with me on the now-empty swings. The boy seemed reluctant but accepted.
I guess we had a good time. It was the only childhood memory I recall to be picture perfect. Just two kids playing and laughing together, though one a bit more eager than the other. But it was a memory I would treasure forever.
All too soon it was almost evening and we parted ways. "Come visit me," he muttered, a tad bit shy. "I stay in the white building behind the school."
I nodded. I had recently started school and I knew what white building he was talking about. It had Mental Health In-something written on it, I could not really recall. It seemed like a scary place and I wondered why anyone would want to live there. But when everyone avoided you for no reason and even the person who lived with never spared a moment to talk to you you would be wildly happy that you actually made a friend, won't you?
I had asked my mom to bring me there. She had given me a weird look and said no. It was nearly three years before I picked up my courage to go there by myself and by that time, I knew exactly what kind of people lived there. Not that it stopped me from going and visiting someone I spent just two hours with years ago. I doubted he would still be there anyway.
"Erm… is there a Jesses here?"
"…Eh…he has grey kind of eyes and black hair. About my age…I think."
"Yep that's Jesse Craigley. Are you here for a visit?"
"Here is the room number. Please knock before entering."
I ignored the strange look the secretary was giving me in prospect of finding Jesse. It was kind of unnerving, knowing that he had to spend so much time in the Institution but part of me was glad that I could see him again. If he remembered me anyway.
I knocked on the door.
He was exactly the same as I remembered from before, washed out and lifeless, albeit a bit taller and more mature looking. He gave me the same blank look as before but this time it had a bit more tenderness.
"You know," he said getting up from the desk where he was sitting, "when I asked you to visit me I meant soon, not in…"
"Three years time?" I finished for him. Happiness was bubbling up within me at the realization the he still recognized me.
"Yeah." he smiled.
Now that I think about it, it was kind of weird that we were able to talk to each other so freely even though we were practically strangers. But I guess the bond we made that day was never meant to be broken or forgotten.
The visits grew more and more frequent as I progressed to my teenage years. My mom had longed stopped caring about my general well-being and I was a loner in school. Jesse's room become a refuge of sorts for me, and he would always welcome me.
I enter the room and throw my stuff in a corner. Jesse is on the bed and I sit down next to him.
"How was the entrance exams?" he asks. I knew he would, unlike my own parent.
"Easy as pie."
He gets up and gives me a baffled look. "How is pie easy?"
"Figure of speech~" I groan. It almost slipped my mind that he never had a proper conversation with anyone but me. "Hey Jesse,"
"Not to seem rude or anything but… why are you stuck here? You seem perfectly fine. And where are your family and stuff?" It wasn't the first time I asked but the answer was the same.
"I will tell you…someday."
I told him practically everything, but I took no offence. He was a person of many secrets and by the pained look he gave me every time I asked it didn't take a genius to figure out that he had a broken past.
"Ever been outside before Jesse? Like outside outside?"
After negotiating with the caretaker for sometime I had been able to get permission for Jesse to spend the day with me. Outside. For the first time since the faithful day we met. We were back at the same park where we met, on the bench, facing the swings.
"Yeah, once when I was seven. I snuck out to a park and met an over-eager kid who wanted to be my friend and still is to this day."
"Wait, you mean you haven't been out in nine years? That's loony!"
"Well, what can I say? I live in a loony bin. I am loony." But the voice he says this in sounds pained. Too pained for him to be joking.
"Its weird isn't it?"
I look up from where I was resting my head on his arm. He had grown heaps taller than me, although he was only a year older.
"You know. Me and you. How it all came about." he laughs a little. "Weird"
"You find friendship in unexpected places I guess."
But our 'friendship' soon blossomed into something more. You find love in unexpected
I was seventeen and coping from an unexpected disownment. I guess I should have seen it coming, yet it hits me like a ton of bricks. I have a place to live, scholarship for colleague and a job to support myself but the stress of being alone is all to much.
In a broken state, I go to Jesse. It had been almost two months since I saw him last, and with all the legal issues looming over me it had been impossible to spare an hour or two. I barge in.
Two minutes later I am breaking down into Jesse's arms. He makes an unexpected announcement.
"I'm leaving this place. Okay if I move in with you?"
I blink my teary eyes at him.
"I didn't say this earlier but…I was permitted to leave since I turned eighteen and I already have a steady job working here as a clerk…I just had permission to live here for a year or two to get back on my feet." he smiles down at me due to the fact that I was /still/ a midget compared to him. "So? What do you say?"
This time I'm breaking down into tears of joy. He kisses me.
Its been a year since we moved in together. He snakes an arm around my waist.
"I was put on suicide watch." he starts. I immediately realize what this was about. "I tried killing myself once when I was young. My parents never bothered to deal with my problem so they threw me there."
He pulls me closer. I had no response to his words.
"Don't worry. I'm alright now. Happy. With you."
I hug him fiercely.
"Don't ever leave me."
What goes around, comes around. I should have seen it coming, at that moment. The cycle had repeated itself. I never took the only sign he gave.
Fourteen months after our marriage I am rushed to the hospital and we have a new family member. We name our precious boy Joe.
Never in my life did I imagine myself to be this happy. A beautiful family, with the man I love with all my heart and soul.
One thing in life that is for certain, apart from death, is that happiness comes with a price.
Nobody can truly be entirely happy for their entire life hood, because, that's not how it works. We all, at one point, meet with problems we buried long, long, ago. I met Jesse because he was in a Mental Institute. Because he had something wrong with him. It was a sign, and I never took it.
The bench. All the times we spent together. All the comfort and love he gave me. It has all boiled down to this.
Now, I look at this lifeless body in front of me. Mangled and crushed from an eleven storey fall, bones sticking out and blood pooling around the edges. I shake him, clinging into the scrap of hope that he might wake up.
"J…..J….." I choke back my tears as the ambulance sounds nearby.
Who knew that Jesse's young suicidal tendencies were hereditary, and I would lose my only child, Joe, to it?
Aye...so what do you think? Constructive criticism welcome~