Author's Note: It's been a while since I've even considered writing something outside of Fan Fiction, but when I get inspired, I go for it.
I am not a punching bag.
It all started with a text message months ago. It was the kind of message people warned me about, but I never thought it would really happen to me. No one ever thinks this kind of stuff would happen to them.
Except this boy. But that was his problem.
All I remember from the text message was "I cut myself". My heart froze in my chest.
"On purpose?" I asked him. His response was yes. He was in pain. So I drove to him. I dropped everything I was doing to find him. He was at work. I walked with him outside to the back of the parking lot. He couldn't even make it all the way without breaking down into tears. I have never seen someone so broken before. I knew he needed to let it all out.
"No judgments," I told him. "Say whatever you want. Whatever you're feeling just let it out. I'm not here to judge you."
So he ranted, using words I never expected to hear. Words I dare not repeat. They were offensive, derogatory, and hurtful. But he needed to get them out. He needed to let go of some of the pain and anger he was holding on to.
I got him to the back of the parking lot. There was a picnic bench. Usually, the smokers would hang out there on their break, but right now, we needed the privacy. I sat him down.
That was when he dropped the next bomb.
"I walked by a bridge. I considered jumping."
I panicked, though I tried not to let it show. I'm not trained to handle these problems. But right now, I'm the only one he's got.
"You're thinking of killing yourself? Why?"
It was a bit of a stupid question. He's hurt. He's miserable. He had just broken up with a girl he was madly in love with. She didn't treat him right. I called it emotional abuse. He deserved better. But that's the thing: people who are broken, they don't see it that way.
"I've got nothing to live for. My life sucks," was his answer to my stupid question, but it did reveal something to me. He was serious. He had seriously considered suicide.
I talked him down. I gave him some solutions. I let him go on about how he was feeling and did my best to just listen. Sometimes, that's all someone needs. But he needed more. I suggested counselling or therapy; whatever he could get. Whatever felt more comfortable to him. Right now, I just wanted anything that would keep him from taking his own life.
So we walked back into the building. He had to get back to work. But I wasn't about to leave him. He had four marks on his wrists from when he had cut him only a few hours before. And I knew his job. He had a knife on hand. He needed it to open boxes.
"Can you keep the knife in your locker while you work?"
"I need to open boxes. I need to keep it around."
"Is there anything else...? Like, can you use something else?"
"I need the knife."
"I'm not letting you work alone with a knife after you cut yourself."
"I'll be fine," he assured me. His tears had dried. He was feeling a little better. I didn't buy it. Not for a second.
"You have to talk to someone. Either you tell someone here what you did, or I'm staying all night."
He agreed to talk to someone. I guess he didn't want to trouble me anymore than he already had. I was grateful. This was overwhelming.
I stood by his side as he explained to one of his bosses how he was feeling and what he had done. When I was confident he would be well looked after and he was feeling better, I left. But not before I told him, "You need anything. If you just want to talk. If you feel like this again, you text me. I don't care what time it is. Okay?"
He promised he would.
He did. Later that night, I picked him up off the streets. He always walked home from work but that night he barely made it around the corner. I pulled him up off the ground, took him in my car and brought him back to my place. We talked again for hours before I drove him home.
He texted me several times that night. He felt hopeless. He had nothing to live for. He had no one who cared about him.
But I did. He was like an older brother to me. I have no idea when it happened. Perhaps when he turned to me for help. It's funny how that works. It's funny how you can care so deeply for someone that needs you.
It took a long time before he felt better. I knew I had to be patient. Recovery never happened overnight, and that was something I reminded him of almost every day.
"You're going to get better. You have to want it. You have to work for it. It's not going to be easy, but it'll happen if you want it."
For a while, it seemed he did. He told me he was talking to a counsellor. He told me she was helping him cope. I still felt like I had to be the voice of reason, but at least there was a professional involved. Of course, he still had some plunges. No one can expect a full recovery right off the bat.
"I'm done," he would text me. "I'm giving up on having friends."
"Why?" I'd ask him.
"No one wants to hang out with me."
"Maybe they're just busy."
"I don't have friends."
"I'm your friend."
Ouch. We had this conversation often. I tried to never take it personally; even when it came at three in the morning. I just told myself he's not in a good way. He can't see what he has. He needs more time.
We let more time pass. Things continued looking up. I saw him smiling at work a little more, and joking around with his co-workers. He still struggled to make friends, but he didn't seem as down about it. Then he told me he had met another girl.
"Really?" I asked him while trying to cover the fear and panic in his voice. Time had passed, but it had only been a couple of months since he had talked about taking his own life and since he had broken up with his girlfriend. He needed to work on himself. He still had plenty of work to do on himself.
"Through a dating service," he told me.
"Don't rush into anything. Just... get to know each other first."
"I will," he promised me.
I still wonder about that. Before I knew it, he had become the paranoid boyfriend.
"She's going out drinking with her friends. I'm nervous."
He had every right to be. I'll give him that one. It was one of the things he ex did that hurt him. She drank. A lot. He would have to take care of her. It was a regular occurrence. She didn't seem to care about all the trouble he went through to keep her happy. So it was understandable he was worried about the new girl drinking. But this girl had every right to go out with her friends and live her life.
"You might not be ready for a relationship just yet," I told him. "She's allowed to drink. It's going to be hard to find someone who doesn't. We're a rare breed."
"I know. It's just... after last time, it makes me nervous. What if she's just another Bailey?"
"You might not be ready," I repeated to him. He must have heard me. A few weeks later, I asked him how things were going. He told me they were just friends for now. I was happy to hear that. He needed another friend. I didn't trust it, though. Not completely. And I was right not to. The next time I asked, they were dating. Everything seemed to be going fine. I had met her. She seemed nice. And he had moved on. He was in a better place now emotionally. Still somewhat unstable. I worried about him. But he was doing better.
He even set me up on a date. He had a best friend. His best friend would hang out with him through the hard times. He said his friend and I were a lot alike. So we tried it out. Things were going well. He was happy we were together, until it happened.
"John and I made plans for Thursday," he told me after I mentioned a date.
"When? Before? After?"
"He probably forgot," he texted me. I gave John the benefit of the doubt. We had only been on a couple of dates so far, but he seemed like a nice guy.
"Yep," he texted me. "He forgot. You know what, fuck this. I'm done."
It wasn't the first time I heard those words. I rolled my eyes, but I tried to be understanding. After all, he has a right to be upset.
"You're done with what?" normally if I let him talk, he'll calm himself down. I just have to brace myself for a few punches along the way.
"I'm done with having friends. I'm done with people in this fucking city."
"Can you reschedule?"
"We already had! For that day!"
"Maybe you can meet up after? Our dates don't last very long," I told him. Just a side note: that should have been my first clue things weren't going to work out.
"No. I'm leaving on vacation the next day. I don't have any more free time! That's it! I'm done."
"Well, sort of me rescheduling the date, I don't know what else to offer you."
"I already told him to go ahead. Whatever."
"Look, I get you're upset. It sucks when someone forgets or cancels plans. But I have offered you every solution I've got. If you're just going to throw yourself a pity party, have fun," sometimes, he needed tough love. He'd respond to that. But he wasn't done with his tantrum.
"I'm not throwing myself a pity party. Screw it. I've got no friends."
He didn't answer my text after that. He was silent for a week. On my date, I talked to his best friend about it. He said it was a little unusual, but that he would get over it. I was hurt. I had done nothing wrong. How was I to know John had already made plans when we set the date? Why was I being punished?
A week later, he did come back, "What's up?"
I was angry. He dumped me as a friend, and then a week later he has the nerve to ask what's up? I gave him shit for it. I made it clear I wasn't going to be treated that way. I wasn't his punching bag, I had done all I could to help him. I had to pull an apology out of him. I should have known it wasn't sincere, but because he was troubled, I accepted it.
"Next time this happens, though, I might not be so understanding."
"I'm really sorry. I don't know what to say."
We saw each other after that. Sometimes it would be at work. We'd text each other. He was smiling. Our friendship was okay. I even confided in him when things between John and I stopped working out.
"I texted him 48 hours ago about making plans for this week. He still hasn't answered."
"Really? That's weird. Maybe he's busy?"
"For 48 hours?"
"Yeah, that's not right. Let me talk to him."
I was worried. I really liked John. He was nice; we were pretty similar in terms of taste and belief. Plus, he was pretty cute.
The next morning, I heard from my friend.
"Has John called you?"
"Nope. Should he have?"
"I told him last night to call you."
"Well, if he won't bother, neither will I."
"You deserve someone better," he told me. I smiled and reassured him that I would be okay. I asked him if he could pass on the message to John that we were over, considering John wasn't answering my messages. After a week, he still hadn't done it. Even I have to admit, that is putting him in a bit of an awkward position. So I took control. I sent John a text to let him know we had broken up. I put in a little bit of humour. John probably wouldn't find it funny, but I did, and my friend did as well.
"Go Rose," he encouraged me. So I sent the message. Again, I reassured my friend I would be okay. I would find someone better; someone who cares enough about me to answer my messages or to let me know when the relationship is over. He approved. He told me I needed to find someone who'll make me happy and treat me right.
I don't know what happened to him after that. Next I heard from him, he was down on himself again.
"I'm not happy," he texted me about his current relationship. I asked him why. "She treats me like a slave, she's calling me names, and she's slapping me more."
I hit the brakes. There was slapping involved? Abuse? Probably not the worst kind, but definitely not good.
"She's hitting you?"
He confirmed. That made me mad. I knew I had to get him out of there fast. I didn't want to have to pick up the pieces again. I try never to tell people what they should do, but I knew I had to. He wasn't about to make this decision on his own.
"You've got to break up with her."
I tried everything I could. I explained to him this was bad. He told me she reminded him of Bailey. I reminded him that didn't work out for him. I even turned the tables on him. I told him to imagine I was in his shoes. His advice to me was to break up with the guy hitting me and putting me down. He said he understood. Then, silence. I wasn't sure what he was up to. I was worried, but he was stronger now. I left my phone for half an hour to watch a TV show. Towards the end, I heard my phone ring. He had sent a message. A few minutes later, I checked what he had said.
"I'm the bad boyfriend."
I had no idea what that meant. Or what he was getting at. Had he slapped? Worse? He had anger issues. I've never seen him get angry, but he had confessed it to me before. I asked him to clarify.
"I'm killing myself tonight," he answered. My heart stopped beating.
"What? Why? Talk to me!" I was desperate. Something about this seemed very wrong.
"I'm sorry, Rose," he answered, "I'm done. I have nothing left to live for. I'm empty inside."
I tried to call him. He wouldn't answer the phone. I tried again. Still no answer. I tried again and left a message. I was in tears, begging he pick up. After I left the message, I called again.
Straight to voice mail. He turned his phone off. I tried again, and again, and again, but to no avail. He had shut me out. So I panicked. I ran to my mother. I showed her what he sent me. I was in tears; I had no idea what to do or where he was. She suggested I try again. I told her his phone was off.
"Do you know the number for his parents?"
I shook my head. I never occurred to me. He wasn't especially close with his family and I had never met them before. Fortunately, the internet exists and I knew his last name and address. We looked it up. My mother made the call. I was too scared and way too upset to even know what to say. She got the answering machine. His parents worked late, even overnight. My mother left a message. She didn't tell them about the text, but that it was very disturbing and we were concerned. I sent him a message to let him know we were getting his parents involved.
"He's going to be angry with you," my mother warned me. "He's going to think you betrayed him."
I didn't care. I didn't want him to kill himself. I was ready to do anything.
But there was nothing more I could do.
He eventually texted me back. My message about getting his parents involved must have got his attention. Just as my mother had warned me, he was angry. He tried calling the next day.
I was hurt. He had worried me. My mother talked to me, saying he likely was probably just looking for attention. She told me I was right to worry, and we were right to take his words seriously just in case, but that because he had answered that same night, it was likely just a ploy for attention. He was miserable, and he wanted to bring someone else down. I was an easy target because I cared about him.
All my efforts sunk in at that point. Dropping everything to talk to him at work. Answer his messages in the middle of the night because he had no one else to talk to. Being his councillor every day but the days he went to see his real counsellor. Offering my best advice. Offering my times, my friendship. I tried everything to help him and nothing worked. He wasn't listening.
A part of me believes he enjoys the misery. Right now, it's all he knows. It saddens me. My mother, ever protective, suggested I get some space from him. He was only going to pull me down otherwise. It's against my nature to turn my back on someone calling out for my help, but there was nothing more I could do. He had turned me into a wreck.
So when he called me and left a message he wanted to talk, I didn't answer. I couldn't. I had nothing to say to him. My mother called his home after getting a message from his mother. She got him instead. He told her his phone had died that night to explain why he wasn't answering me. I called bullshit. My mother agreed. He told my mother he had talked to his parents. He told my mother he was going back to counselling. I had a feeling, but never wanted to believe he had stopped.
I called bullshit on the whole thing. He was looking for something he wasn't going to find; something I couldn't offer him: a quick fix. He wasn't willing to work. He wasn't willing to try.
I broke off the friendship. Not permanently, but just until he gets himself together again. I sent him a long text explaining my feelings, my efforts, and how I wanted the best for him.
He never answered. He's probably still mad at me.
I saw him at work. We avoided eye contact. He walked by me a few times. Normally we joke. Normally we complain about our jobs together and laugh about it. Today, there was nothing.
And it hurt me. It hurt me to see someone I care for hurting so deeply. It hurt me to see that all my efforts were in vain. It hurt me to hear him tell me he's got no friends; that no one cares about him, that he's got nothing to live for. It hurt me that he was so willing to take his anger and his frustration out on me when I did nothing but try to help him. It hurt me that he would so readily throw me away and then return to me like nothing had happened.
It hurt me that, despite all my efforts, I couldn't help him.
I wish him the best. I hope he meant what he said to my mother. I hope he is getting help. I hope, one day, he'll get over this. But I won't let myself sink to his level. I've still got hope. I've got friends and family who care about me. I've got little cousins who look up to me. I've got something to live for, and I won't throw it away.
I am not a punching bag.