On This Road We'll Traveled
I stood in the middle of the road, staring into the setting sun. It seemed so far away now, where it used to look within arms reach before. Before everything went wrong. Before everything got complicated. Before reality had touched us.
We had a world of our own gazing into the horizon. Reality didn't exist for us. Nick and I would sit right here in the middle of the road and talk about our plans while he played his old guitar. He'd make me sing along with him and we'd end up falling over laughing.
"One day, we're gonna see the end of this road," Nick said pointing to the horizon.
My head was resting on his chest as we watched the sun set. "I hope this road never ends. I want to travel with you forever."
Nick kissed the top of my head. "Soon we will...."
I closed my eyes against the tears that came with the memories. If only he kept his promises. We'd both still be happy and together. If only he didn't let reality get to him the way I let it get to me. We were happy in our own little world. Why did it all have to change?
I blamed myself for it all though. If I hadn't left without him. If I hadn't yelled at him. If I was there for him.
The ifs could go on as long as this road. They never stopped in my head. I knelled down into a fetal position as the memories came. I couldn't understand why I came here again. What was my reason for coming here? I couldn't remember...
"Where are you going?" He asked confused when he saw my packed bags.
I lifted my head, keeping the tears at bay. "I have to leave for a little while."
"I don't understand..." he didn't want to understand is what he meant.
"I got a letter of acceptance into an all-girl school in California. I'm going," I said firmly. I was hoping I could get out of here before he saw me. I was going to leave a letter for him, explaining.
"Kat... why?" was all he could say.
The only words coming to mind. Kat why. Why couldn't I answer him. Kat why. I cleared my throat. "We can't stay here forever."
"We never planned to!" He raised his voice.
My defiant side came out against my will. I raised my voice to match his. "We never planned for any of this to happen! Our plans never happened Nick! We need to move on."
His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open in shock. "So that's it? No warning, no working it out? You're leaving me?"
I hesitated on my answer. He made it sound so bad. He made it sound so real. Slowly, I nodded, picking up my jacket and suitcase. "Good bye Nicholas. I promise we'll see each other again someday..." I reached out to touch his face but he pulled away.
"Don't be so sure." He stormed out of the house, leaving me with my tears.
I was still sitting in the road, wiping my eyes. I never meant to be gone for so long. I only meant to be gone a year or two. Not five long fucking years. I hit my fist against the black concrete, screaming out in the pain, not from my bleeding hand, but from my heart.
I was so selfish to leave him. I still loved him -that was never a question- but I couldn't wait for him anymore. I couldn't stay there, it was killing me. I was suffocating in this small town. So I left.
My mom would write me, keeping me updated on what was happening with everyone. Everything seemed okay for a couple weeks after I left. I knew Nick was upset. My mom knew it too. Her letters became less and less about her and my family and more about Nick. Or maybe that's the only part that would stick out for me. I remembered so vividly the letter she wrote telling me about Nick's drug problem...
Since I'd been gone, he went into a depression and turned to drugs. When I heard about that I very nearly flew back to him, but I knew... I was too late. I'd been gone six months already. the last words he spoke to me were words of hate and sadness. I was the reason for the way he was. It was all my fault.
Knowing that, I too, went into a depression. I couldn't stand being without him. I thought I wanted freedom more but in fact, he was my freedom. He was my air, my world, my everything I thought I didn't have. Suddenly I found myself without it and I couldn't live. I started failing my classes in the school and they kicked me out.
That's when I met Ralph. I had no where to go, no way to get home -as if I was even welcome there anymore- and no money for food. Ralph took me in and gave me a place to stay. Eventually we started going out. My love for Ralph was nothing like my love for Nick. Ralph was purely a physical relationship. I didn't connect with him in any other way.
A few weeks into it, I found out he was an abusive alcoholic. I wanted to get out -get away- but I couldn't. I had no where to go. So I'd stay. And I'd cover up my black eyes with make-up.
My mom continued to send me letters but I stopped writing back. What was I supposed to tell her? That I quit school and was living with a guy? I couldn't do that to her. One day, she just stopped writing altogether. I lost connection with my family, but more importantly, I lost my connection to Nick.
I didn't think about him anymore, I couldn't imagine what he was doing with his life. I wanted to remember the happy times, but it was getting harder to remember anything.
Two years passed and I was feeling tired of the pain. A friend of mine from the school saw me in the store one day and saw what happened to me. She knew instantly as soon as I mentioned I had a boyfriend. I didn't deny it either, I was tired of denying it. She gave me her number and told me to call her when Ralph wasn't home. I was confused but took her number.
I later found out why. I had called her as soon as he left for the bar with some friends and she came over with a couple of my old friends. They immediately started packing my belongings and helping me get out. They said they knew about a place I could go where I would be safe from Ralph. It sounded nice especially after dealing with another beating from him from the night before.
They took me to a shelter for abused women. I never thought of myself as an abused woman. I guess it never clicked. The place helped me get back on my feet though. They gave me food and a place to sleep. I never saw Ralph again.
I eventually grew to be a strong woman, helping other abused women get through their problems. I started working for the shelter instead of using it. I even started writing to my family again. No one mentioned Nick, for which I was thankful. He was just a painful memory. Something I blamed myself for.
And then, I got a postcard.
It was so simple but it meant so much. "You think you deserve that pain but you don't." I knew who it was from as soon as I saw the name "Kat". Only Nick called me that. Everyone else called me Katherine or Kathy. Tears poured from my eyes as I read the eight simple words.
He forgave me. He was telling me it's okay that I left. He was telling me to quit beating myself up about what he became. He was telling me it wasn't my fault. I cried and cried for days, so happy. I felt like a burden had been lifted. I didn't realize how much it bothered me, how much it tortured me inside. And then to hear him tell me it's okay. I could breathe again.
I knew what I had to do. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to go home. I wanted to see Nick again. And I finally felt like I could do that now. I bought a one-way ticket and packed my bags.
I was going home.
That's when I got there and everything changed. I went straight home and saw all my family waiting for me. I had let them know I was coming home. I walked in the front door and no one looked up. No one would make eye contact with me. It was like a dark cloud loomed over the house.
"W-where's Nick?" I suddenly feared to ask.
No one answered. My mom came over to comfort me but I backed away, shaking my head.
"No," I whispered.
"Baby, he...overdosed. He... he died last night..." My dad explained.
I backed towards the door. "No!" I ran out of the house, heading to his house. I had to see him. They were lying. They all were lying. Halfway to his house I stopped. I was at our spot. I recognized it easily, even after all these years.
I walked to the middle of the road, staring into the setting sun. It seemed so far away now, where it used to look within arms reach before.... Kat why? Why did it all have to go so wrong?