The First 36

by Jeremy McDowell

I have never been someone that took a chance at life. I tried to make it by on the tail of someone else. I never wanted to fail, so I always took the safe road. I always kept emotions trapped inside and never expected anyone to see what are hidden deep inside of my soul. If I kept the smile, wore the best clothing and threw the witty comments everyone would see the face and not the pain. I am not sure when this all started. I grew up a small stature, chubby kid with glasses. The other kids noticed the shortcoming and never noticed the pain that they were causing. I tried to direct their attention away from the ugliness with comedy. But this was a double edged sword. Focusing all my efforts on making others happy really kept me from focusing on the important things in life. My school work mimicked what I would see on television. The cool kids were the ones who did bad things and never went to class. That is what I wanted to be. The bad boy persona fit me so well. I had the ability to keep the bad attitude, the bad grades and the anger that came with it.

Shortly before the beginning of my 6th grade class, I saw her in church one Saturday night. She was so beautiful. I had to know everything about her. I asked everyone if they knew who she was. Finally I was able to get the answers I have been longing for. I found myself going to church every Saturday night to try and steal another glimpse of her. It seemed like clockwork; there she would be, more beautiful than the week before. I felt feelings like never before. I had to be with her. Who knows, at this young age, who they were meant to be with. Finally, summer was over and school was starting. The school that I attended had paired classes; meaning the 5th and 6th grade was in the same room. Yes, this is unheard of, but the school was only so big. And wouldnt you know it; there she was, in the same room that I was in. I now had something else to focus on, getting her to know me and fall in love with this fat, ugly kid. But for some reason, she and I became friends. I was able to get anyone to be my friend, but to love me, that is something that I have never been able to do.

Fast forward to high school.

Freshman year, the idea of a new school, new people scared me to death. How was I going to fit in with these people? Not only that, but I was so familiar with the kids that I had grown up with for the last 8 years and now we would all have different classes, different friends, different interests. I felt more alone and even more like I had to impress everyone with the skill of being the jokester that I have all but perfected.

School work never came easy to me. Maybe it was because I was still thinking that the cool kids were the ones that did poorly at everything but shop classes. So that is what I focused all of my efforts on. Well, that and girls. Oh there were so many new girls. But I was still hung up on the one that I had left behind in jr. high and I still wasnt comfortable with my looks. I still had the glasses and I was still fat. But I seemed to attract a few girls the first year in my new school. I had no problems making friends, but those friends were the same as I was, kids that had no interest in anything but shop classes. Most of the friends that I had back in grade school had moved on with other people and the clicks started to form. But, being the person that tried to be friends with everyone, I tried very hard to please everyone while struggling with my own identity.

The first year of school wasnt so successful. My grades were very poor and this is when the hurtful words at home came into my life. How is someone to be successful when they are told the complete opposite at home? This may have also been the first time that thoughts of suicide crept into my mind. But they say this is the same time that most kids start having those thoughts. Going through puberty and trying to find themselves is a very hard time for any kid. But not having the support at home makes it that much harder. This is also the time when I started to gain the uncaring for people. It was easier to not care than it was to allow someone to hurt me.

After freshman year, that summer, I decided it was time for a change. I was starting to grow taller, traded the glasses in for contacts, and started to workout daily. I would run or ride my bike on the cooler days of summer. On the hot days, I spent as much time in our swimming pool as possible. At the start of summer I checked in at a hefty 180 lbs. and only 5 6. By the time summer was over, I had grown 3 and dropped 30 lbs. I was now something that I could actually look at in the mirror. And not only that, but I knew the girl that I had left the year before was going to be coming to my school. I was so happy. I just knew everything was going to be perfect.

The first day of sophomore year I can remember watching people turn their head to actually see me now. I actually had girls coming to me to talk about whatever it was they were saying. I had no time for them. My thoughts and heart was with the one. We would spend as much time as we could now. Young love. She was everything that all the guys wanted, but she was mine. I guess, in a sense, I was what most girls were wanting. But we were together, and no one would break that up. So I thought. When you are young, you think love will last forever. We had broken up a few times that first year, but we always seemed to get back together. Life was everything I wanted. I had the most beautiful girl in school and all the other girls wanting me. That was the only thing that I had going for me. I was a people person and I was able to channel my charm when needed. It was a gift in some way. But smooth talking will only get you so far in life. You have to hone the skill to become successful, if that is what you are going after.

This is about the time that I started going to parties. I mean, where else would a person that could fit in with any crowd be on a Friday or Saturday night? The beer seemed to be easy to get living where we were. And the pot, that just seemed to show up. I dont know how no one died on the way home from those parties. I dont think anyone was ever sober enough to walk home, let alone drive, but we did. We never thought twice to take the chance. I can remember nights, trying to get home before curfew, flying home at 80 mph completely drunk. Maybe not the best choice, but it was better than hearing my mom or dad yell another day.

This was also the year that I had met my new best friend. He was a smaller kid, but we kicked it off easily. We were both heavy into Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails. He was a freshmen but I didnt care. I took him under my wing. It wasnt for some time that I came to find out that he was a distant cousin. It was so strange. It was as if we were put in the same class and in the seats just for us to find each other. I spent more time with Adam than I had ever spent with anyone else. We just clicked. I was there when he needed someone to talk with and he was there for me to dish my problems out to. He was not just a friend, but in a way, a brother. I would have given my life for him. I cant say for sure if he would have done the same, but I bet he would have.

The summer before junior year I started my first real job. I had little jobs that I would pick up here and there. Some were working for local farmers and others were just for my dad. He seemed to give me easy jobs to do around the house. Probably because he never felt comfortable with giving me something that was important on fear I would screw it up. I would drive one of the family cars to work. It was bought for my mom, but I really think that it was for me. The job was with Olympic Lanes. I had grown up here. My mom, aunts and grandma were always there for a Monday night league. I think that is why I picked the sport up so well. It came natural to me, just about like any other sport I tried. I was good, if I do say so myself. I was the best of all of the other kids just about every year I played. I can remember one year, I was young, I walked home with more trophies than anyone else. So, the owner gave me a job. It wasnt much, but it was a job. I knew most of the people who walked through the door, and my charm was in full force. And, I was good at what I was doing. I picked up on the job very fast, and in no time I working as much as I wanted. And then the night came when, the girl that I was in SO MUCH LOVE with THE girl, when we got into a very big fight. I was broken, but I had to work. I asked around but no one would cover for me. Finally, my boss told me to leave. He was very pissed! But what do you do with a kid who is 16 and is so in love?

After that night, everything started to fall apart. I think this is where I started the first of many downward spirals. I had lost the girl that I had been in love with for so many years, and no I had lost my job. I was a broken teenager. I started to hangout in a pool hall in a town not too far away from my house. This wasnt a great idea. The crowd that shuffled into this place was more than eccentric. But, since I grew up at my grandmas house and she had a pool table in the basement, I knew this was another place I could make my own name. Many of the patrons were years older than I was. The good thing about this, I flew under the radar. No one would think that a fresh faced kid knew how to handle a cue. Well, that was until I started to make money on those tables. So people would threaten to kick my ass because they had lost so much to this little kid, but I became very familiar with some of the bigger guys in there and I was never worried.

This was also the summer where pot started to show up more and more often. If I wasnt smoking, I was drinking. I started to really hangout with some shady people. I was very influenced by these people. I would do anything to fit in with these guys. The place that we shot pool, there was another location in Fort Wayne. And the people that I had been with up to this point couldnt hold a candle to any of these freaks. Most of the crowd was skinheads or some other radical group. We would go out, on the streets of Fort Wayne and hunt people down. I knew inside of me that what I was doing was wrong, but I was more worried what would happen if I didnt go with them. It didnt matter the skin color of most of the people they would harass, but their sexual orientation was a group that they focused on also. I guess it was anyone who was different than they were. After a couple of weeks, I couldnt try and fit in anymore with this crowd. I told one of the guys that I was always going up there with and he also felt the same way. He had something else in mind for us to do.

The next week came. It was a Friday night and I headed for the pool hall. We did the normal stuff. Smoked a little in the alley out back and just hung out. Finally, he says to me that he wants to ask me something. Not thinking anything about it, we went outside. He tells me that he wants me to go with him to an abandoned building in town. I asked him what for. Why would we need to go out there? He explained that this new group of guys he had been hanging out with spent most nights out there. It seemed odd to me. So I pressed for more information. He explained to me how these guys were devil worshipers. WHAT? Now, growing up catholic I knew this was a bad idea. He tried to explain their beliefs. I wasnt buying it. Luckily it was nearly time for me to head home. I told him that I would really think about it and headed out the door. This was the last time I set foot into this establishment.

Summer was over and junior year was upon me. The girl that I had loved so much was back in my life. This year was going to be completely different. I had my best friend, my best girl and I was feeling so great. Well, that is, outside of my home. Things there still werent going well, at all. More than most nights I spent all my time in my room with tears in my eyes and thoughts in my head. I started to write this year. It was the way to get everything out. I was able to scream at the top of my lungs, but never make a sound. I was able to kill myself with words only, even if that is what I was begging for. The only time was able to escape the pain was when I was asleep, drunk or out of the house. Nothing would take the words out of my head and heart when I was trapped behind those walls.

I started a new job this year. It was with a grocery store in Fort Wayne. I never thought about doing anything like this, but my best friend worked there and I wanted to hang out with him as much as possible. I guess I always wanted to be someone else. That is why I always followed instead of took the lead. It was this time that I really started to notice other females. Well, I always noticed them; I just never wanted anyone but the one I was with. But, just like most high school kids, we would breakup every other week. So I started to become friends with more and more females. I have always been comfortable around women, which I think makes them more comfortable around me. But, even though I started to become friends with more women, I still only wanted to be with her. Most of the time when we split up, it was by her choice. I would date girls here and there, but we always seemed to come back together. My parents never seemed to like her much. I am not really sure why. I think it was something to do with the town that we lived in and people always talked about other people. Kids were never seen as something precious. Everyone was free game for gossip. Yes there were rumors about her, but I really knew the truth.

This was the summer of change, big change.

I was still working at the grocery store and spending many nights on the phone with my girlfriend. I would confide in her about the stuff that I was going through at home. She was the only one who really knew the suffering and pain I was being put through. I wasnt able to write my thoughts or feelings down anymore. This was the year that I was really planning to harm myself. The pain downstairs was nothing like the pain that was inside of me. Escaping the pain in any way I could was my main objective. I knew this wasnt something that I could think about; I had to just do it.

So the night came. I knew this was the last night of this fucked up life that I was in. I went into my room; I had a razor blade that came from an old style shaver. I was going to do this. Nothing was going to stop me. I picked up the blade and looked deep into the shining steel. This had to be done fast, before I was able to change my mind. I slowly pushed the blade into my skin. With a quick hand, I pulled the blade across my left wrist. I am done. Now I set back and wait for the blood to break the surface. Here it comes, red and warm. I lay back in my bed, knowing I will be gone soon. I will be free from all the pain that I have had to deal with. I will never cry again. I will never have trouble falling asleep again. I will now sleep forever. I didnt write a note to whoever would find me. I didnt care. Let them feel the pain I have. Fuck them. I know they dont love me, so why should this be something that is any concern? Finally, it seems as if hours have passed, but it has only been 5 minutes. I just knew at any time now, my head would become lighter and I would just slowly fall asleep. But something doesnt seem right. I know that my wrist is now cut, but I think I would feel something. I look at what I had done. The blood that broke the surface has now, somehow, stopped. I felt more anger than I have ever had before. Why cant I even kill myself right? How fucked up are you that you cant even do this right? I pick up a hammer and start to beat the open wound. I dont know why. Maybe I thought I would open the wound up again and the blood would start to come. But that never happened. I cried for hours again.

I knew that I could never tell anyone this. I guess the razor that I had used wasnt sharp enough to do enough damage. Hell, it didnt even leave that big of a scar. Not that I wanted anyone to see what I had done, but what was left from what I did, no one noticed. Which was good, I didnt want anyone to see what my life has come to.

Now it was early August, home life had become even worse. I knew I had to get out. But how can I do that? I was 17, had a job that only paid minimum wage and had never been on my own. So I decided that I would start walking to my girlfriends house. It was a short 5 mile walk into town. I thought, maybe the walk will do some good. When I left, my mother was in the yard and watched me walk away from the house. I think I thought that if she watched me walk away, she would come after me. That never happened.

I showed up on the doorstep of my girlfriends house. I knew her mother, and he mother knew some of the troubles I had at home. I think she may have thought that I was only going to be there for one or two nights. No one ever came for me. They never called. It was obvious, they didnt care where I was or if I were alive or dead. I guess this is my new home now.

I did go back to my parents house a few days later. I had to get my clothes, since I only had the clothes that I left with. When we got there, my mother was the only one home. She was more hateful than ever. She couldnt understand why I was leaving and going to stay someplace else. But I knew that I couldnt stay, and we pulled away.

School had now started. Living with a girl when you are, now 18, school is the last thing on your mind. Her mother had been divorced from her stepdad for a few years now, and she worked really long hours. So, staying home and doing what boys and girls do when they are alone, wasnt a problem. By this time, we were engaged and thinking more towards the future and not the past. Well, we were actually looking so deep into the future that the present didnt even matter. I dont know if I even went to school twice in one week. I wasnt there more than I was. I can remember being called into the office at one point. My parents were there. I knew something was bad. We all shuffled into a conference room. I was told that I was no longer enrolled in the school since I had missed so many days. I believe I had missed 118 out of 180. I knew that I had fucked up, again.

After leaving the school for the last time, I felt as if my life had no meaning. I didnt return home with my parents that day. I went to my new home. By this time, I had left the job at the grocery store and started work at an automotive shop changing tires and oil. I went in that day and explained to my boss what had happened that day and requested more hours. We had moved out of her mothers house and moved in with her stepdad. We had a lot more free time. He worked two jobs and now I was working full time. I made more money at this new job and most of that was spent of food and alcohol. But I didnt drink that much during the week. I knew that work was the only true thing I had left and it felt good to be actually doing something. I was able to show up every day and really make a name for myself at my new job.

And then day came when I received a phone call while at work. The girl that I would have done anything for was asking me something very shocking. She explained to me that her and her stepdad had just got into a fight and, since her mother had a new boyfriend, she wanted to move in with her cousin in Fort Wayne. I explained to her that I thought it was a very bad idea, but she went on to say that if I didnt take her, she would find a way to get out of that house. What was I going to do? Allow her to walk to Fort Wayne? So, I agreed that we could leave as soon as I got home after work.

That night, I pulled in front of the house. I walked in and she was ready with some clothes and a cooler with food in it. She left a note explaining that we were leaving and not coming back. Later that night we got into Fort Wayne. I asked if she knew where this cousin lived. She wasnt sure, so she called the number she had for him. The guy on the other end explained that he had moved to Michigan a few months back. We go the name of the town and a map.

By this time, it was coming up on midnight. So, we decided that we should find some place to sleep that night and pawn a few items we had in the morning. I still know the rest area and think of that night every time I drive past it.

So the morning came and we made our way to the nearest pawn shop. We didnt get much money, but it was enough for cigarettes, some food and gas. We made our way to Michigan and the world that I knew was slowly fading in my rearview mirror.

My car was getting low on gas, so we found the nearest station. It just had to be in one of the worse parts of Detroit. Imagine, an 18 year old boy who grew up in the country was in one of the most violent places in the United States. I filled up the tank and she tried to find her cousins new phone number, but no luck. So, we just drove.

We ended up in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The only reason we stopped here was because we got a flat tire. We pulled into a grocery store parking lot and found a police officer. He told us that the only place to get the tire fixed was closed by this time. We didnt have enough money to get a hotel room and he said that we couldnt park there overnight. So, we found a smaller lot and decided to get the flat fixed the next day. We didnt have much money, but I thought with my job knowledge, they would allow me to use their equipment and not charge me as much.

We woke up the next morning to the sight of a beautiful little town. I knew that I needed to get the tire fixed so we could possibly find this cousin of hers. It was almost a miracle that we ended up in that parking lot that day.

We were hungry and very low on money by this point. We stepped out of the car and there was a van that had just pulled up. The guy saw the trouble that we were having and said that he had an exact matching wheel and tire that would fit my car. He said that he would call him wife and have her bring it right up. She soon arrived and he came out to help change the tire. I never thought in guardian angels, but someone was really looking out for us that day. Another stroke of luck, the guy that helped us out owned a local restaurant. We followed him down to the restaurant. He asked if we wanted anything to eat or drink. I explained to him that we were so low on money that we resorted to taking what tobacco we had left in already smoked cigarette butts and rolling it in the rolling papers I kept in the car. He offered us food and drink, free of charge. He was truly a blessing.

We walked around the town talking about what we were going to do. We stopped back into the restaurant and talked to the owner a little more. I went through the local paper to find any job that I could do. Nothing seemed to fit the limited talent that I had. So, I decided that I would go to the local McDonalds and put in my application. I asked to speak to the manager that was on duty. I explained to him the situation that I was facing and that I wouldnt have access to a phone. He told me, that if I could come back at 4pm, the manager that does all the hiring would be in and that I could talk to him.

4pm came and I found myself talking to the manager. I explained everything that was going on and how we were living in my car. He offered me a job on the spot. It was probably because he felt sorry for us, but I would take any gift at this point. I was so excited that I was going to be working again. I was going to be actually making money. We started to look for apartments around the area. We found one in the newspaper that we both really liked the description. But before we would be able to do anything, we still needed money. We talked about it and decided that the best idea was to go to the local welfare office and fill out the paper work for food stamps. I never thought my life would come to this, but it had to be done.

We found the building where we would fill out the papers to try and get some form of assistance. I walked in hanging my head very low. I could live out of my car, but I couldnt apply for food stamps. It seems kind of odd now that I think of it. But I went through with all the applications. Thinking that it would be the best possible way to get assistance, on the app it asked the number of dependents. So, since there were two of us, that is what I put. I turned the paperwork in, all information filled out, and I went back to my seat. After some time had passed, a woman walked through the door. I imagined she was coming to do some form of interview or to go over my application. But, with her, was a police officer. I was more than stunned.

They both approached slowly, looking directly at us. I knew something was amiss. I looked at my companion and questioned the point of what we were seeing. Finally they were in front of us. I heard the woman ask if we were the people that filed for assistance. I didnt have the heart to tell the women that if she would look around, there was no one else in the waiting room. I politely answered yes. The officer that was with the women asked my girlfriend to stand up and come with him, my stomach dropped. As he walked her away I questioned what the reason for this was. The women explained to me that my girlfriend was on the runaway list and they were taking her to the local holding facility. I was even more shocked by this. I slowly walked out the front door to my car. I crawled into the front seat and I had no idea what to do.

I proceeded back to the restaurant where the owner was more than nice to these two lost kids. I explained to him everything that had happened over the past half of a day. I went on to explain to him that I wanted to just go back home, but I had zero cash and I was low on fuel. This man, after all the help he had already given to me, opened his wallet and handed me a twenty dollar bill. I asked him to give me his address and I would mail him the $20 back, plus money for the tire that he so freely gave to me. He was my guardian angel.

I left his shop and proceeded to the jail to explain to my girlfriend that I was able to acquire some cash for fuel and I would be headed home in the morning. This was the first jail that I had ever been in and I had no idea where to go, what to do, or who I needed to talk to. I approached an officer and asked him for some direction. He pointed me in the right direction. It was a man setting behind a think, bullet proof sheet of glass. I asked if my girlfriend had been brought in a few hours earlier. He looked up the name and told me that she had. I asked him, in the most innocent and polite voice I could muster up, if I would be able to speak with her. He told me, in a very stern voice, that there was no way that was going to happen.

I walked out a very broken young man. I sat in my car and just sobbed. I knew this wasnt good and I knew that I had to get back home as soon as I could. It was nearly 9pm at this point. I went back to the parking lot where we had spent the last couple of night and gathered my thoughts. I decided that I would try and get some rest and I would head off in the morning. I set the alarm on the 1950s style alarm clock that we had picked up at the local thrift store for 9am. I tried my best to get as comfortable as I could, not knowing what would happen once I returned home. I think it was nearly 11pm as I finally get myself in a place where I would be able to sleep; the tears began to stream down my face.

I woke up the next morning from a frightful nightmare. I shook the sleep from my head and looked at the clock. It was merely 5am, but I was fully awake. I decided that I would start my journey back home now. It seemed as if the 2 hour drive had taken all day. I eventually made it back into Fort Wayne. I stopped in at the shop where I had been working to see if I still had a job. The boss and I went into his office and I told him the entire story. He informed me that I would still have a job, but there was a detective that wanted to speak to me. He left the office and I sat down and picked up the phone. I guess this whole situation that I found myself in had become bigger than anything that I would have imagined. I dialed the number that was given to me and asked for the detective. I waited on hold for a short time, but eventually he answered. I explained who I was and that there was a note to get in contact with him.

He started the conversation off by asking where we had been. I explained that we stayed in a small town in Michigan and that we were living out of my car. He then followed up the question by asking where the girl was. I continued on with the story about how she was taken into custody at the local police station and that was I unable to speak with her, so I was unsure on where she was at that moment, I had just assumed that she was still there. He thanked me for returning his call and that he would be back in contact with me as soon as he called the local police where we had stayed. I hung up the phone and walked out of the office. Everyone that worked there had their eyes focused on me. I didnt speak to anyone, but knew they all had their own ideas on what was going on. I thanked my boss and told him that I would return to work the next day but I needed to get home and talk to my parents.

The drive from Fort Wayne to my parents house was a very long journey. Not time wise, but thought wise. I knew they had probably been contacted by everyone involved in this case, but they still hadnt heard what was really going on. I finally made it back to their house and slowly pulled into the drive. Not thinking, this was Friday and no one was home when I got there. I didnt know what else to do. So, I drove back into the small town that I had been living in before all of this started and decided to go to a friends house until I knew my mother would be home. I took the long way, trapped in my own thoughts of everything that had transpired. Driving down one of the main roads that passed through this town, I passed the local officer who worked during the day at a local car dealership. Yes, that sounds strange, but this was the type of town we lived in. It was small and had very little crime.

I was just about to pull up to my friends house when, all of a sudden, police lights were flashing behind me. It was the local cop who I had known ever since I could remember. I stepped out of my car and slowly walked back to talk with him. I will never forget his opening line to me. You are a hard person to find, he said. Puzzled, I asked what he had meant by this. He went on to explain that for the past week there had been a search for the two of us and a warrant had been issued for my arrest. I was completely dumbfounded. He asked if my girlfriend was with me or where she was. I, again, had to tell the story. He informed me that he wasnt going to arrest me, but he thought it would be wise if I would return home. After finishing up with all the questions that he could think of, I did just that.

I was nearly 6pm at this point and I knew my mother would be home from work by now. I feared what would happen. Would she let me return to live with her and my father? Or would she turn her back on me as I had when I walked away from them? We sat and talked about everything that was going on and what brought us to this point. I asked if there was any way that I would be able to return home. She said that she would have to speak with my father, but she would let me stay there that night and we would talk about it in the morning.

I woke up the next morning. My father was home at this point and we all sat down to discuss what was going to happen if they would allow me to return. I agreed to their terms because I had no other place to go. I didnt think anything would change, but what was I going to do? Live out of my car again? That was not an option anymore. A few days went by, I was back working and the summer was working its way in. At this point, I should have graduated from high school and have the whole world ahead of me. But, since I had made every bad decision possible, I was still working at changing tires and oil. I knew that I was a failure just like I had been told so many times before. I guess this was one of the reasons why I didnt even try to make my life better. With the idea that you wouldnt be much more than someone that couldnt even finish high school, you think you will never be able to be successful at anything you try to accomplish.

I found out that when I left Michigan, my girlfriends mother showed up and brought her home. She was now living outside of Van Wert with an aunt. I wanted so badly to see her, to make sure she was safe. I had been over to her aunts house many times, so I decided that I would drive over there to see her. I pulled into the driveway and walked to the front door. I rang the doorbell and waited for someone to answer. The door opened and her aunt was standing there. She informed me that I wasnt welcome there and that I wasnt going to see her till everything calmed down. I was devastated, again.

I went back to my normal routine for working as much as possible. It was the only thing that I had that was stable anymore. A few weeks went by and I talked as much as I could with my girlfriend that was being held captive from me. I was still deeply in love with her and we still planned on getting married. I was finally able to see her by this time, but it had to be when someone was at home. For some reason they thought it was my fault everything happened.

The supervised visitations went on for a few weeks. We were more in love than anything. The idea of getting married was all we would talk about. She was still under 18, so her mother went with us to the courthouse in Fort Wayne to sign the papers allowing us to finally be married. It was such a nervous day for me. Was this really going to happen? Finally? No. We didnt think of it, but she was adopted by her stepfather, so he had to be there to sign the papers also, even though he and her mother were divorced by this time. Her mother called him, he refused to sign anything. We were heartbroken. After everything, all the trouble, we would have to wait about 8 months before she turned 18 for us to make it legal.

So we werent married, but we were together and happy. She had moved out from her aunts house and we both moved in with her other aunt back in Monroeville. I still hadnt been back to school to finish, but her aunt was able to get me a job where she worked. It was with a garbage company, but it paid very well and we could use the money. We figured that it would only take a few months before we could move out on our own. So I went into work every day and made good money. But somehow, not sure how, her aunt found out that we werent actually married and told us that we wouldnt be able stay in her house because she didnt think it was very Christian. Again, we had no place to go.

She called around to some friends to try and find us a place to stay until we could find our own place. No one would help us out. So, we went to the last place we could try, her stepdad. I never thought he would let us back in, but since I was working a good job and she had finally got a job, he was ok with it. But it didnt last very long. Not for us staying there, but for us to be together. It was my decision that I needed to move back in with my parents. I still kept my job, but I couldnt stay in that relationship.

I worked for the garbage company for only a short time. This was something that was a blessing. I set up a meeting with the principal of my former school to discuss me returning in the fall. The meeting was basically to see if I had my priorities in order. I explained to him that all I wanted to do was to return to school, graduate and my distraction was now out of my life. He told me that he would have to set down with some other people and that he would give me a call with their decision. It only took a few days before the phone rang. He gave me some great news; they were allowing me to return to school. I knew this was going to help get my life back on track.

So the end of summer was drawing in and I was getting ready to return to school. I didnt know how awkward it was going to be or what to expect. I was a 19 yr old man going back to school with 17 and 18 yr olds. But, I knew that this had to happen. I started school and only had to take only a few classes and I would go to work in the afternoon. I went back to the grocery store that I had worked at 3 years earlier. It was as if I was 17 again, without the distractions.

The year was going by smoothly. I knew that I wasnt going to attend college because my dream was to enter the Air Force and have some direction finally. The time came when any student that was considering joining the military had to take the ASFAB test. It seemed a breeze to me. I knew that I did well on the test, now I just had to set back and wait for the Air Force to call.

Time went by and every branch was calling to recruit me. Well, all but the one I was waiting for. Finally I took my future into my hands, again. I placed a call to the local Air Force recruiting office. I spoke with one of the men and he pulled my file. I was shocked when I told him that no one had called me. I told him that I would like to come in and talk with him about my future. We set up an appointment. Right before we hung up the phone I asked him if he would be able to tell me how well I did on the test. He explained to me that he wouldnt be able to give me the score, but I would be able to do whatever I wanted if I enlisted. He said my score was well above average. I was so very proud of myself.

I continued to work and go to school. One night I was introduced to another girl that I worked with. She seemed interesting, so we set up a date. We didnt do much, hung out and talked a little. It seemed to go well. The next day at work we set up another time to go out. This time I was going to meet her parents. That went as well as it always had, they loved me. We enjoyed another night out and I thought things were going very well. She wasnt someone that I was going to spend the rest of my life with, just the time I had left. And then the night came when things had happened. It may have been a mistake, but I was 19! But the next day came and I found out that her stepmother must have walked in on what we had done and I was told that I wasnt going to see her again. Wasnt that big of a deal to me, I knew it wasnt going anywhere.

And then the day came. I was in the break room at work one night and she walked in. I hadnt really talked to her very much since the day we stopped seeing each other. She told me that she really needed to talk to me. Something inside of me knew what was going to be said. After a few seconds she broke the news to me. She was pregnant and it was mine. I knew my life was over. I didnt want this. I had the future ahead of me and I thought all this would do is keep me locked in someplace I didnt want. We didnt talk about it too much and she didnt keep working much longer after.

I spoke with my recruiting officer about the situation that I was facing. He gave me a few options. Either marry her or say that it wasnt mine. There was no way to prove that the baby she was carrying was mine and I would be in basic training when she would be giving birth. I knew that I wasnt going to marry this girl, so we decided that it would be best if the talk never happened. Act like you didnt know, he told me. So that is what I did. Weeks went by, no word from her. I went about my life. I never tried to contact her, I just thought it would make things worse.

The day came for my deployment. I took a bus from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis. I sat in the waiting room for me to give my vow to enlist into the Air Force. Finally, my dream was coming true. But what was it in my head? The idea of what would happen if I kept up with the lie about not knowing about my child. I didnt know what would happen when the information came out. I was very scared. So I decided that in the best interest of everything, I would walk in and tell the truth.

I sat down in front of the Sergeant. He asked me a few questions, and I answered them perfectly. His final question was, Is there anything that the Air Force should know before you are deployed? I slowly fought the words that I knew I had to say. I replied with a soft yes. I went on to tell him what was going on back at home. I knew that saying this was putting my future with the Air Force in jeopardy. He then went on to ask if I was 100% sure that it was mine. I told him that I believed it was. He then said the one thing that I never wanted to hear, You are dismissed. Meaning, I wasnt going to be able to enlist and that I was going back home. I failed at yet one more thing in my life. I called home, told my mother that I was going to be coming back because of this. I cant remember the exact words that she said, but I am assuming that it was along the lines of, Well, you screwed this up didnt you. Yes I did.

The bus ride home I couldnt think of what I had done. What I was giving up because of a simple mistake that I made. I couldnt help but watch Indianapolis slowly fade away, along with my dreams. It seemed as if the bus was going faster on the way home than it did on the way down. I didnt want to look my mother in the eyes when she showed up to take me home.

When the bus pulled into the station no one was there to pick me up. I made the call home and asked my sister to have our mother come pick me up. I didnt know what I would say when she showed up. I waited patiently for her, although I was extremely nervous. Finally I watch her car pull in. I grabbed my bags and slumped into the car. The only words that she had said to me the entire way home was, Just wait till your dad finds this out. That was it, nothing about feeling sorry for me, since she knew that this was my dream that I had just lost.

A few days went by and nothing much was said about it. Then the night came when the phone rang. I was in the kitchen doing the supper dishes and my mother went and answered the phone. I knew the person on the other line was someone that she didnt know. I heard her say that she didnt know what to do about it and asked if she had thought of any other options, meaning abortion. I knew the person on the other end of the line was the stepmother. And then I hear my mother say, No, he didnt go because of your daughter, if you want to talk to him, he is right here. I walked to the phone and answered it. The women said to me that her stepdaughter was going to give the baby up for adoption and that I needed to sign the papers to allow this. I didnt know what to do. I now had no job, I was only 19 years old and raising a child wasnt something that I could do. So I agreed to meet drive to Fort Wayne and do something that I didnt want to do, but I knew that it was for the best.

The day came for me to sign the papers. It was a Saturday; I will never forget anything about that day. The snow was falling, the roads were covered and the temperature was very cold. I pulled up to the house. It was 10am. I was nearly in tears already and I wasnt even out of my car. I walked up to the door and rang the bell. A man opened the door and welcomed me in. There were 5 people in the house. Her father, stepmother, an aunt, an uncle and a lawyer. Setting on the table was a piece of paper and a pen. They asked me to set down, go over the form and sign it. I kept telling myself that this was the best. I asked, before signing the paper, if they knew where the child would end up. They informed me that the girls mother lived in Florida and had a couple set up to adopt the child. All medical bills were going to be paid for and I wouldnt be bothered by anyone after the papers were signed.

I read through the document slowly making sure that I didnt miss a word. I pulled the pen into my grip and signed my name as well as all my rights away. It was done. I then heard her father say to me, You can leave now. But he didnt just say it; there was anger in his voice. I had never felt so hated in my life. I knew there was nothing I could do or say. So, I turned around and walked out the door. I slowly pulled away from the house, tears started to fill my eyes. I kept repeating that it was for the best. Well if that was the case, why didnt I feel like it was for the best?

I few months went by and I couldnt get that day out of my head. As a matter of fact, 15 years later I still cant get it out of my head. I decided one day to go back to the grocery store where I had worked when I met this girl. I didnt know if she was going to be there or what I would say if she was. She wasnt there anymore and I didnt even know if she was still in the state. But there was a girl that we were both friends with that was still working there. I stopped to ask if she know anything. She told me that she was still in contact with her and that she had given birth to a boy in January. I asked if she had any photos or any other information. She said that she wasnt even supposed to say anything about it to me, but she knew how much it would mean to me. She told me that she didnt have any pictures yet, but the girl was going to be sending some to her very soon. She told me to come back in after a few weeks and she would give me one of them.

A couple of weeks went by and I went into the store. The girl wasnt working that day. Another couple of days went by. Still, she was no longer there. I decided that it would be best if I just found out the next time she would be in. I went up to the girl that was working in the department and asked when the other girl would be working again. She said that she no longer worked there. I knew that I would never know what my son looked like. I gave the opportunity away a few months back. Not a day passes when my son isnt in my thoughts. I would love to meet him someday. But would he hate me for what I did? This is the only thing that I truly fear in life.

So I finally started to get my life together. I stopped working dead end jobs and put the few skills I had and started working for a company that built houses. The job was 3 days a week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. At 11 hrs a day or more, I had very little time on the weekends to do much. I was making really good money, but I needed something to do during the week. All my friends worked a normal 40 hour a week job, so no one was around during the day. I decided that I would get a job at a local gas station for something to do in my down time. So, I am 20 years old, working nearly 70 hrs a week, making very good money, but no time to spend it. But for some reason I couldnt save much of it either. Being 20, you never think about your future. If there was something that I wanted, I bought it. By this time I was driving a really nice car, the first car that was actually mine. One that I picked out, went in, got approved for the loan and drove it off the lot. I was so proud of myself and my ability to make something out of myself.

A few years went by and I became laid off from that job but still had my job at the gas station. I was still living with my parents, so making money under the table there and collecting unemployment, I was able to still do whatever I wanted. We would go out to the bars and I would still buy anything I wanted. But the bars really took a toll on me. There was a stretch where it seemed as if I wasnt working, I was drinking. It started to get out of control for the most part. If I was able to take anything from that, drinking really isnt that important part of life, but what else did I have? I had my friends around, beer, laughter and fun. So why was drinking so bad? It took some time to figure all of that out, but I have come to conclusions over the time that alcohol will only lead to bad choices in life, regrets that you will never be able to erase no matter how long you try to wash it from your mind.

I was finally getting my life in somewhat of order. I was doing what most people would think anyone at my age was important. I had a really good job now, the head installer of a small cabinet shop. I wasnt making great money, but I found another skill that I was really good at. Not the part of working with my hands, I already knew I had that, it was the ability to lead a small group of people in the right direction to reach the ultimate goal of getting the job done. Then, just like the good job before this, I was let go. I was very shocked and upset. All of this a month and a half before I was going to get married. When I returned home after being let go, my mother asked what I was doing coming home so soon. I explained what happened and her words, which still ring in my head, Well you fucked that up, didnt you? This wasnt the first time that I heard those words, probably wont be the last.

I was able to find another job where I was going to be making more money doing nearly the same thing that I was doing at the previous job. The hours were more, but I had just bought a house and the extra money was something that I needed. Not only that, but I wasnt just supporting myself, but I had just got married a month after I started. The house that I bought was nothing to look at. The color was awful and all the paint was chipping off the siding. The roof had seen better days, and the over growth of shrubs around the house just make it look that much worse. But this was my first house, I could see the potential, it was just going to take a lot of work to make it reasonable.

The long hours at my job, plus the long hours at the house gave me very limited time to do anything else. But, this is what I signed up for and it had to be done. The first year I wasnt able to do much to the house other than put a furnace in and some carpet in the living room. The rest of the house had to stay the way it was until more money would come in. The first winter was almost unbearable. The furnace that I installed need a natural gas line installed and the only company wasnt able to make it out for a few weeks, so heat wasnt an option. But I had a house, that is more than most people could say.

The job that I had was going really well. I was making a name for myself around the plant. With my knowledge and people skills, I was the Go To guy for most problems that came up. Knowing that I was good at my job made me think that I would be up for a promotion to Group Leader of my department. I had the people skills, I could dictate the department, I had the knowledge, but I didnt have the drive. That is what they told me when I was passed up for the position. I was furious, pissed. How could anyone not see that I should have been the only choice for that job? From that point on I decided that the company that I was working for could get fucked and I wouldnt go the extra mile for any reason.

Finally I was able to get away from that company. All those years that I put in, I was throwing it away for a company that I knew was a good company and was close to home. I was also able to start going to college. That was something that I never thought I was going to do, ever. I am still scared everyday with my classes. I dont know if I will be able to make it through all the classes, I dont know if I will even be able to make something of myself if I do make it through. Scares me to think that I am doing all of this for nothing. But what have I really accomplished through all of my life? I am still just making enough money to spend on small little life fillers that will not make a difference in the next year.

I guess that is what life is all about in the end, life fillers. The people you come into contact with every day, the jobs that we work, the crap that we buy with the filler job, and the car that we try to make ourselves look more important to anyone we come into contact with. I have changed my outlook on so many things in my life that it seems like I am not even the same person that I used to be.

This concludes some of the hardest parts of my 36 years of my life. I still dont know what tomorrow will bring for me. Most days are filled with a sorrow that I dont know why it is there or how to end it. But the hope is still there that I will have more days of laughter then tears. I guess the next 36 years are a mystery. I wish I knew what life had in store for me, it may be more difficult times or it may be better times. I guess it just depends on what roads I decide to take. Some roads may seem more difficult, but lead to better things, some roads may seem easier and could be the right road to go down but could lead to more suffering. I guess that is what life is all about, which is the best road to travel. But probably the more important part is finding the right person that you will take with you, if anyone at all.

I hope who ever reads this, it will bring a better understanding of the life that one person had that seemed bleak at times and hard in other parts. But I know that if I try and keep faith in myself and try to allow others to help me through the darkest hours; I will be able to make my life better in time. And that is all we have in life, time to make it the best it can possible be.

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