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By Alex Kizima

I

My life was rather quiet before I met him. If I were to pick a color to describe my life, it would have been beige. I drove on paved roads. I didn’t go out in snowstorms at three a.m. I never even thought about listening to music without words. I thought I was going to West Virginia University to escape my ordinary life. I never would have imagined how much work a friendship would be and how much I could learn.

Who would have thought two unlikely people could be so similar?

II

I was invited to a party with a few of my friends.

“Sure, I’ll go, but I’m not drinking just in case I have to drive somewhere,” I said. That’s usually how it goes. I’m the mom of the group.

It was a cold weekend in the middle of November, and it wasn’t like there was anything else to do in my town. I showed up late to the tiny apartment, knowing the party would be in full swing and a majority of the crowd would have their buzz on.

How so many people fit in one two bedroom apartment beat me. After talking to everyone, I decided to sit on one of the couches with a different group of people. Mid-conversation, someone with ungodly-tight pants plopped down right beside me. He was a sophomore that I’d seen in the hallways at school between classes. He smelled like clean laundry, beer, and cigarette smoke; his hair was a little messed up, too.

“I’m pretty smashed. I don’t know how I’ll get home.” He was sixteen, tall, with brown shaggy hair and blue eyes so bright they almost seemed clairvoyant. His crooked smile could light up New York City after dark. I’m such a sucker for taking care of drunk people; it’s almost a curse.

“Do you want me to drive you home?” I said.

He objected. I made him take my phone number so he could text me when he got home. He never did.

III

The gas station where I worked, which oozed grease and had been stained by dirt for longer than I’d been alive, hired him as a cashier in the weeks following our first meeting. Being the only two high school students forced us to work together every night after school. I worked in the kitchen, but it was hardly busy so I would go over to the till side and talk to him. Eventually, we hung out after work.

His driving was as crazy as the music he listened to. He was famous for fishtailing his car side to side, or making donuts on sketchy gravel roads in the middle of winter. Obviously, I was scared. His dark blue 1992 Buick Century seemed like it could fall apart or explode at any second.

In a few short weeks, we knew practically everything about each other. Little did I comprehend how much pain this vibrant kid was hiding. Ever so slowly, he let me in. I listened to everything he had to say and he did the same for me. He told me about his family issues, past relationships, and his struggle with his sexuality. I think that’s what honestly brought us together; we both needed someone to need us.

IV

I would love to know how many hours I’ve spent worrying over him, or maybe I wouldn’t, because I realize it would be a sickening amount. If you’ve never dealt with a person with suicidal tendencies, I envy you. Cancer and depression are a lot the same to me. A person dealing with either illness is battling some type of malfunction in the body causing an imbalance of either cells or, in this case, chemicals. Both people suffer, except with cancer, a doctor can usually predict how long that person has left to live. Suicide can happen at any second. It’s the equivalent of a ticking time bomb that I patiently waited for. It never happened.

Nighttime was always the worst for him—for me. I never trusted him alone with his thoughts. I slept with my ringtone volume on high, just in case he needed me.

“Alex, don’t freak out, but I’m in the hospital,” he said one night in a raspy, rushed voice.

I didn’t know whether to throw up or cry.

V

I don’t know what happened, but something shifted that awful year. He learned to deal with his anger in better ways and discovered new coping mechanisms rather than carving in his own skin. There will forever be reminders of what he went through and still occasionally goes through. If someone were to look at his inner right wrist, they would see a mountain range of horizontal lines.

But now when I look at him, I notice his eyes aren’t as hazed over as they once were, his smile doesn’t seem forced, and his hair isn’t shaggy like a little boy’s anymore; his quiff game is stronger than ever. Along with his personal accomplishments, I’m proud to say he’ll be graduating high school this year and is planning on going to college next fall.

VI

Two years in and what feels like a million obstacles later, we’re here. He overcame his mind, and I decided not to abandon ship when things got undoubtedly rough.

He usually calls me and states that we’re going hang out. Driving around is the only activity to do in our rinky-dink town, and with most people, I would be bored; not with him. He’s always taking me on a new adventure. He isn’t afraid of anything. I realized that when he decided to drive us sixty miles in the middle of a snowstorm at three in the morning just to eat hash browns at the best truck stop on I-29.

“Mom, I’m going out!” I yell as I run down the stairs. My whole family can hear his signature car, a new-to-him, beat up, dark blue, 1994 Buick pull up to the house, it’s not quiet whatsoever ever since the muffler fell off.

“With Brandyn?” she says more as a statement than a question. It’s become almost like a nightly tradition. Everyone in my family adores him, probably more than they love me. He is my opposite, but we each complement the other.

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Alex Kizima is a sophomore at BSU majoring in criminal justice, but she enjoys writing on the side. She also likes to watch Netflix and stay inside.