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Shadows of a Memory

I’ve been going back and forth in my head on whether or not to wish you a “Happy Birthday”, because these days, I’m unsure of where that conversation can lead. There have been so many changes with me, with you, with us, that sometimes it’s best to just let be what they may…even though it hurts.

I’ve known you for as long as I could remember. I look in my baby book at some of my first birthday parties and there you are, standing next to me with those big, beautiful brown eyes. You would occupy the space next to me for most of our life; at times as my friend, my girlfriend, sister, an ex and then whatever we became before it all fell apart. I have no clue where we stand now, because the issues you’re dealing with make it impossible for me to have a steady role in your life.

I’ve loved you for as long as I could remember. We’ve endured what causes most friendships to disintegrate, time. We’ve grown up together, grown apart, came back to one another and faced the ugly truth of life time and time again, but nothing we learned prepared us for the last nine or ten years. The last time we attempted a relationship we were simply no good for one another; I was in the middle of another situation and you had a girlfriend, but there we were sneaking off to see one another like we met on BlackPlanet. A few months of that and we were back in the groove of being brother and sister, supportive of the moves the other was making in life.

I looked for you for as long as I could remember. Then I got a phone call that no one had seen or heard from you for days, that you had run off after acting out violently to your family, they said you appeared possessed. The search went on for weeks and ultimately led to Florida, where you had fled everyone who loved you, everyone who could possibly help. The diagnosis was bipolar disorder; the reality was everything had changed. The days, weeks, months and years that passed before you reached out to me created a distance that had never existed between the two of us. A distance we tried to diminish at first, but your episodes became more frequent and your refusal of medication or psychotherapy didn’t sit well with me.

I’ve been your friend for as long as I could remember. I tried to maintain a friendship with you from the distance we maintained, but you didn’t make it easy, lashing out at me frequently, alternately loving me and hating me in the same breath, cursing me, then praising me, wanting to marry me, but telling me you secretly aborted my child the next. Oftentimes I would cry after our interactions, appealing to God, wishing on everything that you would miraculously get better by the next time we spoke.

And then days, weeks, and months, sometimes years would go by before we spoke again. During these intermissions you would be in jail, in mental hospitals, hustling bus fare back to Jersey and then escaping once again to Florida. At times, it would be like having my old friend back, but then you were someone I didn’t know, but I talked to the two yous like I loved them both equally, yet differently. And then days, weeks, months, and sometimes years would go by before we spoke again. Next I would receive long, incoherent e-mails from you about nothing; I couldn’t decipher what you were trying to tell me. The only thing that I could grasp was that you didn’t have my phone number anymore and I had moved from where you knew me to live last.

Yes, I had moved on, convinced that I couldn’t save you or carry the burden of your pain anymore. Besides, you didn’t think you had a problem, you had weed to smoke and sunshine to live in. Remember you told me that was all you needed in life? Against my better judgment I gave you my new phone number and you would call me practically every night at 2am, some nights lucid, others off on tangents I couldn’t follow. And then days, weeks, and months, sometimes years would go by before we spoke again.

Remember we said if we weren’t married by 30, we would marry each other? Yeah, I know you do, because right around our 30th birthdays you started calling and asking when we were getting married. For the first time in a long time we had a real conversation; I told you that I couldn’t marry you because what we wanted out of life didn’t match anymore. Seven years earlier you received a M.A. degree in Psychology and I was starting my career in Higher Education, but during those conversations you were content with living off of $266 a month from Social Security. Add to that you were still going in and out of jail, in and out of the hospital and in and out of my life.

I know I didn’t say what you wanted to hear because days, weeks, and months, sometimes years went by before I heard from you again; this time, you just wanted to move in with me and when I refused, I was on the wrong end of your wrath. You couldn’t process why I couldn’t have you in my home, why your instability wasn’t welcomed at my door, why I stopped sending you money as I had done since we were in college. I could no longer enable you, I couldn’t be accessory to the crimes you committed against yourself.

Somehow you found your way back to Jersey and when I saw you for the first time in many years, the light was gone from your eyes, the years away had taken their toll on you and our conversation was pedestrian at best. I cried in the car, cried when I got home, cried when you call to curse me out for not taking you with me. I didn’t know what to do with you anymore and neither did your family, who were tired of dealing with your assaults, physical and verbal, so you were headed back to Florida. Once again days, weeks, and months, sometimes years passed before you called to tell me that you were pregnant by some guy you met in jail and he was back in while you were carrying his child.

I didn’t know what to think, for thirteen years all you thought of was having a child, now here was your chance. The first thing that came to my mind was that you were in no position to have a child, but you didn’t want to hear any of that and for the first time in a long time, you seemed like your old self. Right up until the end of your pregnancy when wild tales of marriage to Jay-Z, Lyfe Jennings and Lil’ Wayne began and your quest to marry me reignited; I could be your physical husband, God said it was OK, that’s what you would tell me. Your son was born and everyone seemed happy, but I was concerned, because less than two weeks later you were gone again and he was gone.

I’ve loved you as long as I’ve known you. I’ve been by your side as you faced criticism from your family and doubted yourself. I’ve dealt with your emotions far before a doctor put a name to it, I’ve even endured pain I didn’t deserve, but I can’t do this anymore. Your latest overtures to me have been troubling and I have a wife to protect now, so I can no longer be for you whatever it was I have been in your eyes. It hurts, but we let go of one another a long time ago and simply loved shadows of a memory, something I can no longer do.

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