I was too young to remember leaving the first time. I know our house flooded. I know
I was too young to remember the second time, too, and the third. I know we ended up
in Boston before the fourth.
I didn’t have many friends in Boston. My sister went to school because she was old enough to do that sort of thing and she didn’t have many friends either. My mom thought it best for all of us to be homeschooled, which meant I had about three friends. Graham, Harris, and Noah.
My siblings didn’t count.
I remember leaving the fourth time. I remember being sprawled out on my parent’s king-sized bed and crying, not wanting to go. I didn’t know where Connecticut was, but it wasn’t where I was, so I hated it. I was going to miss my three friends, and I had no idea how I would ever make any more.
Not being homeschooled anymore helped on the friend front but leaving one grade to skip to another didn’t. Sixth grade was never a time I had to bear, and at the ripe young age of younger than everyone else in my class I sored into seventh grade with less than three friends. I started counted my siblings in my list of friends. Catherine, Hunter, and Aaron.
I only truly noticed my sheer lack of friends when I left Connecticut for Singapore. My brother, Aaron, and I were the only two who hadn’t gone to college yet and were dragged to the other side of the world by our parents. When we got there, we had the same number of friends: one. We were counting each other, but not the parents who made leaving such a constant in our lives. Two months in and his friends were already too many to count, and I was still fighting to have more than three.
I decided, being a very smart fourteen-year-old, that I would make friends that wouldn’t have to go away the next time I left. The internet is a vast place with many people, and most of the people on there seemed just as sad, lonely, and obsessed with Marvel comics as I was. I met lots of people that said they were my friends. One was twelve years older than I was, obsessed with DC instead of Marvel, and in love with me. That was the claim, anyway. I’d never had many friends, but I’d had even fewer people in love with me.
I didn’t tell anyone about the twenty-six-year-old in love with me. When the twenty-six-year-old left and moved onto to someone else, I didn’t tell anyone about the twenty-eight-year-old either. The twenty-eight-year-old liked Disney instead of Marvel, and she wasn’t leaving her boyfriend even though she loved me. Our dynamic was much too confusing for something simple like a twenty-eight-year-old just loving a fifteen-year-old instead of a twenty-eight-year-old being with a twenty-nine-year-old but talking to a fifteen-year-old on the side. That was more like it. She didn’t leave me. I left her a few times. Then her boyfriend would hurt her, and I’d have to come back. It made me miss the times when leaving was a permanent uprooting. It made me miss missing people.
I left out all the details when I assured my mom that I wasn’t sad, I had lots of friends. Definitely more than three.
We left Singapore and I kept leaving out details of the darkness in my life these new people brought me when I was talking to my mother. Instead I would pull away from conversations, leave dinner early, hide in my room, miss school, leave the decent parts of my personality in a neat little box on a high shelf no one could hurt, no one could see.
Leaving home, which was a different part of Connecticut now, for college in Pennsylvania felt like a great idea at the time. God was really calling me there. That was the advertisement my mind gave me anyway. I actually made real life friends this time, an underground LGBT group at our hyper-conservative college. They were good friends I thought, and they encouraged me to leave things out in my phone calls with my parents. I kept hiding things from my mom and letting people fall in love with me that made me miserable. That part of my life I couldn’t seem to leave behind.
In the summer after my freshman year, I was so miserable. I thought it was because of my family, that was what everyone told me. I believed them. So, I left my family. I told them they made me miserable, that I wanted to leave behind their ideals and lifestyle and be happy. My counter of friends lost my siblings and settled again at zero.
The more I left my parents way of life the more miserable people fell in love with me and the more miserable I got until there was finally no more miserable to feel. I had a pathetic, overdramatic, self-inflicted miserable monopoly. I’d left behind their ideals to be happy. I left things out of conversations for good reasons. Right? I didn’t realize all of the good things I left until I was decidedly left out. Leaving my family meant being left out of all their pictures and left out of the new memories.
You know they went to a spa without me?
They went to a spa on December 20 th and all I did on December 20 th was get meaningless compliments and bad advice from a miserable person who thought he was in love with me.
They went to an escape room, too. That was on December 23 rd . My friend who ODed on pain killers and alcohol and god knows what else went to an escape room a month before he died. Depending on the day, back when I was being felt up by miserable people, I would feel either jealous of the escape room or the dying. ODing sometimes felt preferable to an escape room that was just an hour long.
Leaving miserable people is harder than leaving happy people. Miserable people are so convincing and lonely, it was easy to go to them. When I did finally leave the miserable people, when I did finally go home and stop leaving things out of conversations with my mom, it was like a veil had been pulled off of my eyes. I’d been slowly dying, my vision falling down to a pinpoint as nothing seemed to matter anymore. When she hugged me, crying because her prodigal daughter had returned, I was finally seeing the whole picture again.
I counted my friends. My mom, one. My dad, two. My sister, Catherine, made three. Her husband made four. Hunter, my other brother, made five. Aaron, made six. Double my old number.
"Leave." Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com LLC. Accessed April 10, 2019. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/leave.
E L James. Fifty Shades Darker. (Turtleback Books, 2012).
John Green. Paper Towns. (Speak, 2009).