--"The Childcatcher", Lushlast week
“I should have handled the situation better. I shouldn’t have said, ‘that’s not my fault.’ I shouldn’t have left you out there on your own,” I told her.
“Do you realize, sugar, that if it had been true, we could’ve had a kid only three years younger than I was back then?” she replied. “Twelve. Imagine that.”
“That’s darn close to how old you were when I met you, Breanne,” I trailed off oddly.
When I was only nineteen I thought I had gotten my best friend pregnant. The scare didn’t persist for long; it lasted all of seven days. However, the idea that if things had turned out differently I could have been a father right now is a thought that I dwell upon every now and again. Most times I count myself lucky because every fiber of my being tells me I would have been ill-prepared to handle such a huge responsibility. I think that that notion coupled with the fact that both of us would have been so young when it happened leads me to believe that I was fortunate that my mistakes didn’t end up costing me too much. In fact, it didn’t even really start to dawn upon me that I had passed a huge crossroads until well after I had passed it. Back then I was of the mentality “no harm, no foul.” I didn’t see much good in punishing myself for something that never came to pass. It just didn’t make sense.
But with age and some hindsight I believe both of us have gotten to the point where we can look upon that week and the immediate weeks that followed with some clarity. I believe both of us possess a maturity and an understanding of just how fallible and innocent we were to the change something like becoming a parent would have brought with it.
“Sounds like the plot of some Lifetime movie, fifteen and pregnant with the father on the other side of the country. Hell’s bells, I could have become the cliché of all clichés,” I hear her attempt to laugh. There’s a hitch in her voice that I recognize now as the sound of someone who has lost some of her brio in the intermittent years since she was that fifteen-year-old girl.
“What about me? I would’ve been no better. At least your parents would have come around to helping you. I have no doubt my parents would have literally killed me. It wasn’t bad enough that I chose to fly off to meet you. I had to go and do that to you… and to them. That’s what they would’ve said.”
“It really could’ve been catastrophic for us, huh, Eeyore?”
“Catastrophic’s apt in that situation.”
The more I contemplate all of it, the more I realize that I didn’t have any reason to be there. It was bad news waiting to happen. Starting with the idea that her parents weren’t going to be home for the four or five days I was going to be there and ending with the idea that the ludicrous notion that nothing would happen between us. I was fooling myself to think that I had sufficient self-control to stop the inevitable. I’ve never possessed that amount of self-control. I knew that. She knew that. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say she tricked me into it, she has always held a certain complicity in any and all intentions and outcomes of that trip. And she’d be the first to admit that, which is a quality I’ve always admired about her. She never once transformed herself into being this “little ‘ole Miss Innocent.” Fifteen or not, she’s always been a lot more deliberate in making her decisions.
Like I said, I handled the situation badly at first. I muffed it royally at first. Going from genuine shock to mild denial is not the most upstanding reaction to hearing the news one might be a parent. I never said I had all the answers. Indeed, when she first called, the first thoughts I had were to flee the scene and escape with as much as I could take. It was all I could do to not go into hysterics when I heard while I was at the bookstore. It was all I could do to reply to her later on, “it wasn’t my fault,” which, in essence, is just the coward’s way of saying, “it’s your fault.”
“Did you ever reckon that we’d be having this conversation thirteen years later? That I’d be married and you’d have gone through an abortion, and that that incident would still be itching away at us like some burr in our britches. We never really did talk about what happened, you know?”
“I just couldn’t talk about it, Breanne. Not to you. Not to anyone. It was just too embarrassing.”
“Embarrassing for me. I handled it all wrong. From not waiting to trying to hide it away from everybody, then to not really be supportive when I really should’ve been. I handled it all wrong.”
“Shush. We survived.”
The point to meeting her on her fifteenth birthday like I did was because I thought the appropriate thing to do was to go be with her on an important day like that. I thought the right course to take was to do what she wanted and fulfill her wish to spend the weekend with her alone. It never occurred to me that she’d never been alone with a guy before—not like that, at least. It never occurred to me that in four fricking days I could get into so much trouble. The appropriate thing to have done is just to have stayed away like my other friends were telling me. It wouldn’t have been because I didn’t care about her or because I didn’t want to be with her. It would’ve been been precisely I do care about her and because, as someone who did and does care about her, I should have watched out for her more even if that’s what she didn’t want from me. Yes, she was her person and the reason she said she liked having me as a friend was because I didn’t treat her like someone whose opinion didn’t matter. But in that case (and a few cases that followed) I should have taken the reins of the friendship and shut her out of the decision-making process, at least until she was older and more aware of what exactly she was looking for in the long-term.
It wasn’t just her age that leads me to say this. It’s her whole personality. It’s my whole personality. Between her “Breanne doesn’t think, she just goes” mentality and my “if it makes you happy then it must not be the bad” mantra, there just wasn’t a voice a reason to tell us that what happened was a bad idea—not a horrible idea and not even an idea that didn’t have it’s place. I think the better word for it would have been maybe an ill-timed idea. I don’t care that she was young. I’m still only fucking four-and-a-half years older than her. It’s the idea that we were both too young for that or, rather, we were both rather immature enough to believe that what happened wasn’t going to have its consequences.
God, how I did and do love her, though. I think back in those days the will to judge accurately how and why I did things was blown all out of proportion. I didn’t care I was into my second year at USC and she was into her sophomore year at her high school; our age difference never weighed on my mind as much I pretended it did. The weightier matter was always how manipulative I was and how eager to be seen as someone capable of her own decisions she was. That’s not a good combination. I was always worried that she was only capable of liking me because I told her what she wanted to hear and treated her as if she was someone equal to me. I gave her the presence of mind that there were people who weren’t going to treat her like a kid and that gave her hope that she wasn’t going to be one forever. I don’t think I took advantage of that dynamic, but in the heat of making plans and goddamn honestly wanting to be with her I might have indulged her stubborn streak for our benefit upon more than one occasion.
“You know what I dream about sometimes?” she asks me after a brief pause.
“I sometimes wonder if we’d have had a child together if we’d have ended up together.”
“With your daddy in the mix, I think I can answer that would’ve been a yes. Hell, if my parents had caught wind of it, I would’ve been looking for a new set of parents so you can bet I would’ve been hightailing it over to you, Little Miss Chipper.”
“I’m serious. Do you think we would’ve gotten married? If so, do you think we would have stayed together? You’re not curious about that, not even a little?”
“I probably would have done the right thing.”
“Forget the right thing. Would you have been happy with me? To be married to me, you know? It’s not as cut-and-dry as it sounds. Like my daddy says, ‘there’s a long way from buying a house and making it a home.’ I wonder if we’d have really been happy together under those circumstances.”
“I would’ve been happy.”
“Even with a child in tow and my having to divert my attention betwixt the both of you, darling?”
“It would’ve been our son or daughter.”
“Yes, it would’ve been,” she trailed off again.
She has this theory that since I was her first qualified boyfriend that it is possible to get it right the first time. I still don’t know what to make of that postulate. On one hand, there’s a lot that feels perfect between us and a lot of me knows how lucky I am to hold onto such a vibrant and personable individual this long. On the other hand, we’ve both made our fair share of mistakes and had our knockdown drag-out fights that there’s nothing to suggest that, if not for the distance between us, we wouldn’t have ended up hating one another. I exist as her first not because it was fated or because it was mean to be, but because I chose her. I made a concerted effort to get to know her better. Like it or not, I’m in the position where I am today because I put myself here. For her part, she made the decision to stick by me too.
That’s why I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that I could be any happier with her. I’m happy with her. To ask for anymore sometimes borders greed. It’s one of those situations where you don’t want to want too much for fear of wrecking what you have already. Married with a kid? That seems like a pipe dream even though there’s a large portion of me that yearns for that very thing with her. I just know that wanting something and having that something be the right thing are two different places that don’t often connect.
It always brings me around to the idea that we might have been better served if I hadn’t been her first… everything. If she’d had some experience or if I’d had less experience, things might have turned out vastly different. We would have progressed at the same right with one another. As it was, I think she put me on a bit of a pedestal and I roleplayed that to the bitter end. I came at her sometimes like I was this wise and all-knowing gentleman when I was just as confused and as addled as she was. Then, when she came to know a little more about how relationships in the real world play out, she became a tad bitter at how I obviously tried to fool her. I wasn’t trying to fool her. I was merely trying to play out that perfect relationship without any input from her. It wasn’t because I didn’t want her input; it was because she just hadn’t about enough relationships to know what she wanted. That’s the truth. If we were in the same place at the same time when it came to me and her, we would have a more equal say in how the two of us developed. I wasn’t some god that knew how to do everything; but it’s a role I kind of took a shine to.
Yet my hypocrisy came to an end when she told she could be pregnant. She saw just how much I was pretending for her behalf and how much of me she was actually seeing.
“We didn’t even think of names, Patrick. We were all so tossing in our own sheets that we never got to that point,” she said.
“What would you have liked?”
“Aaron,” she said unflinchingly.
“And Breanne Taroc. They do have a nice sound about them, you know?”
“I think I would’ve much rather have your name, Breannie. Patrick Holins. See? That’s a name I can get behind. It makes me sound really Irish instead of honorary Irish.”
“It does at that. You can be so silly sometimes…” she laughed.
I know my life would’ve been changed had it all come to pass. But the thing is my life has already been changed from the simple fact it didn’t come to pass. That’s the one event that occurred which changed my perception of her. I stopped treating her like a kid, somebody who didn’t know what was going around her, and started treating her like somebody who probably knew more of what was going on then I did. When that happened, she positioned herself as the decisive one. She’s the one who began carving at the plans. She’s the one who took the lead. All I could do is agree with her and stay out of her way. A big part of our relationship changed in that week or so. I stopped humoring her as being potentially my equal. I started treating her like she was my equal and, at times and in certain instances, my better.
It was one of those milestones in a person’s life where you stop seeing a person as the person you grew up with and start seeing them as the person he or she’ll eventually be for the rest of their life. It was easy to coddle and humor the thirteen-year-old hell-bent on conquering the world. It’s a lot harder to deny somebody who you see firsthand rise up to the pressures being applied around her and, not just surviving through them, but thriving upon them. Before I though she was just paying lip service to how assertive and graceful under pressure she was; but she really is in her element when she’s up against adversity. Fifteen, twenty, or twenty-eight—it doesn’t matter how old she was or is.
Breanne doesn’t think; she just goes. And where she goes is usually the place you want to be.
That’s how I know she would’ve been great.
“Do you think we would’ve made great parents, Eeyore?” she asked me just before hanging up the phone. She yawned just then to emphasize the point she wouldn’t be taking any further questions.
“I have no doubt that you would’ve made a great mom. I’m only sorry that we never got the chance to see how it would’ve played out. I would’ve liked coming along for that ride with you.”
She laughed before she hung up the phone.
Labels: Breanne, commitment, first love, Lush, obstacles