STORY TIME : A Drunken Proposal.
Once upon a time, there lived a young girl – 19 years old and freshly dropped out of college. She was working as a cashier at a sporting goods store and had recently dumped the latest of her whirlwind relationships with self-centered, controlling boyfriends.
She was heart broken and sad.
She lived in a room that she rented in the upstairs of a nice house in a wealthy neighborhood, owned by an elderly retired woman. She drove a little maroon Sidekick and spent her money on hair dye and cherry slurpees.
She had friends in high places – meaning she tanned for free during the after hours at a gym and she had access to free hot buttered scones after 2 am at a tiny truck stop not far from her house.
There were a lot of people listed under ‘Contacts’ in her Nokia flip phone, people who were always up for company – especially if there was alcohol, greasy food and lots of other people with questionable morals, underwear optional.
(( It makes me cringe just thinking about it… ))
This girl was a bit broken, a little tired and completely lost. She was wandering, grasping at lifelines as they appeared – only to realize that they simply lead to another pit of crap.
Another loser boyfriend.
Another crummy friendship.
Another cherry slurpee with a side of free scone.
There were some big, real reasons why she was living the way she was…but she felt there were zero real reasons for her to bother dealing with them.
Until she got a message from a friend.
There once was a boy, 19 years old and freshly dropped out of college. He lived in an old house on a main street near his University he sort of attended. He shared the house with a couple roommates and their off-and-on-again girlfriends. He worked at a hardware store…doing whatever it is that people do there.
He drove around a forklift. He moved things around.
He had scooter races with his coworkers after hours.
There were tales of glitter bombs, saran wrapped vehicles and many, many late night taco trips.
He spent a lot of time doing whatever his friends wanted to do. He drank beer and occasionally smoked cigarettes. He and his pals liked being stupid and throwing parties for people with questionable morals – underwear optional.
He was heartbroken and sad.
He didn’t have any serious relationships or girlfriends. He had one once, a long time before, but he was sure she had moved on – he still waited on her, just the same.
(( Hint : It was Allison. ))
He was lost and wandering – not really sure if he cared about his future or goals or whether any of it even mattered. He lived one day at a time, taking things as they came along and never really thinking too long about consequences or his future.
He ate a lot of ramen.
He played a lot of World of Warcraft.
He drank a lot of beer.
There were some big, real reasons why he was living the way he was…but he felt there were zero real reasons for him to bother dealing with them.
Until one day when he finally decided to message a friend.
Did you know these kids back then? Were you standing on the outside, looking in, wondering how to help them – afraid to push them a little too hard in an attempt to save them?
I learned much later that there were a lot of people like that in our lives.
(( Oh yeah, I’m Allison. And Harold? Yeah, that’s my husband. Welcome to our story. ))
Harold had sent me a message through MSN Messenger one day. I hadn’t really talked to him in awhile. The last time we had seen each other face to face had been in November of the previous year.
(( Some of you should know that this is where things get a little painful. It’s something I haven’t written about, as I never felt I could do this story justice. This is FAR from the full story but it’s still something that may strike a nerve with you, if you were standing there with us that cold, November day. If this is too much for you, if you weren’t prepared for the memories that come with this loss…then PLEASE don’t read this part. All you need to know is that we shared a loss of a friend…someone who could never, ever be replaced. Someone who would and will be forever missed, forever loved. ))
We had stood, among our friends and families, staring at a box and roses and autumn leaves. We watched as people walked by, laying hands and flowers and tears at the foot of a deep, cold hole in the ground. We were numb – and it had nothing to do with the bitter winter wind lashing our faces.
We stood, together.
Together, we said goodbye to the loving, generous heart of a friend who had kept us all going, day after day. We watched as the casket carrying the body of a brother, a son, a friend to us all, was lowered into the ground – long before his time.
Together, we laid the pieces of our shattered hearts with the roses and the memories and the Hotwheels car secretly settled near the grave – a dark blue Mustang with two white racing stripes.
Together, we walked away from the cemetery above the river to begin our lives without that smile. We left the shade of the trees growing tall above his headstone to try and figure out how to move forward with the shadow of this heavy loss shading every moment of every day that we would live and he wouldn’t.
We were all heartbroken and sad.
(( If you’re skipping this part of the post…don’t stop here. Move to the next section, I’m almost done. ))
There is so much more to that story, so much that I’m simply not ready to write. There is so much to be said but no words to help me say it. So much to be heard, so much to be shared, so much to be known…but I don’t know that I am the one to tell it.
Like how the only time in my life when everyone – EVERYONE AROUND ME – seemed to stare at me with one question on their lips but nobody wanted to be the first to ask.
The only time in my life when an adult sat me down and took a deep breathe, and through tear filled eyes looked directly at me and asked what everyone seemed to want to know…almost what they hoped might be true…
“Is there any chance that you could be pregnant? Is there any hope that you might be carrying his baby?”
I wasn’t. There was no way I could be.
(( We can just leave it at that. ))
But I wished I was. I wished it more than I had ever wished for anything in my life.
I wanted to be able to ease the pain in the eyes of loved ones.
I wanted to be the person to give them a bit of hope in the face of utter despair.
After I left that room full of heartbroken people, I went to say goodbye to Harold. When our friend had suddenly passed away, he had been the one to find him. Harold had been the one who checked for a pulse and called for help.
He was broken. And I couldn’t fix him. So I left, I went back home to my rented room near the scones and slurpees. Selfishly, I abandoned him. I left him to pick up the pieces of his heart, of his life.
I went back home and dove head first into a life of self-destruction and depression.
I threw myself into relationships with abusive men who took advantage of my pain.
Harold traded in carefree nights with his friends for parties and drinking and a life lived quietly – away from reality.
(( THIS is where it’s safe to come back to the story, if you’re joining us again – start HERE. ))
And this is how we became the people you met up there, in the beginning of this story. This is where we are now, as the story of us – me and him – Harold and Allison – begins, in the midst of pain and chaos and heartbreaking devastation.
In order to understand the story behind the picture, you just had to know where we had been before. And now that you know…let’s move on.
Halloween – Nearly One Year Later.
Harold and I had been talking for awhile by the time Halloween came around. He had come to visit me once – he stayed over, sleeping on the couch downstairs for a night during my landlady’s vacation.
We had a few of our friends over and we drank a few beers.
We talked and we laughed and we played cards. At the time, I was aware of how much he cared for me – and I was happy to accept the affection. It felt good to be wanted. It felt good to be seen as desirable and sexy. I wore tight clothes and low-cut shirts. I flirted with the few guys who had showed up to our card game, right in front of Harold.
(( I wasn’t ready for the love he offered. I wasn’t sure I EVER wanted anybody’s love ever again. So…I was cruel. I was manipulative. It makes me sad to think of it. ))
For the months before he visited, I had lived a life full of reckless behavior, free from my life-long fear of others’ opinions. I lived on slurpees and skinny jeans. I had short, dark hair and make-up to match. I felt like I had lost all control of my life – except when it came to men.
Do you even recognize that face??
I walked with purpose and attitude. Though I wasn’t sure what that purpose was.
Other girls weren’t fond of me. My closest friends distanced themselves from my self-destruction. Men, even some professors, began showing me attention as I flaunted my body and my lack of self-respect.
No, that never went any further than flirting.
I said whatever came to my mind. It was shocking to the people around me, attractive to all the wrong ones. I boldly spoke up to people I might have just ignored before.
Like a guy in an elevator with tattoos and a guitar, when I asked him which tattoo was his favorite. And when he stuttered as he stood there, suddenly unsure of himself, I looked away and said,
“It’s ok, I can’t show you my favorite one either. At least not here.”
The elevator door opened and I walked away. I never saw him again.
Which is definitely a good thing.
(( I have ONE tattoo. It’s on my ankle and it’s the size of a penny. It’s some sort of Chinese symbol…it was meant to represent “Hope”…but for all I know, it could mean “Sandwich” or “Boobs”. Of course I was just being a tease. Honestly, I’m lucky none of my nonsense ever lead to any serious trouble. ))
At that rate, it didn’t take long before I handed away my virginity to a man I barely knew. I don’t even remember it, really – seeing as he had also handed me the liquor that gave me my first hangover.
One of the hardest phone calls I have ever made was to Harold, not long after this had happened. I sat on the floor of my closet and I shut the doors. I called him and I blurted it out to him. I was ashamed and disgusted and horrified and the last person in the world I wanted to tell was exactly the person I needed to tell…
…this awful moment was the first time I realized that I never wanted to have to call anyone else in my lifetime.
Sitting there, in silence, as he processed what I had just told him, I was suddenly faced with the possibility that he might not feel the same way…especially not after hearing THAT. He might never want to answer my call again.
Harold didn’t say much after that. We hung up and didn’t talk again for a few days. But, when he called me again, he had heavy things to say.
He told me that he hadn’t had that kind of relationship with any girl yet. He hadn’t had the desire to have that kind of connection with anyone…except for with me. He told me that he loved me and that he forgave me and that he wanted better for me.
“How could anyone WANT to be with me? After all that I’ve done, after the decisions I’ve made and the things I’ve said?”
I remember thinking that to myself in that moment…but since then, I’ve never ever truly wondered again – because Harold has loved me and listened to me and encouraged me and held me and dreamed with me EVERY.DAY.SINCE.
(( That’s the kind of love that comes once in a lifetime, Friends. That’s the kind of person you share your life with. That’s the kind of man you marry. ))
So…soon after this, we made plans for me to come visit him for a weekend in October. Halloween was a big deal in his house – his buddies threw crazy parties and he wanted me to come.
I shopped for a costume and settled on a “Sexy Kitty”. It cost me a ridiculous amount of money and looked nothing like a cat…except that there was a headband with cat ears included in the package.
I made the trip and brought my bag into his room. I sat on his bed and we talked for awhile. Soon we had cups of alcohol in our hands and people were filling up the rooms. College kids swarmed the house as they walked through town looking for a bit of Halloween fun.
I dressed myself up as a hot-pink cat with 5 inch black heels and some serious eye-liner.
Harold was impressed, too. But he was concerned…and not super thrilled to have all of his buddies following me around. I hadn’t ever been to a party like this one and I was looking forward to proving to myself and everyone else that I could handle it. So I didn’t worry about much.
Harold tried to protect me, he tried to keep me under control. I wouldn’t allow it and he wasn’t prepared to force me out of that situation. I was a bull in a china shop with a NEED to destroy. Turns out…it was all completely unnecessary, unhealthy and unwanted.
(( NOTE : if you ever feel like you need to step outside of your comfort zone or are pressured to let go of your boundaries IN ORDER TO IMPRESS SOMEONE/ANYONE…they aren’t worth it. Just trust me. Nothing is worth giving up that much of yourself. ))
I don’t remember a whole lot about that night, to be honest. I remember a guy showing up and introducing himself to me as he stripped his shirt, shoes and pants off right in the middle of the living room.
“Oh…yeah…he gets naked when he drinks.” – said everyone at the party.
I made sure to stay away from that guy.
I remember walking into the kitchen, right into the center of a circle of guys. They were laughing and pouring and drinking. One of them handed me a cup filled with who knows what – and I drank it. Pretty sure it tasted disgusting. Pretty sure I wanted to look like a badass and chugged it anyway…especially since one of the last memories I have of that night is the obnoxious sound of drunk college boys yelling and shouting…
“Harry’s Girl! Harry’s Girl! CHUG!!! CHUG!!! CHUG!!!”
#soembarrassing #iwasanidiot #younganddumb
The only other thing I remember ( and this one is fairly vague ) is the cold, hard asphalt under my feet as I wandered across the street with a girl I hadn’t ever talked to before to a house full of people sitting on couches.
I remember fire and shot glasses and surprised looks as this girl and I accepted and drank what I was told were flaming shots of Sake.
#iwasSICKforaWEEK #sodisgusting #howdidinotdie
Harold wasn’t too happy with his “friends” when he finally found me.
THE END OF MY HALLOWEEN MEMORIES.
The next day, I looked through my camera and looked at pictures. I deleted photos of naked-guy and I hoped so very hard that nobody else had been taking any pictures through the night as I looked at the hideous cat costume I had been wearing.
I don’t remember it being taken, but I stopped at the only one of me and Harold.
We were sitting on the porch watching strangers drunkenly wander by, shortly after Harold rescued me from the neighboring house and told me he didn’t want me out of his sight the rest of the night. We sat out there, unaware of the cold, and we laughed like little kids. Harold held me close to him, protective of the sloshed, pink mess that I was.
I set aside the camera as Harold walked into the room with water and pain relievers and he sat next to me on the bed. I remember feeling miserably sick and quickly vomiting both the water and pills. I was embarrassed and annoyed with myself.
He sat there with me, caring for me and encouraging me to just rest. I ended up staying an extra day so I could continue to sober up. Yes, I was that drunk. Yes, I probably had alcohol poisoning. Yes, I’m lucky I hadn’t been arrested or raped or killed. YES, it was the ONE and ONLY time I have EVER partied.
#iswitchedtocoffee #andwine #imclassiernow
So anyway, that’s the crazy, messy SUPER EMBARRASSING story behind that picture. I get compliments on that photo so often, we both look so young and happy. I’m asked about my photos quite a bit…but none more than that one on the porch.
I’ve never actually told the whole story. I’m positive you see me differently now. I’m sure that you’re wondering why you ever thought to compliment me in the first place. Anyone who had been a part of our world at that time might be questioning everything they ever knew about me…wondering if maybe I was that one friend you probably should have left back in your college days…
BUT before you go and delete me from Facebook and hide any photos we might have together…let me tell you how that story ends…
The day after that one – where I just laid in Harold’s bed and miserably regretted every decision I had ever made in my life…
The last day of my trip to visit this broken-hearted boy…
He sat next to me and looked at the hot mess that I was…and he smiled.
I hadn’t showered in three days. I was probably still wearing that stupid cat costume. I had probably cried my eye-liner and mascara into awful black trails of regret, staining my flushed cheeks. I am positive I smelled of alcohol and vomit.
I tried to turn away from him, to hide the shame and the make-up.
I whispered, as I avoided making eye-contact with him.
“Don’t do that. You’re ok. We’re ok.“
I began to cry as I felt the flood of relief as his gentle grace washed over me.
“I never want to live without you.”
He said, looking at me with tears in his eyes.
“Me either. But me…without you…right? Did I say that right?”
He laughed as a tear rolled down his cheek and he leaned closer to me…
“Can we get married?”
“Yeah. Let’s do it.”
What do you think? Are you glad you came for coffee and a story? Are you surprised? Ashamed? Embarrassed for me?
Are you wondering why the heck I would EVER think to share ANY of this with ANYONE?
ESPECIALLY ON THE INTERWEBS??
It’s ok, really. I know my past and every bit of it has made me into the woman I am today. Harold officially proposed to me with a diamond ring on Christmas morning in my parents’ living room. We were married in April the following year. It was fast and people were worried about us, that we had rushed into such a huge decision.
But it’s ok. Because we knew. We knew where we had been and where we wanted to go…
…and we knew that we needed to do life together.
So, anyway…story time is over now, friends.
Maybe I’ll make this a thing. Maybe I won’t. Maybe you’ll just have to tell me if you’d even want to read anything else of mine ever again.
And we can just go from there.