This Awful Beautiful Life
Doors slamming. Tears falling. Voices yelling. This is my life. Time to take a cigarette break. Inhale. Exhale. Why did he have to leave? Why did he have to go and screw this whole family over? Inhale deeper. Exhale longer. What did any of us, especially me, ever do to him? Because of him everything that was once good has fallen to pieces, to nothing.
It all started when I was 5 years old. He was 14 and in 8th grade. I can’t help but ask myself everyday what happened to the loving brother I used to have? He went crazy. My parents won’t tell me exactly what happened. They don’t want to ruin my innocence, ruin the good memories I have of Kendrick. The great memories we have of playing together, coloring together, and going to the park together. But it’s a little too late for that. He hasn’t been here; he hasn’t been present in my life – at all. Mom kicked him out seven years ago. She walked in on him shooting up in front of me. She wasn’t supposed to come home. She wasn’t supposed to be there. If she hadn’t come home from work early, maybe things would be different, maybe he would still be here…or maybe not. Light up another.
Two years ago he tried to come home for Christmas morning breakfast, but he was too high to even function like a normal person interacting with others. He knocked on the door. I answered. I didn’t recognize him until I looked in his eyes and saw the same deep green sparkle that used to tuck me in at night when I was little. The same deep green sparkle I couldn’t sleep without seeing. But he wasn’t the same person I once knew. Kendrick looked like a deranged man you wouldn’t only see in movies. He somehow managed to mumble something that sounded similar to my name, which I barely understood. I was so happy but so angry at the same time. I wanted to jump up into his arms and kiss him on the cheek but I wanted to punch him, too. I wanted to ask him why he never came back, why he never called, why he never wrote, why he never tried – at all. There were too many questions I needed to ask but didn’t want the answers to, and it’s still that way. I haven’t asked him any questions and he hasn’t given me any answers. And I think I want it to stay that way. I need to quit chain smoking.
Kendrick is a bipolar heroin addict and an alcoholic. I want to ask why no one will help him, why don’t I help him. Then I remember what he’s done to this family, to my parents, to me; and it all makes sense. No one wants to help him. We want him to help himself. We want to keep our hands clean because if anything goes wrong and we tried, we’re partially responsible. That’s why my parents gave up after checking him into rehab twice. He relapsed. He fell apart. For the third time, he let everyone down, including himself. Ken’s ups and downs were always confusing. Inhale, exhale, feelings drifting away. I never understood why he always pulled out his needle, stuck it in his arm, and in seconds was happy again. His lows lasted a few months at a time and during these periods he would do nothing but sit in his room, sleep, and occasionally present himself at dinner. His manic episodes would also last a few months. When he was manic he would love to be around everyone, make jokes, and nothing could make him sad. This went on for a year, until my mom walked in that night. I am still angry at her and at him for what has become of this family, of him, and especially what has become of me.
There are pictures around the house. Pictures of me, sometimes with Ken and sometimes not, as a child in my pink sundresses and flip flops, long blond hair, and smiling without a care in the world. But those pictures do not depict me correctly, as I am now. I still have my blonde hair; but it has electric red streaks in it. I no longer wear my pink dresses and flip flops. I’ve matured to black jeans, combat boots, and less than modest shirts. I smoke cigarettes and drink with my friends. But my friends are not the kids I go to school with. They’re the kids that Kendrick used to hang out with, before he became too intense and too high even for them to hang out with. The guy who has been hanging out with these kids the longest is Melvin. He started this so-called “stoner drug addict group” with a bunch of his friends about 10 years ago; with Kendrick. Melvin was constantly made fun of for his name, his glasses, and his good grades. So he gave all of that up and began to not care about anything but looking, talking, acting, and feeling cool. And that’s when Kendrick went downhill. He fell into the same mindset as Melvin and they both started shooting up at age 14. They started with weed and snorting Adderall, simple things. But it escalated to much, much more. And I’ve yet to hear the whole story. I’m headed down the same path. And mom and dad aren’t even noticing. Throw down and snuff out.
Wake up. Take pain killers. Take a cold shower. Go to work. This is my current life. I work at the local auto body shop with four other guys. Four other guys just like me. Well, not just like me. They’re all mentally stable for the most part. Then there’s me with my fuckin’ Bipolar Disorder that my parents refused to acknowledge and get me help for.
I’ve been a beeper for my whole life, but it affected me most when I began to use drugs to cope. Using sent me over the edge when my manic and depressive episodes would occur. These extremes would cause me to use even more, just to feel normal. I don’t even know what normal is anymore. The last time I remember feeling normal was when I was hardly 10 years old. Lena had just been born. Mom and dad were happy. I was happy. We were the typical American family living the American dream. Together. It’s been years since we have all been together. I guess I kinda messed that up not only for myself but also for Lena. She looked up to me. I ruined her trust in me and in family. I ruined myself. I tore myself down then artificially built myself up. I say artificially because the only time I was happy was when I was high. Even now, being four months clean and in therapy, I’m still in the mindset that I can only be truly happy if I’m high. I have yet to find a passion, something that makes me feel that a clean life is worth living. And the only thing I can think of that might give me that feeling, is Lena. If she would only give me the time of day.
My parents want me to talk to her. If they only knew that I’ve tried. I tried the five years I was gone. I wrote letters every week. I wanted to send them, I did. But I got scared every time I went to put them in the mail. But I did try. It just took so much time for me to finally get the courage to go home. The one chance I had. That Christmas morning two years ago. I fucked it up. I ruined my chances at a relationship with Lena. I’m on speaking terms with my parents, now that I’m 4 months clean and holding a steady job. If I had only one of those things my parents would not talk to me. I’ve begun my relationship with them. They tell me I need to get through to her somehow, get her to see herself the way everyone else does – the hole she’s falling into and pretty soon, won’t be able to get out of.
I remember the first time I tried to talk to her after being clean for a month. We had dinner as a family for the first time in years. For the first time in seven years. I was so happy. I wanted to hear about everyone’s lives and what had happened since I had been gone. I wanted to hear about everyone else partially because I wanted to imagine, if just for a moment, that I wasn’t a complete disappointment, failure, and screw up. And it worked for those two hours. It worked until after dinner, when I tried to talk to Lena. I knocked on her door, just hard enough so she could hear it over the screamo music she had “developed a taste for blasting,” in the words of my parents. She yelled asking who it was, I raised my voice slightly, indicating it was Ken, unsure of what I even wanted to say to this girl I did not even know anymore. The music turned off. She was silent for a few moments. She then opened the door and as her eyes met mine I had to look down. I could see the hurt and pain in her eyes and I knew that I had caused that hurt and pain. I went from being naturally high as a kite to hating myself within milliseconds. Lena asked me what I could possibly want; what I could possibly want to talk about; what I could possibly have to say to her. I broke down. The visible hurt turned into audible hurt. I tried to hug her and she denied me. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was, tell her I wanted to make it better – I wanted to beg for her forgiveness. I wanted to promise her I would be there for her from that moment on. I wanted to tell her I was sorry for not sending the 261 letters that I wrote to her. I just wanted to explain myself; to explain the things she didn’t know, what she was never told. But I couldn’t get out the words. I couldn’t get past the tears. I couldn’t do it. And that added another block in the wall between us.
Why did he have to come back? It’s made everything worse recently because now mom and dad are constantly on my ass. I ask them why he came back and why they won’t leave me alone but I get no answers. I know there is something they aren’t telling me and I don’t want to have any more secrets. Secrets have torn and are continuing to tear this family apart. Kendrick with his heroine. Mom and dad with their work and random trips or short term disappearances. And me…then there’s my secrets. If only they knew what I’m carrying around.
I’m seeing a therapist. I found a free clinic. If I told Kendrick he would tell my parents, who would immediately jump to the conclusion that I’m crazy. My parents don’t believe in therapy, they think it makes you even more crazy than you already are so you should just deal with your current level. Plus, now that Ken’s clean he’s in therapy and I don’t want to associate myself with that. So I haven’t told anyone. I have PTSD from that night that Ken was kicked out and from the mania I witnessed when he would get really low or angry and shoot up. On top of that, to deal with my PTSD and the weight of the lies and secrets…I want to try hard drugs. Cocaine. Heroine. Meth. Anything to help me cope. I cannot get antidepressants because we cannot afford them and we don’t have great insurance. It’s the only way I can think of besides cutting, which I’ve already resorted to. The scars are on my stomach by my ribs, hips, and inner thighs. If I do it anywhere else my parents will see, as will my friends, and shit will hit the fan. So it has been added to my collection of little secrets. But the accumulation of the scars and cuts is beginning to overflow into visible areas…so I need a new vice. But I’m scared. I’m scared of what might happen to me. I’m scared to tell anyone what I’m feeling. But most of all… I’m scared to admit I need help.
There’s so much Lena doesn’t know. She doesn’t know I decided to get clean for her, so I could be the loving, caring, fun brother she used to have and I’ve always wanted to be. She doesn’t know that once I left I almost died of overdoses multiple times because I was so depressed I couldn’t be there. My parents know but they told me I couldn’t tell her because they want her to want a relationship with me on her own, not out of feelings of guilt or pity. She doesn’t know so much. She doesn’t know the degree to which my Bipolar effects me. She doesn’t know the only reason I can even handle my Bipolar Disorder is because I want to have a purpose in my life and I want her to succeed. I don’t want her to end up like me. I will never have a real, successful, salaried job because of my choices. I never finished high school. I never got my GED because I was too high all the time. The thought of college never even crossed my mind. And the only reason I have the job at the auto body shop is because my dad is best friends with the owner, so it’s a pity job.
I don’t want her to end up like me. I don’t…want her…to end up…like me. A failure. A disappointment. She has so much to offer this world. She’s young, she can turn this around. If only I could help her. If only my words meant anything to her. But they don’t. Lena wants nothing to do with me. I’m the fuck up. I fucked up. And she thinks I can’t do anything right. But maybe she’s right, maybe I can’t. I know I can help her, though, if only I was given a chance. When she was little, I would look at her and think, “Wow, she is going to do great things. And I can’t wait to watch her grow up and succeed in anything and everything she wants to do”. I know she can do anything she wants to…she just needs to put her mind, body, heart, and soul into it. I believe in her. If I could only tell her that in a way that she would truly hear it.
I’m falling. Slowly and discretely. But I’m falling. My parents can see it, but they don’t care. They are too busy with their own lives. Kendrick is trying…I can tell. So why don’t I want him in my life? I don’t understand myself sometimes. I wanted him in it so badly until I saw him. But I carry so much anger, so much resentment towards him. I now want nothing to do with him, nothing to do with my brother. I don’t care that he’s trying now. He should have tried sooner. There’s so much he doesn’t know, but there’s so much I don’t know either. I know he has secrets, too. I know he’s had issues that I don’t know about, just like he doesn’t know about all of my issues. But since we do not, and will not talk, we will never know the secrets of each other.
They say they’ll tell me when I’m older. They will tell me the whole story, when I’m old enough to understand. Old enough to understand? What the hell does that mean – who would ever understand the level to which our family and the people in it are dysfunctional? And what if I don’t make it to when I’m “older”. What if I get so fed up one night and the flashbacks are too much? What if I finally decide to let myself go and just fuck myself up? Then what?
Our parents don’t believe in Lena, they have told me that on more than one occasion. They have told me she’s on her way to becoming like me. I wish I could do something to make her see what she’s doing to herself and to those around her. I wish I could help her see how amazing she is, the potential she has; that she’s throwing it all away. To defy us. To defy those to care about her and want to see her get better and succeed. There is something for her that I never had. There is hope. I still have hope for our relationship to become that of a brother and sister one day. If she still has hope, I don’t know. But I will never give up on my sister, like so many gave up on me.
Then it would all be over. They would be miserable, wondering what they could have done differently or how they could have made a difference. But the truth is, maybe nothing could have changed what happened. If anything changed, no one would be the way they are today. Granted, no one is all that great or perfect, but as much as I hate to admit it, I still love them all. I still love my mom. I still love my dad. And I still love Kendrick. But the path I’m headed down is one of my own choosing. It’s one that no one can “save” me from. Maybe one day Ken and I will speak again and have a relationship. But until then, he will be the long lost brother I never had.