Here we are at the letter I of the A to Z challenge. I novel, Japanese watakushi shōsetsu, or shishōsetsu, form or genre of 20th-century Japanese literature that is characterized by self-revealing narration, with the author usually as the central character. The first and most important rule is it’s often written from the first person perspective (and this is where the “I” of I-Novel comes from). Obviously, I can’t write a whole novel but I can do a short-nonfiction. I have many profound memories and circumstances that have happened in my life from my first, ‘I Do,’ to the first breath my first born ever took. I stopped and took many breaks during this. There is one I rarely discuss. Names have been changed as this does cover the sensitive matter.
We all have first loves, true loves, platonic loves, and soulmates. They all come in our lives teaching us some sort of lesson, I just didn’t realize my lessons from Axle were until I was a lot older. I used to think that my first love was also my soul mate. What do you expect from a teenager? We first met in kindergarten. Axel loved the cupcakes my mom would make for my class birthday treat so we became fast friends. We grew up through the years and in middle school, he asked if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I still get butterflies after all these years thinking about the day he asked me out.
We were insuperable. The first time he came to meet my family my dad was sitting at the table cleaning his gun and sharpening his knives. I don’t know how Axle did it but he sat down and asked my dad if he needed any help. That moment I realized he could read a situation but my father saw that Axle was going to be an important part of my life. Axle was my first kiss, my first argument with a boy, the first reason I really cried, we were in a car wreck together and he even had to take my side over his childhood friend’s aggravated opinion of me. He was also my first breakup.
That should have been my lesson. Learn to move on, accept pain, grow from it, and evaluate myself. That wasn’t it. Over the next couple of years we both dated other people and grew apart. It was a fall day and I had just gotten out of band and needed to rush home to get ready for work. Axle stopped and asked if I needed help carrying my flute and books. I was stunned and handed my books over into his arms. He never just came out of the blue and asked if I needed. It was mostly a nod or even an occasional, ‘hi, Jo’.
We walked beside each other in silence at first, then he asked, ‘You know, I’ve missed being able to talk to you. You understand everything I’ve been through and why I act in a certain way or do certain things.’ I could feel dread flooding over me. I was worried. He was the one that found his father after he shot himself. ‘I’ve been here, you just chose not to talk to me. I tried many times but you were either busy, embarrassed by me, or with your flavor of the week.’ I remember biting my lip. I knew I sounded like a bitter ex but face it, I was. ‘I miss you, Jo.’ My feet stopped moving and all I could do was stare. He walked over and put his arms around me. I felt so stupid as my face grew hot and tears started running. I couldn’t make them stop. ‘SHH, it’s ok Jo. Our break-up wasn’t because of anything you did. It was because of me. I couldn’t lose you so in my mind you would always be safe.’ Yup, you guessed it, I cried harder.
We started walking again and I asked him about his new girlfriend and that’s when he stopped. See, his girlfriend had parents that were never around, she stole and was into drugs. I’m not talking about marijuana but cocaine was her poison of choice. I also knew that she introduced her lifestyle to Axle and he spiraled down fast. ‘She’s good,’ he replied. ‘Then why are you here with me?’ I asked. ‘Truth is Jo, Lisa’s drug habit is getting worse and I don’t want to break up with her until she get’s help.’ ‘You can’t help anyone that doesn’t want to help themselves.’ And at this point folks, this is where I fucked up. Instead of seeing that he was actually reaching out for me to help him I did this, ‘Axle, I miss you and I wish we could spend time together but I need to get to work.’ I gave him a hug and told him that I would see him after work or that better yet he can come and get a burger on me. He gave me a hug, ‘She’s not you. I love you, Jo,’ and those were the last words he would ever whisper in my ears.
That night I waited and hoped that he would walk in for a burger but customers came and went but no Axle. I asked the cook to make a burger for me to go. I was going to stop by Axle’s house so we can talk but my plan never came to be. I pulled into his driveway just in time to see my first love’s body in a body bag and put into the back of the ambulance. At that moment, there was no sound, no taste, no time. His mom was on the front porch in a fetal position in Axle’s older brother’s lap. I couldn’t move except for engaging my 5 speed into reverse and then 1st to start heading home. I got home and my father was already on the porch waiting for me.
I ran to the one man that always made me feel safe. ‘Axle’s brother called, you have a note but I figured you couldn’t wait so here is what it said:
Jo, I didn’t know how to escape the drugs, unhappiness, and Lisa. I love you and will always love you. Live the life you want not what someone else wants.
Axle.’ My father handed me the note he scribbled on a paper towel.
I didn’t leave my room for a week and I couldn’t bring myself to go to the funeral. I later learned that Axle was high on cocaine and needed gas for his car and started to siphon some out of his neighbors which led to him going to his room to take some pills. If I had called in, if I had talked to him, if I had only told him that I love him and miss him too he might still be here today. We may not be together and I would have been ok with that. At least he would still be here. Later, Axle’s older brother came in the burger place I worked and asked if he could talk to me in private. ‘Here is the note Axle wrote for you.’ My mouth went dry, ‘I can’t take that. It’ll make everything real.’ Looking back that was a selfish move on my part. He lives his ‘real’ every day.’ He gave me a hug and told me he understood.
I learned to listen when people are asking for help without asking. I learned that time doesn’t heal, it just makes the pain easier to deal with. I learned to accept that I failed my first love. I learned that a goodbye can be permanent.