Healing Plunge

Narrative-Nonfiction goes under many names, including creative nonfiction, literary journalism, and fact-based storytelling. Please read more about through the links provided. There is so much more to it than the I-Novel. How in the world am I going to complete a creative non-fiction story? I am going to touch on something I did as a teen. Looking back it was stupid and dangerous but what a thrill it was. I had to do some real research into the area and what actually happened but I look forward to the trip down stupidity lane impressing boys and throwing caution to the wind.

It was a particular hot sunny day in the summer of ’97. I just suffered a miscarriage due to now permanent damage I sustained between my mother and myself. My mother had sent me back to my dad because I rebelled to the point law enforcement was involved and they gave my mother two choices: 1-Send me to jail or 2-Send me to my father. She sent me back to my dad both of us unknowing of the life that grew inside. Arriving back home I learned that I was pregnant and my while my aunt prepared my dad for news I had to be the one to tell him. He blurted it out before I could. We both cried and prepared for the future. He was even more supportive through the losing the baby.

After my body healed I wanted to feel adventure, adrenaline, danger, or a combination of all three. I should have known that even though my body was healed my soul wasn’t. My father knew but also was going to let me make any stupid decisions that I needed to make hoping I would be his whole little girl again. I was outside shooting hoops when my friends Alvin and Chuck pulled in the driveway. I had just started seeing Chuck. He knew I was pregnant when we started dating, he also knew I lost the baby. I had ignored him for over a month and out of nowhere, he showed up. It was really Alvin that wanted to date me but he was ok with playing second fiddle.

‘Hey Jo, want to go bridge jumping?
‘Yeah, where is this?’ I said not looking at Chuck, tossing the ball. All you heard was the ball swooshing through the net.
‘Nice shot Jo,’ Alvin said walking up and giving me a hug. ‘How are you doing?’ He whispered in my ear.
‘I’m doing ok, just bored.’ The truth was, I was heartbroken.
‘Hop in the car. We are going to jump the Sabine River bridge.’

My father would tell me stories of bodies being found in the river or on the shore. ‘It’s a good dumping spot,’ he would tell me. I never asked how he knew. The river also has a rich history involving Native Americans.

‘I’ll jump it,’ I said climbing in the front set. My cramps were awful but I wasn’t going to take any pain pills. I wanted a clear head. I enjoyed the warm air rushing in the car and through my hair. Chuck took us down a back road then turned down a dirt road. He pulled over to the shoulder and I stepped out of the car into the knee-high grass, kicking up grasshoppers the size of my hand. Our feet crunch through the dirt and gravel as we approached the bridge. It looked so small until I was standing on it.

‘You know, you have to jump it just right. You need to go between the concrete pillars. If you go too far in either direction you will land on the concrete and shove your legs through your neck. If you do survive the erroneous judgment you would be paralyzed. A few years ago a boy jumped the bridge and wasn’t centered enough and the fire department had to pull his body out,’ Chuck told me as I looked over the edge. I just stared down tuning out everything else. The only sound was the water running underneath me. I was completely zoned out when a blur flew over the edge. I startled and stepped back. I looked over my shoulder and Alvin was taking off his shirt and kicking off his shoes and sock, only leaving his jeans on. I looked over the edge and seen Chuck coming to the surface.

‘You don’t have to do this. You’ve been through so much. No one is going to think any less of you. Jo, I was really worried about you. I wanted to come see you but your dad said you were sleeping or resting,’ Alvin explained with a caring look on his face. ‘Do you ever think you would want to be with a girl that is already ruined?’ I asked referring to me not being a virgin and broken on the inside. ‘Jo, I want to be with you because of the person you are. Chuck wants to be with you because he knows you aren’t a virgin.’ This is something I already figured out. Alvin squeezed my hand and took a good 5-foot running start and vanished over the side. I stared down at the water holding my breath until I seen Alvin break to the surface. I exhaled knowing I could hold my breath as long as he did. I watched as the boys started goofing around then Chuck starting baiting me, daring me to make the jump. ‘What Jo, you’re afraid of heights or death. Just go wait in the car like a little girl.

Tears welled in my eyes. I wasn’t crying because he hurt my feelings. I was crying over the loss I’ve experienced, the frustration that there was nothing I could do, the failure of not waiting until I was married, for the pain I caused my father. I was a failure. I didn’t go and sit in the car. I didn’t remove any clothes. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t take a running start. I stepped off the bridge. Those few seconds of me falling was the most freeing moment in my life. I didn’t regret anything. If I died I would be ok. If I survived I would be ok. My freefalling off the bridge was blowing away my grief. I was brought back to reality when I hit the water. I didn’t even pay attention that I needed to hold my breath. I managed to do so right before my head went under without taking the deep breath that was needed. I fell so deep into the murky darkness. The cold water washing my sins and guilt away. I looked over and seen that I was literally 3 feet from the pillar. It was so surreal to be able to see how close to death I actually was.

I felt the burning pain in my chest reminding me that my oxygen level was low and needed to get to the surface to take a breath. I kicked and used my arms to launch myself up towards the light. I felt that when I break through the surface of the water I was starting a new chapter in my life. Alvin was the first one to me and held me up so I could breathe. Chuck was laughing and pushed Alvin away.
‘I knew you couldn’t resist the dare.’ I pushed him away.
‘You teased me and told me to go sit in the car like a little girl. Fact, I’m not afraid of death. I have experienced it and wished for it all in one month. I’m not a little girl because of my loss. I’m not afraid of heights because I just jumped. What I am not, is your girlfriend.’ I swam to the river bank with Alvin hot on my heels.
‘Jo, are you ok?’ He asked.
‘I’m fine. Can you take me home?’
‘I sure will. We’re close to Chuck’s house. He can walk. Let’s get you home and in bed.’ Alvin opened the car door for me and handed me his shirt through the window to change in to. Like a gentleman, he waited at the back of the car digging in the trunk for another shirt. ‘Ok,’ I hollered. He walked around and handed me a pair of wrestling shorts. ‘Take off your wet clothes and wear these. I also have a blanket for you.’ Again Alvin waited at the back of the car. I was silent all the way home.

When we pulled into the driveway my dad was waiting for me along with two of my uncles. ‘Jo, are you ok?’ I ignored my dad and went to my room. I could overhear Alvin telling my dad what had happened and asked if he could sit with me through the night. I guess my father reluctantly agreed because when I came to an hour later Alvin was sitting next to me in a chair. It was dinner time and Alvin picked up a plate that my father had made for me.
‘Hi there. You’re dad said I could stay if it’s ok with you?’ I nodded that it was ok. He had tucked me in bed and I curled the blankets tighter around me. ‘I hope you’re hungry. You’re dad and uncles made smoked brisket and baked taters.’ I sat up and took the plate.
‘Can I ask you a question?’ Alvin asked leaning forward. ‘Please tell me the truth. Were you wanting to die? I knew how far over you were when you jumped. I thought I was going to have to have a different conversation with your dad.’ I looked down at my plate pushing the meat around with my fork. ‘Alvin, at that moment I didn’t care what happened to me either way. Now, I care. Will that answer do?’ I asked in return.

‘Ok Jo. I can accept that. I’m here when you need me.’ I slowly ate and asked, ‘Alvin, can we take it slow?’

Permanent Mistake

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.

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