I’ve been writing this post for over a year now. There are at least 3 drafts that I never finished. I just couldn’t find my words, a case of writer’s block secondary to heart break.
Ask pretty much anyone and they’ll tell you that 2020 has been terrible for a myriad reasons. COVID-19 has stolen much from us and we’ve struggled to adapt to this new normal. However for me, the bad year started almost a month prior. It was a Monday morning and I had just worked an overnight shift at the hospital, sitting 1:1 with a patient who was on an involuntary hold. As I was ensuring the safety of a stranger, my lover was lying dead on her kitchen floor, another one lost to their demons and to the blight that is depression.
I remember sending her a selfie at about 5am. A message she’d never see. I didn’t expect her to be awake at 5am, but I thought maybe a picture would make her smile if she happened to check her phone on the way back from the bathroom or when she woke up in the morning. I had no expectation that I’d never get the chance to say something morning profound.
Nicole and I met after matching with each other on OkCupid in April of 2017, only about a week or two after Laurel had left to move back to Rhode Island. I suppose it was that my emotions were so raw but I sent the first message, something that I hardly ever do. We made some pleasant conversation and she told me that she was engaged to be married later that year. We didn’t meet in person, but we exchanged some a few texts here and there for a couple of weeks and then sort of lost track of each other. A couple of days before her wedding, I had sent a message asking if she was still getting married but never got a reply.
Fast forward into spring of 2018 and I get a facebook friend request from this woman, but I don’t recognize the name, and we don’t share any mutual friends. So I did what any mature person would do, I ignored it. A couple weeks later, as I was scrolling through my contacts looking for a phone number, I scrolled past an entry for Nicole and a light bulb went off in my brain.
We picked up where we left off and before I knew it, she was at my house with her wife, Rachel, getting drunk. I’d met her face-to-face less than three hours earlier and she was passed out drunk on my bathroom floor. I remember standing on the patio with Rachel as she chain smoked cigarettes. She mused that Nicole would probably try to have sex with me if we kept hanging out. I was a bit taken back with this level of frankness. At this point, I wasn’t sure where all this was going and I told Rachel that if she asked me not to talk to her wife anymore, I would stop right there. But she didn’t.
Looking back, knowing how quickly I become attached, that was the only chance I had for a clean break. Less than a month later, in a hotel room in Canada, I would tell her that I loved her for the first time over a bottle of 94 proof rum. I tried to take it back immediately, but I could no more take it back than I could dismiss the fact that I had grown very fond of her in a short time. I knew that I wanted to be with her, despite the complications of our situation.
She had come into my life when I felt like I was at the absolute rock bottom of my existence. I had been actively planning my own suicide and had gone so far as to write a series of letters to various loved ones. I had a plan in place, but I didn’t have a time. She had given me something that I needed, an escape from that thought process and ultimately a reason to live. Within a couple weeks I was on my way to enrolling in nursing school with her giving me the final push that I needed to get started. She saved my life but I couldn’t save hers.
The friction between Rachel and I was odd. We’d go through periods where she acted as if she wanted to be my friend and then the next thing I knew, she was ranting, screaming, crying, and texting me non-stop. I continued to try and get Nicole to leave her as I didn’t think it was a healthy or safe environment for either of them. I felt like they needed a clean break and to admit that the marriage should have never happened.
There were times where it looked like it might happen. At one point, Rachel said she had found a roommate and was leaving. Another time she texted me and told me that it was over that I could have (Nicole.) In the end, they never could find their way apart. Rolling into my second quarter of nursing school at Galen, I was trying to balance a full time job at the hospital along with a 16 credit hour class load. My work schedule was identical to Rachel’s, meaning it was difficult to visit and I was trying to not cause any undue friction.
I knew Nicole was massively depressed and I knew that she was ideating. She and I basically had the same mental health diagnoses and the fact that she was ideating wasn’t terribly out of the ordinary. What was concerning was that she had stopped taking her medications and I had been urging her to get back on them. She claimed that the antidepressant was making her manic, but without the mood stabilizer the pendulum swung wildly back the other direction, plunging her into a major depressive phase. Still, I thought she would crawl out of the hole soon. As we headed into December, I knew that I would have a couple weeks off school and I’d be able to visit and boost her spirits up.
But on that Monday morning I received a call, not from Nicole but from Rachel. It was mid-morning and I was winding down from work with a beer and some television, planning to fall asleep on the couch. When the phone rang, I didn’t answer it. I hadn’t spoken with Rachel in a couple months and I had been trying to keep the peace. I figured she was mad about something, so I ignored the call. My curiosity got the better of me, so I responded with a text asking if she needed something.
She told me that Nicole was gone. And it was then that 2020 truly began for me.