I wrote this about 10 years ago. I have written a lot of things about “Mark”who is a fictionalized character of someone I know. I can’t quite describe our relationship over the years. I often refer to him as my “first love”. Then because we kept meeting again and again at different times in history, I kept saying my “unresolved love”. For now…”Unresolved Love” will have to stick until I come up with something better. The original story was much longer, but I cut it down so that I could submit it to an NPR contest. Tonight I found an old journal from 2006 which had some more stories about “Mark”. So here is part I in the Unresolved Love series. Look for the rest in the days to follow.
The preacher said a prayer as the casket was lowered into the ground. As I paid my respects to the family, I recognized a familiar face in the crowd. Mark walked as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. He and Tommy were cousins, but close like brothers. We haven’t seen each other in years, but ever so slowly, we gravitated towards each other. Just before I reached my car, we met face-to-face. He gave a slight smile and a strong embrace. At that moment, it felt like we had never been apart. At 25, standing in the wintery cold, I was brought back to the place I had been 10 years ago. Our love affair was no different than any other teenage relationship: we met at each other’s locker between classes, stole kisses in the stairwells, and naively thought we would be together the rest of our lives.
“Wow Bree! You all grown up”, he said. “My moms told me you were here. Today hit reeeeaaaal hard man. I’m not tryna end up like Tommy and I can’t imagine seeing my moms go through what Aunt T did today.” A few subtle exchanges turned into an hour conversation where we recounted the highlights of our lives over the past few years; he had two kids, spent a few years locked up, and recently moved back home. I finished college, was a first year MBA student, and worked for a local investment firm. We agreed an hour was not enough time and based on history, there was a chance we may not see each other for years. Thus, there was a sense of urgency in our interaction. Before we parted ways, Mark honestly explained, “Bree, I can’t offer you much. But if you want to go for walks in the park, come over my mom’s house and chill, go to the movies or whatever – we can. I just want to know you again.”Although we had chosen different paths, I felt we were at the same place emotionally and like a school girl I ran to him.
For two months our worlds collided and we breathed life into each other. Our interactions were simple and familiar. I was also convinced that I could make him fall in love with me and in doing so, save him from his past; a past that was filled with broken familial relationships, stints in prison, and addiction to drugs. But I couldn’t save him and the day I lost him is forever stained in my memory.
I dropped Mark home after a few games of pool in town. As I prepared to exit his mom’s development, I noticed a police car lurking in the dark like a predator scoping out its prey. An eerie feeling took over my body and I immediately reached to call Mark, but I smiled to myself and thought about what he always told me, “Baby, I’m not in the streets no more AND I’m clean. You ain’t got to worry about nothing. I’m getting my life together for real this time.” Recalling those words provided comfort as I drove home.
The next morning, I was startled by the phone. In a daze I answered, “Hello?” After a short pause, a recording plays, “You have a collect call from Mark.”