Writing about a boy who broke your heart is pathetic; I’m aware. But I have to convey how unbelievably important it is that you know that isn’t why I wrote this. I didn’t sit down to make you think about the time someone changed who you were, I’m not asking you to relive middle school. All I want to do, all I ever hoped to do, is tell my story. This isn’t about heartbreak, this isn’t about a boy, it isn’t a story I’ll forget in ten years. This was it for me, this was when I grew up. It’s my story and it deserves to be heard.
I don’t remember a lot about sixth grade. It tends to blur together with all the other pitiful years of prepubescent middle school. There’s one memory though that has always stuck around. Frost patterned itself along the exterior of the school bus windows, the air smelled like snow, and the aisle was slick with melted mud. A boy sat in front of me who liked to pick on me, his attempts to entertain himself with bad jokes and mild assault made me roll my eyes but I was well adapted to my routine of ignoring his existence. His life was hard, even at twelve I was well aware of the hardships he faced at home. Another boy sat in the seat across the aisle and one row back. Despite the fact that we never talked-he stood up for me that day, told the guy to go to hell and pick on someone at least his own age. And then he asked if I was okay. It was that day that my admiration and gratitude for Evan Marshall formed.
It wasn’t until seventh grade that I talked to Evan again. The last day of seventh grade to be more accurate. The whole class walked to a park nearby and spent the day running around and playing games. Lunch was eaten at our will and we could do whatever we wanted. Evan found out that I had smoked weed from a mutual friend. If that was the only factor that led him to show a sudden interest in being my friend then he must’ve been thoroughly disappointed when I showed little interest in doing it again. His dependence on weed was a huge part of his life, something we didn’t have in common. But despite that, we ended up spending a lot of time together that summer.
I’d never been close friends with a guy before so it was weird to meet up with one multiple times a week. We’d walk to a “basketball court” (a slab of concrete with a broken net) at the corner of my street and he’d smoked weed while I listened to his complaints about his life. I didn’t share a lot about myself but I learned a lot about him. He played soccer, his favorite color was purple, he had three older siblings: two sisters and one brother, and he had moved to Ohio from Washington state in the first grade. I clearly had the biggest crush on him and he was well aware. I tried multiple times to end the friendship before I got hurt but I was weak and he was persistent. I let him break my heart. I walked right into a trap he didn’t even set.
That summer was the first time I ever snuck out. I climbed out of the window at the back of my kitchen and met up with him and one of his friends. We walked around the neighborhood and drank Pepsi. They climbed up a tree outside my house and came in through my second-story bedroom window and then we all stared at each other in tense awkwardness while we tried to not wake my parents up. I’d never felt adrenaline like that before and it was a wonderful spark in what I viewed as a placid and eventless life.
By the time fall came around, I was sick of getting my hopes up just for Evan to decide a week later that I wasn’t good enough to be his friend. I tried being patient and I tried to understand that his life was different than mine but nothing was good enough. Our friendship wasn’t something we publicized at school so it was weird when Evan begged me to go to a football game with him. But I said yes. He called me fifteen minutes before we were supposed to leave to tell me we weren’t going. Somehow he had managed to call me an idiot in the same message and I still can’t wrap my head around why. All I know is, it hurt.
We stopped talking after that up until January when he stopped showing for school. I learned that his sister had died-overdosed on Heroin. At that point it didn’t matter that he was a jerk I just wanted to be there for him. So I was. I was there when he would call at 3am in tears, I was there when he wanted someone to sit with him in silence, I was there when he needed out of his house, I was there when he took his anger out on me by calling me names and treating me poorly. I was there because I loved him and that’s what you do for the people you love.
There were still a lot of fights between us, he cut me out a lot of times and made me feel awful about who I was. I pretended like I didn’t love him and he pretended not to know. He convinced himself that he wasn’t hurting me and I convinced myself that it was okay if he did.
I snuck out with him another time in the spring of eighth grade. I jumped a fence onto a golf course with him and a few of his friends. They had beer, weed, and candy and while I stuck to the candy, they didn’t. I found out a year later that all of those things were stolen from the clubhouse of the golf course. They’d broken a window and used bandanas to hide their faces. Had I been caught with them, I would’ve been arrested. It wasn’t okay for him to invite me out there without telling me how much trouble I could get into and he knew I wouldn’t have gone if I knew at the time.
On June 7th, the day of my brother’s eighteenth birthday party, he told me he was moving to North Carolina. I was ******. I cried in a Walmart bathroom. If I wouldn’t have been high out of my mind on June 24th, the last day I saw him, then I would’ve completely broke down when he yelled as I left, “This might be the last time you ever see me.”
It’s been two and a half years and I haven’t seen him since. He texted me to tell me he was sorry I was out of town when he came to visit. I wasn’t sorry.
Evan Marshall broke my heart. He watched as I fell apart and he didn’t mind making me hate who I was. He was one of my best friends and I won’t pretend like he’s a terrible person because he’s not. But to me, he’ll always be the boy who hurt me worse than anyone in the world. That won’t ever change. So while I hope that I never see him again, I owe him a thank you. I put myself before others now, because as any flight attendant will tell you-it’s important to secure your own mask before helping those around you. I won’t ever seek acceptance again, and I owe that to him.