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Things I've Lost (A List)

a memoir

By Mackenzie BrodiePublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 16 min read
Things I've Lost (A List)
Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

TW: Eating disorder, mention of drug use, family problems

March 10th, 2022

I’m exhausted.

This past year and a half has stripped me down over and over, now the fabric of my being is merely threads.

My phone is hot, burning my left hand, but I don’t move it. I barely feel anything anymore so any sensation I have I hold onto until I become numb to it as well. I’m lying on my back, white duvet molded around my body as I stare at the chalk white ceiling. My face is pulsing with my heartbeat, snot and tears mix as they pour down my face, but I’m too tired to lift an arm to wipe them away. I always thought if the world ended, I’d be that one badass chick in Marvel movies with the gun and the perfect aim that ran through the rubble and saved everyone, but my world is falling all around me, and I can’t even move to wipe my face. How have I dissolved into a puddle of a person? Four-year-old me put on one-woman plays starring as every character, sang the songs in Annie as loud as my little lungs could manage. I pet every dog that I saw and painted my nails. I had such big plans and couldn’t wait to get out into the world. Sixteen-year-old me stopped acting years ago, I only sing in the car and ignore half the dogs I see. I hate the world and want to get out of this shitbox of a town. I’ve changed.

It’s 9:32 at night. It’s pitch-black outside, and my heart is breaking. Again.

The last time I got my heart broken was by a six-foot-three blue eyed boy who was too old for me but made me believe I had a chance. September of 2020, after he shattered my heart and walked out of my life – yes walked, because he was seventeen and still didn’t have his drivers license or a job – I laid in bed, bawled my eyes out, and my mom sat with me. Called school to excuse me for the week and didn’t make me go to dance. She brought me coffee and chocolate and rubbed my back and told me eventually it wouldn’t hurt as bad. Mom saved me then, without her who knows where I would’ve been.

Tonight, it’s mom breaking my heart.

Our fight replays in my head as I lay here blinded by tears with a red left hand.

“You’re a fucking bitch!”

“I’m so done with you!”

“I’m tired of putting up with your bullshit!”

I can’t even figure out who said what, everything is a mush of screaming and tears,

my mind is both racing and empty. I feel nothing and everything all at once. I need space from her. The past two years we’ve been cooped up together, Covid has ruined our relationship, turning my once supportive mother into an untrusting control freak. Since it’s only ever been the two of us, being able to get away from each other to go on trips or sleepovers or nights out have kept our relationship healthy and the fights at bay. Not being able to do any of those things for two years has poisoned our home and strangled the friendship that we were both so proud of. I’ve been trying. All I’ve ever wanted was to make mom happy; either through perfect grades or winning dance competitions, because,

“You have the ability, stop being lazy,”

It’s never been enough. Anything short of complete perfection is now a sin in her eyes.

I’m exhausted.

I lift my phone, scroll through my contacts and call Jenna.

“Can I stay at your place tonight?” minutes later, I’m downstairs, folding clothes for work tomorrow and throwing my charger in my backpack.

“What are you doing?” Mom snaps at me, I tell her I’m staying at Jenna’s for the night,

“If you leave, you’re not coming back”

Is she kicking me out? Is she serious?

I don’t know what to do. I can’t stay here tonight. I’m tired of the fighting and the control, of being treated like I’m four and not having any social life whatsoever. But, I can’t leave my animals, I can’t live with Jenna forever, I can’t get any of my money without mom signing for it. I don’t have my passport or Care Card or birth certificate. It seems as though there’s so many reasons to stay at home, to not be a dumb and reckless teenager, but if you knew the things I only tell my boyfriend and cry into my dogs back about, maybe you’d understand why I left.

Maybe you’d understand why I sat on the bottom stair in the hallway and endured the itchy carpet marks on my thighs for the last time, just so I could hug my dogs goodbye. So I could look at Sapphire’s big baby eyes and give her a kiss on the head, tell Rosay I love her. My two favourite souls on the planet, and I have to leave them. I have to do it for me.

In the kitchen, I grab the one cheque I haven’t yet cashed – $250 to my name now that I don’t have access to the $15,000 in my bank account – mom meets me at the door.

“So, you’re leaving?” She asks. Every single part of my body is tensed in an attempt to keep the tears from flooding out of my bloodshot eyes. I nod and turn the handle. The lock slides into place behind me as I step outside.

The chilled air nips at my skin.

What am I doing?

I sob, I don’t care who hears, I scream until my lungs give out and cry until the tears won’t come anymore. I’m shocked the police weren’t called. I stand on the corner of my street waiting for Cam’s black Mazda 3 to turn the corner and rescue me. I look back at my house and see my mom pass the window, on the phone.

What am I doing?

I get into the car, whimper into Cameron’s shoulder, drool all over him. The crying doesn’t stop all night. Not when I stand in the kitchen holding him as his parents stare shocked behind me, not when he drives me to Jenna’s house, or when I make my bed on her couch in the basement. I cry myself to sleep that night, and most nights over spring break.

Those two weeks fly past. Two and a half days at Jenna’s house and then their family from out of town came over so I moved in with Cam’s twenty-something-year-old sister Brittany. Everything that week was rushed and unplanned. It was a text from Jenna: Sorry, my parents are having people over can you stay somewhere else? And a call to Brittany asking if the spare room in her rented basement suite was still available. I picked up two full garbage bags of clothes from my house, sorted through them. One pile to keep at Brittany’s – the clothes I wear the most now – one pile to leave in Cam’s dresser – my shorts and tank tops for summer – another pile to drop off at the thrift store, and one more to sell on Depop.

I’ve stayed mostly calm after that first night on my own. I have no direction and every possible option to consider, other than going home. I look at rentals that I can only afford if I drop out of school and work full time – an option I’ve been seriously considering – I quit the job that gave me an extra $250 every two weeks because it was too far to ask Cam to drive me; I’ve thought of reaching out to the father I never met and going fully online for school.

I don’t know what to do with my life. I’ve always had a plan. In kindergarten I was going to be a Nascar driver, fifth grade I decided on Oxford University, and tenth I chose vanlife and travelling over college. No matter the dream, or how much it changed, the one constant in my life was my mom and her undying support for my goals and happiness. She was tough on me, wanted to see A’s covering my report cards and Distinction written across my dance exams. But, at the end of the day, when I quit ballet and told her I didn’t want to go to college, she signed me up for my next hobby – figure skating, and found videos on how to renovate vans into homes. How did that all disappear in one night? One fight and she’s out, just like that. I’m angry, feeling hurt and betrayed. She’s been texting me every day, and I finally told her to stop – not to text me again unless it’s about my grandma or pets. My life is a mess and it’s her fault, although she’s been blaming it on me, telling me,

“You could’ve just stayed at home and gotten over it.”

I can see my life playing out inside my head, so differently from what I’d always imagined now that I don’t have money for college. I’ll be working full time at a restaurant selling my body in a short black dress for tips more than the food I serve, living paycheque to paycheque and never saving enough to travel, to see the world like I’ve always wanted. I’m going to be stuck in this deadbeat town that I’ve only ever wished to get out of. I’ll waste my twenties dying to survive, like I wasted my teens working to travel, losing friends to please my mom, cutting people out because I’m tired of being let down. By the time I have enough money to go to Hawaii and Turkey and Greece I’ll be in my thirties and have to start a family before it’s too late. I’ll spend the next thirty years of my life giving up everything for my children. I’ve never done anything for me and never will. I’m going to be exactly what I’ve always hated most. Five-year old me would be heartbroken. She had such big dreams and plans for us. I hope she knows how sorry I am.

I’m exhausted.

March 26th, 2022

My seventeenth birthday. I’ve never had a birthday without mom. Last year, she planned a surprise weekend trip to Whistler and paid for me to get my hair done. This year I get a text: Happy Birthday I hope you have a great day!

I wonder if before I left, she’d planned something she ended up cancelling. We’d had tickets to Billie Eilish’s concert since 2019, but I got to watch it through Instagram stories instead of being there. My life events seem to be turning into Things I’ve Lost instead of checking off bucket lists. I know I’m young and I “haven’t lived enough to know what life’s really like” but I’ve lived more life than a seventeen-year-old should have to.

A seventeen-year-old shouldn’t have to watch their best friend destroy their body, but I did. Two years ago, my best friend developed an eating disorder, she became someone I didn’t recognize. She was always angry and distant and placed blame on my fast metabolism. When she was in the hospital on a feeding tube, I couldn’t see her because of Covid. It hurt me to watch her give up on herself. I watched her hair fall out and her bones come to the surface, her period stopped for months, and she went to the bathroom after every meal. It hurt. We don’t talk anymore; she’s constantly out drinking or smoking or doing whatever she does with her new friend group. People naturally grow apart and I’m happy accepting that, but sometimes I think about us waterfall chasing in the summer or working together and I miss having a best friend. I don’t remember what it feels like.

A seventeen-year-old shouldn’t have had to watch their ex-boyfriend become a drug addict after breaking up with him. Coming to school high, thinking that wearing sunglasses inside would hide it. A seventeen-year-old shouldn’t have to carry the weight of the people they love most sabotaging themselves. That same ex-boyfriend became depressed and suicidal, and within months moved past “ex-boyfriend” and took over the glaringly empty spot of “best friend”. Having a best friend again was nice, but the gloomy cloud of depression shadowing him with the threat of suicide at every corner, never made it easy. Not like it was before.

The position of best friend is empty again. Cam tries to fill it the best he can, but I miss having another girl to laugh with about boys, and rant to when Cam and I fight. I even miss having the boy best friend that would give me advice and let me steal his hoodies. He moved, left for Mission without saying goodbye and now, we never talk. The best friend breakup without any closure. Equal if not worse than heartbreak.

March 28th, 2022

It’s the first day back at school. Since I left home, I haven’t been around more than seven people at once – other than the one night I went to a party and got socially exhausted fifteen minutes in. It’s been Jenna’s family or Cam’s and no one else. I wake up at 8:10 in the morning, pack my lunch, have cereal and coffee, get changed and leave for school at 9:15am. The bus ride to school takes me an hour instead of the twenty-five minutes I’ve grown accustomed to over the past three years. Cameron meets me at the bus exchange after school, we then pay a nice twenty-something year old lady to rip hair off of our eyebrows, then head back to his house. By five thirty, I’m passed out. I haven’t slept a full night since I left. The nightmares have polluted my dreams, I wake up at 4:00am and then 6:00am and then at 8:10am when my alarm goes off, drenched in sweat. I’m shaking and my heart races. The times I’ve slept next to Cam, he mentions my restless sleep, kicking and twitching until I wake myself up. But today, I have the most restful nap I’ve had in over a month. Only an hour and a half, but when I open my eyes to the sun setting and Cam sleeping next to me, it was like I’d slept for a week. I’ve been passing out next to him constantly. When I’m alone I think about my dogs and my mom and my childhood and future; I keep myself awake until the early morning. Listening to podcasts doesn’t even help me drift off anymore like they used to. Being around someone else, where my mind is distracted is the only way I easily fall asleep now. I thought we’d gotten my insomnia under control years ago, but it’s resurfaced in the past two months.

March 30th, 2022

My one year with Cameron is today. We both spend our day at school, and he drives me “home” after. I shower, wash my hair and body, and shave. I allowed my mind to still as I stand under the scalding water. I let it pound into my back and shoulders, then run down my legs and into the drain. I become one with the steam as it swirls in the air and settles on the mirror. I feel light for the first time in a long time. It’s so, so nice. Within moments, my anxiety starts to creep up on me again, it tells me to hurry up, I’m wasting the hot water and taking too long. I rush through the end of my shower, missing a patch of hair on my leg and cutting my knee three times.

He picks me up at 7:00pm and we go to the beach. We swim as the last of the sun slips below the waves, and our legs and feet cramp, stinging with cold. We know it’s a crazy idea, but as we shiver, fully clothed on the sand; I somehow convince him to wade into the freezing water with me.

After we’re dry again, changed into warm sweats and hoodies, and we can finally feel the bottom half of our bodies, we cuddle up with blankets and snacks and watch Netflix. It’s one of those nights that you don’t ever want to end – a taste of what life could be so very soon. Adulthood is encroaching on our teenage years. Our reaching fingers just barely grazing the word, but arms not quite long enough to fully grasp it. One taste though, and we’re hooked, counting down the days to complete freedom.

I’ve found myself apologizing a lot lately. I drop a crumb on the ground:

“Oh my God I’m so sorry.” I close the car door louder than usual:

“Shit, sorry I didn’t mean to.” I’ve been nervous to ask for things I shouldn’t be nervous about like:

“Where’s the laundry machine?” or,

“Can we pick up iced coffee on the way home.” I don’t notice these things at first, but Cameron and his family have been commenting on them, asking me why I don’t speak up, or why I’m nervous to ask how Brittany’s shower works. They’ve told me to stop apologizing for unimportant things.

Sitting in Cam’s car, I turn to him,

“I’m used to everything I do being a mistake or something to apologize for. I’m used to every question being followed with a fight or a lecture. I don’t mean to apologize for everything, I’ve just adapted to what my life’s been lately.”

Being away from home has made me realize how abnormal home was, and I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I hope I become better. Not just for me, but for the people around me, for my future family. I don’t want my children to walk on eggshells in our home, or to be too afraid to tell me that they got into Poetry in Voice or had their writing edited by a published author. I want to be better for them that what I had, but I guess, that’s what my mom wanted too. The undying desire to make my life better than hers caused her to control it at every turn, make decisions for me so that she was sure I’d never follow down the path she trod. I will save this piece of writing, read it when my children are fighting with me, when they turn sixteen and threaten to leave home, and I will remind myself to take a deep breath, to let them take control of their lives, and to no matter what, stand by their side and support them endlessly.


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  • Domingo Añasco-Gaces Samontina, Jr.about a year ago

    Subscriber here. I love your story.

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