“You wanna be my boyfriend?” she demanded, cornering me in the library and fixing me with her bug-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights stare. I was too scared to say no.
She was 17. I was 15. She was a bi-polar, manic-depressive hemophiliac. I was a skinny little nothing who never had a girlfriend before. So naturally I squeaked out a “yes” in reply. And thus began a seven-week journey into hell.
We only saw each other in school during that first week, after which I arranged our first official date. A pizza date. The nearest place was a mile from her house, and since we were car-less teenagers we had to bike there. She couldn’t ask her parents for a ride because they both worked. And I couldn’t ask my parents because I was embarrassed by the whole thing. Not to mention she was batshit… but up until that point I was still unaware of just how much.
I quickly found out.
She met me outside her house wearing a helmet, shin guards, elbow and knee pads, leather gloves, and a protective vest. For a minute I couldn’t remember whether we were supposed to be meeting for pizza or a football match. But I shrugged and figured that was just typical hemophiliac attire.
Or perhaps it was simply because she was clumsy as fuck. She crashed her bike every time she hit a pothole, a patch of sand, or an ant. I had to stop several times to fish her out of bushes and empty garbage cans along the side of the road.
By the time we finally arrived at the pizza place she looked like a bruised banana. She didn’t bleed all over the place, which was a plus. She also kept her helmet on the entire time we were inside. Apart from that our meal was fairly normal. We grabbed some ice cream after that, and started to bike back to her house. Halfway there she freaked out: her wallet was missing. At first I thought she lost it either when she flipped over that mailbox or when she careened head-first into that parked car, but she said she’d had it with her at the pizza place. We raced back there at breakneck speed (miraculously she didn’t crash once) and I dumped my bike on the sidewalk and dashed inside.
Apparently she’d left it on the table next to the napkin holder. Fortunately it was still there. Phew. I snatched it up and gaily went to present it to her like a true gentleman. Unfortunately, the sudden panic-turned-to-relief proved to be too much for her. She clutched her stomach and swayed back and forth moaning, “I don’t feel so g-”
She never completed the sentence.
She pitched forward onto her hands and knees and vomited all over my feet. I froze in horror as two slices and a Coke and a scoop of ice cream spread over my sneakers and onto the sidewalk around me. Worse, everybody in the shop had seen and ran to the glass to gape at me. Even the chef stopped flipping dough and came to the window in his apron to have a look.
She rolled back into a sitting position with her head in her hands and her elbows on her knees. I was still frozen into position, feeling the warmth seeping into my socks.
“Can you get me some water?” she finally croaked out. I nodded dumbly and duck-walked back into the pizza place, trying to ignore the SQUISH SQUISH sounds emanating from my sneakers. It was as quiet as a church inside. I went up to the counter and asked the guy behind it for a cup of water. He handed to me, grinning so widely I thought his ears were going to fall off. I turned around and saw people in the shop snickering and shoving their fists into their mouths. Yeah, fuck all you.
Outside I handed her the water. She drank half of it, then decided it would be a good idea to fling the rest of it onto her pile of sick on the sidewalk, splattering my jeans in the process. Then she leaped to her feet, yanked her bike towards her, jumped on it and sped off like a maniac. I tore after her, but she was really moving. Of course, halfway down the road she crashed for the twentieth time, this time into another garbage can. BAM!
This gave me the opportunity to catch up with her. She sat there in a tangled heap and pulled her helmet off and flung it away. I dropped down next to her, trying to catch my breath.
“You know, sometimes I still think about killing myself,” she said suddenly. I gaped at her, but she was already back on her bike and off in a flash. Holy crap. Now I was in the Tour de Prevente Suicide. I raced after her but she had a ten-speed and I didn’t, and I was anxiously waiting for her to swerve into the oncoming traffic at any moment. She didn’t, but once she got back to her house she ditched her bike on the front lawn and ran inside. I found her in the kitchen, holding an especially sharp knife. I grabbed it from her and dropped it back in the drawer just as her mother came home and walked in the door. All I could manage was a quick “hello-goodbye!” and I beat it the hell out of there. I figured if her mother was home, then she would be safe.
“So, how was your day?” my mother asked when I burst through the back door a half-hour later. I didn’t answer her. I couldn’t. Imagine trying to handle all that when you’re 15.
The next morning at school I found a note stuffed into my locker that looked like it was scrawled by Stevie Wonder. After an hour of forensic analysis I finally determined it was from my new girlfriend. She apologized for her behavior and promised that she was all better and could I please please please come over after school because she wanted me to please please please finally give her a kiss.
But it didn’t stop there. The notes kept coming throughout the morning until I finally met her in the library as usual during our free period. It was then that I acquiesced, and later that day I biked over to her house. She was running around like Pac-Man while I sat on the living room couch.
“You want to see my scrapbook!?” she asked excitedly. I’d barely answered and she was already running off to get it. However, her prowess at walking was no better than her ability at navigating a bicycle, and within three steps she’d caught her knee on the corner of the coffee table and face-planted into the carpet.
“OW THAT WAS MY KNEE!” she shouted. Before I could react she was up and running again, and ten seconds later I heard a loud thud in the hallway, followed by “OW THAT WAS MY FOOT!” She was back almost immediately, a binder under her arm. She pulled it out and handed it to me, and I opened it up expecting to see family photos and mementos. Instead I saw nothing but doctor’s notes, prescription forms and hospital bracelets. And her discharge papers from the county mental institution.
I didn’t know what to say after that revelation, so I was just like, “Um… so you wanna see what’s on TV?” She face darkened and she stood up and loomed over me.
“I’M TRYING TO SHOW YOU SOMETHING AND YOU WANT TO WATCH TV??” she shrieked, yanking the scrapbook out of my hands and Frisbee-ing it into the next room. Then she spun on her heel and stomped away, nearly tripping over her own feet in the process. Thirty seconds later she reappeared in the doorway grinning and laughing. She sat back down and put her arms around me and buried her face in my chest. “You know I can’t stay mad at you,” came her muffled voice. “Especially now that we’ve been going out for eight days, four hours and thirty-seven minutes.”
“Uh… you mean you’ve been keeping an exact count? That’s a little weird,” I observed. She blew another fuse and was on her feet yelling at me again.
“WHY IS IT WEIRD THAT I WANT TO KEEP COUNT? WE’RE GOING OUT AND IT’S NICE TO KNOW HOW LONG IT’S BEEN. BESIDES I KEEP TRACK OF EVERYTHING,” she shouted as she paced around the living room. In addition to how long we’d been going out for, I was also treated to a litany of the following:
-How many days until summer.
-How many days of school left.
-How many days until she visits Florida.
-How many days until she sees her Dad again.
-How many days until she has her braces taken off.
-How many days until her birthday.
-How many days until her little brother’s birthday.
-How many days until her sister’s birthday.
-How many days until her mother’s birthday.
-How many days until taking her SAT.
-How many days since she’s been out of the hospital.
-H0w many days since she last tried to kill herself.
From then on, I received daily updates on each item – usually several times per day, along with any new items she wanted to keep track of as things went along. Anyway, after an hour at her house I finally couldn’t take any more of her mood swings, so I decided to call it a day and go home. She followed me outside.
“Are you going to give me a kiss?” she demanded, nostrils flaring.
“Um… next time,” I mumbled. Then I hopped on my bike and got the hell out of there. My thoughts were a tangled mess as I pedaled home. First I thought that whatever medication she was on, her doctors either needed to up the dosage or cut it in half. Then I thought maybe it was just me. Maybe she was flipping out on me because I was unwittingly doing everything wrong. That was certainly a possibility. Before I’d met her, I’d almost never talked to a girl before. And not only had I never had a girlfriend before, I’d never had a female friend, period. So maybe I just needed to try harder.
After two weeks in, she was just getting crazier and crazier. She’d fill her schoolbag with disposable cameras, and she would take pictures of me anytime she saw me in the hallway, in the cafeteria, and especially when we were sitting together in the library. Snap. Snap. Snap. Pictures of me reading a book. Pictures of me picking my nose. Pictures of me getting something out of my schoolbag. Pictures of me staring at the ceiling. Pictures of me looking at someone who just came through the door. Eventually she had two shoeboxes of the most horribly candid photos of me.
After three weeks I wanted to pull the plug, but I just didn’t know how. After four weeks we’d already met each other’s families. After five weeks I feared I was digging myself a hole I would never climb out of. She was only growing more and more attached to me, even though I’d still managed to avoid kissing her. I was afraid if I did she would imprint like a baby duck. And I still didn’t know how soon you were supposed to start kissing when you were going out with someone? Was five weeks too soon? Were you supposed to get to really know each other first?
By six weeks I was psyching myself up to call it quits, but I didn’t know how or when to do it. I sure as hell wasn’t going to go to my mother for advice. Ew. Not even though my girlfriend had told me how suicidal she was after her last boyfriend dumped her and how she still thinks about hurting herself. Great. Another thing I had to worry about. But I had to do it. I couldn’t take her violent mood swings, her clingy neediness, and the fact that I felt more like a therapist than a boyfriend. It was too much, way too much to handle. Especially at 15.
After seven weeks (“seven weeks, five hours and fifteen minutes” to be exact) I biked over to her house for the last time. We were sitting in her room and I told her, “we need to talk.” Right away she fixed me with that creepy, blank stare of hers.
“This isn’t working out,” I said. “It’s not you, it’s me. I just don’t think I’m ready for a relationship right now.” That last part was true. I really thought my experiences with her were indicative of what being in a relationship was like. And if that’s what a relationship is like, then I wanted nothing to do with it.
She didn’t answer. She didn’t even blink. Even when I moved out of her line of vision, she kept staring straight ahead without moving. Suddenly she stood up and marched out of the room. I was right on her heels, afraid of what she might do next.
“I’m going out,” she called to her mother, who was in the kitchen.
“Are you okay?” I asked her once she was outside. She ignored me and kept her back to me as she retrieved her bicycle from the side of the house. Without a word she hopped astride it and pedaled away as fast as she could. I just stood there watching her go, unsure of what to do next. I decided to just go home.
Later on, I heard rumors that she indeed tried to kill herself again by riding her bike into oncoming traffic. I still have no idea if that was true or not. In any case, I was completely put off of girls after that experience. I never wanted to date again.