I remember the first time we met. You caught my eye and I was afraid to say hello. You were the person I thought was too cool to be my friend, the boy I thought was too cute to ever be interested in me, the job opportunity I thought was too good to be true, or the whatever it was I wanted that I didn’t think I could have. I simply stared at you from across the room until you saw me and I had to look away. The intensity from the first stare sent electricity through my veins and I knew I had to get close to you. The glimmer in your eye was the brightest thing around and the smirk tugging at the corner of your lip was all too enticing. I was young, vulnerable, innocent, and you knew it. You could tell from the way my face turned red hot the moment you looked at me, the way I played with my hair every few seconds, and the way I refused to look back up. Maybe it was my naivety that pulled you into me, maybe it was something else. All I remember is that the minute you began to walk towards me, you and I both knew I was yours and yours alone.
I remember the first time we spoke. You approached me and I was clueless. It began innocently, a casual hello, the formal small talk, and the gentle laughter. Your hand brushed my shoulder, my hand tucked into my pocket, and you closed the gap with every joke. Each word you spoke washed over me like a wave of excitement. The tingles that went up my spine made a piece of the room disappear every time it ran from my hips to my neck. Soon, it was just you and me, alone in an ocean of possibilities. You painted the most beautiful pictures for me; each word you spoke clung to the air around us and your arms swept colors onto each line with every gesture. Slowly, you began to create something beautiful and I wanted, no needed, to see it completed, I needed to share that with you because by then I was completely hooked.
I remember the first time you scared me. The painting was coming to life with every word and gesture, but right before you finished the masterpiece, your words slowed and your arms rested by your side. I looked up, confused, and you teased me with that smirk again. Before I even asked why you stopped, you had explained to me that the masterpiece was so great, so miraculous, so beautiful, that only I could be the one to experience it. But I had to earn it. A masterpiece so great couldn’t possibly be free even to someone as magnificent as me, you said. I was afraid of the price I had to pay to see this complete but I was more afraid of what would happen to me if I didn’t see. Paying wasn’t an option, it was a necessity. Yes, you scared me with the idea of the price, but losing you was even scarier. We knew that I was in the palm of your hand and there was no way out.
I remember the first time we had an adventure. You laid out the price for me clearly, I had to do these things I had never thought about, the things that I knew I wouldn’t like or be comfortable with, but you were so comforting the actions became second nature. The price became easy to pay with you by my side. All I had to do was say these bad things about this person, stir some pain in this person’s life, pretend I was meaner than I actually was, and twist my words and actions to achieve your purpose. I didn’t even know what your purpose was, all I knew was that I needed to see your masterpiece. The destruction behind me was unbeknownst to me; my eyes were glued to your words, your gestures, your smile, and you, all of you. That wasn’t so bad, you assured me, nobody would know what I had done, and if I got caught, it was easy to get my way out of it. You had taught me to manipulate without my knowledge and trained me in the art of pain so that I could become like you, a master of destruction. I stayed blind to the path you laid out before me because you revealed another piece of your masterpiece to me, this one more beautiful than the last. The awe that crept over me was unbelievable and I couldn’t do anything but breathe. You stopped after the one piece and I begged for more. I was addicted and you knew that.
I remember our second adventure together. You had helped me get over the shame and guilt of our first adventure by teaching me that the ends justified the means, even if I didn’t know what the end was. Before I knew it, any negativity drained from my body and became replaced by the rush I got any time you opened your mouth or looked in my direction. I craved for more and needed to see the next piece. I promised I would do anything to see it, I just wanted a glimpse. You smirked again and I melted, eagerly waiting for my next step. With time, you laid out another adventure even bigger than the last and once again, the fear swam through my veins until you took my hand and the fear disappeared. The pain and destruction got worse and worse for those around me but my eyes were glued to you and your masterpiece. The path behind me was still beyond my knowledge because I trusted you. I trusted you to help me get through it, I trusted you when you said there was no mess you couldn’t clean, and I trusted you when you told me I was going to be okay. I was a bright eyed fool but I was your bright eyed fool.
I remember the first time I said I was tired. I had just admired the latest addition to your never ending masterpiece and sat down to rest when you took both my hands into yours and laughed, asking what I was doing. I admitted I was tired and needed to take a break. I thought you’d be okay with it since I had done everything you had asked me to before. I thought you were understanding and kind. In less than a second, your eyes lit on fire and the smirk turned into a frown. Your arms were by your side, ending in a fist that made your knuckles so white I was afraid the skin would burst. Your voice was no longer a soothing wave but roaring thunder that shook the space around us. I could practically see the smoke coming out of your ears and the fire coming out from both your nostrils with every passing second of anger. You turned angrily away from me and began to rip up the masterpiece, taking back each word you had laid out and destroying the colors with violent sweeps across the board with your arm. I had to jump up and beg you to stop because I couldn’t see the masterpiece being destroyed, I needed to see it complete. You yelled threats that the masterpiece would never be completed for people who got tired and I immediately pretended I was fine, I was ready to do whatever it was I needed to do to get you back. Exhaustion was replaced by fear and I was driven by your anger. Eventually, you calmed down, apologized, and fixed the masterpiece. It was sloppy and more fragile than the original but it was close enough that I didn’t care. It was the first time I was afraid of you, and you would never let me forget.
I remember every single form you took in my life. You began as a beautiful creature I needed to get close to, you were my artist, my master, and I was your faithful slave. I was unaware of the damage being left behind us with each form you took. Each form promised to be better than the last and I believed you every single time. Every man that you showed up as was more gorgeous than the last, each speaking sweeter words and promising bigger things. Each drink you appeared as was tastier than the last and made me feel braver than I really was. Every argument you sat in the middle of fueled my rage and brought me to life with every destroyed human I stepped on to get to the next. Every lie you helped me weave was more grand than the last and made me look better and better. They were almost as beautiful as the lies you whispered directly in my ear. The promises of a beautiful masterpiece, the sections that were revealed to me piece by piece, the idea of being perfect all seemed to be exactly what I wanted. Every form you had took me by surprise and I didn’t recognize you at first and I admit, sometimes, I still have a hard time recognizing you when you take a form I didn’t expect or weave a lie I’m not used to. It’s getting harder to slip by me now though, and I think you know that. I stopped being afraid of you but began to depend on you the way I depend on oxygen.
I remember the first time I stopped and looked behind us. There was a prisoner in my mind who had been screaming for me to turn around, but the guards were tough and trained by you. The prisoner was beat, shackled, and quieted so all I could hear was an occasional buzz I brushed away like an insect. For years, this prisoner came closer and closer to death with every swing you took. I thought you were looking out for me, protecting me, and I knew better than to question you at this point. I remembered each time you blew up at me and I knew I couldn’t do anything to hurt you, not again. Your pain was my pain, your anger was my anger, your rage was my rage. I kept running next to you, thinking we were on the path together. What I didn’t realize was that you were running me into the ground with every grand adventure you laid out for us, until I crashed and slid all the way into the hospital. When I came to, I was tied up and alone with the prisoner in my mind. I learned that the prisoner had been me trying to warn myself not to get close to this beautiful stranger but to turn around and look at the destruction behind me. There in the hospital bed surrounded by nurses and doctors, I looked and I finally saw what you had done to me, what you had helped me do, and who I had become. A mirror was held up to me and I saw a stranger staring back, a stranger who was bruised, cut, bloodied, and had a look so desperate I was afraid to get closer. The life had been drained out of me almost completely. I thought you had taken every last drop of what was left and I think you did too.
I remember trying to find you again. I searched and I searched, desperate to feel you close to me, desperate to see the smirk tug at your lips, to feel the electricity under my skin, and the rush swimming through my veins. I needed to feel you again so I could ignore the destruction and keep running with you. I didn’t care if I had to carry you the entire way as long as I could refocus on the masterpiece and away from the disaster that was my life. There was no rock left untouched, no corner left alone, and no nook or cranny that I hadn’t looked at again and again. Finding you became my mission even when they told me it would kill me. It was like something had taken over my body, like it had been rebooted only to return to the last setting it was on; in this case, it happened to be death. Even when I was laying in the hospital bed, watching my loved ones around me hurting and crying, you were the only thing on my mind. I stayed in the hospital, trying to get well, but there was never a moment when I wasn’t peeking over my shoulder for you. I needed to find you and I would have done whatever it took to get you in the same room as me. I kept hoping desperately that you would come sweep me up and be my hero. I didn’t know who I was without you and I didn’t want to.
I remember realizing that you had tricked me. The ground beneath me vanished and I felt the air rushing around my face as gravity pulled me. My arms clawed at emptiness above me, trying to get back to the ground. The quicksand beneath me had begun sucking me in, faster and faster as I tried desperately to grab a vine. Each rope was an inch beyond my finger tips and I could do nothing to stretch further. The waves had overtaken me and I was underwater. I opened my eyes, desperate to find the way up but the blurred vision remained dark no matter where I turned. There, out of the corner of my eye, I could always see you, staring down at me. You were staring down from the cliff, from the trees, and from the edge of the shore just watching me. It turned out I had been your masterpiece all along, I just hadn’t stepped back to see that the pieces you had been putting together were pieces of me. Each new revealing was another portion of me that you had created to show somebody else. I was sucked into the beauty of this masterpiece and blind to your true motives. You made sure I wouldn’t miss the grand finale though, my own destruction. You gave me the front row seat to my own death and I hadn’t realized it until it was too late and the show was over. The curtains were nearly drawn and I had sat with my mouth open, betrayed, and I realized you had already picked up another student. I loved you with everything I had and you had turned your back on me.
I remember when you didn’t show up anymore. I don’t know what scared you away but it made me angry at first. Did I do something wrong? Were you angry at me? Was this a punishment? I searched within myself to find the crime that I had committed against you. Endless hours of searching yielded me nothing. You were gone and I blamed myself even though you had nearly destroyed me. I didn’t think I would ever forgive myself for losing you. Slowly, those around me began to show me the drops of life you had left behind. They helped me plant those seeds, water them, nurture them, and watch them grow. I was terrified to let them help me, thinking they would do to me what you had done. The seeds almost died each time I shoved them out of my new garden in fear, but they would rescue me every single time and I didn’t understand why; you had never done anything like that for me. The seeds grew into things that looked like meaningless weeds but they kept reminding me that flowers take time to grow. My attention and time went into these precious seeds that had been sown in this new ground, and little by little, the memory of you became just that: a memory. You really were gone and I was okay.
So, Chaos, this is my goodbye letter. You wooed me, loved me, chewed me up, spat me out, crushed me, and abandoned me. I will never forget the electricity and the rush that ran between you and me but I will never forget looking in the mirror to see that desperate broken shell of a person staring back. You helped shape the worst parts of me but through those, I have learned to cultivate the best parts of me, and for that, I thank you. Without you, I never would’ve known the depths of grief, the heaviness of pain, or the sweet breathe of air that is my life now. You were the best of me and the worst of me. One day, you won’t be anywhere near or a part of me; you will simply be and I will be separate from you. You call my name once in a while and tempt me with another beautiful form, one I almost cave to, but I hear a seed of life cry out for water and suddenly you’re drowned out and the form disappears so I can see the beast that you really are. No, I don’t want your help in cleaning up the destruction, I’ve got it, thanks. What you can do though, is kindly exit my life and make room for my best friends, peace and serenity. The electricity and rush aren’t as intense with them, no, but I mistook you for passion for the longest time of my life until I finally saw the true you. Peace and serenity give me the wholeness and stability I have been searching for so I no longer live desperately high to high. They’ve shown me the masterpiece that is life with no strings attached and I am in more awe than I’ve ever been, even with you.
So here’s goodbye. Goodbye to the destruction, goodbye to the games, goodbye to the shame, goodbye to the hurt, goodbye to the beast, and goodbye to you. With that, I say, hello, life, I’m ready for you now.