Tara White
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The Call

When Tragedy Strikes

A few years ago I was in a very toxic relationship. I let him cheat on me, call me derogatory names, and control me. He even stormed out of my parents' house on Christmas Day in front of my entire family while I laid on the floor sobbing uncontrollably. It was then we decided to "take a break." Mind you, looking back, I don't know why "taking a break" was the decision I made, but you do do a lot of dumb things in your early 20s.

During this break, I had met someone new, a complete breath of fresh air. We met at this small, smokey, bar. Everyone was old enough to be our parents. I really had to put myself out there just to get his attention, but eventually, he noticed. We exchanged numbers and began texting daily. I had completely forgot about the jerk who ruined Christmas. Trying to get a jab at the "ex," I ended up tweeting online something along the lines of the best things happen when you least expect it. It certainly got his attention and now I had the attention of both guys (a girl's worst problem right?). 

On the weekends I would spend out of town with the ex, I had to figure out excuse after excuse to tell the new guy. He didn't seem to notice the games I was playing, and if he did, he was just happy to be spending time with me when we did. He took me on a few dates, including dinner where he opened my car door and the restaurant door and even removed his baseball cap when we sat down to dinner. Now most people think this might be strange that I'm so captivated by these actions, but where I'm from, chivalry isn't as common as I'd like it to be.

So here I was torn between the jerk who ruined Christmas and Captain Chivalrous. Pushing 30, I'm now wondering why any of this was even a debate. Clearly I should've counted my blessings when he walked out on Christmas, but we all have a clearer vision in hindsight. I ended up blowing off the nice guy more and more for about two months. We would see each other at the bar occasionally, but the time we spent together became less and less.

I remember going to the bar that weekend. We saw each other there (the nice guy). We exchanged flirtatious glances and grins. I thought he left and I remember shooting him a text before I saw him in the kitchen. 

Little did I know, this would be the last time I would ever see him. That Monday night, while I was heading to my job to work an 8-hour shift overnight, I received *the call.* The call that nobody wants to receive. The call that shatters and freezes your world all at the same time. My mother called me to let me know he was killed in a car accident. She didn't want to ruin my shift, but she wanted to beat the speed that is technology. 

So there I sat at work, for 8.5 hours, staring blankly at the computer screen, occasionally getting up to go to the bathroom and cry so deeply. I drove home from work in the morning, devastated, still wondering if this could be real. I don't remember if I slept that day. Looking back, it is all a blur. I called out of work that night because I needed to know this was real. I drove by his house to see his truck and I got that ounce of hope that it wasn't him; they got the wrong truck. I later found out he was the passenger in a friends' truck; it wouldn't have been his truck in the wreck. I went to our bar, where we always ran into each other. I saw the blank faces, the sad eyes, the red cheeks. Some came over to offer their condolences, while others stayed away fearing they'd say the wrong thing. 

Within that week was the viewing and the funeral. I had to say goodbye to someone I just met. Someone I barely knew, but felt I know a lot better than I did. My friends stood by me as I inched up to the casket. I could already see it wasn't him. It wasn't the person I met. My friends had to tear me away as I just froze when it was my turn to say goodbye. I stopped still and let the tears well in my eyes. The next day was the funeral, about 35 minutes away. I remember plucking the petal from the daisy before laying it on his casket and said goodbye.

I thought I had more time. I thought he could've been the right one when I was ready to meet Mr. Right. I was 24, I wasn't ready. So I missed the opportunity of a lifetime getting to know a really great person. I always thought it was just a cliche saying; life is short. It is the hardest lesson I've had to learn.

It has been almost 5 years since I have received the call. I wish I could end this with, "I'm now married with 3 beautiful children," but sometimes life doesn't unfold like the movies. It's complicated and messy and maybe one day that'll be my ending. But for now, I've accepted my guilt and recently started putting myself out there. I wish we reunite one day again and that someone, anyone, learns from this story.