The Fire

He walked into the bar, in a striped long sleeve shirt in spite of the June humidity. Summer in Louisiana is brutal. Temps in the upper 80’s and humidity at nearly 80% on a good day.

I met him briefly earlier that day, my friend* and I lounging in pool chairs and drinking cream soda and rum. But when he walked into the bar he caught my eye in a different way. I was visiting my friend and she’d told me about him before. I knew he was from Michigan, had a tendency to get rowdy, and used to have a coke habit. I also knew that she had been interested in him.

*(although she doesn’t get the credit she deserves in the following paragraphs, it’s important note that she is my most loyal friend, who has put up with me when no one else would, who has listened to me cry about the same thing 6 nights in a row, who has stood steady with me through out the years. She is the truest friend I have, with a heart of gold, when she lets you see it; a mind as sharp as a razor; and a capacity for compassion that she never will give herself credit for. So, she is awesome.)

But that didn’t stop me from talking to him while my friend was distracted, playing pool. I know, I’m a bad person. I do enough self loathing on my own, so no need to rub it in. Although he was in Louisiana as a chemical engineering co-op, he told me he had applied to dental school and was waiting to hear back.

The bar had one bathroom inside and a line longer than we could wait for. My friend and I didn’t and couldn’t wait. The bar had a courtyard where the band was playing. Along the back of the yard there were a handful of Port-a-Potties.


It was a risky decision.

They had been sitting in the sun all day and the humidity didn’t help the smell. These port-a-potties weren’t the kind that were well maintained. The kind with toilet paper on the floor, although you’d be lucky to find any in the dispenser; no hand soap; and with a smell that can’t scarcely by described let alone recreated.

We decided to be brave and picked the only open one. We both climbed in, sharing it, as drunk girl are wont to do, holding our breath and our noses.

“Do you still like him?” I anxiously whispered.

“Well…. he’s a friend … and nothing’s really happened…” my friend said, haltingly.

“I like him.”
“So is it ok if I go for it?”

Silence. A long pause

“Well let’s just see who goes home with him tonight,” my friend reluctantly suggested.

The challenge was on. It wasn’t really a fair fight. My friend was distracted and beholden to other co-op friends so I was able to him alone– I had no obligation to entertain the rest of group. In the end, it wasn’t really a challenge. We had instant chemistry. I asked him about my friend.

“She’s just friend.”

I sealed my victory when slipped out of the bar, en route to one of those classic, new found crush, drunken make-outs.

I left for Chile a week later.

I was gone for 6 weeks but we Skyped almost every night. We planned a visit for when I got back in the States. He found out he got into the dental school of his dreams.

A college English major, I had already decided to go to law school. My plan was to take a year off, earn a little money, then go to a southern school, hopefully for free. He changed my plans. He convinced me to apply to the same school, which happened to have a top ten law school, and forgo my year off.

They say hindsight is 20-20 but, damn, I wish I knew how this was gonna shake out before I left for Chile. But I didn’t have the benefit of hindsight and I walked straight into what would become the worst years of my life, squinting and near-sighted.

I was always too near-sighted to see the ugly bits under the far-sighted but beautiful imaginary future he designed for us.

We did have some good times, the summer of 2010 may be the best of my life so far. We didn’t fight, we were together everyday, we were happy.

If I knew that the first boy who told me “I love you” would break my heart so badly, I would have been more careful. But I didn’t know and I waltzed blindly with his dreams for us swirling in my mind. My eyes were closed and I was dancing. So I never saw the cliff until I had waltzed my way off; at the last minute he must have opened his eyes, seeing me with mine closed, ignorant of the fall I was about to take. He watched with eyes open as he let go of my hand, letting me fall into what would become a deep depression while he stood on the edge and watched, safe, and unharmed.

When he broke up with me I cried for days. I didn’t see it coming. I still don’t know why he did it, my best guess is he got cold feet. Hindsight tells me I should have seen his selfishness; his love for himself trumped all. He was scared and so he pulled the rug out from me, lead me to edge of the cliff, and watched me fall.

I had to up my anti-depressants, which I started my senior year of college, because I couldn’t handle myself after the break up. It helped. But it wasn’t until I got angry at him that I began to truly heal.

It doesn’t matter what the last straw was. But it broke the camel’s back and finally, finally I got mad at him. I got angry, so angry I needed an outlet to burn off the heat of righteous indignation and rage that finally had been unleashed and that radiated out from me. It fueled me and I started running, in a few months I would make it through my first marathon. I would never have crossed that finish line, or have made that race, if I hadn’t finally gotten mad at him.

Running started to heal me. I ran out my rage, which scarcely could be repressed as I lived each day that summer in the same town as him, I was there because of him and I was angry. The town I ran laps around fueled me, a reminder of what he had done to me, as my anger raged.

Fire truly is cleansing. My anger and my running got me through that summer, helped me cross the marathon finish line, and started to heal me.

At this point, I wouldn’t have wanted a hint of hindsight. If I knew what the fall would bring me, I never would have made it. I wouldn’t have wanted to. My nearsightedness is what got me through those months, but that’s a story for another time.

The fire in my soul healed my broken heart and I was finally able to stop crying, stop thinking of him, and walk, not looking back, out of that awful summer of 2011 and into my second semester of law school, unaware of what the next year would bring me.

Hindsight. Sometimes it’s good we don’t have it. Would we ever dare to brave the hard times, even if it meant losing the gold at the end of the rainbow? Maybe I would have liked a glimpse of it when that boy walked in the bar that steamy night in June. But I didn’t have it. So I waltzed, nearsighted and ready, into his life. And he into mine.


5 responses to “The Fire

  • cabrogal

    “Fire truly is cleansing. My anger and my running got me through that summer, helped me cross the marathon finish line, and started to heal me.”

    When us looney folk talk like that the others get nervous.

    • gmercier4388

      Oh I disagree, I have no problem talking like this. I use this blog as a way to express myself and make sense of my own life. I don’t care if it makes other people nervous– if it does then they shouldn’t read it. And this post is surely less nerve-inducing than some of my earlier ones.

      • cabrogal

        I was being semi ironic.
        There is no way I’d seriously suggest censoring your posts.

        And I know its different for women.

        But believe me, when a 187cm black guy with a bipolar diagnosis starts talking positively about anger, people get nervous.

      • gmercier4388

        Haha good to know. It sucks that bipolar/anger is so stigmatized and alarming to others.

  • Kaylee

    Wow that part about the victory over your friend was painful to read. Good for you for getting over your ex. That can be really hard. Even though you make your reader curious to know what he did, it seems much healthier to put all that in the past.

    You should be proud of yourself for running a marathon! Even if you are injured now, that is a lot of positive willpower and strength to have in you that hopefully can be put to use in other good ways.

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