I only have one regret. That last drink. And that my ex-boyfriend is puking on my roommate’s rug. And that I just got drunk for the first time with my ex-boyfriend in a dorm room. And that I’m about to start making out with my ex-boyfriend while I’m drunk for the first time. And that he threw up a little on my VHS copy of True Romance. And that my roommate walked in as I was starting to clean up the vomit, which I’m sure didn’t look great. So . . . I guess it’s more of “one handful” of regret.
I skipped class the next morning to clean it up and it was spotless. You couldn’t even tell that there had been vomit on it. I brought several friends into my room—friends who told me I should pay for the rug—and asked them where the stain was . . . they couldn’t find it. My roommate asked me to pay for it, anyway. The amount just happened to be the same amount she owed for her previous month’s phone bill. I moved out at the semester break and took the rug with me.
I never drank in high school. Or my freshman year of college. But I had transferred sophomore year to the college in my hometown, signing the paperwork a few weeks before being dumped by that same ex-boyfriend. He had rediscovered religion and decided “God doesn’t want us to be together, because it’s a distraction from ‘Him.’” I had been in Minneapolis my freshman year, and I never drank, rarely went downtown, never went to concerts, never went to Prince’s club, and missed out on a lot because I felt like that would be unfaithful to him somehow. Now I was back home, at a school I had vowed I would never go to, because I transferred to be closer to him, and he had dumped me. Then blamed it on God. Then immediately transferred to an arts high school out of state. Seemed like as good as any reason to start drinking.
He was two years younger than me and, when I was junior high, our families had briefly gone to the same church. His mom played piano and would accompany me on my clarinet solos for Solo and Ensemble contests. He told me he once sat and listened to me practice with his mom and was moved by my playing. It wasn't love at first sight, but it was the first seed of a crush on me. I had not noticed him in the room.
We were later in the fall musical together, my senior year of high school, his sophomore. He remembered me, went out of his way to become friends with me, had a clear and massive crush on me while I denied it. I didn’t want to like him, didn’t want to start dating someone before I graduated, and my friend liked him. After a few months of talking and laughing with him like I never had with anyone before (and looking into his baby blue eyes), I admitted my feelings. We started dating.
It was felt perfect for about eighteen months. I'd never had a boyfriend before—as far I knew, he was the first boy to ever like me, to believe I was smart, and funny, pretty, and talented . . . and he was the first person who ever told me I was those things. I had never felt as comfortable with anyone else. I had moved a lot as a kid, was shy and felt anxiety around people. I finally starting making girlfriends in high school, even close friends, but there was always stuff I could never tell them. I told him all of it.
I was completely in love.
He liked me first, had liked me before I knew him, and the bitter irony was, two years later, I was the one desperately trying to get him back. Trying to be the “cool girl,” fine with him going away and expecting me to be there when he appeared. Being fun and casual and listening to him empathetically when he came back. Trying to make myself return to a religion that had consistently let me down and made me feel unhappy all through my teens. I went to church three times a week. He didn’t go there, but his family did. I sat in the pew, wondering why I was there, how sad and pathetic I must look to everyone else. And would be hungover on Sunday mornings, because I really couldn't fully commit to the religion thing. I was trying to make him love me again and figure out who I was without him simultaneously.
All though college, he haunted me. Even as he went out of state for college, and I made friends, went to parties, drunkenly (and soberly) made out with guys, travelled over spring breaks, studied in London for a semester . . . he had a real knack for showing up right as I’d start to forget about him. Literally, just appearing in my apartment. One night, I arrived home, looked to my right to read a message on the fridge that said, "Kendra: your brother called to warn you your ex-boyfriend is back in town," then looked to my left to see my ex-boyfriend turning the swivel chair in our living room to face me. Like a James Bond villain.
At the first sight of him at these re-appearances, my heart would flutter with remnants of deep-seeded affections, hope that we could re-kindle our romance . . . and anger. With each sight of him, it became more obvious I was just his distraction until he left again. I was so angry, yet so longing to spend time with him that I allowed him to re-appear, disrupt my life and re-break my heart. I fell back into it every god damn time because there was always a joke only he got, a reference only he would make, a familiar comfortableness that I still only felt with him. Like an old sweater from the back of the closet, I would tell myself to get rid of him, but then slip into it to feel warm and cozy while watching a movie. Or doing laundry. Mostly, I really, really missed my friend.
The feelings I had when he would show up were so strong while I was in them. Every time felt terrible. But looking back, I didn't realize then that every time hurt just a little bit less. Seeing him dropped just a bit lower on my list of priorities. Because the funny thing is, now, I can’t remember the last time I saw him. I’m sure I didn’t know it would be the last time I would see him. I have all these strong memories of being so happy when we were together, then devastated when we broke up, then angry and desperate after he left, but then, right around my last semester of college, it all fades. Over time, we just stopped seeing each other. There was no big fight, no one sat me down for an intervention, I never had some “aha moment.” It just slowly disappeared, like the now barely visible scar on my heart.
About the artist...
Kendra Stevens is a Chicago-based Live Lit performer, writer and rapper. She produces and hosts Serving the Sentence the second Tuesday of each month, regularly reads in shows all over the city, and is a member a She's Crafty, Chicago's All-Female Beastie Boys Tribute. More at kendrastevens.com