"Now My Bitter Hands Cradle Broken Glass..."

zara's picture

I've written about Brandon briefly in the past. He was my first love, the first guy to go down on me, the first male I think I truly did emotional damage to. I've been thinking a lot about him recently. One of my readers wrote to me asking if I could write if it was worse to lose a lover to another person or to death.

I'm not sure if I know how to answer that.

I met Brandon during the beginning of my freshmen year in high school. My first celebrity crush was Tommy Lee, a tall, lanky drummer with long hair. Brandon fit that mold nicely, perhaps sealing my adoration. He was 6'4", long limbed and played guitar. He was growing his hair out at the time. It was that longish length, not quite super long but no longer shaggy. It was a rich brown, shiny and thick. His eyes were a warm caramel color. His nose was too big, bulbous at the tip. His lips were full and curled upwards at the corners.

Brandon walked in long, loping strides, looking a little dazed, much like Keanu Reeves' character Ted. He carried his guitar case around with him everywhere, this ratty black zip-up number that he'd sling over his shoulder. His hands were a thing of pure beauty, fingers long and nimble, his fingernails wide, their beds a strong pink color. I used to love sandwiching one of his large paws between my freakish small ones.

He was so tall, his jeans never cleared his hip bones, which jutted out above the waistband. He usually would have on a worn concert t-shirt, one that had formerly been black but had faded to a dull hue from too many go arounds in the washing machine. His torso was so long that the hem of the shirts would often barely meet the top of his pants. One quick flip of the edge and I could slide my hands under the material and rub them against his hairless stomach.

He was part Indian, but unsure of which tribe. His mother was a slut for men on choppers. Brandon had been her second pregnancy, the first child that she'd kept. Somewhere in this world there is a half brother of his. He was told of this by his grandmother, but his mother had no interest in finding him. She barely had interest in Brandon.

He would tell me tales of bikers coming home with his mother, he less than 5 years old. One poured whiskey down his throat to get him to sleep so that he could fuck his mother without fear of intrusion. He briefly went to live with his grandparents. After his mother gained her nursing degree and looked to be more responsible, he went back into her care.

Before I'd met Brandon, he'd been a student in my mother's 8th grade English class. Apparently he'd been a bright kid, a good reader and a writer with a strong imagination. She'd felt sorry for him, seeing him come into school late at times, missing school essentials like pencils and paper. She's always hated to see the ones who've obviously slipped through the cracks without ever really falling. He had a roof over his head, but not much more.

There was a part of me, innocent with stupid girlish dreams, that believed I fell in love with him when I first saw him. I was waiting for my mom to pick me up after school, clutching my books to my chest and pacing around the center of campus. Brandon was sitting on the grassy knoll that the stoners occupied, his long legs folded over each other. His guitar rested in his lap, his hair flopped over his brow, his fingers diligently plucking at the strings. He was a sophomore, so I dared not approach him.

I saw an "in" when a girl who was in one of my classes said hello to him while passing by. He looked up and smiled brightly, raising a hand in greeting. I grabbed her by the elbow and asked what his name was. "Brandon," she replied. "But, um, you might not want to go there."

I figured out what her warning meant a few days later. I'd managed to pass him a note between classes, inviting him to hang out with me after school while I waited again for my ride. I didn't know that he'd been a student of my mother's yet, so when we casually leaned against the stage in the middle of the quad, pretending to play coy in that high school kind of way, his tilted head and knitted brow escaped me.

"You're Mrs Brumana's daughter, aren't you?" he asked, after I'd been trying to chat him up about music.

"Yeah," I answered. My heart sank. "Did you have her?"

"Yeah, she was really cool," he replied.

I had always tried to steer clear of any of my mom's former students. There's just something weird about bringing home a boy who would get either good or bad grades in her class. Someone that she'd already set an opinion of on. But as he smiled, I forgot my worries. I found myself leaning in closer when he talked. By the time that my mom pulled up, I'd gained the confidence to rest my hand on his shoulder. Casually touching for no apparent reason being the cornerstone of a young girl's way of indicating her interest.

By the end of the week, we were making out at that stage, me sitting with my legs open, him between them with his arms wound around my waist. My hands would trail up into his hair, pull him in closer to me.

By the end of the second week, I'd started telling my mom to pick me up at the apartment he shared with his mother. She was never home when we would get there. For a glorious hour we'd stretch out over his bed, crumpled with dirty linens, hair metal playing dimly in the background, not too loudly so as not to mask the sounds of someone approaching unannounced.

Somewhere in the middle of the third week, we'd slipped seamlessly into the act of sex. I'd lost my virginity a few months prior, in an unplanned and unsatisfactory manner. When I look back on my life, I prefer to think of Brandon being the person I truly lost my virginity to. It was a moment not without its awkwardness, but it was loving and it was... well... it was right.

Not long after that, I got to have my first run-in with Brandon's mother. A beastly woman who would buy groceries at the store and mark two thirds of them by scrawling her name on the packages, an indication of what he wasn't allowed to eat. She would assign duties to her son to take care of the laundry and housework, not wholly horrible, but refused to do any of these duties herself.

She was tirelessly commenting on how "nice" it must be to have two parents who both had "good jobs" whenever I would come around. She would hint at me being a slut in her mind, but was always more than happy to allow Brandon to spend the weekends at our home so that she could "entertain" people. Brandon would return home on Sunday afternoons to an apartment full of empty beer bottles and cigarette burns. I now understand why he would cling to me every Sunday morning. Back then, I just felt loved with an intensity that most young girls never get to experience.

One of the men that his mother partied with decided to stick around. He was a widower with three young children, ranging in age from 8 to 13 years old. When Xmas rolled around, he was encouraging Brandon and his mother to visit them frequently. I would often get dragged along, perhaps as some kind of example that she could get a kid from a good home to want to date her son.

The kids were fucked up. Their mother had suffered from a long-running illness, finally succumbing to it less than a year before their father met this evil woman. The little girl, the youngest of the brood would poke me with sticks and then scream her lungs out whenever I would ask her to stop, claiming that I'd hit her. The boys (aged 10 and 13) were both severely obese, the older of the two just entering the heavy hormonal stage of puberty. His favorite questions to ask usually centered around how many times Brandon and I would fuck. He would practically salivate when looking at me and request that I show him my tits.

Needless to say, Brandon began spending more and more time at my house. My mother quickly put me on birth control and provided us with condoms, but gave us a wide berth. We settled into what could be described as a teenaged marriage of sorts. I was comfortable with him, he with I. Often times we wouldn't even have sex during the weekends that he'd spend in my bed. We'd just talk or watch TV. Sometimes he would play guitar while I read.

When late spring approached and the one year anniversary of his wife's death had gone past, Brandon's mother received a marriage proposal that she accepted. By the early summer, they'd married, the young demon step-daughter bawling loudly and kicking people after the ceremony in the park. Brandon squeezed my hand.

"I want to marry you," he said after we'd stole away behind some trees in the park where the reception was being held.

I didn't know how to respond. I was 15 years old. After seeing the union of his mother to this blind and needy widower, I panicked. Suddenly, after almost 10 months of being in a place of calm peacefulness, I felt trapped. He began to babble that he knew we wouldn't get married right away, that we were young, but that he wanted to make a promise to me. That he would always be there for me. That he felt as if he found his purpose and that that included being with me.

I nodded with a knot in my throat.

It was the beginning of the end for Brandon.

He and his mother moved in with the widower and the demon children in a home in Ventura. At the time my family was still living in Oxnard, a town separated by less than 10 miles. But to two teenagers without cars or drivers licenses, it might as well have been several hundred. My parents continued to help pick him up and take him home, never with any assistance from his mother or the new husband, but they were strained to do so. We began to see each other less.

When the school year started, that time decreased even more. I made new friends and became preoccupied with school activities. The distance made it easy to call Brandon one day, and over the screams of the demon step-sister in the background, declare that I wanted to break up.

He called a few times, but I ignored the calls. I hung out with friends and flirted with new guys. I all but forgot about Brandon.

A little too easily, when I think back on it. But it was high school, right?

Somewhere in the middle of my high school experience, I stumbled into a circumstance which altered who I am completely.

I spent the year following that shoving down everything inside. I joined groups, smiled, laughed and kept up an appearance. With every step that I took, my fractured spirit cracked a little deeper.

By the time that the summer between my junior and senior years rolled around, I was lost and yet settled. I had been in a relationship with a good guy, Brian, and managed to heal myself as much as was possible. Brian was heading off to college in the fall and I was getting restless as the feelings of uncertainty crept in.

I can't recall now how I stumbled into Brandon again at that time. I wish I knew. It is one of those holes in my memories that haunt me.

He filled me in on the horrors of living with the step-siblings. His mother and the new husband fought often and his mother would disappear for days on end, leaving him in the care of this man, surrounded by his children. He was neglected and often went without food or other necessities like shampoo and deodorant. He recounted stories of having to shoplift these items for himself.

He was dating a punk girl at the time but fell back into my arms without hesitation. Things were not quite the same, however. He'd lost the last shreds of the innocence that he'd managed to hold onto when I'd first met him. He was bitter and jaded to the point where even my reappearance in his life, something that he quite clearly hoped would lighten his spiritual load, just didn't affect him in the manner that it once would have.

It didn't work out. I was 17 and still lacking my driver's license. I started the school year a senior, one who did not have Brandon by her side.

By the end of the year I'd gained my license and a vehicle. Shortly afterward we'd run into each other on occasion. There was a time when I saw him walking down the street and offered him a ride home. He smiled, hopped in and we drove in silence down to his friend's home. He paused as he got out, stuck his head in the car and smiled, a hint of the old Brandon in his eyes.

"I'll call you," he promised.

He did. We talked for a few weeks, trying to catch up without talking too much about what sucked in our lives. We reminisced about the good times, the fun we'd had, the trouble we'd gotten into together. We started to rebuild the friendship that we'd previously had.

One day, sometime in the middle of the week, I called him to see if he wanted to get together over the weekend. He declined, telling me that he was planning on going camping with a couple of the guys he'd known since grade school. He promised to call me when they returned.

That was supposed to have been a Sunday. No call came. I was a little pissed, but being that this was before the days of cell phones, knew there wasn't much that I could do about it.

Monday came and I went to school. There was still no call that evening. Tuesday was a repeat of the same.

Wednesday I remember going to school and talking shit about him to my friend Sam. Sam was the only one I'd confided in about Brandon and I talking again. He shrugged his shoulders and tried to offer support. I was mad in that irrational teenager way. I swore that when he called I would just tell my mom to tell him I was out with someone else.

I went home and took up residence in my bedroom as was customary for me to do. I turned up my stereo and started to read. About an hour after I'd gotten home, I heard a knock at my bedroom door.

My mom came in, tears streaming from her eyes. "Zara...." she started slowly. "I need to tell you something that's probably going to upset you."

I put down my book and glanced up at her. "Yeah?"

"Could you turn down the stereo?" she asked.

"Is it really that important?" I replied.

She cursed at me and then hysterically started fumbling with the knobs, trying to figure out how to cut the music. I told her to chill out and pressed pause on the CD. She was shaking, sobbing. "Brandon's dead, Zara. He and his friends went camping and when they were coming home one of them fell asleep at the wheel and the car went off a cliff. Brandon's dead." She repeated that two word sentence and then dropped to the bed and took my hands in hers.

I didn't cry. I don't think I moved. She studied my face. "Don't you care?" she asked, wild-eyed.

"Should I?" was what came out of my mouth.

My mother stood and slapped me across the face. I remained impassive. She stormed out of my room, slamming my door. I clicked "play" on the CD player and resumed listening to the music. It was Sonic Youth's "Drunken Butterfly" off of their "Dirty" disc.

The end of the song sticks in my head.

"Come on home, just ain't fair
 name of rock n' roll, where love dies
Couldn't find a soul, tell it like it is
Deep down inside, drunken butterfly
I love you, I love you, I love you, what's your name?
I love you, I love you, I love you, what's your name?
I love you, I love you, I love you, what's your name?
I love you, I love you, I love you, what's your name?"

It took me almost 6 months to let myself understand what had happened. When I was laying in my bed with David, my next love, my toxic love. He nuzzled my neck and spoke to me in a voice that I hadn't heard since I'd been 14 years old.

I broke down. I think he thought I'd gone insane. I bawled uncontrollably and went into my closet, screaming at him to leave. He yelled back at me, demanding that I tell him what was wrong. I simply closed the closet doors on him and howled with sorrow. I wrapped my arms around my knees, drawn tightly up to my chin. I stayed there for hours. Until I couldn't produce any more tears. Until my eyeballs were raw and felt as if they would drop out of their sockets.

I cried for Brandon.

I cried for myself.

We lose lovers everyday. To other people. To our own ignorant mistakes. To the cold hearted nature of the world. To death.

I can't say which would hurt more. I don't think that the hurt can be measured. I most certainly know that the pain can not be compared as if it were some taste test where the "winner" was revealed to the stunned gaze of the participant.

To lose a lover always sucks. Regardless of circumstance. You always wonder what would have been, what could have been, what they're doing now... without you.

When we lose a lover, we lose a portion of ourselves. I think it is perhaps that which is the biggest burden to bear.

Because I know that a part of me still loves Brandon. And when he died, that part of me went with him. Perhaps it's easier for those of us who have lost a lover through death. Because for those who lose that part of themselves to someone who continues on, it must be awful to know that portion of themselves is out there in the world, teasing them as if it could one day be recaptured.

At least I know I've given that portion of myself up forever. I don't have to suffer wondering if I'll ever gain it back. And I don't have to struggle with wanting it back.

I cry for him still. I am OK with that now.



Need a tissue?

Neither way is easier...I have lost one love to each way. Death isn't easy because you always wonder "If only..." or "What should/could have been..." Losing to another, well, that just rips your heart out.

Heather the Angel's picture

You never cease to amaze me

Everytime I start reading through your work, I find some poingnant story that strikes right to my heart. I remember the joy or the pain... the feeling of soaring and the depths of the searing pain. The details are slightly different, but I feel you babe. He will be remembered fondly.

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