I hate the way she's colored her hair red.
She didn't always have this color there. Even back when we were eleven years old, she has always had the most beautiful golden-blonde hair. I was lucky enough to meet her one day as I was riding my bicycle down our road. As I rode by 2nd street, I saw her with her head down. She was in a dirty white shirt, sitting on the curb with her hair over her face and she appeared to be crying. I stopped. "What's wrong?" I asked her. "Sometimes I just feel like crying." she said. I showed her I could do a wheelie with my bicycle, and for a split second I saw a smile creep across her face, and we've been inseparable ever since. Caroline was her name. Every day after school, I'd make my way to 2nd street to find Caroline and I'd always find her waiting for me. We would play and trade our Pokémon cards, and sometimes go out in the woods behind her house and explore. She made every day after school seem like the first day of summer break.
It wasn't until we started going to the same high school together that I started realizing maybe, just maybe, I had feelings for Caroline. She was always just a friend to me, but for some reason I started viewing her and feeling for her differently. I would always be off doing some mischievous act with my friends like setting off smoke bombs in the courtyard or stink bombs in the classrooms while she was hanging out with her friends behind the school, smoking cigarettes, or drinking some cheap liquor someone brought to school from their parent's cabinet. We would still always make time to find each other throughout the day and just hang out and be in each other's company. Until that one fateful day, when she dropped out and disappeared.
I never stopped thinking about her and that long, beautiful blonde hair of hers that would push into my face whenever I reached in to give her a hug. She just dropped out of school and disappeared. I had a car by this time, so nearly every time after high school, I'd drive by 2nd street to see if I could see her. But she was never there. Fuck, I just needed one more hug, or at least a goodbye. Caroline never left my mind.
I remember it clearly. It was my fourth or fifth day in community college when I saw her. I was driving home and she was sauntering down the street. I pulled my car over, got out and faced her. "Caroline?" I questioned. She turned around with tears in her eyes and ran to hug me. "I've... I've missed you. You were that person in high school, right?" she said, holding the top of her nose and sucking air through it as if she were trying to clear her nose. That's when I noticed. Under that beautiful blonde hair of hers were sores on her skin. "Yeah, Caroline. I'm that person. Let's get you somewhere. You wanna go hang out at my house and maybe grab a soda?" She just nodded and got in my car. I skipped school that day, but we caught up with each other.
Apparently she was caught that day in high school doing meth behind the school with her friends and was expelled along with being kicked out of her own house and she's been wandering the streets ever since. "Caroline, I care for you and I want to help you. Please let me help you?" I asked her. She just held her head down and started crying. "What's wrong?" I asked. "Sometimes I just feel like crying." she replied.
She agreed to let me help her and I dropped out of college to get a job. Someone had to pay her for rehab because here in America, help isn't free. I could've stayed in college and had a 50/50 shot of getting a job paying over twice what I had now, but the problem is that Caroline didn't have four years to waste. After she left rehab, she was back to her beautiful self. I told her that since I already have a job and she's out of rehab, maybe we should find a little house together and we'll both go from there. She smiled and said that would be great.
We looked for weeks, and we finally found a house out in the country. It wasn't the best, but it was well within our budget and we both liked it. The only problem I had with a house out in the country was what my Dad always drilled into my head. He would always say, "Living out in the country, you can't be too careful. When you're seconds away from danger, help is just minutes away." So I saved up a little money and purchased a firearm to protect my house. I never wanted to be a victim. So after careful consideration, I found myself a cheap but usable Hi-Point 45mm pistol. It was ugly, but if someone ever broke in, it would be there waiting to help me in my dresser drawer.
After coming home with the pistol, Caroline was enthused with it. "You actually expect us to have stuff that robbers would want to break in and get?" She laughed. "How are you going to protect the stuff you don't have?" she said and I just laughed with her. Eventually, we'll make this house a home. Just you wait and see.
Living with her and working at my dead-end job, two years just melted off of the calendar and throughout it all, I saw Caroline's smile fade faster and faster. I did everything I knew to make her happy, but some times you just can't win the audience. One day with tears in her eyes she admitted to me, "I think there's just something wrong with me."
Throughout these two years, we've had birthdays and holidays together. We've partied hard, and we've worked harder. We turned this old house into a home, and we've made a life for each other. But it's just not enough for Caroline. She just can't get over being sad and I can't understand why. This isn't the $100k job and nice apartment I had planned for my life, but under the circumstances it seems as though we've done everything absolutely right. But she still wants to cry herself to sleep some nights and others, she just watches television and doesn't sleep. Caroline needs help and she gets what she needs.
I was so impatient waiting by the door of the psychologist's office. It was only an hour a week, but every time it felt like I was setting in the office for a year straight. Until one day she came out with a very solemn expression on her face. In silence, we got into the car, and I drove her home. As we were pulling into the driveway, she looked over at me and said, "They said I have major depression. Or that's what they think, anyway." I parked the car in our driveway and turned to her. As I moved a lock of her hair out of the way I said, "We'll get through this. We've got through so much so far, I don't see how we can't get through this too."
That was a year ago. I guess there were some things we could never get through. I've come home from work to find you laying on the floor with that bloody Hi-Point next to you. "See you later" was the last thing you said to me, and that was this morning. I called 000 to report death, 2 bullets identified with confirmed cranial penetration, they said help was just minutes away. I picked you up to hold you one last time, and I felt your hair, soaked through with bright red.
I hate the way you've colored your hair.
Cover image by George Bohunicky (@stuchy) from Stuchy Creative on Unsplash.