But after I read the entire, very long, post to myself later on, I understood why that post was met mostly with the chirping of crickets. I realized how crazy the whole story sounded. In fact, it almost seemed like I was a stalker, refusing to leave these people alone!
The truth is, I was, at the time, so desperate for a sense of belonging, that it blinded me. I was grateful for any little bit of kindness from anyone.
I was also somewhat of an escape artist. Before meeting Clara and Steve, I had temporarily "belonged" to several other groups throughout the years. But whenever I sensed conflict and unease, I used to do a disappearing act. While everyone else was fighting or freaking out, I would slip away and find somewhere to hide. It usually seemed to be under the stairs of whatever motel or apartment building we were staying in. When the dust had settled, the others would notice I was no where to be found, and one or more of them would go looking for me.
This was actually a good part for me. I would listen to them walking around and calling my name, and it would reassure me that I existed, and that I was wanted. Keep in mind I was usually the youngest member of the group by several years, and the others felt some sort of responsibility for looking after me.
However, eventually, I would start to realize that things weren't going well. "Street families" tend to fall apart easily. When I noticed things spinning out of control, I would grab as much stuff as I could carry and make my permanent exit. I couldn't stand to say goodbye, so sometimes I would say I was going to visit my parents for the weekend, and then I'd just never go back. Other times my exit wasn't so organized. The entire group would split up, I would choose someone to stick with (usually my "brothers" Shawn and Jonny) and we would end up attaching ourselves to another group.
The thing is, each time, I would tell myself that this was going to be my permanent group. My people. My tribe. I could never seem to think far enough into the future to imagine any of us growing older and finding jobs and homes. I just assumed that, wherever we ended up, we would be together. But... it never worked out. And I am probably lucky for that.
When I met Clara, she was going out with Shawn, and he actually moved in with her immediately. Shawn and Jonny were the two people I had been with for the longest, and it was easy to just include Clara and her son in our already existing family. And for the next
With Shawn, I would beg him to stay, I would ride my bike to all sorts of weird places to search for him, I would scrape him off the ground when I found him and coax him back to somewhere safe. With Jonny, at that point, it was more of a matter of tracking him down at whatever jail or halfway house he was staying at.
But Clara and her son had an apartment. This made them different. No matter what chaos happened in our lives, Clara and her son would always return to the apartment. Clara drank a lot but she did not use drugs, she kept the house clean, and she tried to make sure we had fun things like a Christmas tree in December and Easter egg dying in the spring. Maybe you can imagine why she became my safety person. You can see why I started to feel like I depended on her for stability and a sense of home. She and her baby were like the sun, and we all orbited around her. Except, of course, for when Shawn defied gravity and got sucked into outer space.
And Clara often was nice to me, especially in the beginning. We did have some great times together. I have a lot of good memories with her. When I compared her to my former friends, including Jonny and Shawn, or to having no friends at all, Clara seemed great. Plus, she and her kids were the only ones I managed to hang onto with my octopus arms. Jonny and Shawn both eventually disappeared down the proverbial rabbit hole.
But after reading my last blog entry, and after a good equine therapy session, I started to realize that you shouldn't have to hang onto all of your friends to keep them from flying away. A good friend should want to be with you and spend time with you. A good friend shouldn't constantly make you feel bad and hurt your feelings. They should tell you the truth, if they need to, but in a loving way. A good friend should get joy out of being with you, not feel obligated to look after you, and not just want to keep you around to provide child care and occasional company.
So, to answer the comments that a few of you left, no, I will not be contacting Clara, at least not any time soon. I wish I could see the kids though. But I'm going to keep moving forward in my life, and not keep looking backward.
And maybe, someday, I'll have a real friend!