First published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose.
He was one of the worst boyfriends I ever had, but I guess I can’t really blame him. He was just one of many bad choices I made at the time.
I had just moved from New York City to Folly Beach, South Carolina, longing to be a beach bum to thaw out from the cold streets of the city.
One night at a dive bar near the beach, a cute blonde hair blue-eyed boy named Jackson started flirting with me and I flirted back.
His boyish grin got the best of me and I gave him my number.
The next day, we went on our first date.
That Druggie Life
He was “less serious” than the previous guy I dated and needing this kind of levity, I jumped in and we began a relationship.
Our relationship was fueled by too many party drugs and lots of jam band shows (think a modern-day Grateful Dead scene).
Though I didn’t get into drugs the way he and some of our other friends did, my alcohol and weed consumption was pretty heavy.
After almost two years together, I ended it when I found a mason jar full of Xanax he hid in my cupboard.
That was it. I was done.
I was done with him and the direction of my life.
He called almost daily leaving voicemails, pleading with me to reconsider.
I brushed it off as a druggie just wanting another fix.
“I am so sick of Jackson! He’s out of control and immature. Even worse than when we started dating,” I said to my friend Virginia.
She looked at me confused.
“Elizabeth, he’s always been this way. You’re the one who’s changed.”
A New Life
About a year and more bad life decisions later, it was time to move to the place I’ve longed to be since I was a kid; California.
I packed my car with a few belongings (sewing machine, fabric, and suitcases of clothing) and drove down back roads and lonely highways to the West.
Between camping at National Parks and day hikes through deserts, I filled my mind with dreams of a new beginning while pushing away memories of regrets.
As soon as I drove into Carpinteria, I knew I was home.
I rented a room for a few months and found a job a Montecito boutique.
Several months later, I moved into my very own one-bedroom studio.
My new life had finally begun.
One day, out of the blue, I got a text from Jackson.
No words, just a single picture of his newborn son.
Why the hell is he texting me this?
I deleted the message immediately, mad that he had jolted me back to the past.
That was over three years ago and I hadn’t heard from him since.
Last week, I visited Virginia, her husband, and their one-year-old baby girl.
They asked how I was doing and I mentioned I’m in my first long-term relationship since Jackson.
“Speaking of,” she says, “I saw him this past weekend and he is doing well. He’s married and just had his second baby. Can you believe it?”
I was surprised his life sounded normal.
Virginia looked at me as if she was reading my mind.
“There were only two ways his life could’ve gone,” she said.
“He had to shape up or he’d be dead.”
Later that day as I sat in the living room at my parent’s house, I got a text message from an unfamiliar phone number.
Here’s what it said:
Hi Elizabeth. It’s Jackson. I saw Virginia this weekend thought about you. Hope you are happy and enjoying life! Just wanted to say hey. I’ve got two boys now and the oldest is identical to me. They are both a riot. I wish you the best!
It’s strange how coincidences like this happen but simultaneously comforting, like the universe or god or however you define it is working to help move you along in the right direction.
Hesitantly, I searched for him on Facebook.
He looks the same with the familiar boyish grin I fell for years ago.
Little did I know at the time, he would be someone I couldn’t get away from fast enough.
But maybe to him, I would always be the one who got away.