Through All the Dust
Chapter Sixty-Five: When You Think of Me
Four weeks had passed and I was still just as restless as I’d been the day we left. The phone calls helped and Brian’s reassurance never went unnoticed, but I still couldn’t shake that nagging feeling like everything I loved was behind me. Lauren berated me with texts and with pictures of Owen. I looked forward to them most times, but occasionally they’d make me ill with lust for home. I tried not to feel guilty as I consciously hit ‘ignore’.
I was on the couch, cross legged with my black spiraled notepad laying across my lap. I tapped the pen against the pages like a wizard might tap their wand. It was all I could do to pass the time; I’d write, I’d criticize, and I’d move on to the next thing. It wasn’t a perfect system and it was probably a little self indulgent, even for me. But the void was loud and I needed the silence.
Justin sat at the table, mindlessly munching at some toast and perusing the latest issue of his favourite magazine. I found my mind wandering as I watched him carelessly existing.
Why didn’t my mind ever shut off like his could? Where did I learn this recklessly destructive behaviour?
He’d been plaguing my thoughts insistently. It wasn’t like I’d grown out of the habit of entertaining my memories of him...but I’d been obsessing. It was almost harder to grieve years later than it had been when he’d left. I guess death stays with you...in my case, it was manifesting into something all consuming.
He used to give me shit about the way I’d crawl into the recesses of my mind for comfort.
“You should talk it out,” he’d said once. “It’s unhealthy keeping it all up in there.”
He tapped at my skull and I furiously waved him off, sick to death of hearing what was wrong with me. I was always wrong, it didn’t matter what I was doing. I never said the right things, or reacted the way that was expected. I was always stepping out of line, usually without knowing, and I could never really work out why.
“I don’t talk about this shit,” I informed him although he already knew.
I was no mystery to Tyler Brody.
”Fine,” he groaned. “Write it out, then. Do fucking anything but what you’re doing. It’s not good for you to bottle your shit away, Blair. It’s going to unravel!”
“Oh yeah,” I’d scoffed, “Allow me to take mental health advice from you. Solid planning on my part for sure.”
He scowled at me, dropping his tone down low, “If I can save you from ending up like me, I’m going to exhaust myself trying.”
”You realize you put literally zero fucking effort into me, right?” I rebutted angrily. “My whole world revolves around you, Tyler. It isn’t the other way around. So... when I, inevitably, end up like you, maybe you can do me a favour and take on some of that blame.”
His jaw dropped to the floor of our moving cab. I knew then that he didn’t deserve it; looking back on it, I wished that I could take it back. I’d take it all back if I could, and I’d repurpose every opportunity I’d ever been given.
“You are who you are, Blair,” he told me seriously. “Your world revolves around you, no one else. Stop acting like a fucking martyr. It’s annoying.”
My blood ran boiling red. That smug son of a bitch. As our cab took a sharp left, I was reeling with rage.
”I literally exist just for you,” I hissed. “Whatever I am, is because of, and for, you, Tyler.”
”If that’s really how you fucking feel then what are we doing, Blair?” he barked right back. “By all means, go dance in your fucking storm of a life on your own if that’s what you need. I don’t need you.”
I knew he didn’t mean it but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like a bitch to hear. It slugged me clear across the face, an impact perfectly aimed. I shuttered at the memory, feeling the weight of his words even then.
”You don’t need me,” I scoffed. “You wouldn’t last a fucking day without me. If I ever made you question for a second—a single fucking second—that I was done with this ridiculously toxic friendship, you’d crack.”
He clenched his jaw firmly, demanding that the driver pull over immediately. As he swung open the door, he glared over at me.
”Did you ever stop and think maybe you’re part of the problem? Fuck, maybe you just straight up are the problem, Blair. If you think I need you, you’re a fucking idiot. You need me. Don’t get that shit twisted in that crazy brain of yours. I was trying to help you. But now I don’t care. You’re a fucking liability and I’m out. I’m so fucking out.”
He stepped out into the Massachusetts street and slammed the yellow door behind him. I watched as he stormed away, taking our friendship with him. For a second my brain clicked out, letting the tears fall freely from my teal eyes. I was hurt...and I wasn’t hurt often. I wasn’t even sure what to do with the sensation.
So I kicked my brain back into gear and I got it the fuck together. With one deep breath, I said, “We can go.”
I grimaced at the thought. We’d ultimatey made up and Tyler had sworn up and down that he didn’t mean a word of what he’d said...but it had always stuck with me. What if I was part of the problem?
I’m not petty enough to throw that kind of lavish guilt onto my otherwise already decadent flair of self-loathing. But I’d always bailed him out. I’d always supported him and defended him—even when he was wrong. In that, maybe I gave him the validation he needed to continue to be his fucked up self. No, not validation...permission.
I willingly allowed him to walk all over me. I was emotionally inept because of him. And here I’d always blamed Carolyn. Misplaced resentment if ever I’d seen it.
”Jay?” I heard myself speak.
He glanced up at me curiously as he turned a thin page.
”Do you ever think about Tyler?”
His eyes darkened as he mulled the question around.
And then sternly he replied, “Every day.”
I wasn’t sure why I was asking, so I didn’t know what to do with his response. I nodded my head awkwardly, glancing back down at my book to find it still blank.
“Why?” he asked coolly.
I shrugged my shoulders, biting at my lip, “I don’t know. Just curious, I guess.”
”What’s going on?” he asked knowingly, relocating from the table to the couch cushion beside me.
”Nothing,” I said with the uncertainty I held deep inside. “I’ve just caught myself reminiscing a lot lately...Wasn’t sure if it was normal.”
”Of course it’s normal,” Justin assured me oddly.
He was looking at me like I’d just said something ridiculous. Had I?
”But he’s been gone for years...” I trailed off, unwilling to meet Justin’s gaze. “Shouldn’t this have levelled out by now?”
He sighed, leaning into the back of the couch, “No...Maybe. It hasn’t for me.”
Sometimes I’d forget that Justin knew Tyler. Really knew him. They’d been friends since they were preteens, though Ty was careful not to bring Justin around me. He was an unbelievable asshole back in the day. He’d mellowed out in time, obviously.
“Do you miss him?” I asked.
He half-smiled, shooting me the strangest look I’d ever seen, “Of course I miss him. Don’t you?”
I found myself saying no.
His feature shifted from amused to concerned. I’d done it again, I’d said something wrong.
”I don’t know how to explain it,” I offered lamely.
”You’re pissed,” Justin offered. “You’re bitter about his death and it’s warping the way you’re looking at it.”
I furrowed my brows, “Okay, Dr. DeBoer.”
”I know you,” he smirked. “And I went through it. I recognize your confusion.”
”How are you not pissed?” I asked in defeat. “I don’t know how not to be angry...I fucking hate him for what he did. And I know you’re not supposed to say that shit but...fuck.”
”Blair,” Justin breathed, looking me dead in the eye. “You of all people are allowed to feel however you want to feel about it.”
”What does that mean?” I scoffed. “Me of all people.”
He took a second to compose his thoughts so that I wouldn’t reach out and strangle him.
”You were his keeper,” he said finally. “I don’t think you ever asked to be...But I’ve known you a long fucking time and it’s always been that way. Even after he died, you were still trying to protect him. So, if you want my medical opinion,” he told a second to laugh at his own bad joke. “I’d guess that you aren’t angry with him as much as you’re angry with yourself.”
I walked with that slowly.
”Why would I be mad at myself?” I dared to ask.
He frowned, “Because you loved him...and you think you failed him. You couldn’t save him and so somehow you’ve made it your fault.”
I hated that Justin knew me. I expected this time of insightful shit from Brian...but hearing it from someone who had been in my life with Tyler...it was something worth thinking about.
”For the record,” he added lightly. “No one thinks it was your fault. And I, personally, understand the anger. But do me a favour and...don’t dwell on all the bad shit. I know Tyler had a real temper to him...and I know he put you through some shit...but I’d really hate to see you lose yourself in what’s already happened. Remember what good he gave to you, and then let it go. You’ll go bat shit crazy if you don’t.”
I smiled reluctantly at my friend, “When did you get so deep?”
”Haven’t started drinking yet,” he grinned. “Give me an hour or two and it’ll be like this never happened.”
I laughed, “I look forward to it.”
He patted my leg a few times and then removed himself from my personal space. Just before I could let him go, I had to let that word out.
”Jay?” I called to his back. “Am I a liability?”
He laughed through his nose, “Fuck that. You’re an asset all the way, Blair Peterson.”
He winced as he casually strolled through my name, forgetting again that everything had changed.
”Haner,” he corrected sternly. “One day, I’ll get it. I swear to fucking god I’m not hopeless.”
He disappeared into the back, assuredly having had enough of my dark and broody shit.
As Tyler’s words mingled with Justin’s diagnoses, I set my pen to the page and I wrote it all away, just like Tyler had told me to do.
Oh, poor eternally suffering Blair.
Shes working through it. In her own Blair kind of way.
Side note, this was (again) written on my iPhone so please just disregard any blatant typos. I just haaaad to update and autocorrect hates me.