This post is part of a series that contains strong language and heavy subject matter. Click here to start at the beginning or consult the table of contents.

Toward the end of the school year, I learned three things:

  1. Ian was moving to Colorado.
  2. We were moving to an actual house.
  3. That house was in a different school district.

There was a finish line for my time with Ian. Even if I couldn't make it to the end, he could only sabotage my social life for the next few weeks; his lies (or truths) wouldn't follow me to my next school. There was nothing holding me back from standing up for myself except cowardice and complacency. It turned out that those were potent enough.

There wasn't even a hint of a change in our relationship until one of the last days of school. We weren't doing any actual schoolwork and were free to speak amongst ourselves. Ian started telling a group of our classmates about one of the "pranks" he pulled on me while I was asleep at his house. He spent most of the story mocking my reaction to waking up with a brown paste-like substance of unknown origin packed into my pockets.

Most of the group he was telling laughed and pointed. The Spice Girls from the counseling group didn't. I appreciated that.

"Go to hell, Ian."

A chorus of, "Ooooo," sounded from the crowd as I stomped away.

Being off by myself made it feel like the first couple of weeks at school, again. I had already decided after about a half hour that I was going to extend an olive branch to Ian, but I couldn't do that until I had figured out my motive. Did I just not want to be alone? Was I going to just forgive the way he treated me so I had someone, or was I extending some recent lessons I had learned to Ian?

He never talked about his dad except in vague references. The only time I ever knew of his mom trying to teach him a lesson was when she grounded him for stealing her weed. There were things that had happened in my life, before and after I met him, that he had no idea about. What was I missing from his life? Why did he act the way he acted? Why was this his idea of friendship?

Deciding that my reason for offering a truce wasn't all that important, I approached Ian when there were only a couple other students around. "Hey, wanna hang out after school?"

The look on Ian's face changed. He was smiling and laughing a moment before, but now his eyes narrowed and his mouth hung slightly open. "Are you using me or something?"

The question caught me off guard. I forced a chuckle and said, "What are you talking about?"

"You were pissed at me a minute ago, and now you want to hang out." His words came quick and he was speaking with his hands, which was normally something he would make fun of me for doing.

"I got over it."

"No, you want to play games on my Playstation or Saturn or N64. You don't want to hang out with me; you just want my stuff."

I recognized the look on Ian's face in that moment. It was hurt. Countless other times, he had manipulated teachers, his mom, classmates with fake shows of emotion. For quite a while, I couldn't tell what was fake until he would reveal it to me later. I had learned to recognize when Ian was acting, and this wasn't it.

I could've told him that I had been using him but not in the way he thought. I could've told him that I was sorry for not being any more of a real friend to him than he was to me. I could've, but I didn't.

"Nevermind, if you wanna be a dick about it."

Ian was real with me for the first time, but it was too little too late. At that point, I just didn't care. Sure, he probably had explanations for why he acted the way he did. I was sure that my father and Dwayne did, also. Being able to explain it doesn't mean that you get to explain it away.

Mrs. Goldshep might have been an amazing teacher to a lot of students, but she called me stupid, making her a horrible teacher to me. The Spice Girls had crappy home lives, but that didn't give them license to take it out on everyone else. There was no excuse for what my father did, for what Dwayne did. Everyone had excuses; it wasn't my fault if they actually believed theirs.

I had chosen to be friends with Ian. I chose to remain his friend when I really should have known better. I chose to take part in his activities. I chose to spend the night at Dwayne's apartment. I chose to push Mr. Green away.

It was my fault. It was all my fault. If I didn't get to explain it away, I wasn't about to let anyone else.

A couple weeks later, Ian moved to Colorado. He exited my life just as quickly as he had entered it, leaving me alone with the person I had chosen to become.

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