Christopher Nelms
My high school crush was a lovely young lady named Nicole. I met her my sophomore year and we became fast friends. We talked on the phone every single day after school, we flirted, we hung out at school, she would occasionally come hang out with me at my brother’s apartment after school or on weekends. I was totally in love.
The problem was that we were never single at the same time. If she was single I had a girlfriend, if I was single she had a boyfriend - usually one of my friends. Eventually I married one of my girlfriends, and we fell out of touch.
My marriage lasted less than a year, and I thought that maybe now was the time to try to make things work. I had moved in with another old friend from high school (I was twenty at the time) and he gave me the bad news that she was now married, and married to an abusive jerk at that.
Eventually my sister convinced me to come live with her and her first husband, and in the process mentioned that my high school crush had just gotten divorced. We worked out a plan, and she called Nicole and asked her if she wanted to come visit her for a few days (they had become friends in band together in school). Nicole had no idea I was there, we hadn’t spoken in a couple of years. When my sister pulled up at Nicole’s house to pick her up, she was shocked to see me step out from the passenger side of the truck.


Now let me clarify something here - I wasn’t angry because she was sleeping with her ex. It was her right to do whatever she wanted with whoever she wanted, I didn’t own her, and I didn’t think I did. I was angry at her because I had seen what he did to her, I had seen the migraines she got from the concussion he gave her, seen the scar from the stitches she got after he broke her jaw. I had seen all of the things this man had done to her, and I was furious that she was willing to put herself back in a situation where he could do it again, and even more furious at the fact that I knew there was nothing I could do to stop her, to protect her. Sure, I could hurt him, I could scare the piss out of him if I wanted to, but if she still kept going back to him then all that would do was make it even worse on her once he forgot the fear. The only thing I could do to actually protect her would be to kill him…but if she was going to make the choice to go back to him, then why should I ruin the rest of my life to stop her?
I was also angry that she thought, in my moment of rage, that I would ever physically hurt her. She had known me for six years by this point (not a long time now, but at the time it was almost a third of our lives), she knew that I would never strike a woman, that I would never do anything to hurt a woman, and especially not her. But in that moment she looked at me and saw him, and that also made me angry.
I took a step back away from her, put some distance between us, and said as calmly as I could “If you go over there tonight, don’t bother ever coming back over here.” Then I turned around and walked inside. I left the door open, an invitation to come back in if she wanted to. About five minutes went by, and then I heard her car door open and close, heard her engine start, heard her drive away.


I never saw Nicole again after that night, but I did speak to her again twice after that. About a year later I was at my brother’s apartment when she called him. He had maintained his friendship with her even though I hadn’t, and she called to check up on him from time to time (my brother had leukemia). I answered the phone when she called, and she was so happy to hear my voice. She told me she had moved to Florida and was working at a bar, and she missed me terribly, and she wished she could see me again. We spoke for a couple of minutes, then I handed the phone to my brother and took a walk.
I found out from him later that “working at a bar” actually meant she was dancing in a strip club. She had gotten back together with her ex and they moved to Florida together. He was dealing and she was dancing. Apparently he got her hooked on a few other drugs then took off with some other dancer, so she was living down there and dancing to pay her rent and her habit. It was sad.


The last time I spoke to her was ten years later. Out of the blue one day I decided I wanted to talk to my old friend. I used an online people-finder service to get her number, and I called and left a message on her voicemail. She called me back, and we talked for about twenty minutes. It was so depressing. She was completely burnt out, she told me she was living on disability, and she had some Indian dude that took care of her. I think he was her dealer. She was so out of it that she forgot who she was talking to three times during our conversation. At one point she realized she need to tell me that her friend Robin had died six years earlier. I had to remind her that Robin was my brother, and she only knew him because of me. She kept apologizing for being so forgetful, and I assured her it was okay. It wasn’t. When I hung up the phone I knew I would never speak to her again.
I still held out hope that she would turn her life around, and a few years later I did a Google search on her name to see if I could find any social media accounts for her. All I found were her mugshots, she had been arrested seven times over two years for various drug charges. Her pictures were so disturbing, she was a year younger than me, but looked twenty years older. She looked nothing like the beautiful, vibrant girl I fell in love with in high school.


Two months ago I went back to my home town to attend the retirement concert for my Godmother, who was retiring after twenty-five years as the choral director for my hometown high school and middle school. I was meeting a group of former classmates, and we were all going to surprise her at the end of the concert. One of the people in our group was Nicole’s older sister. I approached her before the concert and asked her how Nicole was doing. She let me know that Nicole had passed away three years ago.
It isn’t surprising that she’s gone. That was the lifestyle she chose.. I’ll never know how things might have turned out if we had just done things a little differently. I wouldn’t change anything.if I had ended up with her I never would have met my fiancee, and even though I lost her last year I still wouldn’t trade the seven years we had together for anything.


EDIT: A couple have people have asked why I shared her pictures, and it’s a fair question. I debated for a bit about whether it was appropriate before I finally decided to include them. I wanted to illustrate the change that she went through, to show how much her choices affected her. I know from talking to her that last time that she regretted those choices, although she couldn’t stop making them. I also know that she would have been okay with me sharing her pictures. She was always very open about who she was, and I believe she would be happy knowing that people had heard her story, as tragic as it is.
Also, a few people have asked why I didn’t do more to prevent her from going back to her ex or trying to break her addiction. The problem is that it wasn’t the drugs that she was addicted to, it was the control that her ex had over her. He made her believe that she was his property, and in the end I couldn’t get through to her that the only person she belonged to was herself. Either way, I couldn’t force her to make different choices, all I could do was show her that there were alternatives and then leave her to live her life.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment.