April 24th, 1998. We'd gone out to a movie. We went out to lots of movies. We got home sometime in the early evening, maybe 8 or 9, and the house was quiet. I went upstairs and caught a glimpse into my grandmother's apartment. Something wasn't right. She was lying on the floor. Her eyes were closed and her lips were black.
"Meg, get out of here. Mother's dead." My parents were in her kitchen, on the phone with the ME. I guess they'd only found her a few minutes before I got home. I ran down the stairs screaming and crying, to where Rafal was waiting. I sobbed out what I'd seen, and he held me. We went outside and walked around the neighborhood while I processed. He just listened to me talk about all the things that were so earth-shattering to me. I'd grown up with her. I was closer to her than any other family member. I just poured out my thoughts and sobbed while he held me and we walked slowly.
When we looped around the neighborhood and got back to my house, first responders were there -- I can't remember if it was ambulances or firetrucks or both, but the ME's car was parked on our lawn and they were just wheeling her body out. I didn't want to see that. We did another lap of the neighborhood. When we got back, the cars were gone. We went inside and I curled up in a fetal position on the couch in the TV room, still sobbing, while Rafal rubbed my back. Eventually, my mom came in to check on me. She and my dad had been too busy dealing with everything else. She was crying, too. She hugged Rafal and thanked him for being there for me. She left us alone. Rafal stayed with me all night. I fell asleep crying while he knelt beside me and comforted me. He never said anything like "it's going to be okay," because I think he knew I didn't want to hear that. He just listened to me process. He was exactly what I needed in that time. He handled it like a champ. It must have scared the bejesus out of him, but he never let on. We'd only been dating for two weeks.
I thought about how he was there for me in what had been my darkest moment to date, and how he had seen me at my absolute saddest, and how he had just been so understanding and so patient and sweet. I felt that because of that, he was perfect for me. I wanted him in my life forever, and this felt like the sign that he would be. As time went on, and I would question our relationship, thinking I might want out, I would think back to that night, and how he was there for me, and talk myself out of it. With the way he treated me in that moment, he'd bought himself admission to the rest of my life.
This sounds like a pretty unhealthy way to look at it, and maybe it was. Remember, I was 14 -- my 15th birthday was the day of the funeral. But also, I think it was fair. How someone treats you when you need them the most, when you are at your worst, is a true indication of their character. It's not that I used this one display of kindness to tether me to a relationship I ultimately didn't want; it's just that it always came to mind when considering his character and my future with him. It wasn't the Ace of Spades, but it was a powerful trump card. Still is. Whenever I think of him, this night is always a part of the picture. He was my first love, my first...other things...stories I may or may not decide to record as I continue this process...but he will always be the gentle, loving boyfriend who cared for me perfectly when I absolutely needed it the most. I am so grateful he was with me that night.