The Worst Night of My Life

Lydia Waybright

© Copyright 2021 by Lydia Waybright

Photo of car keys.

I donít think about the worst night of my life every day. I donít even think about it regularly. Most days I live in a reality in which that night never existed. Iíve managed to create a space for myself, in my mind, in my body, in my world, that is detached from that night.

But sometimes, if the atmosphere is just rightó if itís a Friday night and Iím home alone and Iím watching the raindrops fall and splash against the neighborís roofó I transport. Not into that moment, but into a world in which that moment happened. When itís Friday and Iím home and itís raining, I live in the world that holds the worst night of my life.

It was March. Not the kind of March day that feels like spring is coming. A cold, dark March night. Spring hadnít begun to tease us yet. And as cold and dark as it was outside, Marchís gloom couldnít compete with the shadows that had been following me.

I had thought that a February night, a few weeks before, was the worst night of my life. I had thought that my worst nightmare had come true. And it had. I just didnít know that my worst nightmare wasnít half as bad as what reality could cook up. That February night didnít hold a candle to this night. Because this night was when I learned that I hadnít hit bottom yet. I wasnít even close.

I walked up the stairs into the apartment. I was living with my mother. I didnít hide the tearsó I couldnít have if Iíd wanted to, so there was no use in trying. My mom saw my swollen eyes and lifeless demeanor, and it scared her. I could tell she was scared, and that scared me. I remember that she was talking ó to me, it was a lecture; to her, it was words of wisdom and encouragement ó but I donít have any clue what she was saying. I wasnít listening. I couldnít even pretend to try. My mind was consumed by its focus on the pain I was in and committed to mitigating that pain with whatever means possible. My thoughts were fuzzy, and I knew it wasnít a good or helpful or smart move, but I quite literally could not help it. It was instinct. It was survival. I just wanted to survive the pain, and I wasnít sure I could unless I spoke to him.

I started texting him as my mom was talking. Can you call me?

If he called me, it would look like I had to answer an unexpected call, rather than that I was making a deliberate call while my mother was speaking to me.

He called.

That signaled to me that he cared, at least enough to wonder what I was going to say, and that gave me a shameful sliver of hope that my pain might be abated.

He called, and I begged him to meet me in person.

He couldnít. He was with people.

Who are you with?

The first two or three were harmless, innocent. The last name on the list, tacked on like an addendum, like maybe if he said it after an assumed ellipsis I wouldnít notice, stopped me. That name told me that my sliver of hope had quickly put me to shame. It told me that I had to put to rest any inclination I had to believe that this might still be a good man. It told me that I can never again expect him to care. It told me my suspicions were right. It also told me that all of the other names, the innocent ones, had chosen a side. They knew this was a war that could not be civiló that they had to choose. And they did.

The name on the end of that list told me that I had lost love, my friends, and my future, the one Iíd envisioned for us. And then, I lost my mind.

I canít explain it, but I thought I might die. In one quick momentó the amount of time it took to say her nameó I got hit with lies, infidelity, betrayal, one friend lost, and another, and anotherÖ Wave after wave after wave without the chance the catch my breath in between.

I had to get out fast. I had to get to where they were so they could hear me. See me. Acknowledge me and tell me to my face. I needed them to see me when I was broken. I needed them know what they were doing. I kept him on the phone and walked out of my room to grab my keys. They werenít on the table by the front door where Iíd left them. I searched and searched, becoming more frantic as I turned the house upside down. Then the thought crossed my mind, and I locked eyes with my mother.

Did you hide my car keys?

I did. She responded coldly, but I knew it was insincere harshness. I knew what she really felt was worry and pain, but that she thought Iíd react better to tough love. I didnít.

Getting in my car and going to where they were was the only action I knew to take that could possibly put a little bit of control back in my hands. And the pain was so sharp and unmerciful that I wasnít sure Iíd survive if I didnít get out of that living room as fast as possible.

I ran down the steps and out the door into the oppressively cold air. I saw my sister pull into the driveway. My mother had called her. I was embarrassed. I told her to turn around and go back home because I wasnít going back inside. She was scared, too. That scared me. A few minutes later my dad called me. My mom and sister had called him, their last resort at calming me down. It didnít work either. I was resolute in my decision to stay outside in the cold night.

My only hope to get to the person who I wanted to scream at was that person himself. I called him again and begged him to come pick me up so we could talk. I made it clear that I wasnít sure my mind would recover if the pain wasnít quickly abated.

Lydia, Iím really done.

As he said those words, a familiar car drove by. An old friend who lived a street over. She had to have seen me pacing the driveway, sobbing. I was far beyond the point of embarrassment.

Finally, the cold caught up to me. I called my friend Emily and asked her to pick me up. When she arrived, I didnít go back inside to get my keys, clothes, even a toothbrush. I was equal parts embarrassed and furious with my mom and sister. I couldnít see them. I climbed in the car feeling like a shell of a human, barely breathing. Then I called another friend, Brooke, and asked her to meet us. We all went to Emilyís apartment. I cried. Deeply. From the viscera. I was worried that I would never stop. My friends were so startled by the depths of my pain that they wept, too. They were scared. That scared me.

My memory of this portion of the night is fuzzy, but at some point, I fell asleep, and the worst night of my life ended. The next morning was a turning point. There was no going back. There was no more maybe this time. I knew that now. The next morning was Day One of picking up the pieces.

I still think about how much I scared everyone that day. They donít worry so much now. I donít cry in restaurants anymore, or go days on end without sleep. They see me smile. They hear me laugh. They think, gosh, she has come so far. They tell me it seems like Iím doing great.

Theyíre right, in a way. I have come far. But what they donít understand is that night wasnít an incident that happened in one singular point of time. It is a moment that changed me. I donít ever get to go back to before. So, sure, I donít cry in restaurants. But they donít see the shadows that still linger. They donít know about the nightmares. They have no idea that I wince every time I see a silver pickup truck. Every single time.

I donít think about the worst night of my life all the time. But Iíve never outrun its reach. It tells me things about myself, about the world. It tells me that if Iím not careful, I might once again hurt deeply. It begs me to do all I can to avoid that. I donít think about the worst night of my life every day, but every molecule of me is shaped by it.

Lydia Waybright is a 24-year-old who writes from her hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. She graduated from Marshall University in 2018 with a degree in Public Relations. She currently works in public relations and marketing, and writes as much as she can in her free time. Writing is her preferred method of exploring herself and the world around her.

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