A pile of friends convinced me to rent a hotel for my nineteenth birthday. The idea being to get bombed on cheap beer. None of us had apartments so our options were basements or rented spaces. The clerk charged sixty bucks and asked if I was in town for the hockey game. Told him sure was. Felt no need to hint I was planning a party. That was for later. He handed the key and I went to my room. Nothing special but fit for the occasion. I still had time to kill so crashed on the bed to cartoons and pizza. The sheets smelled of sweat. Not a bad start to nineteen.

I’d lost my phone just days before. Inhaled anxiety over not having it. My first girlfriend and I split a few weeks earlier and I hoped she’d call me. With no phone I had no way to know if she’d reconcile or at least reach out for my birthday. The chances seemed slim but an error in my brain told me it might happen. So I went to the Verizon store for a new one. They said it was $150 to replace the phone now or fifty if I waited. I dropped $150 on a rubbery piece of shit. Couldn’t miss the call I felt so sure was coming.

I thought contact from my ex might mean something. That she still loved me. That the pain would leave my body. No more obsessive focus on my own misery. A closed loop I couldn’t escape. But she’d lost her virginity to her new boyfriend the week before. I learned this in a text that rocked me. She’d sent it so I’d know how over we were. That there was no more us. Just a her and an I. The inseparable now separated.

Still, I thought my birthday might fix it all. A date on the calendar acting as magic. One that could rekindle the embers of better times. So I headed back to the hotel with a $150 hunk of rubber. Gripped it to catch the buzz of a call or text. One or the other had to be coming.

Come early evening my friends poured in. These were the guys I’d been close with in high school. Now they all attended college. I was the only one taking a year off. Lost in more ways than one. I hadn’t applied to schools as I didn’t know what path to go down. I felt like a hydra scanning fifty futures. Possessed no passion that could be converted to a paycheck. A sense of purpose. I’d never thought much about growing old. Always assumed I’d stumble along then kill myself.

I spent that first year after graduation seeing this girl, watching Family Guy, and working at a gas station. Within three months I burnt out on the lazy life. Listless and bored. By the time my birthday arrived I was ready to jump back to school. To structure. I felt so lost from boredom and the breakup. I still had no clue what to do with myself but that didn’t matter. College implied four years of dodging choices. In this I could always count on my brain to do one thing: skirt responsibility.

My friends brought beer. Cheap foam soaked in alcohol. I can’t recall who all was there but I think it was four guys and two girlfriends. They drifted in and out, the parking lot an extension of our party room. For energy we played music and bullshitted. Watched more cartoons. But there was a throttle on the fun. Everyone knew I’d just had a breakup. Still, none understood how fucked up I was.

For weeks I suffocated under an avalanche of pain. Did all I could to keep it to myself. Slapped on a veneer and performed as normal. But friends knew I was off. Normal goofy Nolan replaced by a comatose kid. I stopped eating. Started staying in bed. Grew thin and turned pale. When I got up I did my best. Slapped on the veneer. But I couldn’t escape my brain. Now it was my idea to drink. I wanted to get wasted so I could exit my head.

Someone ripped the case and slung Natty to all. I cracked a can and started guzzling. Soaked skull meat with booze. It caved barriers both good and bad. Now I felt something unfamiliar: the absence of pain. Thoughts of her came and went but at least there was relief. I focused on the fun in the room. The present moment. For once my brain stepped out of the past. But the dam didn’t hold. She flooded my mind once more.

I tamped the new wave with more cans of swill. It wasn’t long before I was falling all over. I’d try walk but legs wanted to go sideways. It turned to routine. I’d tip then be righted by helping hands. Every time I went down I could feel the phone in my pocket. Waiting for it to buzz. Sad that it didn’t.

As booze shot through I felt more open. Like I could vocalize the internal. So I started babbling about the girl. My friend’s girlfriend said maybe she’d come back to me. I told her that wouldn’t happen as she’d banged a new guy. That knowledge brought pain even though part of why we broke up was my being too scared to fuck her. I was inexperienced and shy. Liked our physicality but stopped short. Thoughts of taking things further filled me with anxiety. My body wanted to but brain couldn’t.

I wanted out of the relationship before we broke up. She was my first true girlfriend but our spark dimmed. Started feeling awkward. We’d already split once. This was the redo. Despite these thoughts I was too timid to end it. But when she made the decision for me I despised her. Felt I’d been wronged and stuck with that story. Being blameless made it easy to feel sorry for myself. I didn’t want to be with her. But not being with her I wanted even less.

I rambled about her fucking her new man then fell into a wall. Collapsed to the floor. I wanted her but at the same time hated her. Felt angry for everything she’d done. Pain she’d put me through. Telling me this new man was just a friend. Fucking him the second we ended. Cutting me from her life like nothing. Through all that I was angry at myself for being an inattentive boyfriend. Not giving her what she needed. Not accepting it was over.
These feelings were unlike any I’d ever felt. I didn’t have the tools to process that which overtook me. I felt so unwanted. She had someone and I didn’t. Moved on as I fell further. Cheap beer wasn’t helping. Just slamming bad thoughts to the forefront. I couldn’t escape my brain no matter how I hoped to ignore it.

We wound up outside in the hotel parking lot. A friend was so hammered he got in his car and started blaring its horn. A few weeks before my own car had blown up. Now I was driving a piece of shit called The Sweetmobile. The Sweetmobile was an ’89 Chevy Celebrity that I scored for $300. I decided to destroy it the day I bought it. Applied spraypaint and baseball bats. Glued a plunger to the hood. In short it was a rolling shitshow.

At the hotel on my birthday I attacked it once more. Banged out every ounce of frustration. I jumped on the roof. Honked the horn like a dipshit. Kicked the doors as hard as I could. It was drunken fun. The physical release a rare moment of mental relief. Two friends joined me. We jumped on the hood like a trampoline. Shouted and laughed our asses off.

Back in the room a hotel clerk came ’round and said there’d been noise complaints. The police would be called if there was another. I don’t know how we didn’t see that coming. We’d acted like animals. None were of age so the party cleared quick. Beer cans lay scattered across the room. I was scared the police might see these but felt too wasted to pick them up. All but one friend left. The day now down to embers. My first night of nineteen.

The last friend and and I lay in the dark speaking in hushed tones. Still drunk but a real conversation. One where you touch on the subtext of life. We were young and figuring things out. Sprouting curiosity for that beyond us.

We both came up in rural North Dakota. Still lived there but now trotted to early adulthood. Our worlds expanding. Lives branching. I knew I was stuck in a mental cage. Tried to tell myself there was more to life than my present situation. A fresh breath waited for me in the future. I understood it but still felt how I felt. My brain an unbeatable demon.

We dug as deep as drunk youth are able. Still, we didn’t discuss my broken heart. As I sobered up it was once more a topic I couldn’t touch. The pain rebottled in my chest. Soaked to my bones. Poison waiting to shoot back to my brain. Once alone it would reenter. The two of us spoke ’til he fell asleep. I lay awake. Head against the rubber phone. Waiting for a buzz that’d never come.

If you’re a billionaire who likes my writing but can’t cum unless you help me afford more than dumpster food then you’re in luck. Donation options can be found here: https://gabfrab.com/make-a-wish-gross-hobo-edition/

31 thoughts on “19

    1. Thank you! I’m editing a much longer piece about my adolescence and this first relationship. Expect it in a month or two. Until then I have some other stuff coming up about my hobo life and all the times I’ve shit my pants 😂😵😳

      Liked by 3 people

  1. When my last GF broke up with me three years ago, I was so devastated. I had to pull myself out of my heart, which was so broken, and out of my mind, which can be such an asshole roommate. I wandered in deep pain for a few months, thinking love was gone and SO sad that I just felt anger and sadness, not love. We both knew we were done, yet I was so angry with her – not because she fucked some guy (not happening, ever) or because she stopped talking to me (she did), I was angry at myself, because I couldn’t get her out of living in my head rent-free. I was also so worried because she had a tendency toward abrupt and not always wise decision-making. I finally found some closure after she graduated from law school this year, I reached out to congratulate her and she responded, told me how happy she was for me (my partner and I are getting married this summer). Still, all those shit feelings came roaring back, but I’m not my mind, heart, or ego – I’m the one who hears them, I just watched, this time. Be well ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I relate to basically all you said. You summarized it well. The breakup I wrote about here was over a decade ago. I’ve had others since and am equipped to handle them better but still go through some of the same process. As you say, you can choose to observe them. Accept they’re there and not let it poison you. I guess that’s a thought process that comes with experience. Congrats to you and your new partner!

    Also, I just peeked at your Gorge restoration work. Thank you for that! Some of the best days of my life involve hiking out there. Last summer I mostly hiked on the Washington side due to all the closures but got to do Mt. Defiance and a few others as the trails opened. Without people like you I wouldn’t have had that. So thanks again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so welcome! I got so busy last May that I stopped writing about our experiences working on the closed trails, but I spent 100 hours working on mostly weekends the rest of last year. June 15th was a BIG day when the Forest Service opened the Oregon side PCT and Herman Creek Trail. One of my favorite Oregon hikes is from PCT via HCT to Wahtum Lake, return on HCT, it’s a full day on the trail. Sorry about Mt. Defiance, from what I can see the FS opened it without anyone working on it. I’ll be doing a follow-up soon as I’m training to lead crews for the PCTA this year!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah that is incredible of you to devote so much time. I haven’t tried that route but just looked it up and it seems great. If I’m back in Portland this summer I’ll give it a spin.

        Mt. Defiance had a couple very eroded spots but thankfully was doable. I think the hardest part was the toll it took on my poor body haha.

        Best of luck and thanks again for all your hard work!


  3. It’s so easy to paint these things as all on the other person. The moments where you reflected on your part in the whole thing, particularly the fact that you wanted the relationship to be over but was too timid to do anything, really made it hit home. Very well done. I’m really looking forward to reading the longer piece your working on.

    And “all the times [you’ve] shit [your] pants.” Gotta love a good scatalogical story, no?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I strive for emotional honesty in my writing which often means splaying my shortcomings or how I’ve fucked up. It’s important to have that even when I make myself look pretty bad haha.

      The grease will be released in my shit my pants stories. Scat is the bedrock of all good writing. From now on I’m going to shit my pants twice a day to ensure it ends up in everything I ever do.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I loved hearing that.

      I hope the wounds weren’t reopened from reading this. The echoes of breakups can carry on for a long time. Finding some perfect full closure is something I’ve found isn’t realistic, at least for me. Not that I still get pain from them but I’ve just come to accept that certain things will never be fully resolved and I can only control things on my end. I’ve had breakups where it took long periods of on and off processing to sort through how I felt and what I’d do different in the future. I have to do that, no matter how hard, so that I don’t have to worry about the wound reopening down the road. Even then it still might haha. Idk, it can be a fucking haunting mess and there are no great answers.

      I hope you find a way to process what’s in your heart and come out better on the other side 🙂


      1. very, very sweet of you. And no, your words did not trigger the reopening of wounds, although I would only have been grateful for you if they had been the catalyst! Isn’t that what it’s all about, to provoke and inspire feelings? merci ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      1. okay – well i wish you well for your 30th year .. ps i just found planet craiglist – omg i have a headache from reading the long list of replies and the content! it must have taken you a long time to compile that piece.

        Liked by 1 person

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