My best friend Erin Rogers and I were together all the time, doing nothing without the other. But one day I realized that somewhere along the road somebody failed her, and every day I cannot help but wonder if it might have been me. Everything she went through, I was there for her, but I guess some things are too hard for even friendship. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember. How could I ever forget? I’m sharing this story for the first time since it happened.
The last time we had no worries, well, that were apparent, was on August 20 of ’97. We spent the night in her basement under the stairs. I can still taste our dinner of cold macaroni and cheese on our breath, and feel sticky sweet butterscotch on our fingers. Rebecca St. James’s “Side By Side” blared through our ears. “Together forever, that’s the way we should be,” we sang aloud. We laughed, and talked about everything and anything. I will never forget that night, one of the best nights of my whole life,and the night where it started to end. A climax of sorts—the end of the rising action; the beginning of the falling.
Erin’s parents divorced when we were in sixth grade. Erin was torn apart mostly because her mom wouldn’t keep her, and her father was an atheist. Erin and I both had sadistic older brothers at this point. In March of ’96 my brother was sent to Three Springs, in Paint Rock Valley. Today I refer to this place as hell. Erin’s dad quickly remarried—a prostitute. Erin was always upset, but we always talked and prayed about it, so it seemed to be resolved. Still, one day I noticed her smile drop just slightly, only enough for a best friend to notice. I tried to talk to her but nothing seemed to help. At first it was just not being together at all times, and then it was her eyes. They became so sad, making the hurt so visible.
By September ’97 she had started to waste away. She wore all black, practiced self-mutilation, and obsessed over death. I had never been so worried or scared in my life. I never wanted to leave her alone with her thoughts. But the inevitable happened. The last time I saw her in a way that broke my heart was at church. It hurt so much to see her in such despair and know that I couldn’t help, so I stopped going to church altogether.
On November 12, 1997 I got a phone call. “I’m going to Three Springs. Don’t forget me. I love you,” she tried to say through her sobs. I can safely say that I hate Three Springs. I told her I’d love her forever, that she’d always be my sister at heart, and to stay strong. She didn’t take that advice. January of 1998 she was free. I never saw Erin again. My best friend forever decided forever had to be cut short. I like to think she took my smile with her.
For a while I struggled with depression and suicide. We moved to Madison for a fresh start, but every day I’m reminded of her in some way, and I cannot help but think, What if? Her parents and I have a mutual disrespect for one another right now. A great person was destroyed. By what, I am not sure. But that makes it no less real.