I’d like to think I’m as confident as the next person, which is to say, hardly at all. But I’ve always been confident and ready for the future, ever since I was young I knew that there were things I was good at and loved, like writing, drawing, reading. In middle school I had my life planned out and I’d like to think that it’s hardly uncommon for a young child to wish for adulthood to come quicker.
I’d maintained the same friend group for six years or so, and it’s quite a feat now that I think about it. In all those six years I’d never once made an adult decision with them or because of them, until the last few months of my senior year.
I was in my senior math class when I met the boy that would later ruin my life. He was tall, had a trendy haircut, and he spoke loudly, even confidently. I thought he was okay, nothing like my kindhearted boyfriend that had left before the school year to start college in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
Now this boy, we’ll call him Daren, what extremely charismatic, he was easy to like and he was easy to listen to, my best friend thought so too. And when, I’ll call her Lynn, met Daren she was hooked. He was a poet, good with words and equipped with a silver tongue that could guide him out of any situation.
There was something off about Daren though. And as the year wore on and he began to date Lynn I had a thought that maybe he wasn’t as great as he seemed. He pushed his relationship with Lynn so quickly, and always had a reason for getting someone else to pay for his things when our friend group would go out. At the time I had only an inkling of who he was, but it slowly became more evident. My sister was dating Daren’s cousin but he refused to divulge any information about his family member, which I found overwhelmingly odd.
There came a day, towards the end of winter, when I found the perfect word to describe Daren. I was at play practice with my friends when out of the blue Daren stormed out of our schools auditorium. He came back, spoke with the directors, and while we were all in the dark about what was happening Lynn whispered to me ‘his dad just died’.
The plays cast and crew were ordered to sit in the auditorium seats while Daren and our two directors stood on stage. When Daren spoke I finally realized that my gut instinct had been right all along. Daren gave us a poem, a slam poem to be exact, regarding his relationship with his dead father. A performance… about his father who had died twelve minutes earlier. Not one tear, not one crinkle between his eyebrows, the only pain on his face that I could read was fake, as if he was in a scene from the play he’d gotten the lead in. Worst yet, everyone cried, everyone felt bad, and when people lined up to hug Daren as we left practice I simply gave my teared up directors a nod and exited the school as fast as I could.
Psychopathic. The word I’d been at a loss for, because no sane individual reacts to the death of a father they’ve seen twice, by writing a poem and performing it on stage. It was textbook manipulation and I had seen it before from him. When he forgot his wallet on a date with my best friend, when he asked for coffee in the morning from people he knew drove near his house. His calculated responses to questions that he had gotten people to ask him. I saw it most though in a single gesture, when he stared at the ground before his poem before looking up slowly and saying ‘I need to do this’.
Some people define psychopaths as emotional predators and based on personal experience I’ve found it to be true. Daren was the very definition of a psychopath and pathological liar. He was charismatic, knew what to say, played by rules of his own, he got angry easily, and manipulated people constantly. I had to get out and away from him, and I had to get my friends away too. So I looked into things, death records with Daren’s last name, hospital records, automotive accidents, anything to help me find out if he was lying or not. Nothing came up, and because my town is relatively small, nothing as big as a car accident killing the father of two kids wouldn’t be on the news paper. There wasn’t a single thing to prove Daren’s claim, not one piece of evidence.
I had no way of proving to people that Daren was a liar though, and the longer it took me to find evidence, the more scared I got of my best friend being with him. He told her he was infertile and condoms weren’t a big deal, but if I could prove he was lying about his dad, then what else was he capable of lying about? I was terrified for my friends and their safety when they were around him. But each and everyone of them were just so enamored, so giddily wishing that Daren would like them and pay attention to them.
I was on the edge one day, crying because I didn’t want my friends to be around this boy. Without warning Lynn contacted me, she said that my boyfriend had texted her about me being scared and that I had nothing to worry about. She truly believed that her relationship wasn’t toxic, that he wasn’t using her for sex and money. That the midnight drives to pick him up from places were romantic and proved she loved him. They’d been together a month at this time. Once she was done trying to reassure me I thought that’d be the last drama of the night.
Daren’s text came half an hour later.
‘You bitch, how dare you say my relationship is manipulative’
‘Please don’t talk to me’ I responded.
After my first and certainly not last plea for him to stop texting me came a trail of expletives and horrendously spelled sentences structuring a response that only someone guilty would have to being called out. I went home early from my Tennis practice that day, eager to leave the conflict of the day behind me.
‘His dad isn’t dead’ are the first words spoken to me when I walk through my front door. It’s Daren’s cousin. And I am right. I am right and not reading into things to much. I am right and Daren is a liar. I am right and my best friend is in a toxic relationship.
I tell Lynn five minutes after I find out about Daren. His cousin tells me that Daren told friends from his old school that his dad had died as well, and after the truth was found out switched schools.
She stayed with him. Lynn stayed with Daren because he ‘deserved a second chance’ despite lying to her and every single one of her friends. Despite the fact that Daren tried to make people think I, Lynns best friend, was a jealous liar.
It was then that I realized that even if I was young and 18, I was adult enough to leave people that didn’t belong in my life. It killed me to see Lynn and Daren together, to see my other friends who I couldn’t tell the truth because they’d think I was being spiteful. I told the principal, who told each of Daren’s teachers. And finally, finally, more people found out.
Someone else in play ended up finding out, and once word was out only two people apologized for not taking my concerns seriously. Lynn and two other of my closest friends stopped speaking to me. They believed in second chances and said I was too hateful.
I learned that life is unhappy and sad and that sometimes people just don’t deserve to have you in their life. I tried my hardest to help and keep my friends from someone unsafe. I know now that they didn’t deserve to have me in their life if they refused to listen to me, to my concerns about a very real problem. My boyfriend was the only person that would talk to me for weeks, I wanted to die, I wanted Daren to go away forever. I was miserable, deflated, upset, and defeated.
There are times in my life where I wish I could take it all back and live in ignorance. But the end of my senior year will always be remembered as the time I realized that I can’t change everything and that the real world is much more practical. Shit hurts, and people are cruel, and in the end I’d rather be surrounded by a few kind friends than a lot of insecure ones that want attention so bad that they don’t care where it comes from.