A girl named Blake is the fourth human who has found herself in my embrace. Keeping her warm feels unfamiliar, but only in the way that sleeping in a different bed feels unfamiliar.
She is broken in a way that zippers are broken: still holding on, but not for long. The mismatched clothes covering her petite frame and the messy auburn hair escaping from her braid mirror the life she feels she lives. How I wish she could truly feel how much love people pack in the hugs they give her.
I spent a short amount of time alone before I met Blake. I unwillingly hung out with others like me. We were all alone—all left behind by people who once needed us.
This place was my home for a while, ever since a boy named Russell left me behind. I no longer satisfied his various needs, even though he often still looked at me with fond, brown eyes. He treated me well, and together we adventured from the top of South Sister to the depths of Devil’s Punchbowl and everywhere in between. We traveled until I became tired and worn. It was a shame when he dropped me off in the parking lot of Goodwill. He shot me one last glance before driving away, and I found comfort in knowing it wasn’t his first choice to say goodbye.
Russell met me through his grandfather named Clark. Clark didn’t care for me much when we were together. He left me at home when he needed me most, hid me in the closet when friends were over, and finally shut me in the attic when he moved away for college. I sat there, helpless, until Russell found me 49 years later in the far-left corner under a pile of yellow-tinged books and dusty canning jars.
As I aged in the attic, I reminisced of my first few months in the world. These months were spent with a simple teen named Billy. His careful touch and kind demeanor guaranteed he would never let me get hurt. But one time, on a date with his future wife, he lost me at a bowling alley underneath the benches where one would slip on rental shoes. He realized I was missing on the drive back home and was late for curfew because he turned around to find me. I watched him from inside as he knocked on locked doors and tried to get someone’s attention to let him back in, but all the employees had left for the night. Billy never bothered coming back.
Clark found me hiding next to lane 7 the next morning. He was 16 at the time and worked at the alley with a bunch of his schoolmates. He grabbed me by the arm and I ended up in the back of his rusty Chevy pick-up, where I stayed for five weeks through Oregon rain. A barn cat befriended me within this time; when Clark was sick in bed for a while, I helped the cat keep her four kittens dry.
The neglect never stopped in the two years I knew Clark. He never listened when his father told him to take me to football games or to the coast. My designated spot was in the corner of his bedroom, and although the sun peeked through Clark’s window and tried to comfort me for a few hours every day, I still lost my vibrance. Even when he came home dripping wet one October night and developed a cold for the next month, he pretended I didn’t exist. He used his muddy sneaker-clad feet to kick me into his closet when his high school buddies dropped by. The final time I saw Clark was on the day he left for college—he turned his nose up at me one last time and I ended up in the attic with everything else he never wanted to see again. It was okay; I never wanted to see him again either.
New energy entered me with the sunshine when 17-year-old Russell lifted me up to the dirty attic window on an unconventionally hot June morning. Although the crook of my elbow had provided shelter for several generations of mice over the years and cobwebs plagued my entire being, Russell smiled at me. It was in that moment when I realized Russell would be my best friend. With an excited grin on his face, Russell brought me out from the dingy space and introduced me to his mom, who took great care in cleaning me up and stitching up my wounds.
Unlike his careless grandfather, Russell took me everywhere with him. I cheered at various sporting events, hugged his older brother when he returned from deployment, and carried boxes into his university dorm room. We explored any trail Russell could get his hiking boots onto. We hiked and camped until I could feel myself wearing thin. I knew the end of my time with him would arrive too quickly.
I became unsure of my future once Russell said goodbye. My age had caught up to me like I never thought it could. Spoiled by the sunshine—along with the raindrops, on some days—on my shoulders for three years, I tasted bitterness as I pondered never experiencing the joy of those delightful rays again.
And then I met Blake.
She found me hidden among the jackets in Goodwill, sandwiched between the bulk of a blue and white letterman and the neon stripes of a retro Nike windbreaker. I still don’t understand how she spotted me, when my many marks should have acted as camouflage. The stripes from the windbreaker added color to her gray eyes as she looked me up and down. A faint smile tugged at the corner of her lips, and she took me into her arms without a second thought.
Being with Blake is an entirely different experience from what I’ve known. She is delicate and small within my arms. I often feel like I swallow her in my hugs, but she doesn’t mind at all; extra warmth is welcomed. While our adventures may not be as exciting, strenuous, or wild as mine and Russell’s, they are every bit as rewarding. I would not want to lie on the roof of a ’99 CR-V in January and gaze at the constellations with anyone but this girl named Blake.