Everything changed after that February night in 1996. When I returned to school, I was met with sympathetic faces and had faux-friendly exchanges with girls I hadn’t spoken with all year, like Keri, who was always too spineless and weak-willed to create her own judgements of people. I wonder if I would have taken her back if the situation was different, if I hadn’t been reduced to a despirited girl barely floating down highschool hallways; all I know is that at that time, under a current situation bogged down by gravity, I was willing to latch on to anyone for support, even those I wasn’t sure I should trust. And Keri has proved that she is not, and was not ever, one to be trusted. Justin broke off our second attempt at coupledom. Said it was the long-distance thing. He transferred out of my high school the previous year, and even though he only lived a few miles away, neither of us had cars. But I know he couldn’t handle it, was tired of trying to find the right words to comfort me in lieu of his protective arms. I had become emotionally taxing and burdensome, always wanting to hash out the whys of the situation, always wanting to find other things to cry about. "No, this movie is really sad. Really, I’m crying about the movie. Not….that." I greedily tore through an entire box of Kleenex while watching Higher Learning on Lisa’s bed that winter. "I mean, it’s sad, but c’mon, Erin," she said in disbelief. Home life was more chaotic than ever. No one was really talking to each other, tongues paralyzed and brains drained of normal comfort responses and the capacity to show compassion and empathy. Rather than unite in tragedy, we all drifted apart. Susie and Mark and my mom and step-dad all began the slow, excruciating path winding down to the bowels of slander and divorce. Easter was the first holiday in the history of my family that no one greased a casserole dish, brandished a carving knife, or capped pies with a dollop of whipped cream. I didn’t care. It gave me more time to cry uninterrupted into my pillow. Me, I started falling asleep in classes, my As morphing into Ds and Fs, and I was sneaking off a lot to hang out with Jessie, the "bad girl" who smoked pot and slept with possible gang members. She lived down the road, the adoptive daughter of a couple with a big house, big dogs and big mob ties. We would skip school together, dye Easter eggs and drink liquor with her boyfriend’s older friends. Six months later, I met Mike. He came with the appealing factor of attending a different school. My friend Christy knew him. She begged me to leave him alone. "He’s an arsonist! He’s been locked up for it! Please stop using such poor judgement." But poor judgement and I, we were inseparable like two young boys who had just smeared each others’ fingertip blood into a Rorschach picture. I spent a year and a half being emotionally ravished and scarred by Mike, I dropped out of high school, I picked up hitchhikers, quit jobs after a day, drank myself stupid, had sex with reckless abandon, one nervous breakdown always waiting in the wings. Things would have been different if that night never happened, sure. But I wouldn’t have Henry. I wouldn’t have Chooch. It’s enough to drive a person crazy, dwelling on cause and effect, wondering if it was some sort of subliminal swap with God. Him for them. This for that. But I wonder, if my Pappap was alive to celebrate his birthday today, would I have still managed to spend two hours locked out of my house? Probably.