I think it’s time I talk about my best friend; my boyfriend; the father of my child; the man who would undoubtedly be my husband if it weren’t for the next sentence.
He’s in prison. He stabbed someone.
* * * * *
Nate and I met when we were fourteen at a mutual friend’s get-together the summer before 9th grade. It was 2002, I think in August or the beginning of September. I was wearing baggy pants and a super tight orange tank top. He was wearing a bowler hat.
He had a box of some sort of food but I forget what so I want to say Munchkins. He sat there quietly and ate them, all night. He and I never said a word to each other, but we noticed one another.
I hooked up with some other guy that night who turned out to be crazy.
Then I ran into Nate again, randomly, while walking through our local church’s parking lot. It was called the Tabernacle.
I don’t remember how it happened. I don’t remember how fast it happened. But I know soon after that we became inseparable and had our first kiss. I fell in love with him immediately.
But I wasn’t ready to be with him. I ended up dating his best friend, who often disappeared for days at a time. Nate and I were still attached, and during one especially long period of his best friend’s absence I decided to break up with him. But I couldn’t find him. So instead I lost my virginity.
Nate and I started officially dating the next day. March 8th, 2003. Eleven days before my fifteenth birthday.
* * * * *
We dated, officially, for a little over a year, with a few breaks in between. Like normal teenagers. On May 11th, 2004, when I was sixteen, he broke up with me. For Nikki. On May 19th he started officially dating her.
Within a week we were sneaking around behind her back. I know this because in one of my old journals it says ‘He couldn’t even last a week’. We continued for about four years. During that time they had a baby girl, got married, and had a baby boy.
We stopped the affair when I was twenty but we remained best friends. Nate and Nikki broke up when I was twenty-one, which I’m happy to say I had nothing to do with.
* * * * *
When I was twenty-two we started dating again. His kids called me Mommy. It was rocky, but after our son was born our relationship was better and stronger than ever before. We had grown up.
The five of us had six months together. Six months until our worlds were shattered.
* * * * *
Nate and I were living in separate states until one, or both, of us became more stable. On Christmas Eve of 2011, I woke up to a text from a friend with whom Nate lived. She asked if I had spoken to him at all. When I told her not since early the night before, she called and informed me of the story.
The cops had shown up at her house early in the morning, shining flashlights into all the windows and asking if the children were okay. The whole thing is a blur for me to remember, but I understood he had been arrested and it was for something serious. Other than that, either the cops wouldn’t tell us anything or my mind couldn’t handle it.
I drove up there in a fog. It was Christmas-fucking-Eve. My son’s first Christmas. Our first Christmas together as a family. What the hell was going on?
I spent the day on the phone — with police, with family, with bosses, with other family, with friends, with the court, with guards. I called everyone I could think might be able to help. No one could.
The article was already online and in the papers. The police wouldn’t give us any information. No one had enough money for bail, whatever the amount was.
We went through Christmas as normal as possible. I stayed in our room and woke up with the kids and we opened presents and everything was as wonderful as it could be.
I was holding back tears all day.
* * * * *
Slowly we started to piece things together. There was a knife. And a washcloth. And a woman. There had been Xanax and alcohol and Prozac.
According to the bits we’ve gathered from Nate’s story, he went out to return a tablet he had bought for himself but didn’t like. On his way home he stopped at a local bar. He remembers leaving the bar, hopping the concrete wall on one side of a graveyard he frequently cuts though, then suddenly being screamed at to get down.
The police arrested him and brought him to a house where a man identified him. They took his mug shot at 6am and hauled him off to county jail. And that was that.
* * * * *
According to the police, on his journey from the bar to the graveyard, Nate broke into a home and stole some large kitchen knives. He then walked into another home, the door being unlocked, walked past a sleeping child, Christmas presents, and a wallet downstairs, and went upstairs. The owner of the home, a woman, heard a noise and went to investigate.
When she and Nate saw each other, he started poking at her. One of the pokes scratched her hand. Another caused a three-inch wound in her stomach.
She had to have exploratory surgery but was ultimately fine, although emotionally scarred for life.
* * * * *
I wrote him letters explaining how much I loved him and how this must all be a misunderstanding and how I would stick by his side no matter what. We heard nothing until New Year’s Eve. Sadly, I still consider that call to be the best New Year’s I’ve ever had, simply because I got to hear his voice.
It turns out his regular doctor had him on all the meds. His regular doctor had upped his Xanax and taken him off his Prozac at the same time.
Nate was seriously struggling with his mental health. I saw it every day. So his regular doctor threw some medication at him and left it at that. It was Nate’s fault he drank on the meds, but is was not his fault he wasn’t getting proper treatment.
He still doesn’t remember the events from that night. Some of his family still don’t believe he did it. I think the only reason we do is because succumbing to what we can’t change is the only thing keeping us sane.
* * * * *
Nate was, and is, and will always be my hero. He supports me no matter what. He keeps me in my place when I’m so obviously not okay. He fathered my child and two more I love like my own.
He’s been strong for almost two-and-a-half long years. He was in county jail, and then prison, and then another prison. He’s in there with rapists and murders and truly horrible people, who know damn well what they did and have no remorse. But he’s stayed strong through it all, so eventually he can come home to his family. To me.
They tried to charge him with attempted homicide, but didn’t have enough evidence. So instead he got convicted of aggravated assault, simple assault, and burglary. The judge decided to give Nate the maximum sentences because ‘he didn’t seem remorseful‘, mainly because he didn’t think he did it. He’ll be there for another twelve-and-a-half to twenty-seven-and-a-half years. He got sentenced fifteen to thirty.
An old friend of mine shot someone in the head with a shotgun around the same time Nate ‘committed’ his crime. He got fifteen to thirty, too.
* * * * *
The rest of the world sees a violent criminal when they see Nate’s picture. I see the man I love; the father of my child; my best friend and my hero. He’s not a villain. The world failed him and he’s living the consequences of an incredibly flawed system. I feel for the family affected by his crime, but I think the world needs to see that they’re not the only victims. My son knows that Daddy is the man on the phone, and nothing else. Three children will grow up without their father. Please, someone explain to me how that’s better for society than getting Nate the help he needs.
I wrote this while in the midst of my anxiety/mania/whatever is going on, so it might not be my best piece. If you feel I missed anything or have any questions, please feel free to ask. I plan on doing another feature including him by posting the letters he sends me from prison so the normal population can see what it’s like behind the cell (or ‘hut’, as he calls it).