My attempt at a short story: “Return to Paradise”

Based on true events: names and places have been changed for privacy concerns. 

Return to Paradise

Christina Livingston is a 21-year-old student coming-of-age currently. She is a cat enthusiast, art lover, grace-needer, culture advocate, truth-seeker, and a hopeless optimist. This is what my blog, “Child of Vision,” has as its description in the “about” section. What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed recently and am just coming to terms with what it means to have bipolar and how it affects my life and those around me. This is a little part of my story that I would like to share with the world. It all begins when I was 14 years old and fell hopelessly in love with my social studies teacher, John Fairfield.

 

John is six feet tall, he is a ginger, has rosy cheeks, and a bright smile. I am five feet tall, have long dark brown hair and brown eyes—I also have rosy cheeks. When I first met John he was 33 years old and in his prime. Life had not yet given him wrinkles as battle signs, he was still—if you will—a kid. I was a kid too. As a matter of fact, that’s how he referred to me.

 

“Hey kid,” he liked (or I presumed he liked) to say. I, on the other hand, didn’t enjoy hearing this. Kid? I’m not a kid, I’m a young lady. How wrong I was. Like John, life had not yet given me the battle that I needed, the one that would make me strong and disciplined. I was at the stage in my life where my biggest worry was what color nail polish I would paint my nails that day.

 

I knew the first moment I locked eyes with John that there was something different about him. He was an intellectual. He was smart—smart beyond his years. Perhaps not smart in experience but definitely full of some kind of wisdom. Was it spiritual wisdom? I don’t know. To this day I can’t pinpoint it because, as a matter of fact, it just turns out that I don’t know John well enough to say who he is. I, as cliché as it sounds, fell in love at first sight. I know, ok. I know it is ridiculous and absolutely unrealistic but that is what happened.

 

After taking a year of social studies and witnessing the power of his speech, the direction he gives his students, his passion for what he does, I was completely under his spell. It was a kind of witchcraft, I like to say as I look back. It was as if somebody had rolled a wand and cast a spell and it was a love spell and I could not get out of it for anything in the world. I fantasized about him, I enjoyed going to school just to see him, but I couldn’t do anything about the way I felt. I didn’t say anything either. I kept my feelings to myself (this would later prove to be my undoing.) John had a girlfriend—a student who had recently graduated—a beautiful twenty year old named Vivian. She was breathtaking. And of course, I know this because I looked her up on FaceBook and found her profile pics to scroll through.

 

So I forgot about John. Well, I didn’t forget but I repressed him. I repressed all of my memories of him, the time he locked eyes with me in one of my gym classes, the time he high-fived me and I felt the electricity in my hand, the time he said I love Chrsitina—in front of the whole class. I now suspect he said it as a fatherly figure. I now suspect he wanted to be a father figure to me. I now know that he treats all of his students like “his kids”. I now know that there wasn’t sexual tensión between us, only the desire for him to perhaps get closer to one of his students that he was fond of.

 

I perceived it differently. I perceived it as “he might like me” and finally “he does like me.” But of course, I didn’t act on it. John has a girlfriend. And I don’t come between two people.

 

 

“John. John Fairfield” I cried to one of the ladies in the psychiatric hospital I was in. San Juan Capestrano. A psychiatric hospital in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. She had asked me what was wrong and all I could answer was “John.” I was sick. I was very sick. I was sick because I had let all of my repressed memories pile up and explode in a psychosis. I was in the middle of one.

 

Two years prior to my hospitalization in a psychiatric hospital I was studying Advertising at NYU. Everything was going well, or so I thought.

 

After I had moved on from John’s class, at 15, I started to worry about college and the SAT’s, applications, etc. I wasn’t thinking about him. Still, I knew he was in the back of my mind. Still, I knew he was very much present in the subconscious. After I graduated high school I had the privilege of attending my top school. So I went. My first year was a disaster, my roommate and I barely talked and I developed anorexia as a result of my suppressed homesickness and the feelings that I wasn’t dealing with: feelings that involved John and that I very much missed him and that I wanted to go back home to San Juan, Puerto Rico and proclaim my feelings of love for him. But that didn’t happen. I just stuck through my first year, and my second year, but in my third year something strange happened.

I was beginning to obsess about a boy in my English Lit class—Peter. I began to feel like I was in love with Peter because he was the most handsome guy in all of NYU. What I didn’t know was that I was in the beginning of my three months of psychosis before my hospitalization. I called my sister, told her I wanted to marry Peter. I called my grandfather, told him I wanted to have a baby with Peter. Peter was gay. And I kind of knew it but I had to hear it from him. I messaged him on FaceBook, saying that I had “feelings” for him and that I had developed a crush. His reply was, “Christina, you do know that I’m gay, right?” I was shocked. All of the repressed memories of John came rushing to me and I knew what I had to do. I had to go home and profess my love for him. See? I was knee-deep in psychotic thinking. One minute I was thinking about Peter, the next I was thinking about John. It should suffice to say that I was in the middle of midterms and I was sleep deprived and stressed, to add to the bunch.

 

 

“JOHN,” I cried. “He is my husband and I miss him. We are married and I want to see him.” My first day at San Juan Capestrano was hell. I was disoriented, I didn’t know what I was doing there, I wanted to see “my husband.” One of the program coordinators later told me, “How could you be in love with a man you haven’t even sat down to have a cup of coffee with?” She was right. I was in love with the idea of a person. I wasn’t in love with John. I was experiencing a mumbo-jumbo of deluded thoughts and manic thinking. I had not yet been diagnosed with bipolar disorder so I was not medicated. There was a chemical imbalance in my brain that had been untreated and I was experiencing a psychosis as a result of a lack of medication. When I got out of the hospital I spent six months absent from university, all the while heavily medicated.

 

Today, I dream of going back to NYU and being an independent person. I dream of walking in the city by myself, free of delusions and obsessive thinking. But that’s just not the case for me. So I am in Puerto Rico, studying English Literature at the University of Puerto Rico, aspiring to become a professor one day.

 

I take Abilify and Celexa, I avoid scary movies, I try not to think about my hospitalization, although sometimes it’s hard.

 

I still think about John. I still have “feelings” for him.

 

Last time I saw him was at my friend Irene’s graduation and he looked handsome as hell. He said hi to me and I blushed furiously.

 

Today, I try to stay positive. Today, I work on thinking about the present rather than the past or the future. Today, I have bipolar disorder. But today, it is under control.

 

I am currently working on my obsessive thinking, including John and other ideas I get obsessed about (this is characteristic of bipolar disorder).

 

However, I am grounded in reality, I know that I am not married, I know that John has a girlfriend (a lovely teacher who I hope he is very happy with).

 

I wanted to share a little part of my story. To raise awareness, prompt questions, and inspire others to seek help.

 

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this little first-person snippet.

 

Signed:

 

Christina Livingston

 

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