In 2008, I was a nightmare.
It’s as if the thought of being a decent human being had never crossed my mind.
“What’s that?” I likely would’ve asked, before chugging some whiskey, rambling on about astrology, and blacking out somewhere. (Fun fact: In an effort to control my drinking, I switched from whiskey to wine when I turned 25. Spoiler alert: It didn’t help.)
I’ll spare the world the details of my unchaste life but I will say I embraced the culture of casual sex being a past-time. When I look back at it now, I think it’s because the thought of becoming intimate on any other level seemed impossible and unsafe. Sex was a physical representation of two people understanding each other for fun. We didn’t have to know each other beyond that. Sometimes there was some residual stuff that came from that though. Sometimes I lingered a little too long or conversation got a little too deep. Whenever this happened, I’d pick a fight, burn the bridge, and steal the vodka on my way out.
Such a thing happened back in 2008.
I can’t remember when I first met Jacob Cato. Where I’m from, everyone just knew everyone. It was impossible not to. But Jacob caught my eye because he was gorgeous. He looked exactly like Christian Bale but with tattoos. Swoon, much? He also just had this very cool way of acting. The typical nonchalant, laid-back, confident thing that guys do that makes insecure 20-year-olds target them.
In the way things go when they go… we began connecting frequently. There was one girl I kind of hung around with who had very real feelings for him. I can’t remember how the conversation went, but she found out I’d been sleeping with him. She wasn’t mad.
“Can you just tell me if he ever talks about me?” she’d asked. She was sitting on the bathroom counter in my rundown apartment, playing with her hair.
“Sure,” I said.
But I never did because he never did. Except once when I pried and all he said was, “Oh, she’s a nice girl.”
The last time I saw Jacob was June 18, 2008. I had just quit my job because it interfered with my drinking. Then panicked and realized I’d better get another one. When I’d been offered a job at a motorsports company, I rejoiced.
“Jacob, I got the job. Let’s celebrate. I’m coming over,” I said. I had a Sidekick phone (la-di-daaa) and a Mini Cooper. It was already kind of late and I had to wake up early to start the new job the next day but felt I owed it to myself.
When I got to his apartment, he’d gotten me a bottle of vodka, he had a giant bong he smoked from, and he had something on TV. I was always impressed he had his own place. He worked at a school nearby that was somehow connected to his native American heritage. He liked being able to mentor the kids there. There was a real concern for them, understanding that they likely came from dysfunctional families with drug and alcohol problems.
“Is that how your family is?” I’d asked.
“No. My family lives in this same complex. We’re close,” and he took a hit from his bong.
From there, our conversation turned to the spiritual.
“I just feel bad all the time,” I said.
“Your aura needs to be cleansed,” he said. “I used to cleanse auras for people, everyone should get it done regularly.”
“Can you cleanse mine?” I had asked. He looked at me with an expression that to this day still puzzles me. It was a cross between sheepish and reluctant.
He shook his head.
“No, I can only cleanse male auras. It’s not right for a man to cleanse a woman,” he took another hit. I was disappointed.
We did what we usually did, and I got drunk like I usually did, and when I saw it was 2 am I blamed him for….something. I think I brought up something that I know was a really sensitive subject and he told me to get out. I began throwing things at him and walked into his kitchen, saying something about his disgusting dishes. Just when I went to grab one, I picked up a cup with the Golden Butterfly print. It was a print I’d grown up with and that I’d seen at his house before. It angered me that he would own a cup so sentimental to me. He warned me not to throw it. I said something along the lines of, “Why the FUCK do you have this cup?” and put it back into the sink.
On my way home, angry and crying, I saw blue and red lights in my rearview mirror.
I got my first DUI.
I lost my new job.
I never saw Jacob Cato again.
A few months ago, I got a message from someone on Instagram. Immediately, I was like, “Oh, he’s cute…” When I clicked on the profile, I was beyond shocked to see it was Jacob. His message to me was short and odd. I screenshot it and sent it to my friends.
“Here’s the asshole I used to screw when I was a blackout drunk, ew.” Super spiritual of me, I know.
This was literally like, 4 or 5 months ago.
When I didn’t reply to him, he sent me an address on Cactus Flower Rd.
“???” I replied
“Swing by if you’re ever in the area”
I blocked him.
I’d like to say I never thought about Jacob after the last time I saw him but I’m sentimental, I think about everyone. When I moved into my new apartment and saged my house, I thought of him. When I got my dishes with the Golden Butterfly print, I thought of him. When I cleaned up my phone this week in an effort to clear up some memory, I saw the screenshots of his Instagram and hovered over them with my finger. Then I selected them and deleted them.
Today, I found out Jacob Cato was shot and killed by San Bernardino police.
My belief has always been that God puts people in our lives for one reason or another. To teach us something, to give us an opportunity to help, to be helped. There are opportunities for kindness at practically every moment we are alive and breathing. What I recognize and value now that I didn’t before is that we aren’t just physical beings. An individual is not disposable, is not usable, is not less valuable “just because” I decided they were. We are flesh and blood, and thoughts and love, and anger and beauty, and created in the image of God. We are holy.
I really wish I had told me and Jacob that back in 2008.