I met the other Sam when I was 14 years old. I say “other” because I also go by such a simple nickname as Sam. He called me Samantha, though; there couldn’t be two Sams.
There were always two Sams though—the common “Sam and Sam” spread like wildfire. “Hey Sam, how’s Sam?” Back then it got old, today it’s a fond memory.
He was different than all the others. We got to experience each other when we were just innocent 13- and 14-year-old children. We weren’t broken, chewed up and spit out, soulless and shitty millennials yet. We just wanted to be kids and have fun.
It was 2004. Gwen Stefani had just come out with Hollaback Girl, Avril Lavigne was the poster child for what punk rock was supposed to look like, every tween needed the coolest away message on their AOL Instant Messenger and you could actually enjoy your life without taking pictures of everything and posting it to impress the world. We could enjoy our shitty, out-of-the-box orange highlights from our local grocery store—highlights that were supposed to be a caramel blond color—without being put on blast for all of America to see.
We spent summer at the little league baseball fields, being duped into running the snack bar by our mothers who didn’t want to do the shift they’d signed up for. We walked to Wendy’s to eat more Frosty’s than any human should consume. We saw Dodgeball in the theatre at least three times, just to make out the entire time.
He was my first kiss, the first person who ever looked at me like I was the most beautiful girl in the entire world. And likewise, he was the most gorgeous human my little 14-year-old heart had ever laid eyes on. I couldn’t even begin to tell you why. Even at his 13-year-old age, he towered close to six feet tall, before sprouting to the 6’4” he would later become. He was one giant beanpole, the skinniest boy I knew, with his wavy, full, long, and floppy light brown hair. He might’ve had big ears and a big nose, but I loved every inch of him.
Summer ended as soon as it had started. Our brothers weren’t on the same baseball team anymore, and I started high school (the worst year of high school ever) and he went into eighth grade at his own school the next town over.
Eventually, my brother transferred to that school, where he befriended Sam’s little brother, forming an inseparable brotherly bond. I saw his brother all the time in the years to come and I always thought fondly of Sam. But what’s life without playing hard to get?
I would see him working as a busboy, and as soon as we saw each other while I was at dinner with my family, he would call me later that night and we would argue, both playing hard to get.
This happened so many times for so many years.
Eventually, we became young adults, young idiot adults. We thought drugs were fun to play with. I saw him in court one evening when I was forced to attend for a class my senior year of high school.
He stood in the lobby for the longest time trying to get my attention, whispering loudly, but I was with my friends and refused to risk them judging me for kanoodling with the young man who’d just been fined for some scummy stupid crap. He left, defeated.
I’d invited him to my graduation party only to shatter his heart and uninvite him out of fear of my abusive boyfriend at that time.
Finally, in our 20s, we had linked up again, only to be a pair of hard-drinking, pill-popping stupid kids. Dating again was a discussion, but our brothers fought the idea. This time, we were damaged. We had exes and insecurities, fears and addictions that we didn’t have before. It was different, but still the same.
I hurt him when I slept with him and realized he might actually love me. I got scared, so I slept with somebody else.
I stood in front of the burger buns in 7/11 by my house when I received a storm of texts from him asking me WHY I would sleep with this other guy—why I would say and do awful things to him—only to simply laugh it off, when he still wanted me and forgave me. I didn’t know what to do with that.
One night months later, I went to his apartment and got wasted because I thought he would always just be on my backburner. He tucked me in to sleep on his couch after telling me he was getting back together with his ex. I snuck out the next morning.
I went to his apartment one last time, where he whipped out drugs that scared me so much I ran out of his apartment and never went back.
I ran out of fear of how badly I wanted them.
He texted me apologizing profusely and begging me to come back. I didn’t answer him ever again.
I saw him at a party after that, both of us with our significant others. We stared at each other but never spoke and never got in touch.
A year later, his mother and brother who were still very close with my brother came to our family Christmas. Sam came and I could see he wanted my attention. I couldn’t bring myself to give it to him, even though I wanted nothing more. Word had spread he had a drug problem and was on a tight leash. His eyes bore into my soul and once everyone was an even shade of drunk, he slid his arms around me and kissed me on top of the head, only to whisper, “Merry Christmas, Samantha.” I pretended I didn’t feel that flow through my bones like an earthquake. I pulled away, smiled awkwardly and said thanks.
He left that night after piling his family into their car and I slammed my car door in his face when he tried to say goodbye.
The last time I saw him, he was serving at the most expensive restaurant in our town. He walked up to our table and every head spun in my family to laugh at me. I just put my head in my hands.
Apparently, everyone else had always seen what exploded between the Sams, too.
I rudely tipped him much less than I’d wanted, because I knew he’d just buy drugs with it, and we left.
He got worse after that and started stealing. He moved far away after that for a couple of years. Eventually, I split up with my long-time boyfriend and reached out to him, because that was how the Sam Dance always went. I could tell he still wasn’t doing well, though. I left him alone after discussing a visit with him.
A year later, he committed multiple violent felonies and other crimes. He was sentenced to ten years in the prison close to home. His mother was sick, but she loved him more than anything in the world.
She was his sole supporter and visitor. She still saw the good in him that had been long since forgotten. Drugs make people commit unforgivable crimes, but unless it’s affected someone you love, you simply cannot understand that.
She passed away a month ago. I attended her funeral with my family, and his brother read a eulogy written by Sam. My heart is a rock after all the shit I’ve been through, but I cried. I cried for him and knowing he’d lost the single most important thing in his life, and would be all alone after this. I cried for all the times I blamed myself for bringing him down. I cried because such a beautiful person was missing his mother’s funeral because he made such a horrible mistake.
So I wrote to him.
I was anxious for 12 days until I got a letter back. I thought he would hate me. I thought he’d be mad at me for the stupid stuff I did when I was young. I thought he’d be ashamed and not want to talk to me.
I got the letter, a prison envelope with his chicken scratch writing a week and a half later. I tore it open with my heart in my throat, and on the second line when I read, “it’s so good to hear from you, Samantha” I started crying. My boyfriend (great, right?) witnessed this. Used to my usual cold and emotionless self, he was not happy. The cold emotions are a result of ways my boyfriend has treated me. How dare a man from prison evoke such emotion out of a person like me?
I read the letter so many times, I memorized it. It was beautiful. Then I set up phone calls.
We started talking every day. He called me when I wasn’t in school and wasn’t at work. My boyfriend tolerated it.
I spoke to him one Saturday, and hung up to have a new text from my brother, asking on Sam’s brother’s behalf if I would take their mother’s cat. Of course, I said yes—I’m a crazy cat lady.
His brother delivered the cat with my brother that night, where my parents were. My father berated me for talking to Sam, and I think everyone’s reactions were not surprised, but nobody really knew what to say.
The universe had thrown Sam’s childhood cat at me after we had just recently started talking again. When he called me and I told him, he almost cried. Last he had heard, the cat would need to be put down. He was speechless that not only had the cat been taken in, but that it had been taken in by me.
Over a short period of time, it was terrifying how easy it was for us to fall back into the way we had always been. This time, we didn’t do the dance, and we put everything out on the table.
I’m so scared the person I believe to be my soulmate is in prison for the next five years. I’m scared of my boyfriend while this unfolds. I’m scared of splitting the finances and leaving. And I’m scared to live my life for the next five years one way or the other.
Tomorrow, I will see Sam for the first time since that restaurant in five years. And I hope it’s not another five before I see him again. I’m also terrified to visit a maximum security prison, but I know I need to do this.
Author: Samantha Parish
Link to social media: Instagram @samantha_susanx