The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Pushing Isaac Away

Names have been changed.

Isaac has dark brown eyes filled with secrets and emotions. His eyelashes are long and when he looks down shyly it drives me mad. I fell hard for Isaac, but I blew it, and now I miss him.

Though we went to the same school, we met on Facebook a few years ago. He wrote, “Hey I want to get to know you more if that’s cool with you. Maybe we can hang out some time?” This was at the end of the summer. I was becoming a sophomore and he was becoming a junior.

At first, we hung out mostly with his guy friends. Then he started offering to
take the bus home with me, even though he lived nowhere near me. We would take walks near the river and listen to music on the bus together. I looked forward to seeing him: Our conversations sparked new ideas and perspectives. I felt like I had accomplished something after we talked.

My feelings toward Isaac confused me because I felt like I was wandering into unchartered territory. With other guys, I knew I should keep my guard up against heartbreak. But with him I had no guard up because I trusted him already as a friend.
He made it clear he wanted more. He would tell me that I was amazing and beautiful and that any person would be lucky to be with me. He would also say that I had more to offer to the world then I thought I did. Hearing that made me feel special. But I thought I wanted a bad boy. I liked smoking weed and listening to rock music; Isaac was more into softer indie and alternative music and didn’t do any drugs. There was a part of me that felt like I was going to end up hurting Isaac.

Though he seemed to have it all together, he had family problems that took a toll on him. His parents and his siblings fought a lot, and he tried to be the peacemaker. He rarely spoke about his problems to me, but when he did he seemed spaced out, with a faraway expression. I caught a glimpse of his depression, which he mostly hid from everyone.

Stronger Feelings

Over time I started to feel something more than friendly feelings for him. One of my favorite memories took place when we’d been friends for about a year. We got out of the subway in Chinatown and I took his hand as we ran across the street, wind on our faces, and almost got hit by cars. I started laughing when we got across the street. He was out of breath and looked at me and asked, “Are you trying to kill me?” I gave him a shy smile and said “Maaaay-be.”

“Well, I don’t want to die today,” he said.

I put my arm around his neck. “Hey at least it’ll be with me.” I smiled at him. We found a Chinese food restaurant, and I lip-synched “One More Night” by Maroon 5 while we waited for our fortune cookies. He was smiling and laughing at me. It was a look of amusement but I realized later that it also contained love for me.

His fortune said something like, “You’ll be someone’s cure.” When I opened mine, it said “You’ll have a cure for your disease.” I looked at him and we both smiled.

“I guess I’m your disease and you’re the cure,” I said.

He gave me a knowing smile and replied, “I guess I am.”

Even though Isaac made me happy as a friend, I was still suffering from loneliness at home. My mom was sinking into her own depression, and was not much of a mom. My grandmother gave me a lot of love, but after Isaac and I had been friends for a year and a half, she was diagnosed with cancer.

When I told Isaac, he hugged me really tightly. He spent more time with me, and once he took me to see my grandmother at the hospital and waited for me in the lobby. He listened to me when I talked about my mom and how trapped I was and how sad I felt. He didn’t talk about his problems; he told me that was easier for him.

Soon after that, I realized Isaac was what I wanted. But it was hard to let him know and hard to let him in. I had grown used to hurting by myself, and since I was 12, I’d been cutting my arms, stomach, and legs. Cutting was my personal escape. It gave me a tingling, numbing feeling and it took my mind off my mother’s withdrawal. I often chose to isolate and cut myself rather than talk about my problems with Isaac and have him worry about me.


Isaac accepted me as I was. He knew that I had a cutting problem from the scars on my arms. He had even had a girlfriend who cut before. But before I could tell him I wanted us to date, I suddenly went into foster care.

I was placed in care after I got very drunk at my friend Cathy’s house and fell on glass. I was bleeding enough to go to the emergency room, and in the ambulance, I told Cathy’s mother about my home life, how my mom never listened to me, how alone I felt, and how my mom’s boyfriend had touched me. Somebody called Children’s Services, and I was moved from my mother’s house into a hospital and then a group home on the other side of the city.

Isaac did not know what happened to me. I didn’t have his number or access to Facebook so I couldn’t communicate with him until a couple months later. For the 10 months I was at the hospital and group home, I wasn’t at our school. We only messaged briefly on Facebook when I went to my older sister’s house.

In those messages, I didn’t tell him that I might want to be romantically involved with him. It felt like the wrong time. I was in foster care in a group home far away from him, and the program didn’t allow me out.

Three months ago I saw him for the first time in about 10 months. We had made a bet on the phone. If he stayed up the whole night, he could get a kiss from me. If he fell asleep before I did, he would have to buy me a coffee. I lost. I knew I lost because we messaged each other on Facebook till about 5 a.m., when I dozed off.

image by YC-Art Dept

Losing that bet was one of the best things that happened to me this year. As soon as I saw him, I kissed him, and it was heartwarming. His lips were soft and his stubble rough. Both grazed my skin, amazingly different textures. It felt different than kissing other guys. Maybe it was the rough yet gentle way he kissed me or maybe it was just that it was him.

That day we went walking around the city and he bought me a Starbucks coffee even though I had lost the bet. When I think of that day I see everything in flashes. Us in a hat shop taking pictures in the mirror, looking silly and laughing. Us sitting on the park bench that night singing together. Him walking me to my train and kissing me goodnight.

Then he asked, “Will you be my girlfriend?” and I gladly said yes. Our relationship in the beginning was full of messages about how much we loved each other and wanted to stay together. I already called him Romeo because he was a hopeless romantic. The day he won the bet he started calling me Juliet.

On Valentine’s Day we had a blissful day. We went to my house where he gave me a teddy bear and chocolates. We lay on my bed and mimicked animal sounds and laughed and laughed. It was one of our last carefree days.

Darkness Taking Over

Soon after that, my grandmother died. I was living in a foster home and going to a new school, and I felt out of place. Isaac would try to make me feel better, but he was still struggling with his own depression and nobody was making him feel better. I cut myself after a bad day at school. Instead of keeping it to myself, I left a voicemail telling him I’d cut. I wanted him to comfort me, but I didn’t think about how it might affect him.

“Nicole,” he said to me on the phone later on that night, “please stop cutting. I’m begging you.” His voice was cracking.

“I’m just so used to it that it makes me feel numb in a way,” I replied.

For a couple moments there was silence and then I heard it; he was crying.

“Isaac, I’m sorry. OK, I’ll try to stop, OK? I’m sorry.”

“You don’t know how much I care about you, Nicole. This hurts me so much to know that you’re causing pain to yourself, and I can feel us deteriorating. It’s killing me because I feel this darkness taking over me,” he said.

He said he felt helpless because he didn’t know how to make me feel better. This was the same way his family made him feel at times. He was trying so hard to make others feel better, and I was still in a dark place I couldn’t seem to get out of.

I started crying silently because I didn’t know what to say. The demons inside of me seemed to be awakening the demons in Isaac and causing a riot in him.

He knew about everything. He knew me. But we were both still in bad places mentally and emotionally. And so, only a month after we’d gotten together, he told me, on a bench in Chelsea Piers, “Nicole, we can’t be together any more. I love you but we’re just too poisonous to each other now.” Deep down I knew he was a little right. He continued as the tears started to fall from my eyes. “I won’t ever truly be gone. We can still be friends.”

At this point I was sobbing. I said, “We can make this work. I love you. I need you here.” In response he hugged me and started shedding tears as well.

I was devastated. I wanted for us to be together so bad and I wanted for at least one part of my life to be normal. But it just wasn’t and I needed to accept that I was in foster care and that I’d lost Isaac as a boyfriend.

But I couldn’t accept it. I was terribly depressed. About two days after the breakup, I cut myself and wrote on a paper, “You hurt me so I hurt me too.” I took a picture of the cut next to that message and sent it to him. I didn’t want to hold the hurt in. I wanted him to see how much I needed him around.

He wrote back saying that he couldn’t be friends with me anymore. I didn’t expect that response. Part of me wanted to hurt him, and yet I still thought that maybe he would see how much pain I was in and come back to me.

I Have to Choose

Since then, we have barely spoken. He wants no contact with me, and I’m trying hard to respect that. I try to think of it as a good thing and that he was right that it is healthier for us to stay away from each other. I regret what I did because it hurt both of us. He’s the person I feel closest to, yet I pushed him far away with my cutting.

Cutting is an addiction just like any drug. It stems from emotional pain or trauma. I’ve learned that cutting, like other addictions, can be unbearable to people who love you. It’s hard to watch someone you care about destroy herself. It’s a lesson the breakup taught me.

I realize now that I’m going to have to choose between my addiction to cutting and someone to love. I also realize that I wanted a bad boy partly as another way to hurt myself. But I’m getting healthier by expressing my emotions through writing and opening up to friends and family. I love myself more these days and have not cut myself for a couple months now. The next time I come across a good guy like Isaac I will be conscientious about my emotions and will try to release them in a way that doesn’t hurt him or me.

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