I was 15 when I met him. I couldn’t tell you now if we had a class together or simply met in passing at school, but I remember I was a sophomore and aching for something I couldn’t put my finger on.
He was weird, I’ll admit that. A total social outcast. His dark hair fell in pieces around his piercing yellow blue eyes and his lips curled up like a wicked snicker more so than a smile.
Tristan was the complete antithesis of me. He had a very small, tight-knit group of friends and wasn’t involved in any extra carricular activities whatsoever. At the time I played soccer, was in band, was active in my church and was in the International Baccalaureate program.
Our conversations were brief at first, but there was something about him that I found intoxicating. Knowing who I am now I can tell you it was the darkness in him that I was attracted to. There was something shamelessly hallow about him that ensnared my naivity.
It started very small at first. “Minx, I love The Who. Get their album so we can listen to it together.” Never a question, always a command.
“Minx, don’t you have any black nail polish.”
“Minx, your hair would look better a bit darker.”
“Minx, do you see the way she writes her R’s. Yours should look that way too.”
“Minx, wear a black dress tomorrow.”
And so it went. Little by little he changed me and I always complied without hesitation. I was absolutely obsessed with him. He would give me small tokens of affection that kept me under his influence. These ranged from a simple kiss on the cheek to allowing me to have lunch with him at school.
We both had computers and internet access in our bedrooms which was rare in those days. We used it to our full advantage. With my parent’s credit card we cleaned up playing Everquest together into the early hours of the morning. He was an insomniac. I was just a maniac.
We beta tested RPGs in DOS and he taught me how to code HTML. I didn’t watch Yugioh, but he loved it so I researched it and was able to hold entire conversations with him about a show I had never even seen. My first email address even had his influence: firstname.lastname@example.org.
When we bored of others and gaming, we stayed up and chatted on AIM all night. My first AIM name was also influenced by him: xXNaiveXx because even then I knew I was being ridiculous.
About a year into our endeavor, he began to blossom. His charm had started garnering the notice the more popular kids at school and people began to like him.
As his time for me waned, I started going back to church weekly. Youth group helped fill the void he had left in me. Slowly the darkness in me began to abate and I thought less and less about the boy with whom I was obsessed.
It was about 9pm when I received a message on my pager. All it said was “AIM” and I knew what I was meant to do. I logged into AIM and had a message waiting for me from Tristan. All at once I was back in that space that he had created for us. We chatted late into the night until the conversation took a turn I was not expecting.
NaQuaiChi: If you had to kill anyone at school, had to, who would you pick?
xXNaiveXx: Had to? Uh, Jessica, the senior. People would miss her. You?
NaQuaiChi: Everyone. But I would save you for last.
xXNaiveXx: What do you mean?
And it was then that he laid out an entire plot kill everyone at our high school, down to the day and time. He was immaculately detailed. I wasn’t afraid. I wish I could say that some alarm went off in my head or that I had some terrible gut feeling, but I didn’t.
I’m not sure what made me do it, but before I logged out, I copy/pasted the entire conversation into a Word doc (I think it was Word back then, maybe just a .txt). I changed my response to his question to: Had to? Honestly, I couldn’t even imagine it. You?
I printed every single page and brought it to school with me the following day. I showed my friend Lisa who went to youth group with me and she dragged me to the principle’s office.
The school didn’t act on it at that point. They just took the information and thanked me. I felt guilty afterwards. It was just a conversation and I felt like I had betrayed the only person that knew me. Tristan handed me a letter at lunch wherein he told me to come over to his house after school and play video games with him like we used to. I obeyed.
His parents were not home which was not unusual. We sat in front of the TV on the living room floor and played PlayStation like we had a year before that. He abruptly got up and said he would be right back. I didn’t understand in that moment why he had tugged out his controller, but I found out.
I was engulfed in the game and did not hear him come up behind me and kneel. It wasn’t until the cord was wrapped tightly around my throat that I realized what was going on.
I couldn’t breath.
I panicked and struggled against him. My hands were immediately at my throat and pain seared through my body as I clawed at my neck in an attempt to get my fingers under the chord. I heard him. He was grunting, growling even. That quickly changed into a throaty laugh.
It’s one thing to struggle when you have lungs full of air. You become an entirely different person once you’re struggling against the burning pain of empty lungs. My last will to live kicked in and I reached above my head, grabbing him by the hair and pulling him over my shoulder.
He lost grip of the cord and I choked for breath. I coughed on all fours and tried to regain my orientation quickly. He turned to me and laughed again. Terrified, I scrambled away. Finding my footing and sprinting. He grabbed at my legs, but they were the strongest part of my body. I kicked him off over and over until I reached his front door. I bolted out of IG and slammed it against his hand. His scream hung in the air as I ran, creating distance between us.
I ran. I ran until I couldn’t breath and then I kept running. It was 3 miles to my house. By the time I got there I was spent. The adrenaline was dissipating and so was my resolve. Fortunately, my mom was hosting Bunco that night and there was a house full of women around me when I collapsed on the kitchen floor.
The police were called.
They found maps in his bedroom, blue prints of the school (he was a master hacker so him having that did not surprise me at the time), a variety of guns, dissembled pipe bombs and a journal that contained every single detail. He had a separate journal that he kept for me. It included everything he ever told me to do, my reactions and what he intended to do next.
I was devastated. My entire world revolved around Tristan and losing him, despite him trying to kill me, wrecked me. I felt as if I had betrayed him. I felt that if I had been better, more obedient, he wouldn’t have tried to do what he did.
It was my fault.
It took me a very long time to get over that feeling.
15 years later I looked for him. I found him.
He’s a homosexual real estate agent in the same small town in California we grew up in.
Part of me couldn’t believe he was a functioning memeber of society. Another part couldn’t believe that he was homosexual, but, who really knows who they are at 15?
I was never the same after Tristan. I was never the same after any of them.