“A Breakdown” by Bridget Bielski

I. The average age gap between heterosexual, American, married couples is 2.3 years.

II. Stockholm Syndrome exists in abduction victims who develop compassionate feelings towards their captors because of the intimate time spent together. It is named for the physiological alliance the hostages in a 1973 Stockholm bank robbery felt towards their captors. The condition is seen in around eight percent of abduction victims.

III. Less than 2% of US marriages are between high school sweethearts.

IV. MRI studies have shown that a male brain is not fully developed until age 25 and a female brain is not fully developed until age 21.

V. Ally stared at the blinking curser in the box that said “Our Story” on her TheKnot.com wedding website. What was a gentle way of describing a relationship that started between the high school baseball coach and the sixteen year old junior that worked as the team manager? Does high school sweethearts work? She was in high school when they met, and they did meet at the high school… She skipped down to an easier question: “Reception Location”.

VI. Time Magazine’s “All-Time 100 TV Shows” has Gilmore Girls ranked as the 87th best American TV show of all time.

VII. Childhood amnesia causes adults to be unable to remember their earliest years of life. Most adults do not have memories of their lives from before the age of seven.

VIII. Ally picked at the cake for her 22nd birthday, a forced grin on her face; she told her soon-to-be step daughter that the under-baked mess was delicious. Ally looked at the child’s sweet smile and thought about when she used to babysit her while she was in high school and wondered if eleven was old enough to realize that her babysitter was becoming her mommy. She didn’t know if she was ready to be a step-mom. A lot of her friends still lived with their parents, and now she is going to be a parent. Parent doesn’t even seem like a fair word to use. She is ten years younger than Jeff and his daughter is ten years younger than her. If Ally was in Jeff’s daughters shoes there’s no way she would ever consider Ally a “parent.”

IX. There were 31,490 coffee shops in the US in 2015, which would allow for over 600 coffee shops per state.

X. If placed on the sex offender registry, a person has limitations on location in which he or she can work, live, and travel, restrictions are placed on their access to websites and social media, and they may not participate in any activities that involve children, even if religious in nature.

XI. In a local coffee shop Ally’s mother stared at the twenty-nine year old man that claimed to be the boyfriend of her eighteen year old daughter. I’ll call the school. You’re a pedophile. Convince me not to kill you right here. He looked her in the eye and made calm, reasonable responses to every question she threw at him, he tried to address her concerns. He told her that he loved Ally.

XII. Less than 20% of engagements are called off annually in the US.

XIII. Three Christmases after Ally turned 18 Jeff was allowed into Ally’s parents’ house for the first time. He walked in and immediately asked to speak to her father privately. Her mother had to take the antianxiety medicine that she had in the back of the medicine cabinet but had never used. Two months later, Ally had a ring. A photo of Jeff on one knee was posted to Facebook. She ignored the fact that most of her friends didn’t even know she had a boyfriend. Kept it quiet because she is a private person, not because she was embarrassed, not because she didn’t want her high school classmates to give her weird looks in the grocery store or whisper as they passed on the streets downtown.

XIV. Average child support payments are $430 a month.

XV. Jeff worked in construction alongside his high school baseball coaching job in order to make ends meet. He had to drop out of college to pay child support when he got his high school girlfriend at the time pregnant and still hasn’t had time to finish his degree. Ally spent more time than she would like to admit trying to convince herself that she and Jeff were in the same stage of life. That this wasn’t weird.

XVI. Sound travels at 343 m/s. Objects fall at 9.8 m/s2.

XVII. Ally packed a bag to take to the hospital for her fiancé’s fifth nose surgery since his accident. A sheet of concrete fell on him in a ditch on the construction site where he was working. Ripped his nose clean off. If he hadn’t stepped back and looked up at the sound of the man screaming from outside the ditch, it would have killed him.

XVIII. Construction has the fourth highest fatal injury rate among all professions. Tens of thousands of construction workers are injured on the job every year and over 1,000 die from injuries occurring at work.

XIX. She would never tell a soul, but when she got the phone call from Jeff’s boss saying that there had been an accident she felt relief. Only for a moment, she felt a sense of freedom. It was quickly replaced with fear and worry and sorrow. She got in her car and drove 15 miles per hour over the speed limit all the way to the hospital and told herself as she walked through the automatic sliding doors that everything was going to be alright. That it wasn’t weird that they started dating when she was sixteen, that it wasn’t weird that she would be a step mother to an eleven year old, that it wasn’t weird that he wouldn’t have a nose, that it wasn’t weird that her whole family hated him. Everything was going to be alright.