Have you ever noticed how crying, the real heavy sit down and bawl crying, sounds like laughter? My neighbor in the hall asked what was so funny. Before he noticed my eyes were red.
I am not a pretty crier. I don’t glisten like the girls on tv who look ethereal and shimmering through their tears. I snot and wheeze and bawl every ounce of my being fighting the unfairness of the world that brought me here to tears.
I’m red and puffy and sniffling. It does no good. You’re still gone. Nothing has changed.
And the wheel keeps turning. It’s both beautiful and cruel how the world keeps moving. Time stops for no one.
When you leave for college your freshmen year, you expect your world to stay the same, much like your childhood bedroom you leave behind. It’s as though the past 18 years of your life are a painting, you simply step out of it leaving a white patch, when you return, you slip right back in. The kids you babysat remain kids, the puddle in your driveway remains unfilled, your siblings are still short pre-teens, your room remains brightly painted and filled with posters covering every inch of ceiling space your parents would allow you to pin into, time is supposed to halt without you to watch it.
You were supposed to be the same. We lost teeth together, in fact, you definitely punched out one of my baby teeth. We learned how to write in cursive together then we joined the same local Brownie troop, you teased me for not being a member of the Daisy troop the year before and then again when I continued to be a girl scout once you quit, and later a cadet.
We did Math Olympiads together, and some silly terrible youth cleverness team competition where we shocked the judges. Not because we did well, but because our team had been so damn terrible at our performance project we had spent months working on and yet came in first place by far in the team problem solving tests. I think our score wound up being somewhere in the middle when averaged out. We didn’t care though. We were all so excited to play on the really cool playground on the quad at GHAMAS. We played tagged and got covered in mud because it was still early spring. Your mother never forgave us for that.
We learned about death together. We were 13 when he had the accident and later she took her life. We knew death of course, but for grandparents, for reckless teenagers. But our friends? Their siblings? It was inconceivable. I was sitting between my parents in the catholic church when I saw you. I didn’t know what to do, so I waved. You’re not supposed to wave at a funeral apparently.
I wish I could go to yours. I’d wave at you. One more time.
We drifted apart in high school, you were better at math and science, and couldn’t have cared less about grades. I loved languages, theatre, and psychology, and I wanted good grades to help me leave our hometown for good. We didn’t have a class together for years. Until photography, then other art classes, and you joined the ballroom team with Rachelle and laughed at me as I pretended to know what I was doing and teach the underclassmen. You loved to laugh at me, I was stubborn but I was also aware that I provided plenty of material. I would laugh along with you.
You watched me as I pretended to be an artist creating jewelry both beautiful and horrendous. You also pointed out the obvious, what kind of crazy high school teacher left me alone with a blow torch?? I had allowed myself to think I was special. I was a responsible adult-like student who could be trusted with an open flame. Looking back, you were totally right. She was nuts. Thank God the building is still standing.
Then we graduated. I don’t remember seeing you in a cap and gown. I don’t remember seeing you since. I can hear your laugh, see the chipped dark polish on your nails that you never really stopped biting. Did I see you when I taught at the Summer Arts Academy? Or are those halls just so full of our memories that I hear your laughter in them and insert you into the recent years?
Our friendship felt like my childhood bedroom, no matter many years, it would still be there, unchanged. I waited for the day we’d cross paths, maybe a quick coffee chat at the Avon Starbucks we used to think was so cool. We’d chat and promise to hang out again. Then years later, it would happen again. One day we’d see each other and vent about how our children are just like us, God knows how we survived to adulthood! We would maybe exchange christmas cards, in the way that old friends do. We would lead different lives but honor that history. We were each others “weird friend” who’d always been around. Who always would be, maybe on the periphery, but always there, a social media click away.
But that’s not how the world works, is it?
I came home after a year of college to find my childhood bedroom rearranged and repainted. White. From purple and green and eclectic to white. The posters were neatly wrapped and packed away for me. There was a sewing machine in it now. The kids I babysat were entering Jr. High, High school, driving even, my parents filled in my favorite puddle, and my baby sister became a tall, beautiful cheerleader.
You died. And no one thought to tell me.
Time doesn’t stop moving just because we aren’t watching.
You had only started your quest to see the world. You’ve done amazing things in the 24 years you were given, but oh what could you have done, had you had one more chance?
I was waiting for our paths to cross again, because of course they always will.
My mother called to offer condolences today. I had no idea what she was talking about.
In what world could you have been gone four days, and I have not noticed?
The same way we barely noticed each other anymore.
The last time we spoke was a Facebook birthday wall post. That was the only communication we had for years. Facebook. Years of playing and teasing and being stupid kids then teenagers reduced to Facebook.
Of course no one thought to tell me you’d died. Facebook would do that for them.
You deserved better. From me, from the world, from the damn drugs, all of it should have been better. You deserved a bit longer.
I am sorry for what I could control. You deserve better. You deserve more.
May the angels protect you. May you give them hell.
With love, always.