>> Sunday, October 25, 2009
For reasons unknown or unanalyzed, an old friend popped into my mind today.
My friend J was a quiet guy. He was an artist and a musician. In high school, these attributes do not necessarily make you the coolest of kids. But he was smart and sweet and funny and shy, and when I took his arm and played his date at stage right in a musical with a name I can't recall, I crushed hard for J. I always liked the uncool kids. (They were always the coolest.)
I, a boy crazy sophomore, was the first kiss for this shy senior boy. He, all kindness and blue eyes, was the nicest, sweetest boy I had ever kissed.
But this was highschool, where fickleness and frivolity reign. And after he ended one of our dates with a run through Taco Bell drivethru, sending me shrinking to the far side of his parent's giant blue station wagon in angst over how bad his breath would be when he walked me to my front door, it was over.
And the next week when I introduced my dad to G, who sat on our livingroom couch, arm slung around my shoulders, my father summed it up just right when he humiliated me in his befuddlement, "G? What happened to J? What is this - boyfriend of the week??!"
And it was. It was how I rolled, nothing personal, J.
But I always felt badly about how abruptly I ended things. The poor guy had no clue it was just about the Taco Bell, no idea about the fickleness, the frivolity of teenage girls. He let it end without drama, and he stepped quietly aside as I finished out the school year as G's girl.
He was such a nice guy and I was the only girl he ever kissed.
A couple of years later I bumped into J at a summer concert in our hometown. He was home from college, and I was genuinely excited to see him. We laughed that War was headlining the show, twenty years past their peak; and we chatted for a while. After rocking out to Low Rider, I gave him another big hug and told him that it was really, really good to see him again and that I was so glad he was doing well. He stayed at the stage and I ran off with my friends. I turned back and waved goodbye one more time. He was smiling.
One week later J died of an asthma attack. He was 21 years old.
At his funeral, a college friend brought along a letter J had mailed him just that week. In it, J had written how he had bumped into a girl he used to date and how nice it was to see her. How even though he knew nothing would come from it, he felt "really good just knowing that a beautiful girl still cared even a little bit" about him.
It isn't often in life that we get closure with people from our pasts, that we get the opportunity to take a wrong and make it a little closer to right. That we get to cast off regrets because time was kind in its passing.
While I don't want to live my life worrying that each goodbye will be the last, I think it's important to be grateful for the people in our lives, and to let them know we care about them when we still have the chance to tell them to their face.
I'm not sure why I have been thinking about J today. But he was a real sweetheart and I wish he could have had the chance to shine his light for many more years than he did.