I was 16. We lived in the same town, but you went to private school in the city. You were a basketball star. I still remember the smell of your charred body, seeping out of the broken windows of your garage as we peered in trying to piece it all together. I’ll never forget the smell of burnt skin, of burnt human flesh. I remember the news reporter shoving her microphone in our faces, as we sat on the curb down the street from your house. She asked us to talk about you, but all we had were tears.
Whenever I think of high school PE class I think of the necklace you gave me for my birthday. It was an emerald necklace, which you said you got me because you loved my green eyes. You got it at Sky Star, in town. Someone stole it from my locker during gym class, a few weeks after you died. I always knew who did it, and I always hated her for it. I’m pretty sure used it to buy drugs. I wonder what ever happened to that girl.
After you died, I’d always sneak out to go to the park that we met at in the middle of the night, when you’d sneak out of your house because your parents would never let you out. I went there and swung on the swings, playing our playlist on my iPod. Do they even make iPods anymore? Sometimes there would be a huge breeze that would rip through the park while I was swinging and I always thought it was you. I knew it was you. I’d smile through tears. It helped to believe you were there. I know I was just lying to myself.
Sometimes I dreamt about you. It was only a few times actually. I never could see you in my dreams for the longest time, and it really bothered me. One time I saw you and we were happy, and it was morning and the light was shining on your face and you were laughing. And I was laughing. And you were alive. But then I woke up. Just like that.
There was a period when I only listened to your playlist, over and over. iTunes told me I listened to a some of those songs over 7000 times on repeat. This was years ago. It was a strange and distinct phase. Your voicemails, they expired. I couldn’t hear your voice anymore, I couldn’t remember it either. I still remember your phone number though, by heart. To this day I still remember it. But your voice, I’m not sure. It’s like the more I try to discern it in my memory the faster it slips away from me. I guess that’s with all things, but it’s never more frightening when it’s aspects of a person who is gone that you can’t recall.
I used to listen to our songs to remind me of you. To remind me that you were here, that you had been here. We were just 16. You gave me so much shit about me wanting to live in the present. I always thought that was ironic. If I hear “Fix You” by Coldplay, I can be reduced to tears instantaneously. Because it’s you. Because then I’m 16 again. I would’ve fixed you, if I could. But I was 16. And you didn’t tell anyone you were sad, sad enough to kill yourself. You were the comedian, you always made everyone laugh. You didn’t tell anyone. How was I supposed to know? How was anyone supposed to see it coming?
I printed out all of our online conversations, from the day I met you on. It’s hundreds of pages. I still have them in a box, with a picture of you that you took on my camera when I left it at Lucas’ house. Isn’t it crazy how some people have never experienced loss? Isn’t it crazy that people just have to keep going, they have to pick up the pieces, and keep living? After your parents called me and told me I had to come over, because I meant so much to their son. Your dad, he held me in his arms and told me between sobs that I was your soulmate. He thanked me for being his son’s soulmate. I was 16. I was overwhelmed. For a period they told us it was an accident. They didn’t tell us you doused yourself in gasoline and lit yourself on fire. I’ll never get that smell out of my brain.
I was just 16. But I did love you. I never saw it coming. I will never understand why. I will never have an answer. I spent every night talking to you for hours, I never saw any signs. I listened to your voicemails, but it shed no light.
I’ll be 26 this year. It’s almost been 10 years. It’s been a decade since I saw you. If there is a heaven (I don’t believe there is), but if there was you’d be up there, still 16, waiting for all of us who loved you to come join you. But I wouldn’t be up there for awhile, hopefully. And I can’t always be 16. I had to grow up. That’s always bothered me about the concept of heaven, when you die aren’t you frozen in age?
You didn’t get a chance to leave your true impression on the world. And that’s okay. Because life isn’t about what you do, rather who you are, or who you were, and whose lives you touch while you are here. You had a huge spirit. You are unforgettable. So we carry you with us. Silently, but you are there. Really, that’s all anyone can ask for in this life. To mean something to someone, to mean something to anyone.
I got another tattoo, it’s an M on my ribcage, for you and my dad. I carry you both with me. I’ll keep getting older. And I’ll try to be brave. You told me to always be brave. At 3AM, sneaking out of your house so your family didn’t hear you on the phone, you’d tell me to not to become complacent; and to always be brave. It really sucked to be 16, after you died. All I had was the birthday card you gave me. Us forever, you said. I could never piece it all together, I gave up on that awhile ago. Even though we were 16, I will carry you with me, and I’ll be wading in the Velvet Sea. I may grow older, and you may still be 16, but I promise I’ll never forget. You kick the bucket, I’ll swing my legs.