I didn’t know it was possible for anything to get as stuck in your head as the “It’s A Small World” song, but our last conversation has been on repeat for the last five and a half days.
It was my 22nd birthday, and you were hosting my party. My hair was still dripping from the celebratory midnight skinny dip I’d been talked into. You had been watching from an upstairs window. We knew, and we laughed.
I came out of your pool wrapped in a towel and walked over to you on the porch. You were sniffing and wiping your nose with your sleeve as I sat down.
“Want some?” you asked.
“No, thanks,” I said.
“Why not?” you replied. You weren’t pressuring me. You were genuinely interested.
“I’m just not into it.”
“Well there’s obviously a reason for that,” you pushed.
Images of white coats, stethoscopes and pulled curtains began to slosh around in my mind.
“One of my best friends came within a centimeter of his life doing that,” I said.
I cursed the birthday champagne as soon as I heard myself answer.
“Dude, I get it. I’ve lost three friends to it,” you said.
My mouth fell open. You figured that this meant I didn’t believe you.
“No, seriously. I’ve got a tattoo for each of them,” you said, quickly pulling your jersey over your head.
You proceeded to show me each indelible design, but I wasn’t listening as you told me each name, each story, and how old each friend was when he or she died.
I couldn’t listen. My brain was occupied with trying to process your logic, or lack thereof. It seemed like more of a soliloquy than a monologue anyway.
I waited for you to finish, and then slowly looked up to find your amber eyes.
We stayed silent like that for what very well could have been three minutes, your eyes darting back and forth between the corners of mine.
“Yeah, you’re right,” you said. “I should stop.”
“For them,” I said, my voice barely louder than a whisper.
“For them,” you repeated. It wasn’t a question.
So you’ll forgive me then, my friend, for the fact that this conversation has been cycling through my head since I got that call on Sunday.
And, as long as we are talking about this, let me tell you one more thing.
We wanted you here. Do you hear me? We miss you here. And I know it’s a dangerous path to go down, but I can’t help but think that we could still have you here. Maybe if my green eyes had pleaded with you a little more intently. Maybe if you had looked in the mirror and seen the tattoo on your left shoulder as you were getting dressed for the last time. I can’t know what would have saved you…but all I can think is that you didn’t have to die.