I always thought we would meet again. I’d imagine it; out with friends, I’d see you and you would come over to say hi. Maybe you’d be in my state with your family for some reason, we’re a great state for vacations. I’d come over to say hello. We’d get a chance to catch up and say hello, talk about the years since we’d last seen each other. Before I got married, before I went to school, before I moved away. Before we moved to the land of “just friends”. It wasn’t always anything beyond that. That makes it worse-the fact that I liked you as a person, and I would’ve liked to have talked to you, been friends again, found more common ground to share with you.
I had so many stories to share! I always loved to talk to you about my life, my dreams, and my aspirations.
I would tell you that I got a degree; then another one. I got pregnant, had a baby; got married, had another one. I would tell you the funny things that happen when you have children and the things that they say and do.
I don’t know what stories you would tell me. Stories about work? Stories about family? Stories about your new addiction?
I would tell you that I was a teacher; I’d tell you the funny stories from my job and about my kids and how much I love it. I would tell you about the students who love me, because they think I’m funny and engaging and they love the way I retell stories to make them easy to understand; and the students who hate me, because I expect them to work, to write, to think, to grow.
You would tell me about your new addiction.
I would tell you that you always had a piece of my heart; that I moved on, fell in love again, got married, but never forgot you. We never would have lasted, you and I; but we would have been friends. After all, you had a drug habit, and I wanted a family. You had a drug habit, I planned for my future. You had a drug habit, and I wanted stability.
You had your drug habit, and you would tell me about your addiction.
Your brother passed away; I would have told you stories about him. It had been so long since I saw him; Facebook (you never got one; I used to check, sometimes. Would have made it easier for me to keep in touch) occasionally suggested that I ‘friend’ him, since we had mutual friends. I would tell you about the time he tried to give me his sweater, because I was cold. “The kind of guy who would literally give you the shirt off his back” I’d say, as I patted your shoulder and invited you to share the funny stories you had with me.
I wonder what stories you would share. Stories about your brother? Or stories about your addiction?
I had a chance to say hello. After the loss of your brother and your mom, it must have been hard for you to carry on. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a parent and a sibling within months. I wanted to go to the benefit your friends had for your brother; I would have been more than happy to make the drive, but it was far away, in my home state (two hours seems so short now; funny how my perception of distance has changed) but I thought it might be weird. After all, we were friends who hadn’t spoken in years; that would seem odd, for me just to show up. But I wish I had. Because that chance to say hello would have been goodbye. Because that was the last night you were alive. Because that was the night that you let your addiction take control. Because that was the night that you died, a mere three weeks after your brother, three months after your mother. You left family behind; I hope, for their sake, it was an accident. They already lost so much, and you took more away from them.
It felt strange to explain to my husband that I was mourning for a friend who meant quite a bit more at one point, especially because I don’t regret walking away when you wouldn’t commit. It wasn’t long after that that I met my husband, and my life changed from that point onward. He gets it, though, because we were old friends from back in the day. And wishing that something had changed then would erase all that I have now, and I could never wish for that. My regret more recent. The legacy I will carry, always, is the regret for a chance not taken, for a moment not grabbed. If only I had known that my hello would have been your goodbye the night they celebrated your brother’s life.
Now, for us, this is all I have left.