The post of a friend of mine from BB2G (HI PRINCESS ANDY!) made me think about another friend of mine. His name was Dan.
The “was” is sometimes the most important part.
I remember being in tenth grade. He was the older brother of a girl in orchestra with me; he’d been away in Japan for a year, or I might have met him in orchestra, too. I vaguely remembered him, but wasn’t sure from where, and never did figure it out. Either way, I remember coming to lunch one day and he was at the end of our table.
“lagirl,” C. told me. “Don’t talk to him, don’t sit with him. There’s something wrong with him. He cuts himself.”
Me being me, I sat down and asked if I could draw on his arm. Confused, Dan said yes.
We spent the next year as best friends. We skipped lunch to sit in the hallways and talk. We shared poetry. I hugged him as he cried. He came with me to stupid meetings for school events and I listened to the way he felt when he punched the wall. He even did a spell for my cat when I thought she was going to die, and she got better.
If I still lived in my home town, I’d still remember, every single time I drove over that bridge. The bridge we walked over to get to the store to buy candles to save my cat. For some reason, that period of time, more than anything, is the strongest memory I have of him. I remember when he told me what whale blubber tastes like (not good); I still have the notebook he wrote my name and “little wolf” on in kanji. I still have the note that he wrote to me, telling me what a good person he thought I was.
I remember when he came to my door and told me he did a voodoo spell because he was in love with me. I was in a long-distance (abusive) relationship. I felt like he was going too far, and I don’t even remember what was said, at all, during that conversation.
It was one of the last times I saw him alive. We didn’t hang out after that.
A few years later as I sat on AIM trying to remember his screenname, a message popped up. “Did you hear? Dan S. died. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”
He died in his backyard. He died because he used drugs and it hurt his brain and he dropped dead in his back yard of an aneurysm. He died because he hurt and sometimes, it feels like he died because I wasn’t there for him when he needed me. He was there for me – he called planned parenthood for me, when I wanted to know if I could get pregnant if a boy put his fingers inside of me after touching himself (probably not). He was there for me – when he made a speech that that boyfriend didn’t want to go to. It was Dan’s Eagle Scout ceremony and he said wonderful things about how much I meant to him and how much I’d helped him as I sat in the church that he went to.
The church that I sat in, staring at his casket. The church that I got up in and spoke in front of everyone that I couldn’t see through my tears. The one and only time that public speaking didn’t make me want to throw up. I wanted to say so much – that he was my best friend, that he cut himself, that he was dead and I hated that I was trying to find him when he died, and he was lost and alone and I couldn’t help.
I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself for it.
I still have the letter. And I hope he knows what it means to me, now that I understand.