I thought about you today.
It’s that time of year.
I wish I could say that I look at the calendar and remember the date. But I don’t. It’s the commercials for the season finales on network TV that do it. Because that year, I missed all of them. I remember being mad that I’d missed the last episode of “Friends” for that season. And then I was mad at myself for being mad at such a trivial thing.
It started, for me, sitting in my future in-law’s basement. Your girlfriend, my best friend, called in the middle of the day. Told me I needed to come right now. I got in the car and drove and smoked and cried and drove some more.
Your brother was the first one I saw. His eyes like a couple of pulpy tomatoes, no words left, and we just kind of fell into each other while he sobbed. My best friend was sitting in a chair, and she was there, but she was no where near there. Her uncle gave me some details, but they didn’t stick, couldn’t stick for the first day or so. My friend and I slept in the same double bed that night. We both admitted we wished we believed in ghosts, willed you to be one. I was jealous of the sleeping pills the doctor had given her.
We went to your parents’ house. They vacillated between denial, mania and devastation. At one point, your mom’s knees just kind of gave out, and I was the nearest human body, and she grabbed for me, and cried quietly into my shoulder, and then asked me what my name was, again? Your brother and your girlfriend and I had picked some music for the service. “Wonderwall”, by Oasis. We even had a list of reasons why it was a good choice. That bishop from your parent’s church didn’t agree, said no way would they play something secular. Your brother told him to fuck off, sort of. Your mom started crying again. I went outside to smoke.
My friend’s mom flew in the day before the funeral. A crew of us went to the house you’d been sharing, to make it look more like the story my friend had been peddling, that you spent the occasional night there “because it was closer to work”, than the truth. We bagged your clothes up, and put away the meat smoker you’d insisted on buying, and when we had cleaned all around it and couldn’t avoid it anymore, we opened the laundry room door.
We put a poster over the hole in the wall that your brother had punched, right before he called an ambulance. I picked up the things the EMTs had knocked over, when they took you. And my stomach dropped out and I thought I was going to faint when I saw the ashtray. You knew it would take a couple of minutes, even with the towels you’d stuffed under the door, for the fumes to do their thing. So you’d grabbed your smokes, to pass the time.
My friend’s aunt, wordlessly, picked up the ashtray with its two butts, and took it upstairs, threw it out. And then we got on with it, and finished the laundry, and locked the door behind us, and I knew I wouldn’t be back, not for a long time.
I sat at your funeral, and I remembered the first time I met you, when I thought you looked exactly like your brother, but then once I knew you, you looked nothing like him. The first time you ditched us to go to the casino. The time when Owen and I broke up, for a bit, and you told me you were glad, and that you knew that made you an asshole, but you didn’t care, and I never did tell my friend about it. The time my friend was “missing” a bunch of money, but it wasn’t missing. The time you told her that it wasn’t a question of “if” but “when”, and how I didn’t want to take you seriously, but I knew you were.
I didn’t want to leave my friend. But I had to go home, back to work. We tied up as many loose ends as we could. Went to Canadian Tire and bought a new lawnmower. An electric one, this time. Her uncle took the gas mower. The EMTs were nice enough to hide it under the deck, so no one would have to see it. I was mildly horrified that no one just threw the fucking thing out. But I know, know for sure, that you would have admired the practicality of it all.
She’s OK, my friend, your girlfriend. She’s someone’s wife, now. And your brother is good, too. He gave his firstborn your name as a middle name. We’re not afraid to talk about you, it’s not taboo or anything.
Wish like hell it hadn’t happened.
The sadness fades a little, every year.
Still miss you, though.