To be honest, I have thought of you nearly every day the past two years; sometimes just for a fleeting second, and sometimes, it’s all day. When it’s the latter, there’s an all-encompassing sadness I just can’t shake; a feeling of helplessness. A feeling that I – and so many others – failed you somewhere in your brief life; that maybe if I had called you more often or been that much better as a friend, you’d still be here. And then I realize the wondering and “what ifs” makes little difference at all; what happened happened. I can’t change it. And so the sadness and helplessness I feel on those days turns to anger. Sometimes, I’m angry with myself for being so distant and unaware of what was happening to you that led to your death. Sometimes, I’m angry with you for your mistakes and your last awful choice even though I know that’s unfair to you.
On the days where the memory of you is fleeting, it’s something small that triggers me: a man with a similar profile, a few measures of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, an old SNL sketch, or maybe a Dixieland jazz band in my neighborhood with a clarinetist who’s a bit of a show-off. Those fleeting moments are usually the pleasant ones, but the memories they conjure up are bittersweet. Happier times that feel like an entire lifetime ago. My brain can almost convince me you’re still here on days like that, but my heart knows better, and the sadness seeps back in.
You’d be 31 today. Yes, it’s your birthday. Facebook keeps prompting me to write on your wall not knowing you can’t even read it. You’re a ghost, albeit a digital one, and your page will remain eerily stuck the way it is forever until Facebook ceases to exist. There you are smiling in your profile picture in sunglasses on a tropical beach looking happier than you did the last few years of your life. Maybe you’re on a beach wherever you are, but I’d like to think you’re in some heavenly concert hall playing music with all the greats you idolized. That’s more like you; you were happiest making music whether with others or alone. I know you can’t read this any more than you can read the birthday messages people are posting on your Facebook page, but it’s not really for you anyway.
You’re not 31 today. You’re still 29. You’re always going to be stuck at 29; never reaching 30. You made it two years longer than Janis or Jimi. Two years longer than Kurt or Amy. But it stings that you’re forever hovering near 30, and I’m going to pass you soon. I’m catching up to you. I’ll be 28 this year, and then the next, I’ll meet you. Then I’ll keep passing you and passing you and passing you, and it’s not fair. And it’s not right. It’s not right that I get to have more birthdays than you so early in life. You should be here…even if it would have been harder to be here than wherever you are. You would have found a way to make things right. Or maybe you wouldn’t. The point is you’d be here, and I wouldn’t have to keep reminding myself you’re not.
It’s been almost two years since you left, but I still can’t bear to delete your number from my phone. The thought of doing it gives me a sharp sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach; maybe because that makes it final. Or maybe it’s because I feel guilty about not dialing it more often when you were here. Maybe it’s both, but I just can’t do it. Though we disconnected from each other a long time ago as it happens from time to time with friends, I’m not ready to cut that last cord. I can’t face it, even though I logically know no one will pick up the other line. If I still have that number, I still have a part of you; I can keep you with me 24/7. You’re right there in my pocket.
I’m not even sure what else to say except that I miss you way more than I ever could have anticipated. I miss the stupid pranks you’d pull. I miss the way you’d laugh at things I said. I miss your music and the look on your face you’d get like you were the only one in the room playing.
Does this get any easier? Maybe. I don’t know.
“Tell me please,
Where can he be,
The loving he who’ll bring to me
The harmony I’m dreaming of.
It’ll be goodbye, I know
To my tale of woe,
When he says, “hello!”
So I am just a little girl
Who’s looking for a little boy”
-“Looking For a Boy,” George & Ira Gershwin, (1925)