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Procrastination is truly the thief of time.
I never realized this until one day one of my most prized possessions was stolen from me because I never guarded it as carefully as I should have.
Well, Shane, I've tried to write this letter dozens of times. Maybe even hundreds of times, since paper never really could hold all the times I've cried for you. Honestly, if tears could bring you back, there have been enough shed to bring you back a million times.
Now I'm ready to face my mistakes and apologize for everything. I wish I had listened to the words you never said; I wish that I could redo everything.
But now it's too late...and I might as well tell you how I feel. I think I owe you that much as a friend... that much as a person. I want you to rest in peace, and I want to live in peace, so maybe I should just tell you my side of the story from beginning to end.
At first I thought I knew what you were thinking when you wrote your own last words down that night, but I've come to realize that I really don't know at all, just like I don’t know what I’m going to write now. Maybe you drafted and edited and rewrote things until everything meant exactly what it was supposed to, or maybe you wrote quickly because you didn't want to think about what the last words to your friends and family were. Maybe your hand was shaking when you were writing in that clean, bubbly script of yours, or perhaps your letters were tall and confident because you knew what would happen next and you weren't afraid of it.
Come to think of it, you weren't afraid anything.
And I guess saying a final goodbye was the grand finale of your daredevil act. The main attraction. Let's skip on ahead to why exactly you chose to take your curtain call so soon.
I know being different is frowned upon in today’s society. It's why there is still a funny little word called 'racism,' and trust me I've been subjected to it enough times to know the pain that comes along with the punches. Every once and awhile I would break down. I would then swallow hard, put a Band-Aid on my battle wound, and eventually reveal the shiny scar I had earned for being so tough. Tough was good, it meant that you weren’t weak. Weak was for wimpy little girls and in no way was I a wimpy little girl.
People always said you were different. Odd. I didn't blame them. When I first met you, I thought you were different as well, but that was what made me flock to you as quickly as I did. I wanted someone to be different with. I envied your nonchalant attitude and the fact that if someone would toss a nasty comment your way you'd walk it off. For such a skinny guy, you were tough.
Of course, gender never really defined who you were; you never were just boy or just girl. You were free. I admired that, seeing as I was stuck in a box. I wanted to be close to someone who made me feel free and love today because it led up to tomorrow, rather than miss yesterday and dread the future.
You, of course, offered that to me and we began to start a friendship that would no doubt be the strongest that I'd ever had.
When you decide to plant a flower, you have to commit yourself to it otherwise it will whither and die. First you must plant the seed, put it in soil and then water it. Over time, with the help of a little sunlight and consistent hydration, viola! You have your flower. It's simply complex, an oxymoron. Growing a friendship isn't much different. First you take that first meeting, or your seed, and then when you throw in laughs, common interests and love (Or your water and sunlight) you have your own homegrown friendship.
The only difference is that you plant a flower in a pot full of soil, and you plant a friendship in your heart.
Though when a flower dies, you can always ‘try again tomorrow,’ but when a friendship dies it's much harder to pick up the pieces.
Well, now that we had our seed, I had every intention of nurturing that it until it was a beautiful flower--one that would make even the most elegant of roses jealous. One that had petals of a different color, one that made people 'ooh' and 'ah'...one that people would frame and hang up on their living room wall.
Don’t get me wrong; our relationship was flawed in some places, however I don't think anyone noticed, seeing as I myself didn't acknowledge it until one faint fault line became the source of an earthquake. I mean, we laughed, we teased each other, we went to movies and shared popcorn. Doesn’t seem very threatening to me.
We were in a small group of friends, five of us in all, though were by far the closest out of everyone. We had known each other the longest, after all. When the three others fought, we played referee. Things were perfectly balanced. Our lives had become a comfortable routine: go to school, talk at our lockers, ridicule our teachers, eat lunch, repeat steps two and three, and then go home. The next day would be the same, and even though our little clique had occasional civil wars, our flaws made us imperfectly perfect. Another oxymoron.
It was funny that we had grown so close, yet so far apart. I wouldn't know that you were so emotionally distant until much later, but I suppose you always were. Like us four girls were on one island and you were on your own. I thought maybe it was because you did have some male testosterone in you and you just couldn't relate fully to our girlish ways as much as someone who was female could, but I guess it was because you had that secret shut up inside of you.
You know how kids always liked to catch fire flies and put them in jars with holes in the lid and put them by their bedside to watch them glow at night? Know how most of them are dead by morning, and when the younger kids cry about it their mothers reassure them at they can always catch more that night?
I guess it's too bad I was never into keeping insects in captivity, otherwise I would have noticed that if you try and bottle up the light of a firefly that soon it would just…
And that’s exactly what happened.
As the winter months rolled in with a gush of cold air and a flurry of occasional snowflakes, I noticed that your personality hit a winter of its own. You seemed quiet, reserved. Like the life had died inside of you already and your body was just a hollow shell. You would have those very brief moments where I would see a flash emptiness in your eyes… But then you would come back to life. I just shrugged it off, not really thinking anything of it.
Was it hard? To think that when you spoke to anyone you knew your days were numbered? To know that at one point when you said goodbye to us at the end of the day that it would be the last words you would ever say to us? Because in that note you left behind, you told everyone that you had this idea for a very long time and now you had finally decided to go through with it.
I thought I had uncovered your big secret one day when our group was discussing our plans for the school dance coming up. We intended on going to that pizza place by my house and getting a lift to school from my dad. I saw how you weren’t making eye contact with any of us as we tried to coordinate the whole event, even when we spoke directly towards you. Then, suddenly, you just came out and announced that you were transferring to a Christian school. I felt like I had been hit in the face with a baseball bat. We all asked you where and why, and you simply muttered that your parents were making you go and it wasn’t too far; that it wasn’t like you were moving or anything.
But you were moving. Moving away from your problem that is.
It wasn’t until after you said that goodbye to us all that Friday that I found out how badly you were hurting. You explained that you were sick of being made fun of because of your voice and the way you dressed and acted. I was silenced in disbelief. How could you, Mr. Sticks and Stones himself, feel insecure?
Then it dawned on me. Even though you didn’t tell me what they were picking on you for exactly, I knew what you meant. Then the next Wednesday at Youth Group you confirmed it.
You were gay.
I always sort of knew it. Everyone did. You were the poster boy for homosexuality. You liked wearing the colored skinny jeans and V-neck shirts, you fretted about your appearance constantly, you had all girl friends. You were a perfect example of travesty. We never asked, you never told. Now that you did, I thought maybe that you would consider coming back to our school. That maybe now that the secret was out you could just be proud of who you were.
But you didn’t come back.
You never came back.
You went into detail about how your parents knew about your orientation and were sending you to therapy four times a week to ‘reform’ you and that you were going to a Christian school for the same reason. Why could I, a teenage girl who was extremely immature to a degree, except their son when they couldn’t? Did they expect to ‘ungay’ you or something? It was ridiculous. But…I kept my opinions to myself, and only tried to console you the best I could. You told me how you couldn’t take it anymore at school; that the harassment got so bad that you would receive death threats in your locker and that because you didn’t have names, the guidance counselor couldn’t do anything. About how your grades were taking a nosedive because you could hardly concentrate on anything besides the stares you would get each and every day.
It is totally unjust that kids who tormented you and acted like bigots had a right to an education, and your privilege of learning was ripped from you because you were only being true to yourself. They made you feel alone and alienated because you were different.
But why didn’t you tell us? Why didn’t you let us in? We could have helped you. You had friends. You were never alone. We would have loved you no matter what.
Months passed. Three, actually, since you left. You and I had been in touch and so far you seemed happy at your new school. You were making friends, you were getting good grades. You kept me posted when we met at Youth Group and I was happy for you (no matter how jealous I was of your new friends).
Then another month or so passed, and when we were talking on Instant Messenger you were completely heartbroken. You explained how you came out to someone and they told everyone. I felt partially guilty, because after you left and everyone asked why I told them what you told me. Did you want that to be kept a secret? I’m sorry if you did. It wasn’t my secret to share.
I didn’t tell you this, however.
That was my secret.
I continued to feel my heart bleed for you as you told me the horror story about the girl who told her boyfriend (Who was one of your friends) about how you liked guys and he told his friends, who told everyone else. It spread like wildfire. Jokingly you added that you were scared that they would burn you at the stake and that made me laugh. But then you were suddenly serious.
‘My parents hate me…and I spend half the time in my room these days.’
That wasn’t like you. It was the first of many warning signs that you gave me. It was one of the many pleas for help. Being the idiot that I was, however, I just tried to console you once more and left it at that. There was nothing that I could do, really (Or so I thought.). But I should
have thought that spending too much time alone was dangerous for depressed people. But because I thought you were just having a hard time and you really depressed I left that fire to burn, hoping that it would eventually snuff itself out.
It did, but not as I intended it to.
I literally dropped the phone when I heard the news, and hid in my room for days, just crying. It was my fault. All my fault. For not helping you when I could have. I put off confronting you about being sad and then I ran out of time. You hit your deadline, no pun intended.
I went to your funeral and met your new "friends" from your new school and your extended family. We all cried together, all feeling guilty about your demise. We were devastated that you took your life.
But now as I think about all of this a year later, realization dawns on me…it hits me like a ton of bricks. You might have taken your life, but we were the ones who killed you. We were each a pill in that bottle, we were each part of that letter you wrote to say goodbye and that you were sorry.
You have nothing to be sorry for.
I’ve taken time to mull over the details, and I realized that I never said sorry to you. I told you I missed you, I interrogated your tombstone and asked why you thought your only escape was death, and at one point I even hated you for putting me through so much pain…
But I never said that I was sorry for putting you through pain.
I love you. Rest in peace. And next time I see a rainbow in the sky, I’ll think of you. Not only because a rainbow is the gay pride symbol and that was who you were, but also because I think rainbows are the bridges between death and life. So next time one of those multicolored ribbons runs through the sky, come play ding-dong ditch on my door.