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I hate black. I’m fine with red, or blue, or purple, or green, but black has to be the world’s most depressing color. Who decided that black was THE color to wear at funerals, anyway? People are already sad enough at funerals, and the color black can’t make them feel any better.
Maybe I’m looking too far into it. Maybe it’s not the color black that bothers me, but the funeral itself. And maybe...it’s this particular funeral that I can’t deal with.
Eli was like a brother to me. We’d been friends our entire lives. And his death hit me like a ton of bricks. Eli, my best friend, the one who’d always been there for me, was suddenly...gone. I still can’t believe it happened. Then my mind creeps back to how it happened, and I just can’t deal with it.
I can’t believe I’m attending Eli’s funeral today. I really loved him. He always managed to make me laugh, no matter what I was going through. He pulled me through mom and dad’s divorce. How is he gone? I can’t even begin to wrap my head around it. I wrote a letter to him to put in his casket:
I’m sorry for all the things I never got to say to you. I love you. I always will. I was afraid that if I told you, you’d get the wrong idea. Now I regret it. I never told you how much you mean to me. I think you knew, though. At least, I hope you did. You had this incredible ability to make me laugh even when I thought nothing could make me feel better. I’m so grateful for the time we spent together. I wish it didn’t have to end so soon. You were the best friend I could ask for. Wherever you are, I hope you’re reading this. I’ll miss you.
6 M O N T H S L A T E R
As much as I’m trying to let go of Evan, I still love him. I remember the day he told me we should see other people. It tore me up inside. I tried to at least be his friend, but he refused to talk to me--or look at me, for that matter. Usually, when he sees me, he turns away before I can even say hi. I saw him today,though, and he was staring at me with a sort of pained look on his face. I wanted so badly to comfort him. Ever since Eli died, he’s been distance towards....well, everyone. He doesn’t have any friends. At first, that made me feel sorry for him, but he doesn’t seem to mind. I don't know, maybe he’s happier that way.
I sit on a bench, partly hidden by a huge oak tree in the center of the school courtyard. It’s my free period, so I do what I do every day during free period: nothing. I have no friends to see, no places to go, nothing to do. I notice a tall, thin girl with wavy brown hair walking out of the main building. I draw in a sharp breath. Natalie. She’s still as gorgeous as ever. I know she can't see me, because I’m not facing her. I’m covered by the oak tree, anyway. It makes my heart ache to see her. It hurts even more to think about why I can’t be with her.
Natalie passes, and I breathe again. My free period is just about over, so I grab my things and head to my next class.
The rest of the day passes by slowly. I sit in my usual spot for lunch. No one joins me. No one ever joins me. Not anymore, anyway. Natalie stopped trying months ago. I think everyone else had stopped trying long before her.
I wasn’t always a loner. I used to have a lot of friends, to tell you the truth. But I only had two friends who were there for me no matter what. Then Eli died, and that really shook me. It changed the way I saw things. I guess I just didn’t see the point in trying to be this nice, outgoing guy. No one could replace Eli. We were like brothers. But I guess when I stopped trying to be social, everyone else stopped trying to be my friend. Even Nat, eventually.
O N E Y E A R A G O
I’m trying to work up the nerve to ask Natalie out. I really am. But every time I get close, I look at her and think, Why would a girl like her ever want a guy like me? Not to mention, Eli would be furious with me. He’s been in love with her since elementary school...This is so hard to figure out!
I wish Evan would just ask me out already. He’s the first guy I’ve ever felt this way about. I mean, sure, I’ve had boyfriends, but none as special as Evan. No guy has ever made me feel the way he does.
P R E S E N T D A Y
You know, I think I’m going to start putting myself out there again. I’ve turned down about five guys in six months. All this time, I’ve been waiting around for Evan to see that he made a mistake ...that we were perfect together. But there’s no point in waiting for something that will never happen. I’ve got to live life in the moment.
I got asked out by Joel today! He used to sit at our table before Eli died. I never really thought of Joel in that way, and I never really knew he liked me. I guess this is a fresh start, though. A way of leaving all the guilt and painful memories behind and trying to rebuild my life.
It’s my free period. I still have nothing to do, so I’m in the library writing this like a loser. Which I guess I kind of am.
I found out today that Natalie’s dating Joel. I guess she has a right to see other people, but it still stings. I really can’t believe she’s with a loser like Joel, of all guys. I mean, she would be so much better with a guy like.... Actually, I can’t think of anyone she’d be good with, because the only person I can imagine her with is me.
I can’t do it. I thought seeing new people would be a healing experience, but it’s just the opposite. Dating Joel just makes me think of Evan and Eli, of what I lost. I keep comparing him to Evan without even noticing. He’d make a joke that I didn’t think was funny and I’d pretend to laugh. With Evan, I didn’t have to pretend. It wasn’t working with Joel...I broke up with him last period and felt so awful, but who was I kidding? It wasn’t ever going to work. I know what I need to do now.
I look up from my bench under the tree to see Natalie marching toward me. It’s a bit of a shock; Nat and I haven’t so much as looked at each other for months. She takes a seat next to me on the bench. “Hi,” she says softly. “Hi,” I respond, turning to look at her--really look at her--for the first time in months. She's still as beautiful as ever, but beneath the beauty, I see something that was never there before--pain. “I miss you,” she says, her eyes watering. It breaks my heart to see her like this. “I do, too,” I admit, before realizing that I’m only making this worse.
“So why can’t we be together?” she asks. I take a deep breath and look at the ground. I pause for a long minute.“Eli loved you. I knew it, and I still asked you out. That was wrong. The day he...That day, I was telling him about us. He got mad, like I thought he would. But he didn’t see the car. He stormed off, Nat, before I could warn him. I tried. But it was too late. He was facing away from the car, and it was just going so fast, and...” I stop. It’s too painful. Natalie wraps her arms around me. She’s crying now. “It wasn’t your fault,” she whispers.
Somehow, this seems to be what I needed to free myself from the guilt that has been my shadow for so long. Natalie and I are broken, but maybe with each other, we can find what we need to put the pieces back together again.