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I called my mom the night he died. She told me that this would soon pass, but I couldn’t get over the fact that he was gone. My best friend was dead. I haven’t even cried yet, I am still in shock. It has been three days. In that time, I would sit on my laptop staring at my wallpaper and listening to our favorite music. I listened to the song that he always played on his iPod, even though I didn’t like it. At night, I would replay everything in my mind. I remember everything he ever said to me, and I remember everything I said to him. I remember how much I loved him, and how much I regret not telling him. I couldn’t, he was in love with someone else. My mom told me that she was worried and was on her way up from North Carolina. I told her not to worry, but she’s a mother, so what could I say to convince her?
To fall asleep, I listened to Mumford & Sons. Their album Sigh No More would repeat exactly nine times before I fell asleep. Nine. That was my lucky number before he was killed on the ninth of September on highway nineteen. In my dreams, he was by my side holding my hand and whispering silly things in my ear. I would run away, and he would chase after me. It was like a dance. We would move rhythmically as my subconscious mind listened to the album playing above my head. My feet moved soundlessly across the sand, making perfect footprints until the waves would wash layer after layer of sand away until you couldn’t tell anyone had walked there at all. He sneaked up behind me and slipped his hands around my waste, tickling me until I couldn’t breathe. The whiskers on his chin tickled my neck as he whispered more secrets that weren’t really secrets. I woke up and realized it was merely a dream. In my dreams, we loved each other. In reality, I loved him.
I can’t go to the funeral and see his body laying there for all eyes to see. I can’t bear to see his family crying and murmuring about the terrible accident and the flowers around his body or how handsome he looks, just like he’s sleeping. He’s not sleeping. They could never convince me for a millisecond that he is sleeping. He’s gone, and I will learn to accept it. It’s what he would want. Instead of the going in to listen to the misery, I crawl into the back seat of the car and listen to our music. I say that music is medicine. I say that music brings people together. I fall asleep in the car and wake up at around 5:30. I drive my T-top convertible down the road that points to the mountains. No matter how fast you drive, the mountains always seem to stay the same distance away, but they look totally different when you finally get up close. When I was sixteen and he was eighteen, he would drive me down to the mountains and explain this logic to me. I always tried to understand but never could. I thought that the mountains looked more beautiful from a distance because you could see them as a whole. It was almost like the mountains worked together to paint the bigger picture and see that God’s creation is more. This is how he always spoke; he spoke of everything as a creation and that made him beautiful.
I get home at ten thirty that night and find my mom sitting at the kitchen table in my small apartment flipping through my photo album and crying.
“Mom?” I say.
“Remember when you and Jojo and the dog, what was his name, Slick? Anyway, remember when you would go and splash around in the mud puddles? I remember when you would walk up to the house and you couldn’t even tell clothes from skin!” She laughs, despite the tears running down her face like the Mississippi River. I pull my bag over my head and lay it on the chair by the door.
“I remember.” I murmur, and hug my mom. We flip through the book together. Occasionally, she would gasp and point at family members long passed. We laughed at some of the pictures. We stopped on one page, and I put my hand on hers before she could flip it. It was a picture of us a couple of years ago when we first saw the mountains outside of Denver. He was so excited. It was like watching a little boy. We were laughing at him and he pulled me up next to him. I remember everything. The way he smelled, the way he looked with his slight sunglasses tan. He smelled just like cologne, sweat, and a brand new t-shirt. He pulled me close and asked for a picture with me. I loved this picture the most because I had never seen him happier over such a small thing. He looked at me and said, “I wish this could last forever, because this is beautiful.” He smiled so big and I wish I could have captured that. The picture taken was of us jumping and screaming because we had conquered the boring plains of Kansas and had come to the end of our journey. Both of our families moved to the same place. I have known him ever since I was little and I wouldn’t change a thing.
I pull the picture out of its plastic casing and stare at it. I pick out every detail. The snowcap on the mountain to the far left. The overcast sky and the promise of rain in a few hours. Dad’s red Jeep with skis strapped to the top. How my shoe flew off as I kicked my feet behind me when I jumped. These are the things worth remembering. It’s like lyrics in a song, no matter how long it’s been since you heard it, it hasn’t changed a bit and you can still remember every lyric and every way the singer moves his voice. I notice something wet fall on Jo’s face and drip, another falls, and another. My cheeks feel wet too, and soon my eyes keep filling up and emptying themselves without my consent. I lay my head on the table and allow them to do so until my stomach has taken so many twists and turns with the heaves and gasps my body racks. I feel sick, and suddenly I can’t cry anymore. My mom hushes me and rubs my back, just like when I was a little girl when I fell of my bike and skinned my knees.
“Oh mama, he isn’t coming back is he?” I say.
“No, but soon we will get to see him after this life if the good Lord himself will have us.” She says and kisses my hair.
I call the woman Jo had fallen in love with to see how she is doing. She is devastated and I almost have to hang up. I stick it out for her sake. She goes on and on about how he was a great man and there was so much more to him if you got to know him. She starts sniffling, then crying, and then finally she resorts to bawling and snotting over the phone. That’s when I hang up. Jo’s mother has called to ask me to help clean up his house, so I meet her over there. On the way over, I pull back my T-top and let the wind rush past my ears and whisper to me just like he would in my dreams. I smile at the thought as I drive down his road. I recognize the small, green pond out the back of his tiny house. I loved the dock he had built years ago. Whenever we had friends over we’d always go swimming in the rain. Who cared if we got struck by lightning, it was fun.
Once inside, we go through clothes and boxes of things that he kept; little clippings out of magazines, pictures of when we were children, CD after CD of rock and metal music. His mom let me keep those, which I accepted gladly. At one point, Jo’s mom stops, holding an envelope. She pulls out the letter and starts crying. I hug her and let her know that he wouldn’t want us to be sad, that he would want us to move on. Suddenly, I’m crying too. We just sit there like that, rocking back and forth, sniffling at little things that we remember.
A few days later I receive an envelope in the mail. I recognize it as the one that Jo’s mom was holding when we both began crying. It has the same stamp, and the same handwriting. The stamp is simply a sad looking black Labrador, staring at me with its droopy brown eyes. I carefully slide my thumb under the flap so I don’t rip it. I pull out a letter on plain notebook paper. It has a smiley face on the front.
If you get this letter in the mail, it is because I have sent it on an impulse. I am simply terrified of telling you something I have known my whole life but only choose now to tell you.
I love you. Love is only a four-letter word but it means something so much more valuable than what us humans lead on. I enjoyed spending my time with you when we were young and I never want that to change. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Remember how I told you about the mountains when we first moved to Denver and I had never seen one mountain in my entire life? The first time I saw them and we were jumping and screaming over how big and glorious they were, I thought of how in that moment we were able to share that moment and I only wish I could have captured everything we saw and felt. I know you felt something too, I saw it in your eyes the moment I said that it was beautiful. What I meant was that you were beautiful and the overcast sky lit up in your eyes at that precise moment. That was worth keeping and I will never forget it.
Just like our first day in Denver, I know that everything will be okay.