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Joseph Paul III
The first time we met you was at Shamrock in Bel Air. Our group would cram ourselves into the tiny little coffee shop every Wednesday night from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m to support our friend’s band, So Last Season. One of the first few times we started going that summer was when we first saw you play. We had listened to Kelly and Luke rave about how good of a singer and pianist you were. Kelly and Luke were always saying exaggerated things, so we just nodded our heads and expected an amateur performance.
When you got up in front of everyone with Luke’s keyboard, we all perked up because you were very nice to look at. This was when you still had your hair grown out. It looked fluffy and soft and you could tell that you took good care of it.
You started playing your original song, “Caught Me by Surprise.” The minute you started playing the piano, my heart skipped. I’ve always been a sucker for musicians but the best I could ever find was a lousy guitar player. You played piano, just like me.
Then you started to sing. Julie and I looked at each other, awestruck with how beautiful your voice sounded. It was perfection, and that is pretty much the only word I can use to describe it. If it was possible to take your voice and listen to you sing for the rest of my life, I would have right then. I know I’m not the only one. We looked over at Kelly and Luke and they were sitting there mouthing the words to your song so enthusiastically that I was pretty sure they were going to pop a blood vessel.
After you were done, Kelly and Luke introduced us to you. Your smile was gorgeous and your eyes were even better. You were tall and anyone could easily tell that you spent a good amount of time working out. Your personality was charming which made us like you even more. Most good-looking boys with great talent such as yourself ended up being self-absorbed and air-headed, but never you. You were down-to-earth and nice to be around. You had a great head on your shoulders and I could tell that from right off the bat. I’m not going to sit here and say that I was in love with you or anything like that, even though that’s what it sounds like. I wasn’t. That’s Julie’s job. But I will say you were a “ladies man,” and I know everyone can vouch for that one.
I’m not sure how I found out or from whom I found out, but sooner or later that night, someone told us that you were only thirteen years old. After that summer, you would be an eighth grader.
Needless to say, we all freaked out about that. There was no way in hell that you were in eighth grade. Not with that voice and definitely not with that body. Julie, Brittany and I talked about it for days. We couldn’t get over how young you were, not only because of how big you were but because of the maturity that you possessed.
It was a secret at the time, but Kelly and Luke were considering kicking their lead singer, Alex (who was also dating our friend Taylor, aka Wolfee) out of the band and replacing him with you. None of us really liked Alex and it was obvious that your voice completely killed his. It was obvious that Alex knew that, and he was jealous of you so he made it a point to make fun of you and try to put you down, but mostly behind your back. Nothing stayed from you for long, though. Even though Alex treated you like you were a child, you didn’t treat him the same way. You still treated him with respect and continued to be his friend, even though we all knew that you weren’t too fond of him anymore.
We continued to go to Shamrock every Wednesday for that summer. We would always ask Kelly and Luke, “Is Joey going to be there?” “Is Joey playing tonight?” “When’s the next time Joey’s going to sing at open mic?”
You didn’t come as often as we did because, again, you were much younger than us and your parents probably weren’t too fond of you running around Bel Air with a bunch of sixteen year olds, but you did come. Sometimes you played for us and sometimes you didn’t. Either way, it was nice to have your company.
There was one night that Julie and Brittany didn’t go and I had gone just with Kelly and Luke. I was sitting by myself for a good portion of the beginning of the open mic, but then you showed up and sat down at the table with me. We talked and laughed and joked around with each other like we were old friends and we had known each other for years. You were so friendly and I couldn’t believe it. You didn’t have to come over and talk to me; you could have gone wherever Luke and Kelly decided to run off to. But you did anyway and I am so honored that I got that chance.
I pulled a bottle of black nail polish out of my bag and started doing my own nails. Sitting at Shamrock got boring pretty quickly, especially when you didn’t know the acts or you just didn’t enjoy them.
I was not the only person who walked out of there with black nails that night. When I was finished with my own, you asked if I could do yours too. I laughed, thinking that you were kidding. You laughed too, but you still had your hand flat out on the table waiting for me to do it. I warily unscrewed the top and painted your index finger black, and you just laughed some more. At first you asked me to just do one hand, but then when I was done you asked if I could do the other one because it looked stupid. When I was done, you looked at your nails and laughed and then told me that I sucked at painting other people’s nails. I laughed too. You talked to me with a “pretty boy” voice for a good portion of the night. I can still remember exactly the way you sounded and the faces you made when you talked.
You quickly became a member of our little Wednesday night family. We all loved you like you were our little brother. You were so goofy and sweet and you gave some of the best hugs in the entire world.
You were a part of Coffestock along with So Last Season, so when we all decided to drive the whole way to Edgewood for the entire day, we were so excited to see you. Whenever you played, it was usually the same old songs over and over but that didn’t matter to us. We just wanted to hear you.
We met your mom and two of your brothers there. I don’t think they remembered me because they only met me one time, but that’s okay.
You and I sat and talked for a little while here, too. You were so easy to talk to. I felt like I could tell you anything, but we sat and talked about normal things. We were all waiting for Julie and Wolfee to get there because they were coming back from Ocean City that day. That was the same day you and Julie declared your feelings for each other.
You guys were a cute couple and I still honestly think that to this day. I supported you guys from the beginning till the end. I’m sorry that some people made fun of you guys because of the age difference. That’s just immaturity at its finest. It amazed me how you were able to just ignore it all and continue on with everything as if nobody was saying anything.
There was this one time that you and Julie were on the phone and I was over, so she put you on speaker phone. She was trying to get you to sing for us, but you wouldn’t for some reason. I think you were just trying to tease her or something. Then you started singing “The Climb” in a country accent, obviously making fun of Miley Cyrus. You tripped and fell in the middle of singing the chorus and yelled “Ow!” We were on the ground laughing about that for days, especially because we recorded it and made it our ringtones. I don’t know where that recording went, but it’s not on my phone anymore and I cried when I found out that I lost it.
Not only were you there to make us laugh, but you were always there for when we were sad. There was one night that we were all at Shamrock and Luke and I had gotten into a fight. I walked with you and Julie from Shamrock to Shop Rite, and the whole time I was in a bad mood. By the time we got back I was so upset that I walked off by myself and sat at an office building for awhile. You, Julie, Wolfee, and Alex showed up and sat down next to me. You and Julie sat next to me kissing and I yelled at her in front of everyone. I didn’t realize until later that I was being way too mean.
I remember your face before I left. I had never seen your eyes look so sad. I was about to walk away but you wouldn’t let me leave without a hug. You told me you were sorry and I kind of laughed because I had no idea what you would be sorry for. The next day I found out that you thought it was your fault that I was upset that night. I made sure that Julie let you know that it had nothing to do with you.
There were some not-so-great times between all of us, of course. You and Julie had your share of arguments after breaking up and that’s normal. I think the worst one was the time that Julie accidentally sent you a text that she meant to send to me. You got mad and said some mean things to her and the only reason I have your number now is because I texted you to yell at you for those things. Luckily, you ended up being mature enough to apologize to each other and put things behind you.
After that, I hadn’t seen you or talked to you in a long time. We ran into you a couple times at the John Caroll Fair, but that wasn’t much.
The last time I saw you was in Ocean City this past July. Julie and I were walking on the boardwalk and we passed someone. She freaked out because she thought that it was you, but I swore that it wasn’t. Then later we were gathered around a group of guys covering a Third Eye Blind song and we heard a couple people behind us yelling “This guy’s better!” We laughed at ourselves for passing you earlier and then turned around and gave you hugs.
There was a lot that had changed about all of us since the last time we saw each other. I was a completely different person than I had been before. You were so much bigger since the last time I saw you. I couldn’t believe that you were going to be a freshman that year. You looked like you could be a senior. I remember I told you that, and you laughed and nodded your head. I’m sure that wasn’t the first time you heard that. Julie pointed out how different I looked and you laughed and pulled at the bottom of my shirt. You told me I was “so much hotter now.” I laughed and said “Thanks, Joseph.”
We walked on the boardwalk with you and your friend Rob for a little bit. You guys kept yelling at the people passing by us, but your favorite thing to say was “PEACE!” with the peace sign shoved in some innocent persons face. Julie and I kept yelling at you guys to stop, but we were laughing too.
We hung out with you two more times that week, one more with Rob and another with Austin. The second time with Rob we were walking into every store on the boardwalk looking for one of those annoying green lasers that everyone was buying. I wasn’t really talking much, not because I was upset but because there wasn’t really much for me to say. You noticed that and came up to me and put me and a kind of head-lock and told me to be happy.
The time with Austin had to be my favorite night in Ocean City. We all joked together, calling each other names and making fun of each other. We found Austin’s brother who was standing with two of his friends with his shirt off and a cup in front of him for tips. We were there for awhile until the police came and said that it was illegal to do that since they didn’t have permission to be asking for tips on the boardwalk. We met up with some eighth graders and Julie and I laughed at each other because we couldn’t believe that we were hanging out with thirteen and fourteen year olds.
You and Austin decided that you wanted to go play football with a bunch of other guys. You made us ride the tram with you and Austin and you paid for our ticket. We ended up having to get off because you guys had to get back to your house. We gave you both hugs goodbye. I remember when I hugged you, my face was in line with your chest, maybe even a little bit below that. You were so tall that I couldn’t even believe it.
That was the last time we saw you alive and I’m so glad that we got to do that. We talked a little bit a week before the 17th, but that was all.
The day we found out had to be one of the worst days of my life. It was September 18th, the day after it happened. Brittany called Julie’s phone at 8:30 in the morning and I woke up to it vibrating. She said that it was important and I told her that Julie was asleep. She said that everyone on Facebook was posting “R.I.P. Joey.” I shook my head “no,” because it couldn’t possibly have been you. You’re too big, too strong, and too good to be gone. I woke Julie up, starting to get scared. She took the phone from me and she looked annoyed, probably thinking the same exact thing that I was.
She called your cell phone, your house phone, your mom’s phone, and your dad’s phone. No one answered. That’s when we started to freak out.
It was confirmed that you were gone when Kelly called Julie. We hadn’t been on good speaking terms with Kelly for awhile and the only reason that she would be calling at 8:30 in the morning is to tell us that you were gone.
Julie dropped the phone, covered her mouth, and started shaking her head. She didn’t say anything but I knew that felt the same exact way.
That day was a blur. Kelly came over and Brittany did too. We all sat in Julie’s room crying on and off until we picked ourselves out of bed and headed over to your mom’s house.
Your Uncle Luke answered the door for us and we stood in the doorway talking to your mom for awhile. We sat on the couch talking to Jordan who seemed like he was trying to talk about anything to keep the thought of you being gone off his mind. Jarrett hardly talked and we could all tell that he was taking it pretty hard.
That night was your candle ceremony at Fallston Rec. You should have seen how many people were there for you. So many people got up in front of the crowd to talk about what a great person you were and each story just reminded me more and more about what we all had lost.
On Sunday I spent the day with my friend Taylor trying to get my mind off of things. There was no way that was going to happen.
Everything reminded me of you, especially when we had to drive past your corner.
Monday at school was really hard for us. There were a lot of people who wore blue, but there were other people who made it a point to disrespect you. I’m sorry that there are so many hateful people out there but we know what type of person you were. You deserve all of the attention you’re getting right now.
Tuesday was your first viewing. Seeing you laying there was one of the scariest things I have ever seen in my life. You were so full of life the last time I saw you, Joey.
Your funeral had to be the hardest day, especially hearing your song play and then seeing the two quick videos of you from Shamrock because that’s how we knew you.
I can’t stand to think about you being in that casket. You don’t deserve to be in there. You deserve to be here fulfilling your dreams of being a singer, a football player. You loved life up until the very last second and loved everyone that was in it. You found the good in every single person that you encountered, even if there wasn’t really any good there.
Your family is just like you. Being around them after you left just showed where your wonderful personality came from. They are some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever been around and they all remind me of you. Especially Jarrett. He’s such a good kid and I know that he and Jordan are going to do everything that they can to make you proud.
I miss you Joey. I keep thinking about all of these times. Your voice is always in my head. Right now you’re singing “Solace.” I can’t believe you’re not here anymore. I can’t believe we’re never going to hear you sing for us again. I’m sorry we never came to your football games like we promised and I’m sorry that the only reason I have your number is because of the fight you and Julie got into. Julie and I are going to go to the C. Milton vs. Fallston JV game, just like we promised you we would do at the beginning of the school year. I can’t say the “d” word because it hurts too much to say that you’re…dead. Saying your name and that word in the same sentence feels so wrong. You were such a good person in every way possible and out of everyone I know you deserve to be in this world the most. You had so much ahead of you and could do anything that you wanted. You were perfect. You are perfect.
I wish with every single bit of me that it was me instead of you that night. There are so many people who love you and need you here. You were the person that could keep everyone smiling and laughing even when they were hurting the most. You were that light in everyone’s life that kept us all going. You loved your life up to the very last second and loved everyone around you. I wish I could live like you did, Joey. And now that you’re gone, I’m going to try to do exactly that. You never know when it’s going to end and I think you were a pretty accomplished kid. You didn’t let anyone stop you from doing exactly what you wanted to do. You weren’t afraid to be yourself and even better, you were never cruel or mean or self-centered. You were amazing.
Even though you’re not physically here, your spirit will never leave. You’re going to live on forever and we’re all going to make sure of that. I love you with all of my heart Joseph. Thank you for all of the things you brought to us and thank you for being you. I feel honored to be able to say that I actually knew you.
I’m never going to forget any of the times we had. Though it wasn’t that many, they are still going to go down as some of the best moments I spent in my life.
Joey D. forever.