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didn’t want to write this. I didn’t want people to know the truth. But maybe that’s exactly the reason I did, because I couldn’t keep the truth confined to myself any longer. It wasn’t fair to me… or to him.
I made the first mistake of many when I asked the supervisor for the newspaper of my school if I could do a piece on Ryan Drew. And when she told me that it wouldn’t be a good idea- either I would get too emotionally involved or people would find the idea offensive- I made the second mistake of not listening to her and finally, after many emails and phone calls of begging, forced her give in.
Ryan Drew was the official “nerd” of the school and, in many ways, the most popular. When kids got together, Ryan Drew would automatically come up in conversation, and although it was always to tease or make a crude joke of him, Ryan Drew was so different that he was the basis of most of the fun in the school.
He was the kid with the pants up to high on his waste, so skinny it look sickly, glasses that looked like a librarian’s, and a perfect GPA in the hardest classes our school offered to boot. Textbook nerd. Perfect target.
Everyone stopped aiming at Ryan Drew on January 10, when we got the news that he was sick… really sick. Ryan had been out of school for a week or two, but no one knew why. That day we found out he was having seizures on a constant, everyday basis, and when he wasn’t, he spent most of his time unconscious. I don’t know exactly what passed over the school after that. Ryan seemed to have sucked the laughter and fun that he had supplied us with for years and left us desolate and mellow.
He never came back.
By the middle of March, the doctors couldn’t stop the seizures that were occurring too regularly for his body to take. He wasn’t going to make it.
This was when I made the first two mistakes.
But I didn’t think I would make the one my supervisor warned me about: getting emotionally involved.
See, I’m not that kind of girl. I hate sappy books, movies, heart-to-hearts at sleepovers…. I’m like a brick wall, or so I thought. I guess I should have seen it coming, should have realized that Ryan Drew was powerful enough to hold me in the palm of contorted, withered hand.
The first thing I noticed about Ryan when I saw him for the first time since December was the camera lying on his lap, and one hand, connected to a bag above his head through a long, narrow tube, was resting on the top. His tiny body disappeared under the several layers of blankets that covered him, and for a second I wondered if I had come to late. Ryan Drew was the picture of a corpse.
His skin had taken on a pallid color, and rings had formed around his eyes that looked like urine. His entire face had narrow rivers the color of purple trailing down through his neck and vanishing beneath the covers. With eyes closed, he looked at peace, and I could have sworn I saw the makings of a smile playing on his lips.
I jumped when I heard his voice whisper, low and crackly like the sound of static in a phone, “So you’re the one who wants to do a piece on me?”
I gulped, something in his words convicted me, making me feel like a trespasser. “I… yes. Um… is that all right?”
The smile emerged in full force, stunning me for a moment. “I have to do a lot of things I don’t want to now; I guess it doesn’t matter if I add another one to the list.”
Subconsciously, I inched my way to my third mistake. For three hours, I sat there and listened to him go on and on, not about his condition, not about how awful it was to be strapped to a hospital bed with IVs lodged in every vein in your body, but about how he was glad his mother had died so she wouldn’t have to see it, and how he was sad he wouldn’t get to finish high school.
We watched his favorite TV shows, ate awful hospital food- at least I ate, he more or less poked at it- and played cards. It was his day-to-day life now, and for a brief flicker of a moment, I was invited in.
My fourth mistake was coming back the next day and the next and the next. By the fourth visit, I was attached to him, fascinated by the way he thought even while death held its mouth open to consume him at any moment.
“I’m sick of talking about me,” he said once. “And it’s obvious you’ve gotten enough to write an entire book about me.”
After a few seconds while my deep blush subsided, he continued, “I just want to know what you want from me. I don’t mind you staying here, I actually like it; but I don’t want you to think you have to.”
I bowed my head and sucked in the tears wavering on the edge of falling. He didn’t say anything more, turned on the TV, and soon there after, the rhythm of our visits returned to its former place.
One day, he asked to take my picture, and I let him a little begrudgingly. And when I asked him what he wanted with my picture, he explained:
“I’m taking pictures of people… for my dad.”
“They’re the people that kept me alive as long as I have been.”
“I bet you have a lot of those.”
I remember looking at him right then and not seeing the dark circles or protruding veins, but something that could only be beauty in Ryan, and a light in him that reminded me of something otherworldly. I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be chosen by an angel.
Two hours after I left, Ryan Drew died after having a forty minute seizure that did him in, making his brain and heart collapse and quickly fade from existence.
My fifth mistake was not coming to his funeral; instead locking myself in my room and wishing to myself I had never gotten involved. In a lot of ways, I’d like to think that had I gone, his death would have been easier to get over.
People at school said it was better because everyone had seen it coming, but to me, it was sudden. In those few days when Ryan Drew and I became friends, he was more alive than anything else in the world. And then, so suddenly, he was stripped away forever, and all I have left are few memories that will soon blur and fade from my mind.
Sixth mistake: Falling in love with Ryan Drew.